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Old 02-24-2013, 01:05 PM
 
Location: Kent, Ohio
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Let's solve the Hard Problem of Consciousness together, right here, right now. (Of course I will take all of the credit for the solution, but I don't wanna hear any whining from ya'll

Briefly: The problem is to find a way to characterize the relationship between the subjective/phenomenal aspect of conscious experience (i.e., "qualia"), and the seemingly objective particles and forces of physics (or, perhaps, the neurons of the brain?) We don't necessarily need to find the correct solution (that would be just plain ol' crazy); all we need is a semi-plausible pseudo-theory that seems, at first glance, to actually explain the nature of the relationship between qualia and the physical world (basically the old "mind/body" problem). In addition to just giving us the warm fuzzy feeling that we have a solution, here is what a theory should do, in order to count as a solution to the Hard Problem:

We should have some general idea of how to go about answering these questions:

1) Can a machine (made of, say, silicone, metal, plastic, etc.) be conscious?

2) How far down on the tree of life does consciousness exist (Mammals? Reptiles? Insects? Plants?).

3) Could humanity as a whole (or earth's biosphere, or the galaxy, or the Universe as a whole?) be a conscious entity?

4) Could consciousness exist in non-physical systems? (Or the classic question about mental life after the disintegration of the body).

The basic idea is that once we understand how/why it is that some collections of atoms seem to develop a sense of self-awareness, feel pain, anticipate the future, etc. (while, presumably, others do not), we should be able to look for these criteria in a variety of different physical systems to determine whether or not a system is likely to be conscious. If you take a theistic approach and claim that God breathes life/consciousness into human beings, that's fine, but this in itself doesn't really solve the Hard Problem because it still doesn't tell us how consciousness relates to the physical world. To say that it is magic, or that it's just the mysterious powers of God, does not solve the problem, it just avoids it.

If you think this is a simple question with a simple answer, then you probably don't understand the question, but I'm open to any credible suggestions so, whatever your answer might be, if you can defend your answer with good logical arguments (possibly supplemented with scientific evidence?) then I'll do my best to lend a sympathetic ear. Some of you already know some things about my own attempts to solve this problem, but I'd rather not offer my solution here until I've seen a few thoughtful attempts from others first.

I don't actually expect much, but my hope is that someone making a serious brainstorming effort might suggest some wild 'n' crazy avenue of thought that I have not yet considered.
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Old 02-25-2013, 04:27 PM
 
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Gaylenwoof;28397053

We should have some general idea of how to go about answering these questions:

1) Can a machine (made of, say, silicone, metal, plastic, etc.) be conscious?

No, as it is not representing the Four Great Spheres of the worlds. Human body is.

2) How far down on the tree of life does consciousness exist (Mammals? Reptiles? Insects? Plants?).

How far does matter go? Eternal. How far does consciousness go? Eternal. Animal and plant kingdoms are not intelligent, btw.

3) Could humanity as a whole (or earth's biosphere, or the galaxy, or the Universe as a whole?) be a conscious entity?

Humanity, as a whole and as it's "components"is a conscious entity. EVERYTHING in the universe is conscious too, but only to various degree.

4) Could consciousness exist in non-physical systems? (Or the classic question about mental life after the disintegration of the body).

Yes. Consciousness IS. EVERYTHING exists only due to it being present in everything. Consciousness is and permeates both the physical realm and the Realm of Permanence.

The basic idea is that once we understand how/why it is that some collections of atoms seem to develop a sense of self-awareness, feel pain, anticipate the future, etc. (while, presumably, others do not), we should be able to look for these criteria in a variety of different physical systems to determine whether or not a system is likely to be conscious.

As stated before, EVERYTHING is conscious, but in various degree. Atoms, electrons, etc, from the smallest to the most complex, are conscious as their function only. Those are the units on the nature side of the universe. Units that are conscious that they are conscious, are on the intelligent side of the universe. Units progress from the lowest degree of consciousness in them, through innumerable encounters, until the level of consciousness reaches phase, that unit becomes aware of itself, as a conscious being.

If you think this is a simple question with a simple answer, then you probably don't understand the question, but I'm open to any credible suggestions so, whatever your answer might be, if you can defend your answer with good logical arguments (possibly supplemented with scientific evidence?) then I'll do my best to lend a sympathetic ear. Some of you already know some things about my own attempts to solve this problem, but I'd rather not offer my solution here until I've seen a few thoughtful attempts from others first.

You are asking for someone to express YOUR beliefs so that YOU can have proof to them. What is considered proof to me, will never be proof to you. What I consider an enlightenment, you will consider stack of absurds. You are starting personal opinion thread, and opinions are like navels.

I don't actually expect much,

Have faith. There is no such thing, as mystery, only inability to see the obvious.

but my hope is that someone making a serious brainstorming effort might suggest some wild 'n' crazy avenue of thought that I have not yet considered.

Just read this: Thinking and Destiny, HW Percival. Will take you only about 4 years, as its excruciatingly exhausting on one's mind to digest. Then come back and we talk - should you have any more questions left. I don't.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:38 AM
 
Location: On the "Left Coast", somewhere in "the Land of Fruits & Nuts"
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This is basically why the whole notion of computers eventually acquiring ''consciousness'' still seems so far-fetched, since we don't even understand what ''consciousness'' is to begin with! And just because a certain kind of machine is getting better at mimicking a few basic brain functions, like memory and calculation, doesn't mean it's necessarily ever gonna become ''self aware''. IMO, understanding the brain (and the problem of consciousness) requires the development of a totally different paradigm and method of analysis beyond the current Newtonian ''mechanistic'' world view. In fact I doubt that even the current ''scientific method'' is up for the task!
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:20 AM
 
Location: Whittier
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I am currently on Benadryl and can barely form a coherent sentence, let alone tackle this problem.

As always I'll defer to this link: Consciousness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

As the above encyclopedia offers way more than I ever could in terms of solutions. Mine at best would be a hodgepodge of half-belief.

I will say this though: Although I'm not a fan of Physicalism or Reductionanism; (I want there to be a "higher" consciousness) I think science does a fine job of most things, save for the problems of qualia, which I do believe still exists.
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Old 02-26-2013, 01:22 PM
 
Location: Kent, Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukrkoz View Post
...EVERYTHING is conscious, but in various degree. Atoms, electrons, etc, from the smallest to the most complex, are conscious as their function only. Those are the units on the nature side of the universe. Units that are conscious that they are conscious, are on the intelligent side of the universe. Units progress from the lowest degree of consciousness in them, through innumerable encounters, until the level of consciousness reaches phase, that unit becomes aware of itself, as a conscious being.
Many solutions to the hard problem have been proposed over the past several centuries, but most philosophers agree that none of the proposed solutions actually solve the problem. The notable exceptions are philosophers who argue that there is no Hard Problem to solve because the very concept of qualia is based on an illusion, or a form of conceptual confusion. I don't buy this. I think there is a genuine question to be addressed (even if it turns out that it cannot ever actually be solved).

Ukrkos: What you are describing above falls into a general category of proposed solutions called "panpsychism." Some philosophers (e.g., Galen Strawson) have proposed an even more general term: "panexperientialism." One famous panpsychist was Alfred North Whitehead. I wrote my master's thesis on Whitehead's notion of "actual entities." I am sympathetic to panexperientialism, but at the moment I do not actually believe it to be true. I don't not think that an electron is conscious - not even to a small degree. I don't think that there is anything "it is like to be" an atom or a water molecule.

But there is a bigger problem: Even if panpsychism is true, it doesn't actually solve the Hard Problem. It provides a seemingly plausible basis for solving the problem, but it doesn't actually solve it. One glitch is sometimes referred to as "the combination problem." To understand this, let's forget about panpsychism for a moment and suppose that the human species, as a whole, is actually a "higher mind." In this case it is clear that the individual elements composing the higher mind (i.e., individual people) are conscious. It is easy to say this, and it might even sound plausible at first glance, but what does it actually mean? The devil is in the details. How, exactly, does my mind contribute to the higher mind? What if humans settle on Mars? Would there now be two higher minds - one on Mars and one on Earth? Could the two minds talk to each other? How many sub-minds would there be? Does every collection of people constitute a higher mind? Do Lady Gaga, George W. Bush, and Eddie Murphy collectively constitute a higher mind? Why, or why not? What we have here is a bunch of cool speculative ideas, but what we are blatantly missing is anything that can count as an actual theory of mind. Bottom line: Panpsychism could be true, but without further development it does not solve the Hard Problem. It does not specify how it is that a bunch of mini-minds combine to make a higher mind. You do mention reaching "phase," but what is it, exactly, that gets into phase? and how does this result in consciousness? I don't think you have a solution yet, but thanks for the attempt!

Last edited by Gaylenwoof; 02-26-2013 at 01:40 PM..
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Old 02-26-2013, 05:02 PM
 
Location: On the "Left Coast", somewhere in "the Land of Fruits & Nuts"
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BTW, unsure the technical name for the theory, but am intuitively attracted to the notion that consciousness doesn't actually reside within the brain or the body at all, but that the brain instead functions as a sort of ''tuner'' which communicates with a much larger form of consciousness permeating and organizing the universe (aka, the Collective Unconscious, ''nature'', ''God'', the Divine, whatever). Meanwhile our analytical left brain merely provides the ''backstory'' and the ''illusion'' of a separate Ego.
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Old 02-26-2013, 05:57 PM
 
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Ukrkos: What you are describing above falls into a general category of proposed solutions called "panpsychism." Some philosophers (e.g., Galen Strawson) have proposed an even more general term: "panexperientialism." One famous panpsychist was Alfred North Whitehead. I wrote my master's thesis on Whitehead's notion of "actual entities." I am sympathetic to panexperientialism, but at the moment I do not actually believe it to be true. I don't not think that an electron is conscious - not even to a small degree. I don't think that there is anything "it is like to be" an atom or a water molecule.

Like I said - you do what everyone else does - you post a question that you already have a firm answer to. Hence, it is not a question, but a statement. What you do, is asking someone else to justify your opinion for you.
I am sorry, but it is what it. Simple order in universe confirms, that everything in universe is operated under some all inclusive, all aligning, all governing principle. That principle is consciousness. That you can not comprihend it being present in something in various degrees, does not change the situation. You are anthropocentric in your stipulation and look at consciousness as self awareness. That is not what I mentioned. I said - everything is conscious in various degrees, and on the un-intelligent side, it is only conscious as its function. Electron is electron because it is conscious as such. As its level, degree of consciousness increases, it becomes a say proton, or whatever is above it in complexity and function level. For thousands of years sages and those of the true knowledge told people this, and people "humbly"knew better.
"Bunch of mini minds"does not combine a higher mind. The Light of Intelligence, or Consciousness, is only allotted to those minds, to the best of their allowance in a limited physical body. And not a lot of it is. You postulating a question that has no merit to it and to me, personally, is made up and simply a philosophical exercise.

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Old 02-26-2013, 06:02 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mateo45 View Post
BTW, unsure the technical name for the theory, but am intuitively attracted to the notion that consciousness doesn't actually reside within the brain or the body at all, but that the brain instead functions as a sort of ''tuner'' which communicates with a much larger form of consciousness permeating and organizing the universe (aka, the Collective Unconscious, ''nature'', ''God'', the Divine, whatever). Meanwhile our analytical left brain merely provides the ''backstory'' and the ''illusion'' of a separate Ego.
No, it does not. Consciousness does not reside in anything or someone. Consciousness IS. It is in everything and everything is due to its presence, and as its manifestation out of amorphous matter. The Light of Intelligence shines into human mind via pituitary gland, that is mostly shut in most of the humans, and very little of it reaches the fourfold human body and mental and noetic atmospheres. Processes in the physical brain are only aftereffects of thinking, and thinking is not even done in brain.
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:20 PM
 
Location: Kent, Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukrkoz View Post
Like I said - you do what everyone else does - you post a question that you already have a firm answer to. Hence, it is not a question, but a statement. What you do, is asking someone else to justify your opinion for you.
Actually, I do not have a firm answer. I seriously wish I could say that I have an actual theory of mind capable of solving the Hard Problem, but I do not. What I do have is a general approach that I intuitively feel is on the right track, and I have a host of logical and empirical reasons for thinking that this approach is likely to be the most productive. But guess what? My general approach is very similar to yours. Especially, for example, when you say:
Quote:
Consciousness IS. EVERYTHING exists only due to it being present in everything. Consciousness is and permeates both the physical realm and the Realm of Permanence.
I tend to avoid the word 'consciousness' because it is horribly vague and to the extent that I able to define it clearly enough for practical use, I suspect it is emergent, rather than fundamental. What you are calling simple or lower forms of consciousness, I would call 'qualia.' I have reasons for preferring this approach, but when all is said and done, you and I seem to share some very similar intuitions. What I don't see, however, is how our approach solves the Hard Problem. I think you and I share an excellent set of metaphysical intuitions, but I don't think that this set of intuitions constitutes a genuine theory capable of actually solving the problem I am trying to solve. I think these intuitions get us in the ball park, but they're not, in themselves, going to win the game for us. Why, for example, should a particular pattern of neural activity be correlated with, say, the feeling of what it is like to see the color blue? Maybe this feeling of "seeing blue" is fundamental in some sense, but acknowledging the fundamental nature of this feeling does not help us explain why the activity in this brain correlates with "seeing blue" while the activity in this other brain does not. If qualia are fundamental, then why do we seem to need all of this incredibly complex brain activity in order to see blue? Why do we need a "visual cortex"? What is so special about the activity in these particular neurons, such that somehow we need them in order to experience the blueness of blue? This is the sort of question that a genuine theory of mind ought to be able to answer.
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:41 PM
 
Location: Kent, Ohio
3,392 posts, read 2,011,487 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mateo45 View Post
BTW, unsure the technical name for the theory, but am intuitively attracted to the notion that consciousness doesn't actually reside within the brain or the body at all, but that the brain instead functions as a sort of ''tuner'' which communicates with a much larger form of consciousness permeating and organizing the universe (aka, the Collective Unconscious, ''nature'', ''God'', the Divine, whatever). Meanwhile our analytical left brain merely provides the ''backstory'' and the ''illusion'' of a separate Ego.
I, too, am attracted to this approach. One famous advocate of this was Aldous Huxley who wrote a fascinating book called "The Doors of Perception." (Yeah, he was inspired to write about this based on his experiences taking mescaline, but hey, I'm totally ok with that This theory is sometimes referred to as the "Mind at Large." I think there is something deeply truthful about this way of thinking, but like every other attempt to formulate a theory of mind, it leaves a crucial piece of the puzzle completely unsolved. We are still left wondering why/how this particular sort of physical system (the brain) filters the "mind." How can we characterize the relationship between neural activity and the feeling of seeing blue in such a way that we are inspired to say: "Oh, yeah! Now I see it! Blah, blah, blah, and that's why we need a visual cortex," or whatever.
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