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  • Tris Mamone wrote a new post, Is consciousness just an illusion? 3 years, 4 months ago

    By Anna Buckley
    The cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett believes our brains are machines, made of billions of tiny “robots” – our neurons, or brain cells. Is the human mind really that special?
    In an infamous […]

    • Why wouldn’t computer win humans in games or playing saxophone? Those are activities that have clear rules and steps. If machine follows that rules of course it will do it brilliantly (and if imput is correct). I do not understand why is this surprising. But I am not so sure that machines (computers) can “have intuition” about feelings. They can not predict “moves” concerning feelings, and in my opinion that is what is essential about being humans. And humor. As Susan Greenfield ones stated that it is not “sapiens” that makes us homo different from other animals, it is our ability to make humour,…to joke. I am not sure machines could do that either. Anyway what does he mean consciousness is just an illusion?

    • @OP link – Dennett blames the philosopher Rene Descartes for permanently polluting our thinking about how we think about the human mind.
      . . . . .
      Descartes couldn’t imagine how a machine
      could be capable of thinking, feeling and imagining.
      Such talents must be God-given.
      He was writing in the 17th century,
      when machines were made of levers and pulleys
      not CPUs and RAM, so perhaps we can forgive him.

      Yep! Gapology 1.01. (God of gaps)
      “I have no idea how this works due to lack of education and imagination, THEREFORE “god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic!”

    • “We’re not really thinking; we just think we’re thinking. (Takes a pretend puff of a joint) Far out! ” (Laughter)

      Comment and gesture made by Bill Nye while on a panel with deGrasse Tyson, Dawkins, and a couple of others.

      Nothing to add save this one small aside: if Mr. Dennett regards consciousness as something as dispensable as an illusion – and from what I can gather, he actually doesn’t – let him trade it in for the Nothingness of permanent annihilation, otherwise known as Death. Why not?

    • THE ZOMBIES – 1965 – “She’s Not There”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKBRc8zNQ30

    • Consciousness is always present (or presupposed) when any question as to its nature is posed. The same with existence. To ask a question about the realness of consciousness with any expectation of a negative answer is analogous to making an attempt to lift oneself up by one’s own waist.

    • Well I think that this article is one example of incomprehensible article. There was a subject, not so long ago how scientist and science should be more comprehensible (better delivered to the wider audience). Or person who wrote it didn’t wrote it very well, or Dennett complicated it, but I am sure article could be more understandable. All I could comprehand is that for him consciousness is a sort of a software that is unique and different in any of us, (Like feelings. Feelings are software and emotions hardware so to speak). But I knew that already. What I wasn’t able to read from this article why exactly he thinks consciousness is an illusion, or what exactly he thinks by saying consciousness is an “illusion”, hahaha. So someone is surprised when people say they do not want to read science articles in newspapers! Of course they have no interest when this kind of articles are delivered to a wider audience. I could find out very little about consciousness or why someone thinks is an illusion.

    • The article is just a teaser for the program, which has more detail and is, in Jim Al Khalili’s hands a complete if very compressed account of “thinking” from Dennett’s latest book

      From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds

      Dennett proves difficult for people because he progresses slowly in getting people to think more elementally and not rush ahead filling the gaps with their old apprehesions, the old narratives. Excerpting him is risky.

      He has some great thinking tools….. robots running robots running robots all the way down to physics (a veritable fractal process).

      I’m hoping he links this in the book to the layer cake of the brain and its 5 layer icing of the cortex (rind) and then the layers of culture atop many brains. Robot control starts rigorously low down and loosens up, going up…

      The illusion he talks of (and convenient for so many reasons) is essentially the singularity of “I”.

      I proposed to Dennett about 14 years ago a reason why this self model is so small and needs to be so ever-present affecting our conscious experience (the parade of what automatic processes have concluded as potentially salient.) He was good enough to say that he thought something like that was probably the case. I’ll post it here later. Though I have mentioned it here a few times over the years.

    • phil rimmer #9
      Apr 5, 2017 at 5:20 am

      From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds

      I suppose there could be another one:-
      “From electrons and waves to Marshall Amps, guitar effects pedals, memory sticks, electronic keyboards and smart phones!” 🙂

    • phil rimmer #10 The article is just a teaser for the program…

      If it is so, than it is a bad one in my opinion hahaha. Who would be teased by it at all 😉 I would expect teaser to be simpler. You know… just in few simple and imaginitive words explaining what matters. That is a key of a good teaser after all isn’t it? 😉 I think people who would read it would be more interesting to find out more :). Presented in this way I have feeling lots of people would say “fuck of my face” (pardon my French). I know I was thinking of that hahaha… . There is no reason why articles regarding science have to be so complicated and strangely delivered. Pitty. 🙁

    • maria melo

      Hi there. I must respond. This is something I have spent a good bit of time studying and thinking about.

      “A pumpkin exists, therefore a pumpkin thinks?”

      That is – I have to say – completely wrong. A straw man par excellence, as Phil would say. (I have presented a few straw men in my day.) What I said that if one can ask the question: “is there consciousness?” (or existence) then consciousness (and existence) are presupposed (already there). In other words, the person asking the question must already be conscious; but asking whether an object outside of oneself (a pumpkin, for example) has consciousness only implies consciousness on the part of YOU the questioner. NOT the pumpkin!!

      “Everything that exists is rational, therefore everything that is rational is real.” Hegel

      Wrong. Pure charlatanry on the part of Hegel (the forerunner of Chopra), or the quote is not an actual quote, or was taken out of context. But what context could justify such absurdity?

    • Phil

      Yes the I is illusory in so far as we cannot really perceive or think or “know” the I. We can only know (be conscious of) IT.

    • Modesti,

      I thought it an excellent teaser, because it is provocative. It used very simple terms to do this. If you have read Dennett you will see immediately how this sits on top of his existing work and if you are a fan of the “Life Scientific” (excellent and available for download) you will know that Jim Al Khalili will challenge any scientific weaknesses.

    • Dan,

      We are manifold in our perceptions, our cognitions and desires. We are not only often in two minds, but often many. It is the singular story we make of it that is the (necessary) illusion.

    • Phil

      Sounds Wittgensteinian.

    • Perhaps, Dan. It is rather more just against the religious trope of a singular spirit that poisoned generations of otherwise decent philosophers. W got some of this right about the self in regards to some aspects of perceptions (the self is absent). But I think he failed as we move on to cognitions (evaluated perceptions, and the necessary requirement of evaluation wrt personal salience) and I am unaware of anything on the synthesis of a singular self “illusion” and its possible function.

    • maria

      Not only could a machine achieve all the requirements of life now, reproducing itself, consuming energy from an external flux, and turning stuff into itself and excreting chaos, but Descarte’s specific failure was to presume that the automata of the day (machines all) would never ever get to think.

      Dennett’s view is that machines think…its the some stuff as us, just not self-consciously.

      No need for inverted commas.

      “Everything is a semantic problem”.

      This insight of Wittgenstein’s is actually trivial in actuality. Because we can never fully define an entity, actual or conceptual, the words we use will always fail us and always generate a problem. At least with actual entities we may observe the problem.

    • Ollie,

      I do not think the universe is in anyway whatsoever, conscious. Robots running robots exist essentially only in highly evolved structures (life and culture) or synthetic structures.

      I think it not unreasonable to consider cultures as conscious in some sense. At least we can start ascribing psychological descriptions and distinctions to them

      I personally think synthetic structures will not acquire a rich conscious experience until they are as wildly kludged as we are by our evolutionary history and spurious early upbringing/indoctrination. When synths develop a morbid fear of soldering irons or can match the experience of when we lightly touch the short hairs on the back of our necks or are nurtured as tiny versions of themselves by a mother doing just this as they suckle coulombs of juice. We are astonishingly creative for a reason. We have a myriad appetites and spurious other responses as byproducts of the first, because evolution is a bodger, this all woven into our most primitive mental wiring.

    • Hi Dan [#6],

      I enjoyed Bill Nye’s deepity joke.

      As there are two Dan’s, Daniel Dennett will henceforth be Daniel.

      If Mr. Dennett regards consciousness as something as dispensable as an illusion – and from what I can gather, he actually doesn’t – let him trade it in for the Nothingness of permanent annihilation …

      I appear to be a poor student of consciousness. I read about the so-called hard problem and I don’t get why it’s ‘hard’. I read philosophers, and some scientists, talking about how consciousness is unexplained and I fail to see why they say that.

      Daniel Dennett at the BBC appears to be detailing the following position: When we say that consciousness is an illusion we appreciate that every human, to a greater or lesser extent, experiences waking thoughts that seem like we’re in charge of our lives. We have sovereignty over our own person to the extent that we understand our own mind, our mind’s environment and our ancestral needs.

      We hear about the universal experience of stream-of-consciousness and we observe that the feelings evoked by this phenomenon cannot be unique. Evolution is our explanation for ethology, and internal emotional states generated by thinking are both allowed for, and necessary elements in the evolutionary development of, the higher functions we label mind from more humble beginnings. Something had to evolve to motivate brains capable of abstraction and forecast. The brain evolved to employ rational and evidential thinking, but it did so from simpler and successful earlier attempts at thinking and these newer methods had to survive without undermining those successful tactics – it is an evolutionary battle between thinking models and their differential success that continues to the present.

      For me the only question that remains is: To what extent is our stream-of-consciousness independent of the underlying support – our biological brains?

      Now, I’m an amateur philosopher at the best of times. Can you help me out here Dan, am I missing something?

      Daniel frames his response as ‘bio-robots’ inside ‘bio-robots’ (etc.), rather than as emergence because he’s trying to find a metaphor that is most immediately understood by most people. The end result is the same: Consciousness is not free, in the final analysis, and yet can appear so because the layers of complexity mean that the final result (thinking brains with changing-environment-driven psychology and internal re-programming) is made up of layers of probability so dense that chaos is the apparent result and predictability can only fall within wide ranges of probability.

      Yet determinism still underlies the whole model. By this I mean that, insofar as chemistry is predictable, the entire empirical model of mind is predictable in principle. To the extent that probabilities are not predictable – and, given the many layers of emergence, that brains are chaotic – consciousness is separate from the physical brain – and herein lies the so-called ‘consciousness problem’.

      The devil is in the detail, and attempts to measure minds without interfering – without putting one’s finger accidentally on one side of the scale, so to speak – are fraught with difficulties. Some of us are seduced by this level of complexity into thinking that the apparent, resultant, separation of mind and brain are more than chaotic. This is the illusion to which Daniel alludes.

      This seems to go to the very heart of definitions of consciousness – and it’s the thing that most confuses me about other people’s pronouncements on consciousness. So many just don’t seem to get it and, annoyingly, it appears in many cases to be deliberate. But, again, maybe I’m missing something?

      Most philosophical discussion on consciousness is clearly based on the premise that mind-body dualism is real. Indeed, I find most of it to be incoherent without that unwarranted assumption.

      Daniel appears to be saying that he understands how his fellow philosophers are drawn into that trap – but that they are mistaken because, like the Chess Players, they misunderstand (or perhaps simply: miss) the dynamic process of emergent properties in physicalism – the reason that Chemistry is different to Physics, Biology is different to Chemistry, Neurology is different to Biology and Psychology different to Neurology (missing out several layers of complexity).

      Is this Daniel dispensing with consciousness, as you claim? I don’t think Daniel is being dismissive. He seems, more, to be saying that consciousness remains to be explored and that the blind alleys leading nowhere (like the so-called “hard problem”) are simply not helping.

      Daniel may not say so explicitly but there is a clear problem with some philosophers not embracing empiricism, while retaining their liking for rationality: Descartes’ territory. Given the success of empiricism in the last half a millennium that is difficult to understand (to put it diplomatically).

      In addition the tendency, among some philosophers, to regard empiricism with eccentric forms of skepticism appears to lead them to consider consciousness in only binary terms: We’re either conscious, or not. Why? Why can’t we, and other living things, be understood to present a spectrum of consciousness?

      What to say of philosophers who conclude that if physics is all that is required to come to consciousness then rocks have consciousness? It seems perfectly obvious to me that consciousness requires machines – animate objects that have the ability to do work (as opposed to a rock, which is not only inanimate it only has the potential to do work and even then only if it’s in the right place). I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that philosophers who espouse such nonsense are nothing more than creationists-by-stealth.

      Is my cellphone experiencing consciousness? No.

      I can answer so concisely because I know that my cellphone is not using thought as I am. My thoughts exist in an evolved environment where modes of, equally evolved, thinking compete within my stream-of-alertness and both my alertness and my different thinking modes evolved as part of my machinery of survival.

      By contrast, my cellphone is designed to only have thoughts that meet my needs and the needs of the corporations that provide me with information services. It has no designed thinking for survival and is single-minded in pursuit of its programmed aims.

      My direct comparison of human mind with cellphone is not to be confused with Daniel’s very different use of cellphone-as-metaphor for how easily we’re bamboozled by our access to higher levels of function into thinking we’re in charge of all the subservient levels of information processing. This is a very interesting metaphor which has dire implications, but that’s another discussion for another day.

      Is it possible for a future machine, perhaps a computer, to match human levels of consciousness? Turing seemed to think so, and so too does Daniel. The more I study the differences between evolved thinking and purely-designed thinking the more I’m convinced that computers are likely to quickly outstrip us in terms of consciousness at some future date.

      As far as machines go, Daniel is obviously on to something. The Natural World provides evidence in abundance for a continuum of consciousness – particularly when we compare ourselves to closely evolved other species. The only limits to that scale appear to be personal squeamishness and the definition of consciousness employed.

      We can embrace empiricism, and the universality that is thus revealed, to build a Hadron Collider or Chemical Factory, to engineer disease resistant crops or study brains in fMRI Scanners, to treat depression and build more peaceful neighbourhoods – evidence that Popper’s philosophy may be too demanding. But, we can’t apply that working model to minds? Really?

      Peace.

    • Phil, others—

      I’ve been reading Wittgenstein for three years, off and on, and have concluded that he is either a genius or one of the great mind-destroying hoaxes of the 20th Century. Probably the latter.

      Language was created by Man to communicate. We do things or perceive things and come up with sounds. Words are concepts that unite. I see Red here and Red there; both heterogeneous things are Red, so I give it a name (concept). But that is not good enough for Wittgenstein. There will always be a difference between the named thing and the thing named. This is red. What does that mean? It means that it appears red. Red is the perception, not the redness in itself. W didn’t seem to get that; his point of departure was the assumption that we must expect perfection from language or that language must ultimately fail us. An absurd dichotomy. A word is only a sound; a sound can only convey something; it can never be the thing it is. “I am” is a sound as well. The I is not absolutely the Subject either. I define the I, Descartes’ “I” as that which simply is not and can never be “IT”. But that’s not good enough either, I suppose.

      As for Man as Machine or Machine as Man, or where one ends and the other begins, one would have to enter into the very elements of existence in order to even attempt to answer that. Where does organic life separate itself from non organic matter? It is more likely that everything in nature exists in a continuum; but quantity (or degree) changes quality. I am no more or less a rock or a stone than a robot is a living thing. Both the rock and I consist of matter. Thought is biological and can be explained by biology. It can be reproduced in a machine in some form, I suppose. The mechanical and the biological are closely related. We have to be sensible about this. (Dennett, an eloquent critic of religion, is not a philosopher, and has always been hostile to philosophy. So I have an animus against him.)

      The division into subject and object is a real, existing thing. (Language performs its task adequately as far as the fact of that division goes.) Our consciousness is always directed outwards, is consciousness of something…. Our bodies are not machines, although “it works very well, has levers and pulleys and connections and all the rest, but that metaphor is fundamentally wrong. A machine has blueprints, one master design, and a manufacturing process that moves from the blueprint to the finished version which is all the same. There is no blueprint for the body.” (Randolph Nesse, practitioner of Darwinian medicine)

      Your understanding of the “I” is not mine. Dennett’s understanding is not mine. The subject is the knower. The knower is not the “I”.

      As for the I as spirit, I never use the word that way. Wittgenstein’s straw-man.

      Stephen,

      I didn’t see your comment until after I had posted mine. I look forward to reading it, and will comment later. Too much to absorb right now. Nice to see you.

    • Maria

      Language for Plato.

      Read the Theaetetus. Plato (Socrates) payed a lot of attention to language, and was forever striving for precision (even when Socrates was being ironic).

      (The heart has been compared to a pump. A pump is a mechanical device. Maybe Dennett is on to something. Who can say? One can spend years, decades, studying these questions and still not arrive at a definitive conclusion. That is the beauty and the pain of all or most philosophic inquiries, and of a fair amount of scientific inquiries as well.)

    • Dennett is just too smart. I recently read something by him in Thinking about Android Epistemology -who knew such books existed- called Cognitive Wheels: The Frame Problem of AI that may be interesting to people visiting this thread.

      Here it is online: Cognitive Wheels: The Frame Problem of AI

    • For me the only question that remains is: To what extent is our stream-of-consciousness independent of the underlying support – our biological brains?

      I had a hard time with your comment, Stephen. But I wanted to respond.

      The succession of ideas and perceptions are dependent upon causes (known and inscrutable), stimuli (which can be felt or not felt), and motives (desires). Nothing mental can be said to be independent of the brain. (Sounds like Woody Allen, but I am being serious.) As far as machines go, the question as to whether they are capable of consciousness would depend on one’s definition of consciousness.

      A stream of consciousness, like free association, is like a stream itself; it is not free; only appears free; it is subject to the law of causality, which is a law of the mind in relation to the empirically real world – including every psychic event. Every physical and mental event (effect) has a cause.

      The fluid and ever-present nature of consciousness (as opposed to specific and isolated thoughts and impressions) is a separate matter, and one that I cannot comment on at this time.

      There are no random thoughts, however.

      (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Mr. Trump. There are a number of threads on the subject.)

      Peace.

    • Stephen

      Most philosophical discussion on consciousness is clearly based on the premise that mind-body dualism is real.

      Absolutely one hundred percent right. A straw man. Completely irrelevant. There is no mind-body duality. There is only the brain, period. That’s what irritates me about these discussions. No one has read any serious criticism of Descartes; nor have they understood the real significance of the Cogito. I have tried numerous times in the past to shed some light on this, and have no particular wish to do so again. Not now.

      Indeed, I find most of it to be incoherent without that unwarranted assumption.

      I will say this:

      The discussions I have read of consciousness without that unwarranted assumption are precisely the coherent ones.

      Scientists tend to use the ancient fallacy of the mind-body duality as a point of departure for their criticism of philosophical discussion on consciousness.

    • Stephen

      I read about the so-called hard problem and I don’t get why it’s ‘hard’.

      Maybe because you are a p-zombie? All the data processing is there but somehow it doesn’t connect to any vivid experience.

      The “hard” question is how does mere data processing become vivid subjective experience. Everything else is explicable. Second, though far less hard, why are 99% of data processings not the stuff of vivid experience?

      Dan,

      Here is Dennett on W. Pretty much nailed for me. Nice conclusion about tools for scepticism.

      https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/LudwigWittgenstein.pdf

      Also highly pertinent to this piece.

    • maria

      Damasio is excellent on this topic. More than just refute mind body dualism, he provides much grounding evidence that our conscious experience is critically rooted in our physical selves. Not just “Descartes Error”, but “The Feeling of what Happens”. More than any he made me realise that a disembodied mind would be no mind at all. This is a sentiment that AI investigators would do well to understand.

      Stephen, Dan,

      Most philosophical discussion on consciousness is clearly based on the premise that mind-body dualism is real.

      This is surely stuff for populist consumption. No modern philosophers take this original dualist position (excepting theologians), though some do take positions involving substance, property or epiphenominal dualism, which are all nevertheless physicalist, yet still often misapprehended as classical dualism. These folk are often the least au fait with a modern neuro-psychology (or are amateurs like Roger Penrose, who wrongly thinks there is a problem of computations that needs to be solved), a discipline that has never once found such a roadblock to its understandings of conscious functional beings.

      All the data and data processing involved in conscious experience and subsequent behaviours is well enough modeled (so far) that predictions are made that are found to be true in testing. The single roadblock is right at the end, that of vivid experience. More than why does it happen (which question has some tantalising answers), is how can it possibly happen. This is the gobsmacker. How the bleep do (these particular) brain states become vivid?

      The vividness, so far, impedes no understanding of all other mental processes and all researchers are happy to just ignore the question and carry on. The vividness seems to be just a marker of some kind for a subset of data being processed. The vividness may or may not have functional purpose in and of itself, but the mark does stand for something significant and whatever marks it may have the function of raising the emotional correlates of the data, perhaps enhancing the propensities to act and remember. What is essential though if this is the case is that the specific brain states and any vividness correlated are one and the same thing. If we can generate reports of vividness then that cannot be an epiphenominal (subsequently functionless) dead end beause we can genrate reports of the state. The brain states are co-extensive with the phenomenon.

      The big philosophical problem that persists from religion and Descartes is this sense of singularity, which has interesting cultural evolutionary roots. I’ll outline these later and a possible solution and why this may have a bearing on the broader nature of the conscious experience.

    • Stephen, Dan,

      One more thing. Dennett’s account of dualist philosophers is really historical (and that they were mostly science isolated). The neuro-psychology of vision, f’rinstance, really only started in the sixties (with my first Hero Richard, Gregory). It was really only after the astonishing revelations on how these inputs to our process of cognitions worked, that cognitions are grounded on conditioning (wiring grows to the task) etc., that the first real theories of how conscious experience actually might work were formed. The science of the mind may have had a long starting tail but there was very little substance until very recently indeed. Until recently neurons were thought of as quite simple beasts. In fact they are individually remarkably sophisticated machines/robots.

    • maria,

      I’m sure I would laugh but my Portuguese is non-existent.

      I meant to congratulate the Portuguese government on employing Damasio. It says a lot about them.

    • Hi Dan [#35],
      
> The succession of ideas and perceptions are dependent upon causes (known and inscrutable), stimuli (which can be felt or not felt), and motives (desires). Nothing mental can be said to be independent of the brain.

      Okay, we have a common foundation here.

      Sounds like Woody Allen …

      You’re pretty good but … Woody Allen level … ? 😉

      … but I am being serious.

      If you must.

      As far as machines go, the question as to whether they are capable of consciousness would depend on one’s definition of consciousness.

      As far as I understand any of the current discussion on consciousness how that word is defined is the least common point of reference. This is so frequently true that one wonders why consciousness is a subject at all.

      Machine consciousness does not seem to stand alone. Part of Daniel’s brilliance is that he illustrates this in passing while discussing human consciousness. How do we know that we’re not machines? Your intuition is too weak to be relied on, your personal experience is too subjective and is so common as to allow many interpretations. How do we decide between those interpretations? I have an idea: evidence. Oh dear, I snuck in empiricism to spoil the party. Tut.

      A stream of consciousness, like free association, is like a stream itself; it is not free; only appears free; it is subject to the law of causality, which is a law of the mind in relation to the empirically real world – including every psychic event. Every physical and mental event (effect) has a cause.

      Again we have a common base here.

      
> The fluid and ever-present nature of consciousness (as opposed to specific and isolated thoughts and impressions) is a separate matter, and one that I cannot comment on at this time.

      I can wait.

      
> There are no random thoughts, however.

      Agreed, there are only chaotic brains that give the impression of being random.
      
> I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Mr. Trump.

      Okay.

      
Peace.

    • Hi Phil [#37],

      The “hard” question is how does mere data processing become vivid subjective experience

      When it’s experienced by an evolved mind with emotional reactions – duh.

      Second, though far less hard …

      !

      … why are 99% of data processings not the stuff of vivid experience?

      Because emotions are costly.

      P-zombie huh.

      Peace.

    • Hi Phil [#39],

      This is the gobsmacker. How the bleep do (these particular) brain states become vivid?

      For the moment let’s grant that our own vivid experiences (whatever that means) is unique. Bookmark: This leaves behind several important aspects of conscious experience with explanatory power – notably the scales of perception and experience (and conscious ability to interpret both) – and promotes human experience over the experience of other species for no good reason.

      The obvious place to start is the extraordinary explanatory power of the modern evolutionary synthesis. We may come up with more than one hypothesis, and some additional observation would be required to test any resulting ideas, but it seems likely that we can come close to a plausible answer with a grain of truth.

      Setting aside, also, what we mean by vivid and ignoring the question that begs to be asked (Why are vivid experiences worthy of greater study?) we find that we have focused on the question: Why do some experiences of thought exist when they are clearly more costly in terms of the greater attention they receive from us, the energy expended and the distraction they often provide from thinking about life which is about survival and reproduction?

      On its face the question is interesting; why do we indulge in experiences that appear to undermine our genetic goals – at least, in the short to medium term?

      I’m not going to answer the question, obviously, because first we have to dispense with the dead-end thinking. Some people (mostly philosophers and theologians) believe the answer to this question lies in ignoring what we know about brain evolution and thinking in terms of brain states, or passing round the deepeties with the Ready Rub.

      My answer may be prosaic, but it has far more chance of bing true.

      Peace

    • I wonder if and when A.I. becomes a reality how long it will take for that A.I. to…

      a) invent religion.
      b) start wasting time on conspiracy theories
      c) waste prodigious amounts of time on the computer equivalent of porn hub.
      d) destroy itself.

      Seriously can an artificial intelligence exist without becoming seriously flawed in it’s thinking? Can any form of independence of thought exist without the possibility of that thinking being just wrong, prone to bias?

      This is were I find Sam Harris’s arguments about the fears of A.I. yet to be convincing. He seems to be inclined to think that A.I. will continue to improve on itself. I’d argue evolution has been running that experiment for about 4 billion years and has resulted in us, who shortly after dominating the planet have reached the astonishing summit of voting Donald Trump and his equivalent into the most powerful positions on the planet. What guarantee do robots have that the squishier, wetter thinkers did not?

      I think Sam is incorrectly assuming because of current programming practice resulting in solutions that work and are essentially fairly inflexible. Anything that becomes truly independent may well need to test the truth of statements in reality, this means making mistakes possibly dealing with biases. What biases will A.I. have built in that might colour its thinking? I’d be interested to know if I’m completely wrong here.

    • Stephen,

      I intend all experiences that we identify as experiences, all our apprehensions, are notable by having this vivid quality, they form impressions in the mind. So much of our thought is not apprehended at all.

      I’m saying something so astonishingly simple it is difficult to express. The arrangements of tiny electrochemical charges on this hyper-connected bush of neurons become, or rather, are, the near black of this keyboard with its myriad tiny details and sparkling highlights.

      A good mate and former poster here claims he is a p-zombie. That is he has no astonishing experience. Waking conscious experience isn’t “vivid”. I’m never sure if this is a jest….

      I am astonished every day by this apparent mismatch of qualities.

    • Stephen

      “I’ve concluded that delusional paranoia is mental.” –Woody Allen (Zelig)

      “The fluid and ever-present nature of consciousness (as opposed to specific and isolated thoughts and impressions) is a separate matter, and one that I cannot comment on at this time.” (My sentence.)

      Your reply: I can wait.

      Funny!

      Phil,

      I’ll look at what Dennett had to say about W; but I can’t possibly be wrong, could I? I gave it my all, and can find nothing of value in Wittgenstein! There’s nothing there but one straw man after another. I could give you countless examples.

      Just what exactly do you mean by dualism or dualistic philosophers? One must be specific and define one’s concepts clearly. There are as many forms of dualistic philosophies as there are holes in my socks. And why do you say the mind-body concept is passé when these modern theorizers about consciousness, like Dennett, seem to delight in starting with that concept before proceeding to advance their own theories from that straw-man position?

      Descartes’ Error. The worthy Damasio doesn’t get it. It’s a pretty good book, I guess, but he doesn’t get it. There are, finally, very few people who understand the true significance of Descartes’ contribution! We live in a philosophical waste land. Ironic: the degree of erudition and mastery that has been attained (which is considerable) in the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology, seems to be in inverse proportion to the degree of knowledge acquired (which is paltry) of the evolution of the mind-body issue within the history of philosophy – since the great Descartes’ time.

      I’ve read a little Dennett, and find him to be vague, wordy, and unfairly dismissive of great philosophers. (Krauss hates philosophy too.) He refers to David Hume (one of the all-time greats, a most distinguished empirical psychologist for sure) as a “mentalist” who was, of course, wrong. W. thought everyone was wrong too. What the hell is a mentalist? No definition, as usual. I have to read his mind. (What am I, a mentalist?)

      (Don’t get me wrong: I like Dennett and Krauss – but have issues with them.)

      In one of Schopenhauer’s books he has a glossary with a comprehensive list of concepts and their precise meanings. That’s because he had clarity, had something to say, and said it. No jargon. None! No verbiage. No cobwebs. Just an honest and clear presentation of ideas – including very subtle and complex ideas.

      P.S. Experiment: I have my copy of Philosophical Investigations (the new edition) on my lap. I will open it at random and copy down the first sentence I see. I guarantee it’ll be nonsense (his favorite term of abuse):

      355 The point here in not that our sense impressions lie to us, but that we understand their language.

    • Phil [#49],

      I intend all experiences that we identify as experiences, all our apprehensions, are notable by having this vivid quality, they form impressions in the mind. So much of our thought is not apprehended at all.

      So we’ve abandoned the attempt to explain why consciousness exists (even in the limited version of: A binary quality found only in human brains) in order to define the term vivid experience?

      So much of our thought is not apprehended at all.

      The subconscious is how we define vivid experience – one is not apprehended, and forms no impressions in the conscious mind? Vivid experience is thus defined by what it isn’t?

      In what way is setting ‘higher’ functions of thought against the ‘lower’ functions useful? In Dennett’s model all thoughts emerge from automata, all are equal in the sense that they all have equal access to the thought-direction ‘controls’. The idea that I could really use a cup of tea doesn’t enter my conscious brain – yet my entire body, including the mind it carries, is moved to the kitchen. Tea will happen without vivid experience (until I take the first sip – of course).

      The idea that thoughts can be so different, and so simple, that we can classify them in a league table of two classes would be interesting if I could see any evidence for it. My own experience leads me to believe that my thoughts are far more dynamic. Passing thoughts are sometimes promoted to front-and-centre, while what held my full attention five minutes ago is frequently forgotten. Vivid? Why is vivid required as a descriptor? It seems to me to be a rhetorical device without merit. My thoughts, and if actions truly speak louder than words most people’s thoughts, occupy a shifting landscape between instinct, emotion, intuition, focal point, subconscious, background tasks and problem solving (e.g. parallel thinking).

      I’m saying something so astonishingly simple it is difficult to express.

      In your description vivid experience is far too simplistic to be an interesting or useful one. A straight vivid line is the shortest distance between two points. Okay, now about those quadratic equations …

      The arrangements of tiny electrochemical charges on this hyper-connected bush of neurons become, or rather, are, the near black of this keyboard with its myriad tiny details and sparkling highlights.

      Are you joking?

      A good mate and former poster here claims he is a p-zombie.

      Fair enough.

      That is he has no astonishing experience. Waking conscious experience isn’t “vivid”. I’m never sure if this is a jest …

      I agree, I think the word vivid has just been chosen by someone to flatter their readers and appeal to intuitive senses of ‘special-ness’.

      I am astonished every day by this apparent mismatch of qualities.

      I don’t understand.

      Peace.

    • Phil

      Wittgenstein draws a distinction between what can be said, using words, and what can only be shown, and this raises the inevitable question: Does the Tractatus, as a text, say things that can’t be said? Maybe. The next-to-last proposition is a famous shocker: “6.54. My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount
      these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.”

      That’s from Dennett’s essay. It sounds very Zen. It’s funny how everything incomprehensible and ludicrous (to me) that W writes becomes “famous.”

    • Stephen

      Don’t know where this idea comes from

      In what way is setting ‘higher’ functions of thought against the ‘lower’ functions useful?

      “Higher” and “lower” is begging a question still to be discovered.

      I really don’t understand most of what you’re saying here. It doesn’t seem to map to any of what I was saying but seems a guess at what you think I might have been saying, Heigh ho. I’m really not expressing myself clearly, as usual….

      “Vivid” was me trying not to use the specialised term of Qualia, and simply trying to distinguish the differing qualities of conscious and sub conscious thought.

      The automaton suddenly being presented with a cup of tea in the kitchen is weird. The idea bubbles up, sure enough into a conscious desire but a lot happens subsequently.

      I was not joking. The neuron states are the black and the sparkling I experience. They aren’t the brain state that triggers an epiphenomenal other thing. This is the nub of what are oftem termed “qualia”. (Dennet believes qualia don’t exist, but he is arguing against folk that believe there is a pre-existing red configuration of some sort that exists neurally like Chomsky thinks there is grammar wiring (or rather, physics!).)

      Dan,

      That particular quote I recall vividly(!) from my teens and thinking then as I do now, what a pretentious twat.

      His point about the inadequacy of words to do the metaphysical job is real though. “Red” is a good example of an inadequate term.

      Discussions about things meta are always difficult. Becoming aware of awareness, say, standing behind our cultural heritage to see what it may stand on is tough for people.

    • Dan.

      the true significance of Descartes’ contribution!

      Give this a descriptive shot for me, will you? You may have described it before, but I haven’t really retained it. Sorry.

    • Dan

      Just what exactly do you mean by dualism or dualistic philosophers? One must be specific and define one’s concepts clearly. There are as many forms of dualistic philosophies as there are holes in my socks. And why do you say the mind-body concept is passé when these modern theorizers about consciousness, like Dennett, seem to delight in starting with that concept before proceeding to advance their own theories from that straw-man position?

      Me

      S: “Most philosophical discussion on consciousness is clearly based on the premise that mind-body dualism is real.”

      P: This is surely stuff for populist consumption. No modern philosophers take this original dualist position (excepting theologians), though some do take positions involving substance, property or epiphenominal dualism, which are all nevertheless physicalist, yet still often misapprehended as classical dualism. These folk are often the least au fait with a modern neuro-psychology (or are amateurs like Roger Penrose, who wrongly thinks there is a problem of computations that needs to be solved), a discipline that has never once found such a roadblock to its understandings of conscious functional beings.

    • maria

      Many thanks for the translation. What a muddle the religious guy makes of it. The charge of dualism is ridiculous.

      Most discussing this fetishise the brain and neglect the body. Damasio by contrast is drawing them together as the singular organism we should be interested in. This is the exact reverse of being a kind of dualist, but you need to note the common error of the split to put it right! Pathetic thinking. The rest is likewise bunk.

    • phil #29

      I do not think the universe is in anyway whatsoever, conscious.

      trees are conscious
      why not the universe?

    • @ Phil 54

      Give this a descriptive shot for me, will you?

      I will try, Phil, but I am not feeling too good right now. (There is no justification for saying that trees are conscious, quarecuss, unless one is trying to be poetic.)

      The I is not absolutely the subject. This is the recognition that has eluded so many. It is equally important to recognize, and I have tried very hard to get people to see this, that the Cartesian I is an empirical fact that cannot be dismissed. I wrote this, for example:

      “Again, it is the intellect that divides the world of actual being into subject and object. The word “it” implies an Otherness. “It thinks” or “thought is” as opposed to I think, therefore I am is, in my view, putting the cart before the horse and expecting it to move forward, or to put it another way, expecting the apparatus to make sense. The self-consciousness is the only consciousness we can know. And to think is to BE.”

      We cannot migrate into the heads of others. I think, therefore I am. From that you get: I think, therefore it is. IT is mediately given. Knowledge of IT presupposes Being. Perhaps we can define I as that which is not and can never be IT. If you posit IT, a more primary Being is necessarily presupposed.

      (I do not believe that the empirical distinction between inside and outside is a distinction that has any meaning independently of the mind.)

      “Now through this, all that metaphysical psychology [the anti-empiricism of innate ideas, etc.] falls down, and with it all Plato’s [theories of knowledge as] pure activity of the soul. For we see that knowledge without the intuitive perception that is brought about by the body has no material, and consequently that the knower as such, without the presupposition of the body, is nothing but an empty form; not to mention that all thinking is a physiological function of the brain, just as digestion is of the stomach.”

      The subject is not the “I.” We are past Descartes now.

      The subject (knowledge) cannot be perceived; it perceives. That which it perceives is matter.

      The subject without matter is nothing. In other words, knowledge is necessarily knowledge of something and that something can never be itself.

      A perception in abstacto cannot ever be perceived – and knowledge itself, in the abstract, cannot be perceived. We can look at the brain, but that, as you and I both know, is just looking at matter, as opposed to knowledge! This is obvious.

      Matter without knowledge (and you as a physicist have taken issue with this) is no more than an abstraction. The pure matter of the physicists is, in my view, simply not capable of being perceived. If there were a perceiver, a subject of knowing, then matter would have to have some form in order to be apprehended. But form presupposes a brain. No visible shape, no perceived shape, can be associated with pure matter.

      So I say that matter has never been seen naked (without a subject) and the subject has never been seen, known, experienced, apprehended (choose what word you like) naked (i.e., without matter).

      The two are essentially one. Knowledge is a physiological process like breathing, digesting – although uniquely difficult to understand; everything associated with the functions of the body, the animal organism, is essentially a form of matter or has been derived from matter.

      “They are one entity, perceived by itself and perceiving itself.”

      Matter is the substratum, can be said to include all subjectivity and all objectivity. But there can be no objectivity without knowledge (subjectivity).

      “Yet its being-in-itself cannot consist of being perceived or in perceiving itself for these are divided between them.”

      Matter and the subject are one, but one can never perceive the former independently of the latter. One can never perceive the latter without the existence of the former. Moreover, one cannot conceive of knowledge without matter.

      The brain divides the world of being-in-itself into knower and known, subject and object – or more precisely: between the subject and matter.

      I have given you two hours of my life and was happy to do so.

    • Dan, I greatly appreciate your time.

      Let me first pull out the immediate plumb for me…

      The self-consciousness is the only consciousness we can know.

      I think this is very likely the case. Indeed it is the implication of the theory I proposed to Dennett about why a tiny set of neural activity might receive the astonishing parade in the “Cartesian Theatre” of conscious experience.

      As you might imagine the second half fails to engage. I can still see no use in such stuff. It almost seems like asking the question what does it feel like to be dead….

      I am puzzled by this all though because I see a lot about cogito but little about dualism which latter, I thought, was your cue to defend Descarte?

      Let me muse some more (I’m slow atm after long business meetings) and later post my theory in support of your quoted sentence here, which I hope may give us a common platform for further musings….

    • quarecuss

      trees signal. Humans signal too but sometimes with no conscious result to the transmitter or receiver. The wealth of automatic stuff is legion. The executive note/summary of conscious revelation is granted only to a limited processed set of signals and other knowledge. (Pheromones and hot, say, flips into consciousness.)

    • Hi Phil [#53],

      “Higher” and “lower” is begging a question still to be discovered

      There you go with the unwarranted assumptions again.

      I really don’t understand most of what you’re saying here. It … seems a guess at what you think I might have been saying …

      Well that’s that nailed down.

      I’m really not expressing myself clearly, as usual….

      It takes two to tango.

      “Vivid” was me trying not to use the specialised term …

      Without wishing to sound annoyed … okay, maybe just a tad … I can google as well as anyone else. Better than some.

      … of Qualia, and simply trying to distinguish the differing qualities of conscious and sub-conscious thought.

      Okay. Going back to your earlier comment then:

      … all experiences that we identify as experiences … notable by having this vivid quality, they form impressions in the mind. So much of our thought is not apprehended at all

      This is about qualia versus sub-conscious thought? I still don’t get it.

      The automaton suddenly being presented with a cup of tea in the kitchen is weird.

      Welcome to my World.

      The idea bubbles up, sure enough into a conscious desire but a lot happens subsequently

      Yes. Seriously, there is nothing else to say. We have thoughts, life goes on. And?

      I was not joking. The neuron states are the black and the sparkling I experience. They aren’t the brain state that triggers an epiphenomenal other thing. This is the nub of what are oftem termed “qualia”

      My understanding is that the trick cyclists use the term qualia to refer to independent conscious (as opposed to sub-conscious), subjective, experiences. There is an argument that all human conscious experience is subjective. I have some sympathy with that view; experience mediated by our emotions certainly seems the norm and it doesn’t, necessarily, prevent us from reaching objective conclusions.

      Dennet believes qualia don’t exist …

      I didn’t know that. I have no opinion, this is new to me.

      … he is arguing against folk that believe there is a pre-existing red configuration of some sort that exists neurally …

      I can see how that would happen.

      … like Chomsky thinks there is grammar wiring …

      I assisted an ex-girlfriend with her dissertation on infant human language acquisition and how the evidence comes down on the side of there being some foundational inherited language ability in us. It was (ahem) some decades ago and remembering that time is, erm, more likely to trigger non-academic memories.

      Assuming that what remains in my memory of that, intense, time is accurate and that further studies by others have not rewritten the canon (and my recent readings of Pinker suggest not) an inherited ability to recognise grammar is the current orthodoxy. Environment still plays a very important role – particularly early on.

      Chomsky’s reputation, based as it is on founding an entire branch of study – modern linguistics – is safe from me. I don’t always agree with his opinion, though in recent years he has been careful to avoid prescribing – perhaps wisdom really does come with age. His ability to perceive through the veils of propaganda and spin remains outstanding.

      Is our inherited grammar ability (for want of a better word) like our inherited color perception?

      I don’t know.

      Well, they’re both inherited.

      Before I go on I should point out that I am aware that some people still think that the old argument “Your red may not be my red” is clever.

      Ignorance of what constitutes objectivity and empiricism aside, the idea that qualia might be based on inherited traits that strongly favour (or are direct mental interpretations of?) environmental conditions is both logical and rational. The only questions that remain are:

      Is this empirically sound?
      What is the balance between nature and nurture?

      Humans are driven less by instinct than any other species. I don’t know that to be a fact, but it does appear to be true from what I’ve read to-date. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say: Humans have the greatest ability to override their instincts … ?

      Whether qualia are hard-wired or not seems to me to beside the point. I have to be conscious to experience qualia and that would also seem to be the minimum requirement for conscious-ness?

      Peace.

    • Stephen

      P: … all experiences that we identify as experiences … notable by having this vivid quality, they form impressions in the mind. So much of our thought is not apprehended at all

      S: This is about qualia versus sub-conscious thought? I still don’t get it.

      P: The automaton suddenly being presented with a cup of tea in the kitchen is weird.

      S: Welcome to my World.

      I feel like I’m pointing and you are looking at and talking about the end of my finger.

      To just correct some issues about the end of my finger. I too don’t believe qualia exist as a common wired (or supernatural or other shared) entity in brains. “Vivid” and specifically “vivid quality” was not specifically for your benefit but to be consistent with much earlier used language by me and others on this site and others five and ten years ago. It was found to be a more effective pointing device with less downside than qualia.

      My understanding is that the trick cyclists use the term qualia to refer to independent conscious (as opposed to sub-conscious), subjective, experiences.

      See? Independent conscious versus sub-conscious!!!! Independent? What a bizarre dichotomy.

      Chomsky’s Universal Grammar has been increasingly losing traction of late and C has scaled his enterprise back to one of more investigation with far less substance asserted. There is lag in academe because of the depth and substantial nature of the investment to say nothing of its fringe benefits.

      I think this is frustrating for both of us. Time for me to stop pointing.

      The Hard Problem is seemingly not hard for you, to the point of non-existence.

    • Phil 60

      Dualism.

      My point was that Descartes’ Cogito was the beginning of the end of the distinction between mind and body. That dualism does not exist anymore and I don’t know why it is still used – as a straw-man; it is a relic of an earlier time in the history of thought, belongs to “ancient” dogmatic philosophy.

      But that is not where dualism ends. The real dualism is that peculiar duality associated with the antithesis between the body (brain) and whatever might be said to remain without it.

      The color Red per se is not a metaphysical subject. The question as to the precise nature of the entire material universe is, finally, the only question that can be called metaphysical. Our universe (which we inhabit as bodies and know as an extension of our bodies) has to exist independently of the body. You already conceded, Phil, that self-consciousness is the only thing that is immediately given. Everything else is mediately given. (That is the contribution of Descartes: right there in a nutshell.) So why do you eschew the second half of my remarks? One follows the other.

      It is as impossible to know ourselves as it is to know or truly understand anything outside of ourselves (such as the nature of the universe in itself). No one can understand (know) himself, for to do that he would have to get outside himself; the subject of knowing would have to become its own object.

      Or the object would have to become its own subject of knowing.

      This question, as you said, is not unlike asking what death feels like. I agree. Metaphysical knowledge (assuming that such knowledge can be acquired) can only be negative. We can only know what we cannot know! I can tell you what death is not like. We know, for example, that we cannot be conscious after death, and we know that it cannot be in time or space…

      But unlike death, the thing-in-itself is not dead. We know that it cannot be nothing.—And so we are left with a question, and what is perhaps the only question of its kind, one deserving of the phrase: a metaphysical question.

    • Dan, a quickie.

      That dualism does not exist anymore and I don’t know why it is still used.

      Physicalist dualisms exist and are promoted in their new versions because of the inexplicable discontinuity between brain states and the quality of our experiences. This discontinuity is non-existent in Stephen’s view, but many, including me, think it real enough. The issue is particularly to the fore at the moment in imagining if AI is or can be conscious. Consciousness as a matter of data processing is un-problematic. Every quirk of our own data processing may eventually get modelled and replicated, even love and loneliness from the leftovers of its upbringing. But when in all this does it get to report a problem, a discontinuity in its brain state and the quality of its experiences.

      Supernatural dualism though is dead save for the shallows of a theologians mind.

      We may achieve a mastery of their correlations (brain states and the quality of experiences) but even a how explanation can never wholly close the gap until simple acceptance smooths over the itch to know.

      To be clear I hold to none of these physicalist dualisms as they are flawed and have no real power to close the gap. For me brain states like thus and so simply are experience, and that’s the end of it. I think, though, there are characteristics to the particular brain states that will help in the process of our acceptance of the fact.

      Re, Descarte, I see the point that cogito could be seen a start of sorts of a defeat of the self as supernatural spirit, but I must seek out such texts that suggest Descarte himself thought so. Did he? I think it could go either way.

      The universe has no need of my experience to act out of its own nature. I am and will remain isolated from 99.999999% of spacetime. Quantum reality where cause and effect have no distinction is even further removed from the apparent reality of our current spacetime in which I live and from which it springs. My parochial experiences and flawed, incomplete understandings of reality merely make disconnected models etc. etc.

    • Phil,

      “I see the point that cogito could be seen a start of sorts of a defeat of the self as supernatural spirit, but I must seek out such texts that suggest Descarte himself thought so.”

      No, I don’t think he did, Phil. But others did.

      “Discontinuity between brain-states and the quality of our experiences.”

      I don’t understand. Not your fault. I simply don’t know enough to appreciate some of your comments. I am not up on a lot of these newer concepts and problems. I did look up the word “qualia” (again) and gave up in despair. Not my fault, necessarily.

      What do you consider to be Dennett’s best work on consciousness? It behooves me to read more.

      I cannot fathom how anyone in this day and age could possibly regard “the mind” as in any way whatsoever separate from the body. Were you suggesting that that school of thought still exists among non-theologians, among scientists?

      Later, brother. (How’s that project going, the one on memes?)

      Dan

    • Everyone can safely assume I check my terms using wiki. So its often simplest to translate what terms I use by use of wiki and again often the first few paragraphs will suffice.

      In #39 I mistakenly wrote

      No modern philosophers take this original dualist position (excepting theologians), though some do take positions involving substance, property or epiphenominal dualism, which are all nevertheless physicalist, yet still often misapprehended as classical dualism.

      which should have read

      No modern philosophers take this original dualist position (excepting theologians), though some do take positions involving predicate, property or epiphenominal dualism, which are all nevertheless physicalist, yet still often misapprehended as classical, substance, dualism.

      So this in response to your

      I cannot fathom how anyone in this day and age could possibly regard “the mind” as in any way whatsoever separate from the body. Were you suggesting that that school of thought still exists among non-theologians, among scientists?

      No. All the alternatives to classical, substance dualism of Descarte that particularly emerged through the sixties and seventies as an appreciation of neural entered the popular imagination were physicalist. See Wiki “dualism (theory of mind)” and Stanford Philosophy “dualism”.

      Secondly, for a more thorough background on philosophical stuff I always check with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Their summaries don’t cut corners and either use standard illustrations in this area like Mary the Color Scientist or (in the article on Dualism) create better illustrations like Harpo the scientist who knows all the physics and neuroscience of hearing but is himself deaf. (I prefer my own illustrations of 3D perception and the vision scientist Philomena with strabismus who will never get [even after corrective surgery] the “pop-out” experience of these crazy busy images with a 3D shape hidden in them.)

      This latter experience (3D pop) for me most readily gets people to separate knowledge (the shapes on the page, say) from the uncanny experience, not least because it is novel to most folk, takes time to get and is a sudden apprehension of a really useful and rich experience….well except for former late strabismus sufferers and any p-zombies out there…

      This is why the sixties becomes a pivot point for philosophy and Dennett who looked out from the slow steady ship of philosophy and noticed they were coming into port. Suddenly head stuff had a richness of material and new problems, not some vague guesses based on a few cases of head trauma.

      Richard Gregory (my first hero Richard) started to explain the neurology of visual perception (from work on cats) but tied his thinking very much to the problem of optical illusion and its uncanny errors. He it was who first noted that what is seen is posited first on the expectation of what is to be seen.

      I think Dennett’s best book may well be his latest. I’ll let you know. I’m fairly sure it will contain an account of his latest thinking on consciousness (though it will not contain much about the hard problem, if any.) It will be about how data is processed to achieve its effect.

      My own project has many (fun) distractions. Not only will it need to take account of the new Dennett, but I need to follow up on “The Myth of Mirror Neurons” to better nail its deficiencies (the lack of research into mirror neurons and kids….for whom they were most probably evolved. Then a trawl for any new papers in that area. Culturally, empathy is for kids, in a sense, as a substrate for a constructed, considered-compassion in later life.) I can try out a bit of the stuff having been invited to do a piece on over-imitation. Explanatory failures, like mine here are pretty darned helpful.

    • For any who haven’t seen these-

      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/f9/a5/09/f9a5093b082182fbfd94fc08c3a4bc81.jpg

      Make the image fullscreen, put your eyes at approximately twice the distance away as the image is wide and relax your eyes as if staring at a distant object (uncross them) and wait… Pop.

      Rock your head from side to side forward or back and see the curious skewing of perspective.

      Now examine (one eyed if needed to turn off 3D) the image from a greater distance (or zoomed in) and see the mangled-ness at the edges.

      Describe the experience of 3D to Philomena.

    • Olgun.

      I need to think this through before answering.

      maria

      I don’t now (this morning) believe Descarte initiates any enquiry into monism with cogito. Having looked for such musings I can find none, or at least none referred to by others. I will await Dan’s pointers.

      I wonder if Dan is imaging that the physical is subsumed into the stuff of mind (as in the substance dualist mind) given his position on Schopenhauer, and his almost ephemeral stuff of phenomena with which the mind interacts and the “substance” of the noumen? Cogito connects to Schopenhauer for him. (Dan?)

      A post with a link to hidden 3D images is in moderation.

      I’ll post a second in ten minutes with another. This may get held up too.

    • This to go with a post in moderation. Instructions for viewing there.

      http://img1.izismile.com/img/img2/20090422/magic_11.jpg

      In a sense this is more shocking, because the informational content seems many times more after popping.

      It is still though the uniquely different feel, the quality, of the two modes of experiencing and whether Philomena or Turanga Leela could ever have the same experience or imagine having the same experiences of “coming towards you” as most of us have after popping, without taking it in some lesser way of mere parallax motion.

    • Reiteration and clarification

      Modern philosophy begins with Descartes who formally introduced the problem of the antithesis between the real and the ideal to humanity, and did not, like all of his dogmatic predecessors, start from the external world and forget the subject. But he was himself unaware of the full significance of his own contribution. Prior to Descartes, however, the dogmatic doctrine of the identity of the real (that which is independent of the mind) and the ideal (the representation of perception) prevailed. That is why Soul was associated with Mind. Aristotle’s unmoved mover is a perfect example of a thesis concerning knowledge in relation to the metaphysical (God) that is based on the pre-Cartesian dogmatic assumption I have referenced. But Kant, with all of his shortcomings, did, finally, “clip the wings of reason”.

      But not only is God unknowable; everything in-itself is. As I said before, Descartes demonstrated that all knowledge (of the physical as well as anything metaphysical) is mediately given. That insight, again, was his great contribution.

      (The Self is not exactly the “I”, Phil. Not in this context. Different concepts. I am not splitting hairs. And yes, Descartes’ Meditations connect to Schopenhauer. Very much so! Absolutely so!)

      I suspect that this doctrine or belief in the identity of the real and the ideal is still adhered to, as though Descartes never existed.

      “And so it was he [Descartes] who discovered the gulf between the subjective or ideal and the objective or real. He clothed this insight in the form of a doubt concerning the existence of the external world; but by his inadequate solution of such doubt, namely that God Almighty would surely not deceive us, he has shown how profound the problem is and how difficult it is to solve.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

      Olgun, if you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to figure out what something means (like qualia) you might want to consider, at some point, that there is nothing to understand; one’s inability to understand is sometimes the fault of the writer (writers such as Hegel and Wittgenstein, and possibly Dennett) and not you the reader. I have encountered a lot of ambiguity in the use of concepts among many thinkers. Great epistemologists are usually clear. Difficult, perhaps – but clear. Reading them is like walking into a brightly lit room, as Goethe said.

    • The qualia thing used to be that an experience was a hard wired thing (in some brain related way, not necessarily or exclusively neurons and synapses) and exactly the same for everyone and this configuration of stuff created or unearthed embodied both the knowledge and the experience of red.

      Dennett (and I) think the knowledge and a potential experience of it are wired neurally in brains that may not be congruent one brain to another. The encoding of the data and its retrieval merely has to be consistent within one brain. All interactions between brains are culturally mediated and only as accurate as needed until selection pressures force better.

      But “red” resides in a million places in our semantic memories (our knowledge of how the world is). The fruit, the gore, that dress you keep for the weekends… This data doesn’t cry out to us even though the red is wired in. Our subconscious uses the data all the time triaging our perceptions and memories, valuing and selecting before presenting to conscious-experiencing the particular it thinks most salient to us at this moment. That car. When in the “Cartesian Theatre”, the conscious parade of the potentially salient, we test using more rigorous routines of cultural testing using language and logic, will I just look a twat driving a red car at my age? (Apparently, yes.)

      This is why the data of red and the experience of red are separate though tied.

      Now the idea of the p-zombie is that all that is needed to function identically to humans is the data and that surely the experience is just another kind of data too? A p-zombie will do what we do, exactly, it will have our data our exact brainstates, will even report surprise at the quality of experience but never actually have those “vivid” experiences.

      The conclusion comes that we cannot tell others from p-zombies, and though we have surprising experiences that we must imagine are denied p-zombies, we, to others, are indistinguishable from them. We are not distinguishable. Apart from the solipsism we are probably the self same data-only p-zombies with an illusion.

      I have joked about Stephen being a p-zombie. This was incorrect. He doesn’t even report surprise at the quality of his experiences, but I suspect I screwed up asking the questions correctly. (Also the p-zombie mention in 3D popping was an equal error.)

      Brain wiring is all subject to apoptosis (cell death) through energy saving mechanisms like use it or lose. And its a conceptual layer cake of progressively reducing permanence from brainstem infrastructure control, through bike riding, to what you are thinking now. Its all wiring but the most ephemeral are the potentiations associated with short term memory.

    • OK, Dan.

      The Schopenhauer quote really does allow that substance dualism can be separated from a sort of super-added substance dualism that involves a soul-shepherding god.

      But this is just a dilution of theism and theistic mechanism, not about souls. It is progressive in its way but I think other releases from the apron strings of a creator may be more liberating. No, on second thoughts, I’ll accept it as an important part of the deconstruction of theism, which indirectly contributed to the demise of substance dualism even though that was his own beloved. Thanks.

    • if you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to figure out what something means (like qualia) you might want to consider, at some point, that there is nothing to understand; one’s inability to understand is sometimes the fault of the writer

      True, on pages like this, but

      Bloody difficult quantum mechanics, plasma physics, neuro-science, [area of expertise-here].

      Argumentum ad Readers Digest. Just a taste will tell…

      You might want to consider that some ideas (like qualia) are increasingly out of date, also. The problem is the one we all have with improving states of knowledge.

    • Dan, maria

      Here’s a great discussion about Descarte as proto monist/physicalist etc.

      https://philpapers.org/bbs/thread.pl?tId=616

    • Ollie #75 was for you. Missed off the tag.

    • Ollie,

      Meta discussions are hard. A discussion on being aware of awareness is difficult to start and to sustain reliably.

      I hate using red as a proxy for all of conscious experience. For one thing, people think we have a red detector in the eye and that stimulating it maps, somehow directly, to the experience of redness.

      This is hopelessly wide of the mark and there are a huge number of processes to happen first before an experience redness might actually be created.

      We don’t have a red detector. We have detectors peaked at orange, lime and blueberry. We discern red by automatically doing some clever maths on the output amplitude of all three to triangulate into a virtual space called colour space where the data of cultural correlations are effectively stored and a potential experience further correlated.

      As you recall we only experience some fraction of what comes in through our sensors, the rest comes from that (“prosaic”) apparatus that anticipates what we might expect and as often as possible shoves it in to allow us to not process so much information and free up our attention for more pressing matters. This anticipation may not be accurate at all. Those red shoes on the child’s feet may be just shoes in the simulation and recalled as brown when pressed.

      (It is this “anticipation”, this prosaic simulation, that forms our first guess in cognising (understanding in some way) our perceptions and lies at the root of our speedy comprehension of what is presented to us, but also the plethora of errors of cognition we are prone to including optical illusions.)

      Finally our automatic aesthetics and valuing heuristics, working quite invisibly to us chooses what is potentially salient, suitable for short term memorisation and thus, only then, consciously manifested for more or less energy intensive cultural, cortical processing.

      Those red shoes, in plain sight, may well go unseen. The (added in) prosody of conscious experience may undo its astonishing nature.

      This is one reason I went for 3D vision that can yet yield an experiential surprise and can be denied to many and yet never returned, because brains wire to their task. We know the answer that brain wiring of some sort IS actually needed for particular experiences to ever happen.

    • Phil, Stephen, Maria, Olgun—

      This is how I approach all of this.

      I rarely read secondary sources. I read Plato himself, and Descartes himself, and I read what great philosophers have to say about other great philosophers. I rarely read encyclopedias, but I will use a simple dictionary from time to time. If you refer to Wikipedia or articles by scholars you might get lucky once in a while; but, assuming that one has a real interest in gaining real insights, you’ll drive yourself nuts sifting through it all. I recently looked up “qualia”. I was not enlightened by what I saw. I might read what Lewis himself, who first coined the phrase, or I might not. The concept seems vague and deceptive. So now what is physicalism? There is an implicit and dismissive arrogance that these words suggest to me. They have a smell to them. I tend to stay away from them.

      I remember encountering, for the first time, the word “monism” in a class once many years ago. It’s one of many modern, 20th Century concepts, many isms, that I choose to regard as inconsequential and irrelevant.

      Whether we can embrace dualism (a word I do like) as a mode of thought, or relation to the nature existence, or whether there can be any justification for asserting the possibility of knowing what is One, i.e., gaining knowledge of a monistic universe or order of things, would depend largely on context. But from the point of view of any responsible epistemological inquiry, where the human mind is and must remain part of the problem, we are back to what I said about Descartes and everything else I’ve said: we must be a little wary of positing an IT or an Otherness when it is WE who are thinking IT.

      Both Two (Dualism) and One (Monism) exist as modes of thought-relation to the “One”. the All, the Absolute. How can there be more than one existence, finally? Well there isn’t and there is: that is the problem itself! And there will always, must be, duality: there is empirical existence and there is Existence. (Capital E. —That which is must be, as Parmenides said.) Surely there was Being before there were brains. But to regard the two realms as identical is just an appeal to realism or materialism once again although disguised by different terms. What interests me is what we can KNOW about a monistic entity (whether it be God or the Universe or an existing thing or everything that exists in its totality), and that question is a dualistic question, necessarily.

      (The Schopenhauer quote is of questionable value. Basically, he took what he could from Descartes – and that is quite a lot – and rejected the rest. Descartes paved the way for others; he remained dogmatic on the issue of God – as he was only human and did not understand the full significance of his own Cogito; it had not yet been developed.)

    • Part 2

      Phil # 76. Well put. Thanks. Yes, that it was. (The demise of “substance dualism.”) (I had to look it up.)

      People ask too much of Poor Descartes, and fail to see his contribution in the context of what followed as a result of that contribution.

      (It is by no means always the case that incomprehensibility is the fault of the author. I said it can be.)

      “a new kind of dogmatism assuming mathematical truths as undeniable…” Maria

      Maria, a priori knowledge or innate ideas (which I strongly “believe” in) is not the same as dogmatism or religion. It all depends on what kind of ideas we are talking about. If you really think about it, Kant’s theorem of the innate nature of our knowledge of time and space is really quite astonishing and profound. I think that most mathematical truths (based on this a priori knowledge) are certain. For example, 3+2=5. Or, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, etc. No radical empiricist can prove otherwise, can he (she)? By the way, the belief in the non-existence of innate ideas is what leads to dogmatism. If everything is learned from the outside in then we can claim to have knowledge of that which is beyond the possibility of experience, like an unmoved mover or a God that we can know and understand with our minds. My impression is that scientific realism is a multi-headed hydra, or like an undying monster – like Dracula. New words and theories are forever replacing old ones; but it all amounts to the same thing: the identity of the real and the ideal. That is what I mean when I say that people act like Berkeley, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Schopenhauer and Kant, never existed. It’s maddening to me. I know they were from a long time ago, but so was Darwin and Einstein.

      Comte, who you quoted, may have been right when he said that dogmatism is the normal state of the human mind. Schopenhauer put it slightly differently when he said that it is the natural disposition of the intellect to start from the object and forget the subject.

    • Surely there was Being before there were brains.

      Yes something must have existed before brains could happen. Why the Chopra mode? Why flip from capital E existence to capital B being?

      Brains, the most astonishingly complex entity we know by many orders of magnitude (probably, now, millions of times more complex than the next most complicated thing) need a very particularly adaptable substrate for this. Dennett’s insistence on complexity necessarily confounds the Poverty of Entities in earlier philosophising. Quantity is quality as someone wise said.

    • Poor Descarte! Poor Darwin!

      They are convenient cyphers for more complex ideas. Substance dualism as the manifestation of personal totality, and evolution of nearly perfect replicators by means of natural selection.

      But its convenient when wanting to be quite precise. Rich and diverse minds both but they stand for a specific as well.

    • My dear Philonous (#87),

      Capital E and capital B.

      I sometimes flip from small r (reality) and small e (existence) and small b (being) to Capitals R, E, and B.

      Language and convenience compels me to use the Chopra-type capitals, and so I do this, reluctantly, from time to time. You certainly know by now that I am a convinced dualist. Not a “substance dualist.” Being or Existence before brains. — You agree, don’t you, that there was being before brains? So do I. But that Being is devoid of any of the existing things that you and I and the rest of the world regard as objective or real, of any secondary (sensible) qualities. (The B of, say, the being of a hand before my eyes would be a small B.) I doubt if any primary qualities can be associated with it. This is not like describing what death feels like; it is like describing what death cannot be like, as I said before.

      Why do you resist this dualism? You know that I am not suggesting that the world of actual Being was not created by brains; but you also must realize that brains divided that world into subject and object, perceiver and perceived.

      Think about this (I was thinking about this earlier this morning): the word Oneness (a Chopra-type word) is misleading, is a misleading word; the realm of “Oneness”…. is realm the right word?…. or Being (capital B), is outside the sphere of Number. So the word Monism is misleading too. There is no multiplicity or diversity where there are no brains, is there? So the words Oneness and Unity are misleading. Tell that to Chopra.

      What cannot be thought away is matter. Everything else vanishes with the brain. But matter in itself is no solution to the problem. To tell you the truth, Schopenhauer concluded that there is no final solution to this problem. A certain mystery may have to remain as a permanent question with no answer.

      -Hylas

    • You know that I am not suggesting that the world of actual Being was not created by brains

      Correction: You know that I am not suggesting that the world of actual Being was created by brains.

    • What is a Kantian spirit? I don’t know what that means.

      Innate ideas: think about this, Maria. When a newborn infant is slapped (if it is slapped) on its bottom, it knows that the slap did not originate from itself but from something foreign to itself. That is what is called Understanding; the ability to trace an effect (the sensation) back to a cause, is an innate faculty of the mind. (A living being without a brain, such as a cell, cannot do this.) Moreover, when an infant, that has gained its ability to see, looks out at space in front of it, that space is already in the mind of the infant as a form. It is not learned from the outside in. That would imply that we are taught how to perceive space – which is not likely. Time as well is innate.

      There are no other innate ideas. Just these: time, space, and causality. The production of knowledge (intuitive perceptual knowledge) of these ideas are innate functions of the brain.

      They are pure intuitions, and are innate. Piaget is entitled to his empiricism and his opinions; and we are entitled to our opinions.

    • P.S. “Piaget could not help but diverge from the preexistent and static character of those a priori structures of the subject…” Maria

      I won’t lie; I can’t really explain the physiological nature of these forms; but what we call reality or existence is, I firmly believe, dependent upon these forms of knowledge and not the other way around; they are what makes our knowledge of existence possible. These are very subtle, difficult, and unusual concepts that I am trying to discuss. By the way, when I say “space” I also mean “outside of me”. I am not talking about astronomical space. I can’t imagine that the distinction we make between outer and inner is learned.

      I strongly recommend Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic. You don’t have to read anything else by Kant. That foundation-stone is more than enough, although his Critique of Judgment is marvelous. (I think we’ve discussed that work. This sounds familiar.) The Aesthetic is short and dense. It produced a fundamental change in my thinking. Whether you agree with its conclusions or premises or not is up to you, but I think everyone who has any interest in the theory of knowledge should read it; it is a masterpiece of the mind.

    • Dan

      There are no other innate ideas. Just these: time, space, and causality. The production of knowledge (intuitive perceptual knowledge) of these ideas are innate functions of the brain.

      Nativism (Fodor, Chomsky, Pinker….Kant, Schopenhauer) is having a hard time at the moment. It is up against the problem of extreme examples of neural plasticity (the Chinese woman without a cerebellum) and conversely the fact of early development windows in humans that once passed deny ever the capacity of 3D vision or parsing sounds into phonemes.

      Piaget’s theories of cognitive development have needed some proper functional roots in neuroscience for a long time.

      This is where neurocontructivism comes in. This has strong and rapidly accumulating evidence to show how whilst the brain has little or no innate knowledge it has innate functional predispositions. So, as we have learned, skill acquisition need not reside in the cerebellum if its not there, but if it is there, because it has unique multi- multi parallel input Perkinje cells, this is where these high co-ordination processes best take up residence, etc. etc.. What confounds some baby psychologist thinking innateness more present than it is is the speed at which learning happens because of these specialised areas. The counter to them is that if these specialised areas are not stimulated during the major rewiring periods, and do not learn, then the skill is never, can never be, acquired.

      Yet again. Causality isn’t innate (no evidence so far), but correlation detection exists and has profound evidence for it globally in the brain. Causality is an introspected higher level analysis with compound answers. This on deep analysis may appear nit-picking (I let go of the stone is correlated with stone subsequently falling) but it prevents a polysemous word (causality) allowing an idea to be over-extended undeservedly.

    • Dan #89

      You agree, don’t you, that there was being before brains?

      Again, stuff existed, if that’s what you mean? Or do you mean more? “Being” is a very funny word…. Is a rock a being too? This looks like a set up for another word trick, like using the over-extendable “causality” when “correlation” actually suffices at the lowest levels.

    • maria melo, Phil

      “Amoebas that don´t have brains can avoid danger…” -Maria

      Yes! Absolutely right! I have no problem with that. But what they are doing is responding to stimuli. There is no distinction made, by the cell, between the sensation and its own being. Unlike animals with understanding, a brainless cell makes no distinction between itself and IT. It reacts to stimuli, but does not “see” the danger as external.

      (Everyone has had the experience of bodily sensations that are external but mistaken as internal. I was taking a walk not long ago. It was a quiet night in upstate New York. I kept hearing a ticking sound. I was worried that I had developed tinnitus or maybe even a tumor. I got very worried; it kept happening. But… I soon realized that I was only hearing the ticking when I was wearing my winter jacket. I examined the jacket and eventually discovered the source of the infernal ticking sound: it was the zipper flapping up and down as I walked. Now that, on a much more primitive level, is how cells and jellyfish relate to all stimuli from without – except in their case, there is no question of whether it is one or the other, that is, internal or external; it can only be felt, dimly apprehended, as a sensation emanating from within itself, a sensation without a cause. No knowledge of space or causality, you see.)

      Phil,

      Nativism? That’s what Trump and a lot of his supporters are: nativists. Now how dare you mention Pinker in the same breath as… Just kidding.

      “Stuff existed” is fine, but stuff is a rather inelegant word, wouldn’t you say?

      Is a rock a being? Interesting question! The rock has being, yes. So does an illusion. The subject of the nature of being is not something to scoff at. (Not saying you are scoffing, but you seem to be almost scoffing.)

      Correlation and cause are two distinct concepts. All causes imply a correlation; but not all correlations between variables imply a cause. There are, by the way, different types of causes. Aristotle categorized them and it still hold up. (You can Wiki that.)

      …whilst the brain has little or no innate knowledge it has innate functional predispositions.

      Little or no? Which one is it? Functional predispositions? What are they? The brain does indeed have innate knowledge. It divides, Phil. For one thing, the brain divides the world we live in, and are born into, into inner and outer! This is easy to overlook. I don’t know precisely when this takes place. The human foetus was originally like the cell I mentioned, was in fact a mere cluster of cells; and it takes a while for it to develop to the point where its brain can make a distinction, can differentiate, between itself and something outside of itself.

      (Schopenhauer criticized his beloved Kant for his wordiness. “Why say synthesis,” he asked, “when he could have just said combination?” Good question.)

    • I exist. The rock exists. I am a being. The rock …exists. Why are you using the word being when you could say rocks exist without risking future confusion and implications of the term being? This is Chopra stuff.

      For one thing, the brain divides the world we live in, and are born into, into inner and outer!

      It learns to. Babies have no sense of selves. Limbs are only progressively owned and an individual formed and separated off from the world. But at the outset if a good cry gets you a breast, but that wavy thing down there (your leg) goes its own sweet way, inside and outside are not working, or necessary, concepts yet. There is biddable stuff and random shit…..

      We have (innate) knowledge of a good enough co-incidence (because of brain behaviours) to identify a correlation.

      Thank you for illustrating that causal is polysemous. The point you are missing is that correlation is sufficient for the development of behaviours. No more is needed in early development.

      I’m with Kant on synthesis, I think. “To place together” from its Greek root intends the act of an agent…..most often man-made, no mere combination without sight of its creation.

      Incautious, imprecise language use is the death of philosophy.

    • Unless Kant used the word wrongly!

      Maybe he did just mean an existing combination. But the words have different meanings and implications….

    • Phil,

      Oh leave me alone. (Kidding.)

      That which is, must be. –Parmenides

      Being, existing, being real, being an existing thing… These words and phrases are virtually interchangeable in this context. If I say that the rock exists it would be nonsensical to say that the rock does not have being. I might say that it isn’t real if I though it was an illusion.

      You’re telling me about precision? Precision is absolutely essential and I have stated that numerous times.

      I have no concern about my use of the word Being or about being compared to Chopra or to anyone, per se. Chopra gets it right on the button sometimes, and people like Kant and Einstein, and your Dennett, can make asinine remarks sometimes.

    • Babies have no sense of selves.

      They have no sense of the self as an “I”. But I am talking about a much more rudimentary sense of self and other. This all animals with brains have from birth (or before) onwards. It is not learned; all learning is dependent upon it!!

    • I’m not talking about selves.

      You were talking about an innate sense of insides and outsides. I’m saying no there isn’t yet. That is learned. There is biddable and non biddable. Learning to control breasts, require no sense of outsideness.

      So

      Surely there was Being before there were brains.

      Surely there was existence before there were brains.

      doesn’t suffice because?

    • Phil,

      You said that babies have no sense of selves; so you are talking about selves. I say they do have a sense of self in so far as the light of the sun or the cool air is – well I can’t really prove this – not part of that self – its experience within its own body, that is. It doesn’t know what a body is or what light or warmth is but it feels the light and the warmth, and what’s more, it (usually) “knows” (and this is a peculiar and rudimentary species of knowing, an intuitive knowledge) that the light, or the cool air, or the water, or whatever it is, is not part of its self.

      The word “existence” for me connotes empirical existence. That is all. That which is (exists) must be. And yes, that which has Being must surely exist. But if we are having a discussion about anything having to do with the subject of an antithesis between the real and the ideal, it is necessary for me to distinguish between empirical and absolute reality. That is the whole point.

      I still say that all living creatures with brains do not learn “outside” from without. A baby opens its eyes and sees or hears a sound or smells something or is touched. Generally speaking, I don’t think that it thinks that the smell or the sound or the touch or the space in front of it is one and the same thing as itself. (See my little story in parentheses. Comment 100.)

      I will say this about the sense of touch: I said that babies “usually” know that something is not it; the sense of touch is the most subjective of all the senses. It is quite possible that very early on a baby feels a hand caress it and thinks the sensation is coming from itself. In fact if an adult is ill and with his eyes closed feels cold, it may be impossible to know if that is the open window or a chill generated from within. He is, in a sense, touched, by a sensation of coldness, and cannot determine if it is of objective or subjective origin. The same applies to hallucinations – auditory and visual. But these are exceptions to the rule, and these mental experiences only demonstrate that our judgment can err and often does; the innate ability to differentiate (intuitively, not conceptually) between inner and outer remains the rule. That is what I think. Sight, by the way, is the most objective of the senses. I refuse to believe that any being with a brain, at any stage of its development from birth onwards, sees objects, sees space itself, before it, and as if it were the most rudimentary form of life coalesces with these objects, and with space itself, entirely.

      That’s all for today. I have other stuff to do.

      Great talking to you. Just like old times, my friend.

    • Just like old times, my friend.

      Yep…. 🙂

      Truly, selves is not the topic. It wasn’t yours. It isn’t intended to be mine.

      Like with Stephen, this is looking at the end of my finger whilst it is pointing at something. Its part of a narrative to get inside babies’ heads. The issue is innate knowledge of inside and outside.

      I refuse to believe that any being with a brain, at any stage of its development from birth onwards, sees objects, sees space itself, before it, and as if it were the most rudimentary form of life coalesces with these objects, and with space itself, entirely.

      There is no early need to make those distinctions. Much more important stuff precedes it. There is vision itself that needs to wire to its task. Retinas to learn edge detection and edge movement….

    • I have never encountered a “Kantian spirit” in all my reading of Kant, and I have read all of his major works, multiple times.

      “No knowledge of space.” I was referring to single cells themselves, not to the advanced organisms with senses, or to any particular organs of sense, which were formed by those cells.

      Inner and outer. Hard to discuss that without using the word “self” from time to time. One would have to engage in verbal acrobatics to do otherwise.

    • You don’t need eyes, Phil, to apprehend space; just a sensation and the intuitive awareness that the sensation has a source from without.

      Understanding=sensation+cause.

      maria,

      Interesting recollection. (I too had a fascination will little rubber, bouncing balls when I was a kid. They don’t make too many of them anymore. They had these little rubber balls. My favorite was the clear one with the little “crystals” in it. My interest may have been the smallness. I am still very drawn to miniature things. I have a miniature Moby Dick that I bought at Melville’s actual house.—It has a shop.)

      I define self in this context as the receiving end of anything one is aware of as a baby – no matter how dim that awareness is – that is not part of its own body. I don’t mean “part of” or “not part of” in an emotional or psychological sense. Lizards and turtles and bats – and they are in full maturity much less developed than a human infant – don’t ever really develop a sense of self, the way humans do, do they? Maybe a little. Yet they clearly have understanding. They know that the predator is not their “selves.” (No other word in the language. Sorry.) The apprehension of space and the awareness of a “cause” is implied, and must be a built-in brain function. And the cause of their sensation is not mere stimuli, as in the case of the cell. The cell’s motions are reflexive. Animals with brains have perception of an external world, and experience, as we do, the condition of being enclosed within a body, and they intuit that there are things outside their bodies. (Of course they can’t articulate this or think it. No ability to conceptualize in that way.)

      Well, that is my contention. Wish I could prove it, Phil – and Maria.

    • Phil, (#98)

      “Causality isn’t innate (no evidence so far), but correlation detection exists and has profound evidence for it globally in the brain. Causality is an introspected higher level analysis with compound answers. This on deep analysis may appear nit-picking (I let go of the stone is correlated with stone subsequently falling) but it prevents a polysemous word (causality) allowing an idea to be over-extended undeservedly.” —P

      When I speak of the “knowledge of a cause” within this context (the subject innate ideas), I am speaking speaking of something other than the idea of cause as a concept. I don’t mean to suggest that animals or babies can explain or think about causes. “Correlation” actually works for me, but it must not exclude or replace the word, or idea of, cause either. You have to remember that while philosophical and scientific analyses require precision, as we both have agreed, they also require flexibility and a degree of latitude on the part of the student. The specific understanding of “cause” that I keep insisting is innate, is first and foremost an intuition. The baby receives a sensation (an image of a face, for example); it intuits that the face is not part of itself, is outside itself. This requires the rudimentary and, yes, innate, ability to trace an effect – and this tracing is purely intuitive – back to a source. The knowledge of space is presupposed, and that is significant.

      Are you actually prepared to acknowledge that a correlation is made between sense-impressions and something external and that that awareness might be innate? If so, we might possibly meet on this issue, which has been a bone of contention (an agreeable one) between us for quite some time. (Perhaps it was merely the difficulties associated with language that has gotten in the way. That is often the case.)

      To continue, even a cat knows that the couch it jumps on is not its own body. Yes! But it has no knowledge of causality either – in the way that you, I believe, are using it. You are using it in the conventional sense, implying something that one must explain or think or understand in conceptual terms. Causality as a pure intuition is apparently a brand new notion for many – although this particular addition to the theory of causality was first introduced to us in the 19th Century.

      There is, in the cat’s mind, a correlation between the bird it hears, or the mouse or the couch that it sees, and a source (dimly apprehended at the very least) outside of its own body. Why not just say it intuits a cause? More precise. (And more misleading.)

    • I’m delighted by the movement on this issue, Dan, and no, I don’t think we are far apart. BUT, apart we still are.

      The baby receives a sensation (an image of a face, for example); it intuits that the face is not part of itself, is outside itself.

      I don’t believe that is at first the case. Nor is there any reason, developmentally, why this needs to be the case. This is a philosopher’s guess, because they didn’t know about Hebbian learning and they didn’t know that the human brain is only a third made at birth, with whole sections in the associative corteces yet to appear and yet to begin sculpting, and that this is the very root of our plasticity, culture and success.

      Very early on in a new born, when the retina has stitched together in maybe only a few weeks the beginnings of an ability to detect edges rather than just light or dark a face, mouth and eyes may become discernible. Babies will have discovered after the first few weeks that pulling their facial muscles, like so, will bring back that soft cooing sound that was with (solipsist) them and as they had detected in the womb. Repeating gets a repeat sound. Mother and daughter train each other into smile and respond through hearing. By 4 or 5 weeks babies now seeing (still not needed to be “out there”) lips and eyes have a further correlation. They get a coo and this new thing a shape change in the visual field when they pull their muscles like so. Mum is smiling. New sequences of correlations are formed. It is only when your own limbs have become reliably biddable and yet those other entities (the smiling mouth etc.) remain stubbornly unreliable in their bidding that ideas of external entities not part of yourself are formed. (Finding the trick of biddability is why you may defer a final judgement on a this longer than just a few weeks.)

      My first memory when just one year old (!) contrasted with say when 4, make me think something profound had changed in the interim. (Now this IS actually about the self, inside and outside being sorted at least by the time of first toys). In a pram with a clump of coloured paper on the covers in front of me. Lots of peoples’ legs and falling stuff, my mother laughing and consoling. I was to throw confetti and failed and when I threw it at my mother it didn’t work apparently. I had absolutely no recollection of crying or being unhappy or having any emotional investment. All that came much later piecing the bits together. I was a very unhappy bunny for the rest of the day after the confetti failure, it seems. Just four, and I was wearing a new green jacket, the sun was low and warm and I stood at the top of our steep driveway surveying the world. I felt very content, happy, proud, capable.

    • Philonous,

      “Very early on in a new born, when the retina has stitched together in maybe only a few weeks the beginnings of an ability to detect edges rather than just light or dark a face, mouth and eyes may become discernible.” P.R.

      Are you not conflating the development of the senses with the state of the brain that lies in wait, as it were, to apprehend the outside world – and is already capable of doing so were it not for the fact that the senses simply take longer to adapt themselves after birth? Perhaps not. But even if the brain itself is incapable at the moment of birth of producing the knowledge of differentiation between the body it inhabits and the outside world, the knowledge is still there potentially. There are no cases of any human (a normal one) that has ever failed to distinguish between itself and the external world. Why are there no exceptions? The innate ability is there in potentia, but the brain and/or the senses require a bit of time after birth to fully mature. Is that possible? Saying that knowledge of an external world as separate is not innate because the brain and senses are not fully formed at birth is like arguing that breathing is not an innate ability because in many cases an infant has to receive a slap to set everything in motion! (Straw-man?)

      Your indefatigable friend, Hylas (aka Dan)

      PS. Request: my good friend Paul (Remember him?) sent me this yesterday. I value your opinion very much and would appreciate a reply to this one at some point, if at all possible.

      “You should know that science has got around finally to backing up W about color. If you don’t believe me, Google the recent research about that dress that everyone saw in two ways on the Internet, or about the strawberries that “look red” without red in them. It turns out one can measure a precise wavelength, like one can measure the size of a spoon, but one has said just as little about red in real life as about silverware.”

    • Hylas (Dan)

      Are you not conflating the development of the senses with the state of the brain that lies in wait, as it were,

      No. I was explaining the timing of the correlations (in a slightly muddled way) between a baby smiling (pulling muscles like so) and first the auditory response (mother’s coo) and then second (after retinal wiring) the visual response of a mouth smiling AND reminding you that brains wire to their task in response to stimuli.

      As you may recall earlier I noted how with lack of specific stimulation these capacities can never be restored. Late strabismus correction means those 3D magic images will never work. Late cochlear implant for the stone deaf from birth are more agonising than helpful. Phonemes cannot be parsed, music a hideous noise. No one that can be talked to by some means will have failed to receive the signals that help create an inside and outside sense. Reliably biddable and unreliably and non biddable are very probably the substrate.

      We can imagine soon an ability to perform horrendous experiments on primate and human brains, to Matrix a world for them, hijacking all senses including body and muscle feed-backs to create radically different world experiences. A 2D world with 3D sensations, the inside surface of a sphere say, peopled with 2D amoebas with edge line sements for body features and sense organs. Or a world entirely biddable and sensible. Like the Chinese woman without her Cerebellum and all its specialised cells (like the multi parallel input Purkinje cells) neural plasticity allows her to develop good enough muscle skills eventually, because brains wire to the task (at least when young). The ghastly matrix experiments will allow you to create 2D amoebas out of brains and also petite pantheist gods, lonely worlds of haunting physics. I’m betting, brains could grow to that too.

      Looking at the evolution of brains, there is no moment where “innate inside/outside” needs happen, like some primal ensoulment. A nerve developed when a chemical sensor that activated a muscle fibre for a defensive action, say, (smell fearful thing, pull back in shell) needed to separated to improve performance. Sensor at the wavy end and muscle at the root. Conductive fibres evolved to achieve this. Soon many fibres went from a variety of sensors to a variety of muscles and often crossed each others path. The way these fibres worked with repeater stations meant that where they crossed each other they had an opportunity to interact to consolidate and act in a cleverer ways. Pressure sensors in a particular slug like creature use four neurons to compute a trigonometrical function to manage its orientation with astonishing accuracy. These four neurons just help it move to not die. There is no possible sense in which inside and outside is needed. These are the inferences of a powerful cortex. The nexus of sense/motor fibres (they started as one and the same thing) slowly clumped with fibres of there own interconnecting to do maths, note coincidence of this and that (remember and find correlations) and initiate movements. Brains became a thing. An innate knowledge of inside and out needs a theory of where, when and why it needs be developed, especially as its job simply is already done elsehow, emerging from primitive life preserving reflexes. Like our kin detectors starting as the nearest grown up that nurtures, the roots of our adult sensibilities need only humble origins.

    • Dan,

      my post has been eaten

    • I thank you for the reply. My attempt at a proof is coming up. This might take some time. In the mean time I have only this to say right now: I asked my sister what she thinks about this inner-outer business, as she is a mother. My sister told me that when her first child was newly born one of the very first gestures that her daughter made, right after she was born (and my sister was there), was the gesture of looking up at her mother as she was held, of staring into her mother’s face. She recalls it very vividly. Can you prove that the daughter (or any baby who exhibits such behavior) felt a coalescence with the *object (face) at that moment, that in fact no subject-object differentiation was made?

    • Non red strawberries.

      I wrote a post here about all that has to happen before we actually see red. It was the post that described how we didn’t have a red receptor, but a bluebery, lime and orange receptor in our retina and that a red assessment of a red object was made by a triangulation using neuronal mathematics projecting onto a notional area called a colour space. Well I also mentioned about optical illusions being the result of those (prosaic apparatus) simulations of what we expect to see. Well a third component must also be added into our mathematically derived colour experiences and that is the further computation of “daylight compensation”. The colour temperature of our sun at noon in Africa say is pretty close to its colour temperature as seen from the ISS orbitting the earth. This colour is described as white but the white produced by an object at 6000K (degrees Kelvin, 5,700 Centigrade) Its “colour temperature” is “6000K”. The higher the temperature the more blue is in there compared to red. Further the atmosphere scatters blue light to make our skies cerulean and our sunsets and evening clouds golden. (If you mix the evening sky colours of orange and blue you get back to this 6000K.)
      Up north (or down south) with a lot of oblique angle atmosphere for the sunlight to travel the daylight becomes very blue and though described as white has a colour temperature of 12000K, especially with the sun hidden by clouds. Over the reservoir here yesterday the sun with most of the blue light scattered and the sky turning dark the colour temperature of the light was maybe 2000K. So we experience lighting conditions of staggeringly different colour contents (White light can take many forms). What our brain does is colour compensate on top of triangulate from our three sensors. Strawberries are red for us in an overcast arctic circle location and on the terrace at sunset.

      http://www.blastr.com/sites/blastr/files/kitaoka_strawberries.jpg

      We see the blue of the surrounding (as if in the arctic) and our brain recomputes for this obvious bias. (Cameras do a similar thing (but not the same!) with automatic white balance. They expect that on average the colours in the frame will average to white and it changes the parameters of an algorithm to create different possible illumination colour temperatures until it finds the one that gives an image that integrates to its mathematical version of a standard white.)

      Our human expectations of what we’ll see seals the deal pushing our own white balance algorithm to best satisfy our own semantic knowledge.

    • Same with my two. They were their mum. The earliest sights and sounds.

      Sorry to pull this but the more interesting onus is upon you as to why it is not simply a growing realisation of an outside world that ever expands through the first decade of life. Why can the explanation not be this parsimonious?

      My proofs would necessarily be inhuman experimentation.

    • Sorry, the colour explanation is incomplete. We also know in our semantic knowledge and from experience red things reflect little blue light and appear dark etc.. Our colour temperature/ illumination colour compensation works as much as by this.

    • I can see that color is (one of) your forte(s). I believe you’ve done some work in this area.

      So W was wrong about colour? (Sorry for the dumb question.)

      No proof yet, but I will say it again. Organisms without understanding have sensation but no awareness of an outside world; the understanding grasps a given sensation (the sensation produced by the representation of a face, for example) as the effect of an object outside the organism.

      I must be off now.

    • Dan

      the understanding grasps a given sensation (the sensation produced by the representation of a face, for example) as the effect of an object outside the organism.

      Why not learned like understanding itself?

    • Phil (#19)

      It is rather more just against the religious trope of a singular spirit that poisoned generations of otherwise decent philosophers.

      This may or may not be a straw man I am setting up here, Phil; but I wanted to share a powerful impression and a thought I had this morning concerning our “selves”. I hope I can articulate it.

      Was at Starbucks. Very cute little girl about three w/her mom. I heard the girl say “me”. I was filled, for a moment, with compassion for the child and for all children and for all people. – but mostly for young children.

      Wouldn’t it be inhuman, monstrous, to tell a young child that she had no “me”? I don’t know precisely what the Me is but it seems as if we acquire a sense of our own individual selves and we know that we are not other people or things.

      We are, finally, contained (literally) in our bodies, and can be said to be physically separated from other things and people; not sure the I has to be mystical or regarded as infinitely elusive after all; it is merely us as individuals, with our stream-like experience of consciousness from moment to moment, day to day, accompanying us, like the beating of our hearts, through life. It (“Me”) has psychological meaning, is real. Consciousness of an I or a Me (which is different than recognizing other things as outside) is not innate, as you say, varies from culture to culture; but it seems right to say: you are somebody, an individual, a unique, singular entity, to a child. “Me?”, asks the child. “Yes, you.” The I or the Me is one of the wonders of our psychological lives, and has evolved. It should be valued, others must be taught to value it – even if the I remains controversial, has been misused and misrepresented by certain thinkers. It still is a psychological reality and a good thing to have a sense of being a Self. We are not Us or IT or Part Of; we are individual selves….

      It is only apparently ironic that only the depraved and the abused have no (or little positive) sense of the self and that is why they have no sense of value of other peoples’ selves.

    • Dan,

      The fact of an experienced single identity is prosaic and unremarkable (though the sight of a new person shimmering into existence in just a few short years in the body of a young child, well…bewildered tears at the thought of my two and well any…)

      The fact of this is undisputed. The problem remains in the analysis of what may lie beneath this. I am shocked that following on from Schopenhauer, after his death, 1860 and the previous year’s publication of On the Origin of Species that we have to wait until 1933 for an “animal component to us” to be considered in the form of the id. That none put the old philosophical ideas on mind from 1860 were put on hold or re-examined given that we evolved from simpler minded animals. Rather, philosophers still thought man gloriously crowned with a singular consciousness a simple waking upon the world, that is I contend, a religious legacy yet to be uprooted by evolution. Even W talks of a soul….FFS.

      Philosophers have been dreadfully behind the curve. It took a poet, Coleridge (respected attendee of Royal Society meetings) to promote the idea of a a mind with an unconscious component until Freud.

      I will yet post my theory of the incessant weaving of a self, cast off and remade, quisnunc (who (am I) now?) as the basis of the essential identity we use to plan the future, organised around our current capacities hopes and desires. I also contend this very process of identity forming in its making of an always-the-latest-if-rather-simple internal model of us is ever vigilant of our situation. The potential salience that marks what is consciously experienced, is, I contend, made particularly vivid for this very purpose. Maybe later this evening.

      We need to know and understand this astonishing weaving together of quite disparate neural entities to understand we are much richer than the shiny nugget of an undistinguished soul, but more the warp and weft of a life long poem.

    • P.S.

      It is only apparently ironic that only the depraved and the abused have no (or little positive) sense of the self – which is why they have no sense of value of other peoples’ selves.

      Clarification: the irony, and I didn’t make this clear, is that selfishness is immoral, whereas selflessness is considered moral. Yet the greater one’s sense of self the less selfish and more “selfless” one will tend to be.

    • Dan these apparent ironies abound.

      Like inverse Dunning Kruger thinking. The more you know the more you realise you don’t.

      To save more people if you know you are the capable grown up you must save yourself first.

      Giving in to the strongest itch of empathy may lead you to miss the most needy, most deserving.

      Reasoned compassion is more compassionate than passionate compassion. Which is why we do the hurtful, noble thing in wartime movies.

    • Phil, I was just clarifying what I meant because it wasn’t clear. The antithesis between self and selfishness, between ego and egotism, is old hat, I think – at least for me and you.

      Why is the I still so often conflated with the soul by so many? That to me is a straw-man.

      Single entity. That is what the child knew; she was a self, not several selves, not something mutable or sharable; “me”, she said. I felt sad, because something so essential and precious is so easily lost if we over-analyze or become militarized or collectivized (in an oppressive sense: all for the state, etc.) As I said, it was a mere impression, hard to put my finger on it; what struck me as sad, I think, was the vulnerability and the naivete suggested to me by the reference of the girl to herself as “me”, especially in the context of our modern critical age where everything is being challenged, changing so fast. — And I perceive a dehumanizing element where others merely perceive progress. The “me”, that simple, naive, precious and sweet utterance, might provoke a harsh rebuke someday. “No! You are not You!”(I am inclined to think in dystopian terms.)

      Perhaps I sound slightly barmy?

    • OK got the clarification now… Ta.

      “No! You are not You!”

      Sorry, barmy. Wrong in so many ways, as well

      What has neuro-psychology and philosophy to do with a small child?

      When much older you may help her create a self with greater integrity, through understanding that she has an angry making bit that was her first agent-cognising detector when 350 million years younger. We stitch ourselves together but are undone rather more often than we would like. Knowing why we may have a failure of nerve or lash out and instantly regret is entirely how we may achieve the person we most want to be and with a finer weave.

      I gave you grief for saying to a child

      “You can be whatever you want.”

      That is still egregious to my ears. You can hugely encourage and cultivate any interest without lying. “You might even get to be…..” But helping people to self-actualise (per Maslow) through greater integrity is giving them a real leg up.

    • Okay. Perhaps I was being a bit fanciful.

      “You can be whatever you want” is, in various contexts, problematic; but not as bad as “you have no self, and therefore no thoughts of your own; you are a cog in the wheel” ….Barmy stuff, right? (Straight out of the Twilight Zone, but not as good.) Not sure it has zilch to do with speculation concerning the science and philosophy of the future, however.

      Till next time.

    • not as bad as “you have no self, and therefore no thoughts of your own; you are a cog in the wheel”

      Hellfire!

      Are you paying your therapist enough?

      You know that stuff only helps after the bills get big enough to really hurt…..

      A bientot!

    • Dan

      From another thread, transplanted here to please the mods and probably Arkrid

      We agree politically; so why can’t we agree about a priori knowledge?

      Its weird.

      But as I see it, the problem is consistent lack of any neural and psychological evidence for it and for its need; reason; parsimony; neuro-constructivism appears true and is rich in explanatory power; lack of credible mechanisms for the inheritance of knowledge; huge early plasticity as brains wire to their task, co-opting “wrong” brain regions to do a good enough job when needed (some horrid experiments re wiring optical nerve bundles pre-birth to auditory areas in mice and a functional vision being maintained) and when brain regions fail to develop in humans; AI, evolving image recognition develops soon enough a spatial/3D capacity placing itself, bulk and sensors within it, without ever needing to be told anything about space and distance, but merely allowed to infer the mathematics of the geometry of it from interactive experience; and on and on.

    • Phil

      I forgot to say Ha-ha, was kidding.

      Your comment reiterated: I don’t understand any of it. So when you’re born, or soon after, the awareness “outside of oneself” – in the most primitive, intuitive sense – is not already there as a result of having a brain and senses directed outwards? the brain, in combination with the senses, hasn’t the built-in capacity to allow for differentiation between outside and inside (from within) the organism which it inhabits? It’s all learned? (That would imply that it isn’t always learned, I would think.) Every impression is felt as emanating from within the organism? the light? the warmth? everything? Okay… And that can be proven?

      Not so sure that this is so black and white or even if my argument is fully being understood. I am not talking about seeing things clearly or knowing what the hell it is that one sees or how one feels about what one sees; I am talking about object-recognition in the most rudimentary sense imaginable. Much has been written on this that disputes, at the very least, the universality of this stubborn (and to me unclear), radical empiricist claim.

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1095643302001198

      Abstract

      Almost all vertebrates are capable of recognizing biologically relevant stimuli at or shortly after birth, and in some phylogenetically ancient species visual object recognition is exclusively innate.

    • “People who work with computers have an extraordinary vanity about what computers can accomplish, and they go on and on with it; they push it to more and more places.”
      Norman Mailer on the Dick Cavett show (late 1960s)

    • -better get used to it Dan- Computers will do things better than us, even things we think we do well because of some unknown, maybe unknowable property of being human e.g. Garry Kasparov, chess world champion at the time, suspected IBM of cheating during his match against Deep Blue because he thought he saw intelligence and creativity in the computer’s play. Deep Blue

      Well, how else would he see it?

    • I guess you’re right, Sean.

      “Soon,” Mailer continued, “a computer will be able to tell us how Don Juan made love. They’ll work it out so they’ll have it connected to an electronic picture graph; so you’ll have a movie that will come on and follow the workings of the computer’s mind on how Don Juan made love. I’ll tell you how it’ll work. It’ll work something like this.” Mailer then tapped the table with a pen a few times which sounded exactly like a metronome.

      “That’s how he did it?” asked Cavett.

    • -lol- That’s excellent Dan, thanks for sharing it. -cheers

    • Dan #133

      So when you’re born, or soon after, the awareness “outside of oneself” – in the most primitive, intuitive sense – is not already there as a result of having a brain and senses directed outwards?

      We have 21 or 22 senses, mostly inbound and none exclusively outward. Quite a lot of our ostensibly exterior universe, when young, is as biddable as our limbs, i.e, only a bit.

      At birth, there is no need for differentiation by inside/outside only for biddability. Slowly our entire universe is parsed and characterised as driven by our particular needs at a given developmental time and not the needs of a philosopher. Further “intelligent” movement in space is achieved in the most primitive of animals. Orientation in space, in slugs is managed by four neurons doing trigonometry. “Doing trigonometry” is all it takes for most of us entropy pumps (living things).

      If you proceed along the lines of “shortly after birth” then you and I will meet at the point where the evidence begins.

    • Phil

      Count a hundred tooth picks. You can’t not get a hundred, ever.

      Or try counting 3 stones (or this: I I I) and let me know when and how are able to count more or less than 3.

      Prove your point non dogmatically and actually demonstrate it without alluding to theoretical space-time, and give me a concrete example of 2+3 not equalling 5.

      My proof of a priori knowledge has just been delivered. This has to do with space and time, which is a form of “knowledge” IN US from birth onwards, along with “knowledge” of (at the very least some) external stimuli recognized as the effect of objects outside the organism.

    • Dan Dennett thinks consciousness is an illusion; but his own “consciousness” must already be present; otherwise he’d be incapable of saying or thinking that or anything.

      Wish he could reply to that. Wonder what he’d say.

    • Dan,

      139 then 140.

      As the Piraha tribe demonstrate you can’t do the maths without the words. If when young they learn Portuguese they will learn to count. With their own language they cannot demonstrate 2+3=5.

      Have you ever had an idea (a good idea!) just pop into your head? When answering a question do you open your mouth and speech just pours out?

    • Phil,

      Nope. You put two sets of stones in front of them. You show them two other sets of stones off to the side: one has five stones; the other six. You ask them in a language that they understand to add the stones from the first set together and then point to the group from the second set that matches.

      Can they do that? If they can’t it proves nothing except that they can’t add. Infants can’t add either. Neither can fish. Neither can the dead. There are people who cannot comprehend evolution or gravity or read or comprehend much of anything, for that matter; does that mean that evolution and gravity themselves are unprovable or are not valid theories?

      Obviously if someone is mentally impaired and is mentally or physically unable to count or cannot count for some other reason then that proves only one thing: they can’t count! Mill had a similar rebuttal: if on another planet all units were constantly and continuously dividing themselves into multiple units and a t a rapid rate, it would be impossible to add 3 and 2. This proves one thing: counting would be impossible on that planet; it does not prove that 3 + 2 can be anything other than 5!

      Your questions puzzled me. Yes, I have had thoughts appear to pop into my head, but I know, as I believe in the chain of causality, am not a believer in events, psychic events included, happening without a reason; nothing pops into one’s head and nothing within the realm of perception, empirical reality, takes place that doesn’t follow upon a cause. We may not know the cause…

      (Not too worried about the pot question anymore. You can forget about that.)

    • 139

      My proof of a priori knowledge has just been delivered.

      Not that I could see. Maths is not innate in humans.

      140

      We may not know the cause…

      so ideas pop into heads and we talk seemingly without thinking time, conciously learning the fine detail of what we think at the same moment as our audience.

      his own “consciousness” must already be present; otherwise he’d be incapable of saying or thinking that or anything.

      So you haven’t fully thought this through, have you? We don’t consciously think our speech before saying it.

      Besides the (arguably illusory) quality of conscious experience may have no functional capacity per se. It is thinking that is the action, not the quality of the thinking.

      A conscious patient undergoing brain surgery was being tested with probes to mark out where was a no go area. A new position and a pulse sent in and the patient laughs in response. Asked, “why did you laugh?” he responds, confabulating, “because of the look on that nurses face”. We urgently need to account for our actions and take ownership of them.

      “Conscious” thinking is a class of thinking. It marks out the potentially most salient thoughts we have had and offers them for inspection and test using cultural tools (like mathematics, logic and dogma). Consciously tested using these cultural apps they fail rejection (hurrah) or get rejected and then sometime later get replaced by a better thought, the detailed construction of which is not apprehended by us. (It appears possibly an evolution through cycles of mutation and unconscious heuristic testing.)

      My own hypothesis is that this conscious part of the process has its unique quality (of consciousness!) in some way because of the a need to heighten the apparent saliency through heightened emotion, also to intensify the endless task of a simple, up-to-the-second, self model formation, that sits on the back of this “focused noticing”.

      “Illusion” is reasonable, because we have a false image of simply constructing thought, when rather the conscious aspect of it is more a destructive/rejecting process with each improvement offered by a succession of inspirations…from our unconscious selves. But more confounding still is the map from brain state to waking experience. Some folk fail to be astonished at this best trick ever. This I find unfathomable.

    • Phil

      The ability to count is not innate. True. Of course it isn’t. But 3+2 must always equal 5; there must be a non-empirical basis for that proposition, as it is apodictic, that is, beyond dispute. If it were empirically based proposition than there would be cases when 3+2 did not equal 5; and you and I know that there cannot be.

      I am having, at the present time, a parallel discussion with a Wittgensteinian who says:

      “But I will tell you, that when I drive, I make hundreds of decisions unconsciously. If I can make a decision unconsciously, why can’t I feel pain unconsciously? Why can’t I look and judge distance or amount in the same way? Why do you think it has to be done consciously?

      “And if ‘it’s done unconsciously’ means something, what does it mean? Besides ‘I’m doing it’? Certainly there is no decision there. Certainly there is no counting going on there either.”

      My reply to him and to you:

      There has to be an explanation for that at this point. You see three people pass by your car; you don’t say 1, 2, 3, like a kid learning to count; you simply recognize the three people, because you learned how to count years ago. “How many people did you say there were?” asks a cop. “Well, I believe there were three.” Now how could one say that, Phil, unless one had at one time learned how to count and no longer needs to count up to three but sees a group and forms an idea of 3 without having to reflect upon it until asked – if one is asked?” And what time was it, sir”? “Well it was probably between 8 and 8:15”, etc. These things become automatic. “And why did you choose that route?” I don’t know.” You may not be able to recall or articulate anything, but there was, had to have been, an impulse of some kind. As for pain, we often speak of unconscious pain as suppressed pain. That’s a curious figure of speech which even Freud said was inaccurate and used for the sake of convenience. There are all kinds of gradations between what we do (more) consciously and (less) consciously; these states and behaviors have been studied and can, as I said, be explained – without blurring the distinction between conscious and unconscious to the point of reducing both to absurdity. We don’t say to ourselves “Shall I exit the door now” after we’ve put on our jacket and head out to go to work. There’s no reason to as the there is no deliberation involved, no counter-motive, no resistance to our will to exit. A decision is something we make when there are two opposing desires or things to consider….

      And when you judge distance you are counting in a sense; otherwise you would not be able to judge a distance. You’ve already learned about distance and so the actual counting is no longer as necessary as it once was. But if someone asks you to count the number of buttons on his coat you have to do that consciously, as you are unfamiliar with the coat. The same with asking directions and being instructed to drive three blocks and turn left at the light. Then you’d have to count more consciously.

      I still have to count a little when someone tells me to go to the 14th fret of the fingerboard. Others do not. I know where the 12th fret is, so I have to locate that first and then I guess count 3. But it’s not counting the way a child counts; but it involves discrimination; one must exclude, say, 4, or 5, or 2 units.

      Soon you’ll be telling me that you don’t actually see the red light; it’s just there in front of you.

    • P.S. If consciousness is an illusion then another word would have to take its place. Otherwise how would we be able to distinguish, through speech, being conscious (to use that word) and being unconscious (to use that word)?

      Dennett talks about illusion all the time, and doesn’t get that an illusion is still a conscious illusion. If it weren’t it couldn’t be an illusion. We have to be conscious of an illusion in order to mistake it for something real. If he thinks that what we call real is illusory, then that is not a denial of consciousness; it is a denial of reality as it is, in his mind, commonly understood.

    • There is, finally, consciousness and there is its opposite: not being conscious. The rest is just playing with words. I am sure Dawkins would agree.

    • I fail to see the importance of emphasizing the relationship between consciousness and speech. Consciousness is essentially consciousness of something, anything at all: that something can be the experience of internal mental activity in any form, the form of a thought, or a feeling, or an illusion (as opposed to a dream; dreams relate to subconscious life, a subspecies of consciousness), any activity at all: that which is must be. I “think” therefore I am conscious. What pops into my head or doesn’t is irrelevant. What is salient or vivid (a word you like) or not is irrelevant. There is no illusion. That’s like saying “Look at that poor fellow running around; he thinks he’s alive.” The real difficulty, and perhaps the only one, is in determining whether someone else is conscious or not if he lacks the power of communication and/or his senses. But assuming he has both there is nothing controversial or illusory that I can think of. Other than this: there is also a grey area between consciousness and unconsciousness; that is nothing new, and I suppose it is difficult to establish precisely where one ends and the other (not being conscious) begins.

      There are, strictly speaking, no unconscious thoughts. To put it another way, there is a lot of activity that takes place during sleep and unconscious psychic activity that we are not aware of; but that does not warrant the phrase: unconscious thought. If there are unconscious thoughts than one must explain how one is using the word. How can something not be thought at one and the same time that it is thought? Same with pain. Unconscious pain is an oxymoron, unless you can explain pain as something that is not felt but is still pain.

    • Yep unconscious thought is not a thing. The term is exactly subconscious. A subconscious thought has not passed the neural tests of salience to be flagged as conscious. What constitutes a thought will become problematic as we follow it back to its causal roots. With many a branching-in, at some point “primary cause” ceases to be a meaningful term. At some point, and it may arise quite soon in some cases, the neural activity we look at cannot be reasonably termed a thought or even a thought component ceasing to have any clear causal (directed) potentially semantic identity. A great mass of such neural activity exists that the term “thought” is probably inappropriate for. There is probably a specific set of formal requirements for a cluster of neural behaviours that must be achieved before it could possibly be considered as something “thinkable” and eligible for promotion to conscious status.

      Dennett’s use of the term illusion is to show that what actually happens is not what people think happens. It is entirely appropriate to unsettle people in their expectations of how conscious thinking works. It is not how it seems! It is an educative device and an analytic one, permitting us to imagine a bottom up account without forever jumping to our final experience. And remember there are two illusions going on here. First, most actions are automatic, sat on subconscious deliberations, though we feel (like to feel) entirely as if conscious thought is the immediate driver of action. Most conscious thought (the mighty machine of the PFC grinds small but slow) is post action analysis configured as intentional accounts of the earlier action and training for future action. Second, the unfathomable gap between brain states and the quality of experience. Dennett likes to ascribe this to an illusion like our myriad other cognitive illusions.

      Illusion is very very common in our cognitive lives. They need some degree of “externality” some separation from the illusory moment to identify. But these illusions are woven into our behaviours and play a role in our cognitive and behavioural development. It doesn’t mean they are false, wrong. It means they are an additional element that accounts for the mismatch between the internal experience and the external observation.

    • Phil

      Dennett’s use of the term illusion is to show that what actually happens is not what people think happens.

      That sounds highly worthwhile. (Absolutely no sarcasm intended.)

      Good comment. (I mean all of it; not just the one I highlighted.) Thanks.

    • Dan #144

      Not sure about this. I don’t see the arguments.

      The Piraha don’t know specifically how many people passed them. They couldn’t go reliably three blocks and turn left or right.

      I would not be mentally counting folk passing me. I could retrospectively count the people I’d noticed…if I noticed them, which I probably would not have done. I may equally estimate knowing I would not have noticed. I always know the route I take, but I don’t live on a grid system. The route (to work places) is chosen so it can be ignored or enjoyed, for speed and/or thinking or for putting a smile on my face. If I chose the former for thinking time, I will notice only potential safety threats or possibly fuel prices, as I think/work. This is truly when I can be said to be multitasking.

      Unconscious pain is a nonsense term. Pain may be unconsciously avoided. Pain nets automatic responses like the reflexive arc, a self protecting feedback loop sometimes only three synaptic gaps long, withdrawing a hand from a hotplate. (A conscious thought given its subconscious evolution and its conscious cultural/inferential testing may be tens or hundreds of thousands of synaptic gaps long.) The suffering caused is the pain introspected upon and the introspection is initiated because the pain requires us to rewrite our self model immediately. This little driver of consciousness, why this state of elevated salience is needed, is because we need to have that bang up to the second model of ourselves to be able to better predict/anticipate our actions in the immediate future. How injured am I? Will I be able to perform X or Y, concentrate enough, enjoy enough? For how long? We focus, focus on this sudden re-write of and immediate down-turn in our lives. (As a sufferer of man-flu, it is the multiplying effect of the resultant self pity that is the most debilitating aspect.) Finally, and on a similar note, note the delay before a young infant cries after hurting herself. After learning a thing or two about the salve that oxytocin is, the cry often speeds up in its appearance, and the child becomes more reflexive and trains a speedier cerebellar (tens to hundreds of synaptic gap response) . Hmm, this is probably gonna hurt, but cuddles are nice and distracting.

      (Synaptic gap lengths are for comparative illustration only. But the hoplate illustration is known.)

    • Finally, and on a similar note, note the delay before a young infant cries after hurting herself.

      This delay between the physical insult and the suffering is curious when you notice it given the speed of the reflexive arc. Cutting the back of my hand unwittingly on a small model makers circular saw (it required a few stitches) I remember staring at the sudden appearance of blood mystified as to what was happening and even what the stuff was. Reality for several seconds had become deeply puzzling. Then I realised I’d cut myself then it started to hurt.

      Young children don’t have the reflexive arc trained in and are slow to anticipate and avoid pain. There is a whole fascinating area developing because of mirror neuron discovery where muscle dispositions and movements signal to ourselves and to others the way we should/do feel. (Put on a happy face!) Watching a parent withdraw a hand suddenly from the hotplate, we feel her pain. seeing ourselves withdrawing our hands quickly, we anticipate pain and at least express it sooner.

    • Dan, I much appreciate your persistent questioning on these matters. Because of it my own thinking has been tidied up considerably.

    • Yes, And with you I trust?

      I had a small revelation the other day. (I may well have this same revelation periodically, but usefully forget it.)

      All worthwhile relationships are turbulent at times. They are the only ones that you are compelled to risk using that most destructive of forces, honesty.

      Oops, post gone….

      • Hi Phil

        Re. “post gone”: Nothing showing in either our Pending or Spam sections. And we haven’t removed anything ourselves, so not sure what’s happened there. Sorry.

        The mods

    • Phil,

      Happy to be of service, my good and most valued e-friend. (Again, no sarcasm!)

      Hope all is well.

      (Comment 144 had nothing to do with the Piraha; that was a comment about this whole business of unconscious decisions and thoughts, which I might not have posted had I read your later comment about unconscious thought “not being a thing” (as opposed to subconscious thought). The Piraha argument was addressed in comment 142. I said, perhaps a bit prematurely, that not being able to count does not prove or disprove anything regarding the apodictic nature of mathematics. 3+2=5 must always be true whether one can count or not. I really don’t see the point here. Teach them to count and then they will arrive at the same sums as you and I. Am I missing something?)

      “All worthwhile relationships are turbulent at times. They are the only ones that you are compelled to risk using that most destructive of forces, honesty.”

      Very true indeed.

    • This delay between the physical insult and the suffering is curious…

      Yes, that is curious. It is perhaps worth noting that the delay between the verbal insult and the suffering is, as far as I can determine based on my own vast experience as the recipient, all too brief. There is some delay, however. A professor from Sweden (“Eva”) told me to get lost once but not in those words. I was unable to comprehend what had just happened for a brief moment. Quite curious. And sometimes people say “what?” right after they’ve been insulted. Most curious indeed.

    • Ah ok – thanks.

    • Sorry, Mods.

      That was for Dan. I think he cancelled a post after 152 that I was responding to in 154 (now 153).

      He extended his post and it now appears as 154.

      So 153 is a response to part at least of 154. Causality and time flow can appear weird sometimes.

      So no worries.

    • Dan

      Am I missing something?

      Yep. An explanation of #139, which I am trying to tease out of you.

    • Phil

      An explanation…

      I can’t say anything more than this right now, Phil, as I am somewhat fuzzy on the subject of the relationship between mathematical truth and “a priori knowledge”…. The empiricists say, and they are correct, that everything learned, all knowledge that is derived from experience, has a mere probable existence. Gravity may be considered a law, but it is a relative law; we cannot be certain that gravity will not cease to be tomorrow. We cannot be certain that the sun will rise, that water won’t turn to wine even, etc. Everything is probable, and highly probable and highly improbable, says the empiricist.

      But if there is something that must always be true, something that cannot be otherwise, something that is necessary and unalterable and incapable of variation, then it must be a rule that is rooted in something not derived from experience. (I believe this rule is rooted in the pure intuitions of space and time). You cannot conceive of 7+5 not equalling 12. It must always be true. Always. (There are beings that cannot add, but this does not conflict with my premise.)

      7 + 5 must always equal 5. That is a most curious thing too, in my opinion.

    • Mathematical (deductive) proofs are certain.

      Inductive proofs can never be, though probabilities of error can be driven arbitrarily low until a glitch in the Matrix happens.

      Spacetime is not fundamental. Quantum Reality underlies it, permitting many such spacetimes with potentially different phenomenal properties. But 7+5 will always equal 12 (as you intended!)

      The unanswered question remains. A priori knowledge is not this property of mathematics and its internal consistency and deductive amenability, but knowing something about our home spacetime before phenomena visit us. A rock does not defy mathematics just as we do not. We are countable both and not from a priori knowledge.