Sunday, September 6, 2009

Consciousness, Ourselves and Our World

Various scientists and philosophers have given us myriad ideas of consciousness. Some see it as the result of our physical brain function.  Others explain consciousness as a non local essence of phenomenon.
Paul Valery: “The universe is built on a plan the profound symmetry of which is somehow expressed in the inner structure of our intellect.”
James Jeans: “[T]he universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”
Albert Einstein: “It seems that the human mind has first to construct forms independently before we can find them in things.... Knowledge cannot spring from experience alone, but only from a comparison of the inventions of the intellect with observed fact.”
As Augustine, Valery, Eddington, and Einstein have duly noted, every “something” that our consciousness may see and point to reflects the qualities of the consciousness that is pointing.
Dan Dennett has us looking at our own perceptions, and suggests that it is the observer of viewpoint that is consciousness:
How do you explain consciousness? 
Artwork by F. Rassouli  Many thanks.


Coberst said...

In his book The Birth of Meaning Ernest Becker informs me that Kant informed the world two centuries ago that an infant “becomes conscious of himself first as “me”, and then only as an “I”…It means, simply, that the child begins to establish himself as an object of others before he becomes an executive subject…He becomes, in a word, an object to himself; he discovers his body as something in the outside world, as an instrument that belongs to him.”

Recently, while studying the works of Antonia Damasio, I have discovered that in his book The Feeling of what Happens Damasio explains in some detail how the individual discovers the self in the process of experiencing the world.

Core consciousness—“occurs when the brain’s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism’s processing of an object, and when this process enhances the image of the causative object, thus placing it saliently in a spatial and temporal context”

First, there is emotion, then comes feeling, then comes consciousness of feeling. There is no evidence that we are conscious of all our feelings, in fact evidence indicates that we are not conscious of all feelings.

Proto-self—“a coherent collection of neural patterns which map, moment by moment, the state of the physical structure of the organism in its many dimensions”

How can we begin to be conscious thereby having a sense of self while in the act of knowing?

We develop a nonverbal narrative in time that has a beginning, middle, and ending. The beginning is the neural mapping of the proto-self, the middle is when an external object is perceived, and the ending is a series of reactions resulting from the modification of the proto-self caused by the external object.

In its simplest form, the sense of knowing emerges in the feeling of knowing. The organism’s proto-self, mapped in the brain together with the neural mapping of the object, is modified by the object’s mapping. These transient mental images resulting from the modified proto-self’s neural modification are feelings.

The organism is represented by the proto-self, which originates in the internal milieu, i.e. the viscera, vestibular system, and musculoskeletal frame of the organism. The nonverbal narrative “describes the relationship between the changing proto-self and the sensorimotor maps of the object that causes those changes”. In other words, the brain image of the toothache of which I am bothered affects the static state of the organism’s proto-self.

The organism knows itself in this ‘self relating to object milieu’; the proto-self is being created in the process of knowing.

This wordless narrative, which we identify as thought, is constantly repeated without stop for every object that the brain represents. “It is not possible to run out of “actual” objects or “thought” object, and it is thus not possible to run out of the abundant commodity called core consciousness”.

Knowing is a process that results in a feeling of the proto-self in conjunction with the image of an external object, which causes an integration of the proto-self and the changes therein caused by the object. “Attention is driven to focus on an object and the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind. The object is set out from less-fortunate objects.” This is the birth of meaning.

Knowing springs to life in the narrative of the self interacting with the object. This is perhaps what T.S. Eliot means when he wrote in Four Quartets “music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all…you are the music while the music lasts”.

Quotes from The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio

Jack said...

It is a tool I've been attempting to utilize. Whenever I find my awareness focused upon energies deficient in potential (and this is where I might appreciate another's point of view) toward... evolving? I will decide my condition is not adequately conscious. This is the assessment I observe my state as consisting of; not conscious.

Olam ha Asiah, I think is World of Labor, and many go on about the suffering within it, but many different and various beauties are attained as well. Many grasp these too tightly, and others grasp too tightly upon the many different and various forms and forces of suffering as well. Consciousness only expands if aspiring, while clutching or grasping tightly to any beauty, horror, or belief, seems to hinder growth. I'm only giving my opinion. It might be completely altered a month from now.

"As little children" refers to an important aspect in regard to your topics title.

Gilles said...

Consciousness as a whole is pretty big. We humans are little kids pretending to know things about it, but and I agree with your quotes there, all we can really say is that we´re part of it.

The question how do you explain consciousness, is similar to the question how do you explain infinity to me. It´s just really really big.

A human who thinks his consciousness is his own, is a silly human. The most basic reason for that is that he has been invoked into this life by his parents. On top of that you can lay many arguments, for example that the way we think is dependent on the words or the images by which we can think. These have evolved.

If someone says thought is distinct from matter, I can not agree. I think thought is matter, it has a form, and thoughts can even be seen as little energy packets. I would say thought is the same thing as matter, but perceived from a different perspective. What matters in this thought, is that both thought and matter are limited. Thus, they float in a space.

I think the space in which thoughts and matter float is just as important as the thoughts and the matter themselves. This space deserves some attention, but, yes, some people get stuck in a paradox here.

While it is easy to perceive that which has a form, looking at formlessness itself is a whole different story. It involves letting go of everything. Not allowing yourself to be distracted. But being able to do it gives you the sense of heaving space and time, which basically means that you have the right to exist. So it´s worth the effort.

It is exactly in that state where I would say that consciousness has a different meaning. It is exactly not the thought, but the space between the thoughts, which, then are consciousness. A reader who has experienced this will know what I mean, while any other reader will think I am talking in circles. I´m now giving the word consciousness to a state that is apparently inconsistent, since in that state you are not thinking, or giving a form to anything. But the word consciousness is a form. Consciousness.

I also think that systematizing consciousness is raping it. It ceases to exist where it gets spawned. That on itself is a troublesome aspect of consciousness in the human intellect.

Angela said...

This is not an easy question to it the part of us that makes us alive...or is it more than that? Is it the observer inside of us that watches our behaviors and connects us to a higher power...sometimes called the soul?

Noel said...

In his book, Global Mind Change (pp. 34-39) former IONS president Willis Harmon distinguished three overall historical perspectives on consciousness: 1) that material reality (which is the only reality) gives rise to consciousness that is material “stuff” in rarified form; 2) that material reality and consciousness are different and entirely separate things, the dualistic twain of which never shall meet; and 3) that consciousness is the primary non-material reality that gives rise to material reality.

There is also a fourth perspective: that there is actually no such thing as consciousness, merely a fictional illusion of such. Since it follows from this that everyone who reads these words is an illusion looking at an illusion posted by yet another illusion, this proposition doesn’t have many takers other, perhaps, than those who consider themselves to be nobodies.

Willis was inclined toward the third perspective.

In other words (my own words, not those of Willis), consciousness gives rise to information, which gives rise to energy, which gives rise to matter. Thus information, energy and matter are successively densified material condensations of non-material consciousness.

All scientists who are considered “legitimate” by the global community of their peers subscribe to a materialist proposition, because scientific orthodoxy excludes all hypotheses of a non-physical reality on the assumption either that no such thing exists, or that if a non-physical reality does exist, nothing can be known about it that has scientific validity.

In order to be perceived as legitimate by today’s scientific community, noetic science must remain committed to the proposition that only matter is real and that consciousness is a materialized phenomenon. Fortunately, there are enough “maverick” scientists today (and their number is slowly increasing) that this situation is subject to eventual change.

Marilyn said...

Thank you for inviting us into such a complex and fascinating discussion. I am of the tradition of William James and his idea of "radical empiricism." Anything that is part of human experience if valid for scientific inquiry. He defined "noetic" as "states of insight unplumbed by the discursive intellect, all inarticulate though they remain. And yet, they carry with them a curious sense of authority." These noetic experiences are both a challenge and an opportunity for materialist science, as Willis Harman so skillfully argued in his many writings.

To push forward in our attempts to include these insights that come with a "curious sense of authority," noetic scientists must (1) push existing scientific methods as far as they will go to include such phenomena; and (2) create new, creative methods that will best shed light on the nature of insight, creativity, and intuition. What a great adventure!

Marty said...

I would like to suggest a change of direction; from “what is consciousness” to what is noetic consciousness, or self-awareness, or qualia. The wall between Newtonian science and it’s detractors will grow more and more formidable with each new theoretical offensive. Noel. I agree with you that “ there are enough “maverick” scientists today (and their number is slowly increasing) that this situation is subject to eventual change.”
But how long? And if we’re real honest with ourselves can we really expect a three century tradition of materialism to release its grasp anytime soon?
Might I suggest that the only solution to this is to pick out the pieces of the consciousness pie with the most fruit? The pieces that the materialists left and don’t even want?

Noel said...

I don’t expect that materialist science will never lose its proper grasp. Being, perhaps, the most workable collective endeavor of practical intelligence in all of recorded history, materialist science earns our respect as such.

What I do expect sooner or later to be lost is materialist science’s present monopolistic control over scientific intelligence. What has to let go of is material science's dogma: that only what is both physical and mechanical can possibly exist, and that anything we experience which is not both physical and mechanical is either a form of self-deceit, a fictional fabrication or pure illusion, thus making it scientific anathema.

Fortunately, the worldview of science overall is collectively far more open-ended and open-minded than individual scientists are, so that (as Max Planck observed) science’s worldview makes much of its ongoing progress funeral by funeral.

As to “What is noetic science?” I wonder whether this question can be effectively addressed until we have successively and definitively answered three prior questions to the general satisfaction of the worldwide scientific peer review community: “What qualifies something as being noetic?” “What qualifies science as being noetic?” and “Is noetic science possible?” So long as the scientific peer review jury is out on these three questions, all three will continue to be begged by the further question, “What IS noetic science?”

Marty said...

Perhaps intuition is interchangeable with noetic? Intuition could be described as "insights with a peculiar sense of authority."

Intuition – A way of perceiving which relies on relationships, meanings, and
possibilities beyond the reach of the conscious mind (Myers and McCaulley, 1985) and includes behavioral attributes (Brown, 1990). A way of knowing in which we often do not know how we know what we know (Vaughan, 1979).

A quick search indicates there is a much larger body of knowledge regarding "intuition" than can be found with "noetic." Random thoughts. . .

Dean said...

Prevailing scientific methods based on materialistic reductionism have been exceedingly powerful, as evidenced by the development of our technologies. And we know of nothing viable to replace those methods. So it's going to remain dominant for a long time.

However, those methods and assumptions are questioned by the anomalies we find when studying exceptional human capacities, so I'm convinced that something important needs to be adjusted. Exactly what that something may be is not clear to me. Maybe it's Willis' #3 proposition about consciousness. Maybe not.

Noel said...

I agree that we presently know of nothing that could viably replace materialistically reductive scientific methods, which are necessary in part (though insufficient as a whole) to address the question “What is consciousness?”

Nor do I even think that replacing reductionist science will ever be an option, because fixing what already works is notoriously counter-productive. Reductionist methodologies are unlikely to be replaced so long as they continue to be productive of fruitful material outcomes - unless, of course, we cease to value material outcomes, which is highly unlikely so long as we inhabit a material universe. Therefore, while reductionist science may lend itself to further refinement and adjustments, its outright replacement would be foolhardy.

I also suspect that adjustment of reductive methodologies can at best assist us only in identifying material correlates that make consciousness possible, thus providing further necessary yet never sufficient evidence to answer the question of what consciousness IS – an answer that will continue to elude us until we supplement material reductionism with an additional and alternative scientific approach.

Whatever the additional and alternative supplemental scientific approach might be, to qualify as “scientific” it will likewise have to produce a universal, public, controllable, repeatable and predictable means of revealing invariant patterns of evidence. Materialistic reductionism, whether by mathematical, metrical or other “pattern recognition” methodologies, does succeed in revealing evidence that is consistently invariant under all sanctioned experimental protocols. Any viable new scientific methodology will likewise be required to establish a track record of invariant pattern recognition.

If and when we find a scientifically valid methodology that tells us what consciousness actually IS, we may discover that consciousness and pattern recognition are synonymous, and that consciousness is also the creator of the patterns that it recognizes.

Curtis said...

It seems to me that our prevailing scientific methods are adequate to the task of sorting out exactly where Consciousness lies in the spectrum of reality. It is just a matter of focus and determination. Right now much of our scientific explorations focus on materialistic objectives. However if one suggests that Consciousness may be a rational precursor or our present reality, then one would look for its presence. Much of mainstream science dwells on observable matter. We tend to forget that a great deal of our scientific knowledge depends on things that have never been seen nor adequately understood. Eg. Magnetism, gravity and the true nature of light waves. We take these for granted as constants of reality.

If for a moment we posit that without Consciousness, nothing would exist, we are drawn to new assumptions about reality. Based on these assumptions it is possible to work back to a view that would allow current scientific methods to apply to the search for the role of Consciousness in reality. Of course Human consciousness will exert itself to tease out the role of Consciousness in the universe. I view exceptional human capacities as the norm. Our human connection to Consciousness is without limitations except those we choose to impose on ourselves or have had taught into us. Consciousness pervades all things, in my view. Applying the human connection to Consciousness would allow us to see new interrelationships and dependencies. Willis was on the right track I think, the third option is a viable one.

The determination to make the search fruitful and exacting is all that is needed for us to find where Consciousness fits into the puzzle. What we as humans experience as consciousness is but a small part of a grand intelligence that transforms intuition into a noetic reality.

I would like to think that the soul is our connection to Consciousness. That the soul is the insubstantial filaments that link us to the rest of creation. What is consciousness? Its like asking a fish, "What is water?" We take our reliance on Consciousness so matter-of-factly that we do not imagine that it has any true substance. I would rather ask, "What is not Consciousness?" then we would be forced to determine what it is that we lack in our life without its presence.

Donald said...

On the subject of "What is Consciousness?", I think it's important to be clear about from which field of study we are broaching the question. As suggested by Victor Acquista of Monson, Massachusetts, in the Viewpoint section of IONS Shift #19:

"Shift readers are constantly challenged to figure out which aspect of consciousness is being explored in a particular article. When the work 'consciousness' appears, it isn't always clear which of these it is referring to:

- self-awareness/self-identity - i.e., I recognize and understand something about myself

- mental functioning - cognition and perception, which may be interrupted by going under general anesthesia causing "unconsciousness"

- intentionality - e.g., I consciously pursued mastering the violin

- unfolding/awakening - my own personal growth and development

- worldview - a developmental model such as Spiral Dynamics

- field - a la Jung or McTaggart

- collective awareness - e.g., raising consciousness with a peace march"

I am inclined to define consciousness as the primary reality that underlies and give rise to, ultimately, material reality. Also, I prefer to think of human consciousness as the state of being self-aware, and Universal Consciousness as the self-awareness of the universe. As humans, we can expand our awareness thereby expanding our consciousness to beyond the limits of our physical senses. According to Carl Johan Calleman in The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, the greater we expand our consciousness, the more enlightened we become, the more capacity we have for understanding (from a holistic, combined right and left brain perspective), and the closer we are to Universal Consciousness.

I also tend to agree with the Hermetic teachings that suggest that pure Consciousness (Universal) is the one and only state of Universal Mind, which is essentially unknowable and undefinable, especially within the limited framework of modern, dualist, reductionist scientific methods. I believe, though, that we are experiencing, in some areas, the convergence science and spirituality, which will bring about a new science (perhaps, a more noetic science) that embodies Hermetic principles and accepts the existence of a non-physical reality.

Alan said...

Offering this link for those interested here...

Curtis said...

I think it important for the purpose of clarity in discussion to differentiate some terms that we use freely. There is Consciousness (with a capital C) which would represent Universal Consciousness and consciousness (with lowercase c) which would represent the human experience of Consciousness as perceived by the brain/mind. As Asok and Sagey point out defining Consciousness is virtually impossible. How does one define an infinitely variable and constantly changing set of parameters. Our every thought and action changes Consciousness as do the thoughts and actions of billions of other entities. The biological experience of Consciousness extends to all creation, animate and inanimate. So that as nature changes so does Consciousness. Adaptive and Infinite are attributes of Consciousness, as are other adjectives. By defining Consciousness subjectively or objectively we only tend to limit our own perceptions of it. How does one measure the volume of the ocean of Consciousness when a myriad of inputs add to it constantly?

Thus the problem of science with delving into the nature of Consciousness remains how to quantify this fluid ever changing medium. As Noel points out it will soon become apparent that a theory of everything TOE must include the unseen subjective aspects of the universe. Already the conundrum of “Dark Matter” intrudes into the cosmologists explanations of the expansion of the universe. If this “Dark Matter” were somehow our perception of the physical “weight” of Consciousness would this be proof of the existence of Consciousness? The sublime symmetry of the balances in this Universe leads one to suspect that there is some corrective/creative force in play. We need not attribute this to any thing other than the needs of this existence/experience as expressed in the overwhelming need for constancy.

It is constancy that keeps our universe from reeling off into the Void. It is constancy that supports the physical laws that we have uncovered. I believe that it is the study of constancy that will reveal the connection of Matter to Consciousness. Particularly the study of how matter adopts and maintains its form and substance. Reductionism adds some knowledge to our understanding of this connection. That there are quarks, leptons, and antileptons points us in a direction of understanding that an atom is at best, a collection of energetic particles, the origin of which we don’t properly understand. Energy itself may well have its origins in Consciousness. Some day we may wake up to find Einstein’s famous equation E equals M C squared, expanded to include the relationship between Energy and Consciousness.

Noel said...

Scientific protocols maintain that only as we know what something actually is do we have proof of its existence as anything other than an illusory "experimental artifact" or some other dismissible "anomaly", "epiphenomenon" or "sensory mirage." Only when scientists have defined something in materially and/or mathematically measurable form do they certify its existence as scientifically "real."

We presently have no way to scientifically validate that consciousness exists, because even though nearly seven billion people on our planet experience being conscious, such experience can only be communicated by anecdotal reports. Yet anecdotal reports - however unanimous they may be - are dismissed as having any scientific validity unless the reports take the form of strictly controlled and precisely defined experiments, whose scientific protocols are certified as legitimate by the larger scientific community (i.e., via peer review), and whose results can be precisely replicated at will by all other scientists who identically reproduce the experiments as reported.

Since no way has yet been found to thus experiment with consciousness, there can be no scientific certification that consciousness is anything more than an experimental (or experiential) artifact. In other words, even though the ubiquitous experimental artifact called “consciousness” has started world wars and presently pollutes the entire planet, this is insufficient evidence to prove scientifically that something we call "consciousness" has anything to do with either war or pollution.

Nonetheless, there are some vast exceptions to science’s rigid stance. For example, while no scientist has as yet defined what gravity actually is, or what electricity actually is, scientists can readily describe how gravity and electricity work, and it is on the basis of these descriptions that they certify gravity and electricity as being "real."

Accordingly, therefore, it presently seems that only as scientists 1) come to agreement about how consciousness works and 2) can consistently demonstrate that the way it works involves experimentally proven, measureable interactions of material forces and particles, are they likely to accept consciousness as something that is real.

Mike said...

What I have recently been in tune with is that our brain is first an organ. Similar to other organs it functions without our command. Both with and without conscious effort...i.e., we breathe without effort, or we breathe with effort. Without being long-winded and naming departments of the brain, understand that the brain, as an organ, will present thoughts and memories and present actions of response to the outside world...without our asking. The more aware we are of this function and action of our brain...the better we...our true inner-self can stay in "reality", and not wander through life simply responding - bouncing like a pinball - responding with provided for thoughts of our mind; as opposed to being in control.

Alan said...

*If* c(C)onsciousness is a "process" how can and is it possible to ever put attach a label to "it" ?

Ben said...

Alan, thank you very much for using Curtis’s big “ C” for Consciousness (for me the Infinite Immaterial Nonduality Eternal Now, beyond and outside of human consciousness) and little “c” for (human consciousness the Finite Material Duality Specific Now, basically scientifically formulated from brain functioning). Since for me, not only is that a problem for any “process” “ knowing (common ground)”, and for Conceptual Context Framing and Language (CCF&L common ground) as a starting point for the “Lens for viewing” we use for creating our perceptual reality “knowings”.

For me the best we can ever do Is to achieve a “best approximation” of expressing our experiencing’s of either “C” or “c” from where ever we happen to be “coming from (Identity of CCF&L in perceiving ‘them’”, and “who we are (Entity Sense of Self Being of Doing)”, which to me are the main factors in determining “experiencing knowing”.

Then there is the “Content (subject identification word descriptors chosen to express the “knowing”), and to have any “knowing common ground” between individuals or groups when the “CCF&L”, “process” and “content” and their meaning are relevant to congruency of mutual understanding..

We need to have a common perceptual ”CCF&L” Model for the c (C)consciousness, “process”and “content”, which I developed in 1975 as a Relationship Viewing Frame Approach as to how we create our perceptual realities and how relationships work.

Noel said...

My most direct and honest answer to the question about the possibility of verifying consciousness mathematically is “I don’t know.”

However, after casting the question into my unknowing a week ago, I was yesterday rewarded with a further and clarifying question: If it is possible to verify consciousness mathematically, what kind of mathematics would it take?

What came immediately to my mind upon asking this question is that because consciousness has so many self-similar levels, fractal mathematics would be required rather than differential mathematics.

What makes consciousness so opaque to differentiating approaches is its seeming seamlessness, hence the requirement of a fractal approach.

Your other question about a priori, a posteriori or “other” is still simmering on my cogito’s back burner.

Curtis said...

Yes, as process Consciousness is useless to label. Consciousness is in the experiencing. But once you experience it, it has changed. I think this is why and how rituals become established. We experience the grandeur of Consciousness and expect to experience it the same way over and over again. It rarely does repeat itself. Ritual and rote methods fail us. We must seek to be available to Consciousness. How? This is a difficult question. Meditation and intuition seem to be some of our few best resources and even these are not reliable. The one sure indicator of success is the "Ecstatic" response to contact. Can we quantify ecstasy? I think we need to realize that our knowing Consciousness is enough to identify it as real and potent. The quality of mercy is not strained. The experience of Consciousness is as real as the universe gets.

Mike said...

Science is always interesting in the fact that an answer to a question can easily ask another question - one discovery leads to another quest. It is very possible that our brain/mind functions throughout our life in a response mode. We already know that unconscious response is ahead of conscious thought by a split second. But does the mind simply access other data in respond as "conscious" thought?

Noel said...

Can experimentation ever inform us of anything other than what is already a posteriori? What about what is in_and_of itself? This would seem to be a priori. How can experimentation not be both Kantian-hypothetical and constantly conditional and therefore consequently not necessarily "consciousness" in and of itself?

I consigned these questions to my cognitive hinterland trusting that something meaningfully useful would eventually bubble up in its foreground. At last, it has.

The only way I know to meaningfully address these questions is experientially and phenomenologically, in accordance with the principle that all knowledge of phenomena is subsequent to our experiencing thereof. There can be no knowledge of something that has never been experienced – even “jabberwocky” and “slithy tove” were experienced as nonsense words by Lewis Carroll before he wrote them down.

In other words, nothing becomes phenomenal to our awareness until we have experienced it.

For another example, earth’s satellite body has presumably existed in_and_of itself for billions of years prior to the advent of conscious beings that experience it as a phenomenon called “moon”. Yet whatever it may be in_and_of itself prior to and independent of our experiencing thereof as “moon” can’t [á la Kant] be known to us. We cannot know anything in other than the way we experience it – even to the extent that when we suddenly experience something in a different way than formerly, the same principle applies: all phenomenal knowledge is experientially derived and thus a posteriori to some occasion or shift of experience.

In this regard, Einstein once addressed the precepts of idealist philosophy with the statement, “I don’t believe that the moon doesn’t exist when I am not seeing it.” Yet the question is not one of the moon’s existence, rather of what it exists AS when it is independent of our phenomenological experiencing thereof.

For another example: In quantum physics, the so-called "collapse of the wave function" is a posteriori to an act of observation. It has been experimentally and mathematically demonstrated that a photon, atom, or molecule is neither a particle nor a wave a priori of an observation thereof, and instead approximates what the Law of Paradox deems as “all potential and nothing” until it is observed. In other words, the quantum realm is non-phenomenal a priori to our observations thereof, and all phenomenal evidence thereof is a posteriori to an observation.

This conundrum has been semi-immortalized in the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” (A sexist version of this question asks, “If a woman speaks in the absence of a man, is he still wrong?”) The uniform answer to such questions is that no phenomenological knowledge can exist prior to an experiencing thereof.

In further response to another question, a seeming exception to the foregoing phenomenological assessment is mathematical knowledge. For instance, the existence of most sub-atomic functions has been predicated mathematically prior to their phenomenological verification via diagrams of their activity in particle accelerators. What makes this only a seeming exception to the phenomenological rule, however, is that even a mathematical construct is experienced by someone before it becomes knowledge.

Sherry said...

Consciousness is "knowing." The ability to perceive, grasp meaning, access memory, grow in understanding and connect point A not only to point B, but to point F as well, and see the connection.

Noel said...

There are some who contend that knowing, perceiving, grasping meaning, remembering, growing in understanding and connecting the dots are all things that consciousness DOES, all of which still begs the question of what consciousness IS.

This is not a unique problem for science however, for although we know very well what electricity does, what magnetism does, and what gravity does, we still don't know what any of them ultimately IS either.

One way to engage this conundrum is suggested by consciousness philosopher David Chalmers:

"An alternative approach is to stop trying to reduce consciousness to something else, and accept that it is irreducible. This happens often in physics, with features such as mass, space and time: these features are not explained in terms of other things, but are taken as fundamental. ... Once we admit consciousness as a fundamental feature, we can then investigate the fundamental laws that govern it. In this way we can go about the business of constructing a theory of experience."

Yet even a theory of experience won't tell us what experiencing IS.

There seems to be a persistent pattern in all such endeavors: the more fundamental something is to the nature of existence, the less we are able to determine its ultimate is-ness.

Sherry said...

You are all" so right." Maybe consciousness is an all encompassing everything. The "Oneness" that connects us to each other and the realization of that connectedness is for me the greatest gift of all. Out of my feeling connected comes the true realization of the "Oneness." The conscious understanding of what that entails gives my inner life more meaning, and that is very important to me. If that's consciousness then HURRAY, HURRAY.

Barbara said...

Consciousness is the awareness of a specific point of beingness.

Marty said...

Barbara said: "Consciousness is the awareness of a specific point of beingness."

Thanks for this, Barbara. To me this statement points to the second of two aspects of consciousness. Eastern mystics make the claim that first there is unconditioned consciousness, or pure awareness but not aware of any-thing. And this pure consciousness cannnot be quantified because all is consciousness. So to this argument it could be said that consciousness without context cannot be quantified in any way. Can the words water, or dirt be quantified?

The second form of consciousness from the Eastern mytic perspective would be formed consciousness, or consciousness with context. I suppose this could be quantified.

Noel said...

An essential distinction, Marty, which raises several questions in my mind:

Are both of these aspects of consciousness experiential?

Is what we call “experience” an awareness OF consciousness, an awareness WITH consciousness, or both, and if it is both how is the distinction made? And is the distinction a substantive one or an operational one?

Is there such a thing as consciousness that is devoid of any awareness or experiencing, including any awareness or experiencing of itself?

What ultimately distinguishes consciousness from our experiencing OF consciousness? Are consciousness and experiencing distinct aspects of our faculty of awareness, or are they just two different words for what is ultimately one and the same faculty? Or are they different aspects of a single faculty?

Kimmy said...

I needed to learn this today.

This quote

Knowledge cannot spring from experience alone, but only from a comparison of the inventions of the intellect with observed fact.

Perhaps this is the lesson I wish everyone could learn first, but I guess that only means people have to experience it first, before they can observe in the future...

Diane said...

Consciousness is the awareness of the power of my mind. The knowledge that I alone have the power to create my life experiences.

Simon said...

The product of the bio-electric, electro-chemical energy in the brain.

Like a burning candle produces heat, the brain produces consciousness.

Lee said...

That was an interesting clip Molly thanks for sharing.

I would say though that questions about consciousness would need to be fully, I think there are marked differences between asking what consciousness is, and asking how it works.

Dan Dennett in this clip appeared to me to be talking more about conscious decisions, or acting consciously and the differences between this and the automatic process that our brains take without our conscious say so, or perhaps unconscious process of the brain.

Which really does not answer the question you posed.

So I would say that I explain conciseness as a property of the physical brain, and I would say that to be conscious means merely to know that you exist as an independent entity, and can tell that there are others around who like wise exists as individual entities.

Jim said...

That's an interesting video. But it doesn't attempt to explain consciousness. So let me try.

First, have you ever had an out of body experience? I have. For a brief interval when I was about 12 my consciousness was out of my body; I could even look at my body. Since then I've come across other's out of body experience descriptions, and their experience was much like mine. So from all this I conclude that consciousness is not of the body but in the body. It is something separate from the body though. Much like energy is separate from the body. So to explain it is much like explaining where the energy that began this universe came from - it is one of those "just is" things.

Put differently, if you believe that your consciousness is a quality produced by the 100 trillion cells of your body, then very likely you also believe that your TV programs originate within your TV set.

Chris said...

Unless of course, you take a purely scientific approach, realize that you're mixing metaphors to the extreme, and have imbued consciousness with properties it does not have because of your experiences, which are all based on a human perception. You receive data through those 100 Trillion cells, which is how you interact with the world, how you see, smell, touch, taste, hear, and yes, even think. To assume that "consciousness" is NOT a quality produced by the sum total of that perception is to assume that the car goes because God's invisible hand is behind it pushing it along while you put your foot on the gas pedal.

Simon said...

"First, have you ever had an out of body experience? I have. For a brief interval when I was about 12 my consciousness was out of my body; I could even look at my body." - Jim

No. However I have had dreams that I did. Perhaps that is what happened to you (and the others) they dreamed that they had an experience of out-of-body?

The mind is a tricky playground.

Simon said...

Are you aware of Dr. Michael Persinger's experiments wherein he subjects the brain to focused electro-magnetic force and creates "spiritual" sensations in the subject?

He also has done experiments with focused applications of psychotropic drugs and generated "neuro-realities" in the consciousness of the subject. These experiments lend a lot of experimental support to consciousness being primarily chemical and electrical.

Justin said...

Actually they do not.

They just lend a lot of experimental support to consciousness being manipulate-able through chemical and electrical manipulation of ones brain.

But we already knew that. All it takes is to ingest a beer (or two), or -and I am not an advocate- ingest some LSD, and you will know. But even without the mind altering chemicals you need only understand the laws of perspective and observe the fact that the point of view of your consciousness is from your body. A little anatomy and you have the role of the brain. This was known for a long time. Look at the anatomy of the senses all of them tied by little wire-like structures called nerves with signals on them the interruption of which terminates the conscious experience of the connected transducing sensor. Otherwise why wouldn't we believe that destroying ones eye would cause deafness instead of blindness.

None of that is even one shred of evidence for your mind being your body... or, if you prefer to use that language... and say that your mind is your body ... then you must be willing to reform the current meaning of the phrase "your body" and therefore the meaning in physics of matter ultimately needs to be reformed to include consciousness unless you agree that "your body" is not material. Something has to give somewhere. Either your mind is not your body, or your mind is your body. If your mind is your body then either your body is physical (made of matter) or it is not. If it is made of matter and your mind is your body then matter is conscious and the laws of physics need to incorporate that into their descriptions. Otherwise, if your body is not solely material but your mind is still your body then there is something non-material in your body that is your mind. Or else you can say your mind is not your body and your body is material which is the current method I think.

Consciousness cannot properly be described as a "property" of matter as it is not something essential but has an existential role for the one who is conscious. It appears to be associated with specific structural arrangements of matter and not the individual components and dependent on the movement of the mechanism as well as its shape. However, neurology has not yet nailed down the specifics completely but is making fast progress. It will be very interesting when neurology leads to technology and will be a major ethical challenge.

What we know is that the arrangement of matter in the form of a neurology results in reports of consciousness from others and an experience of our own consciousness. This can be deduced from very simple evidence independent of modern neurology which is currently engaged in flushing out the details of the relationship.

No doubt we will eventually understand the specific correlations and what produces our own experience of Being and being conscious meaning what the specific arrangements are and how they are tied to detailed phenomenological descriptions of experience. This was what Husserl wanted to do about hundred years ago. It will take a little more time for the likes of Dennet to catch up.

Perhaps then, we can even get a read on some of the problems like Synchronicity and get a serious look at it scientifically. Perhaps not. I suspect that our current world view will be very nearly completely eliminated by the progress and the surety with which the simple assumptions of our current thought are held will one day be seen as, if not an unexplainable superstition or ignorance, like we consider those who killed in Greece over arguments about whether the number 0 existed, or else as a kind of arrogance that was prevalent in history.

Hell, the truth is Dennet is a provacateur not a philosopher. When you look in detail at his position it evaporates and he is not at all saying what he causes his audiences to believe that he is saying. Check out Searle. Again, like Dennet he is not a heavy hitter historically but he has Dennet in checkmate.

Neil said...

The ultimate sum of the universe is often held to be zero. One also has the statistical zero of the vacuum hinting at massive energies 'elsewhere'. I share Justin's reservations about Dennet. In the detail of phenomenology (something most of us could get into) there is attention to 'the things themselves' (and in marxism too - methodologically). Science is phenomenological in my view, yet very few scientists are aware of the detailed explanations of what they do. One can do a lot of poking about as a technician without ever understanding what any of it means beyond the monthly pay cheque continuing to arrive. The old arguments are whether what we call consciousness is an emergent property of enough complexity in the organisation we call life, or sneaks in from another world (however we want to put this). Physics has lots of stuff being borrowed and lent to 'other worlds' these days.

Simon said...

I'm not addressing Dennett. I am talking about experiments that can change consciousness. If a chemical can change consciousness then obviously chemicals are a great part of consciousness. Likewise for the application of electro-magnetic forces.

Consciousness is essentially a closed loop. 80% of all conscious activity arises from within the brain, only 20% is from external sensory input.

Neuro-transmitters are essentially, also simply chemical transfers launch by electrical energy.

For example, LSD exclusively affects the temporal lobe. If you removethe temporal lobe the subject can consume buckets of LSD and it will have no effect on him/her at all..

Absolutely all psychotropic drugs alter consciousness via physical chemical influences, from god experiences to colour perception. Serotonin, as an example, is manipulated by large numbers of hallucinogenics as well as ant-depressants.

I see no reason at all to assume that anything gives rise to consciousness beyond electricity and chemistry.

This is not as big a mystery as the posts here seem to think. I would strongly recommend some, even cursory, study of current research in neuro-science and behavioural/cognitive experiments being done by Persinger and others. The brain is being mapped and it won't be very many more decades before all the 'mystery' removed.

We already know the general area of the right side of the brain where our feelings of 'self' reside. In fact, if we stimulate that same area we create a feeling in the subject of 'another' self. A duality that is usually ultimately described by the subject as god-like.

"The ultimate sum of the universe is often held to be zero." - Neil

It is more accurate to say that the combination of all the gravity and all the mass results in E=0. Energy is equal to zero, not the 'ultimate sum of the universe' (whatever that means) just the total energy equals zero.

However, there is massive energy stored in a curved quantum space (usually called 'nothing', but nothing doesn't really exist). This curvature or 'quantum vacuum' contains an excess of energy which is currently thought to be released in proton-sized 'bubbles' that contain all the energy and mass necessary to create an entire universe, which they probably do with regularity.

Neil said...

That most of our knowledge is in memory at any particular time is a given. What is perhaps surprising, however, is the degree to which even our current conscious knowledge typically depends on memory. Look at the sky and come to believe that the sunset is beautiful. This is a newly formed belief about an event currently taking place (not I can assure you round here - we haven't seen the sky for some time). The justification of a current event is no doubt dependent on other beliefs that you hold. For example, if you didn't at least tacitly believe that you were looking west or that it is evening and not morning, the belief wouldn't be justified (I assume that the phenomenology of sunsets and sunrises isindistinguishable). Now I am not, however, supposing that all knowledge of the external world is inferential. Your belief that the sky is red might well be epistemically basic. Nor am I insisting that your sunset belief is psychologically inferential. My only claim here is that many relatively simple beliefs we form about the external world typically depend for their justification on background beliefs; and background beliefs are memory beliefs. Virtually all of what we know (or are justified in believing) at any given time resides in memory.

Theories of consciousness are generally: Metaphysical theories of consciousness - either - Dualist theories or Physicalist theories. There are many variants of these.

There are a number of specific theories of consciousness I am aware of, generally -
Higher-order theories
Representational theories
Cognitive theories
Neural theories
Quantum theories
Nonphysical theories.

I am yet to spot any practical work in this field that might help us move on as a society. Davies, M. and Humphreys, G. 1993. Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Oxford: Blackwell might help if you want the punishment!

What currently interests me is memory and why we have so little justified knowing consciously involved in the current consciousness of a decision (or at least its rationalisation). You could get the drift from this:

Me: Why are we at war in Afghanistan Prime Minister?
PM: To keep the streets of London safe my boy.
Me: I'm older than you, you patronising dirt bag, but leaving that aside, it makes no sense to me to go an kill Afghans to keep the streets of London safe.
PM: This is my profound judgement on the matter.
Me: When I am profound I can usually demonstrate my evidence to others, why can't you?
PM: You have to trust me. Matters of national security are involved.
Me: As when we and the French got the Israelis to invade Egypt so we could take over the whole middle east in a policing action in 1956 you mean? Or as in the secret war we fought in Indonesia for 20 years? Or as in pretending Iraq was full of WMDs? Or as in bumping off one of our own scientists? Or as in the way you have set up all kinds of bodies to find the positive and shut out real criticism across the board? If we are winning this war why are we now blowing up our precious helicopters so regularly?
PM: You should be proud to be British. Afghanistan was responsible for 9/11.
Me: They were mostly Saudi.

It would go on and on. What is this consciousness they can control?

Neil said...

I'll just wander on a bit. Those who reject a physicalist ontology of consciousness must find ways of modeling it as a nonphysical aspect of reality. Thus those who adopt a dualist or anti-physicalist metaphysical view must in the end provide specific models of consciousness different from the emergent models. Both substance dualists and property dualists must develop the details of their theories in ways that articulate the specific natures of the relevant non-physicals features of reality with which they equate consciousness or to which they appeal in order to explain it. There are many such models - no doubt Orn and Vam could explain some of the traditional ones.

I have lost interest, but was once concerned that an informational world might help in concepts in biology. Amongst philosophers, David Chalmers (1996) has offered an admittedly speculative version of panpsychism which appeals to the notion of information not only to explain psycho-physical invariances between phenomenal and physically realized information spaces but also to possibly explain the ontology of the physical as itself derived from the informational (a version of “it from bit” theory). Gregg Rosenberg has recently (2004) proposed an account of consciousness that simultaneously addresses the ultimate categorical basis of causal relations. In both the causal case and the conscious case, Rosenberg argues the relational-functional facts must ultimately depend upon a categorical non-relational base, and he offers a model according to which causal relations and qualitative phenomenal facts both depend upon the same base (this, as you can probably judge from the awkwardness of the language, is difficult stuff) . Some quantum theories treat consciousness as a fundamental feature of reality (Stapp 1993), and insofar as they do so, they might be plausibly classified as non-physical theories. The general response to Dennett has been to ask what he has developed a theory of (Block 1994).

I take a fairly stolid view that evidence is what counts, but say this knowing a good theory will change what evidence is for real rather than through lies.

Block, N. 1994. “What is Dennett's theory a theory of?” Philosophical Topics, 22/1-2: 23-40.
Chalmers, D. 1996. The Conscious Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Stapp, H. 1993. Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics. Berlin: Springer Verlag.
Rosenberg, G. 2004. A Place for Consciousness: Probing the Deep Structure of the Natural World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Chris said...

Ah, the old "Science is Faith" argument...nope, even here, this is not the case, despite one of his two statements semantically suggesting such:

"I see no reason to assume that anything gives rise to consciousness beyond electricity and chemistry….” – Simon

No faith here whatsoever. In fact, this is the opposite of faith...this is a purely scientific perspective. Allow me to assist with a semantic translation that makes it clear.

"I have not been presented with any evidence upon which to base an assumption/hypothesis/theory that consciousness rises from anything other than that which we have been able to measure in the brain."

This is science. Period. A negative or passive statement does not indicate faith.

“…The brain is being mapped and it won't be very many more decades before all the 'mystery' removed….” – Simon

This is a reasonable guess based on the progress made currently, and while the semantics of the statement might seem to indicate "faith" to those looking for it, it's a poor example to try and use in the SvF argument. We have achieved a scientific understanding of the vast majority of human physiology which nears "mystery-less-ness". SE's broad and open ended statement, despite using an authoritative tone, leaves enough room for error that it stands as a hypothesis, ready to be tested.

Faith, as has been repeated ad nauseum, is a belief which remains in the face of either a lack of evidence, or countering evidence..."the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." It is most certainly not the same as logical deduction, and rational projections based on axiomatic progression, and this endless attempt to paint it as such just seems kind of desperate.

Penn Gillette explores the topic very well in this episode of "Penn Says". He most clearly articulates the what most atheists like myself believe, although with a little extra of his special flair:

Neil said...

Biology has long discussed whether there is just the material code in DNA or a further set in an information world. My own view has long been, 'sod off, this doesn't help'. There is much I can never disprove and also consider as very likely irrelevant. Valiant squabbling is often irrelevant.

Simon said...

Do you accept, given all of that, below, that without a brain there is no self? Or do you think that self is somehow external to the brain?

Neil said...

These are areas where what we say can often not be what we mean. Bullet through brain does seem sensible as leading to no person here (i.e. presence of corpse) but there could be a soul and so on - or consciousness might take the 'self' and re-deliver it somewhere. There are plenty of examples of 'mirror-world' science about. I think we may be approaching a time at which we can use memory in something like real-time and this will speed up our knowing and probably stop much of the political drivel we suffer from wasting so much time (and all the rest). At most, I believe this would open up new mysteries or paths to take.

Simon said...

The word 'soul' means nothing to me. I have no idea what that is. How do we measure it to see if it exists or not? And, even if it does, where does it come from, the brain? Where does it stay once it has come from wherever, the brain?

Sorry, it still seems to me like the brain is the source of self and consciousness.

Souls are all well and good but if I am to be questioned on the evidence supporting the brain's electro-chemical functioning as the source of consciousness then surely there is an equal or even greater need for some shred of evidence to support a 'soul' as the origin of the same.

Can you give me as detailed a description of the soul as possible, please? How does it give rise to consciousness? How does it communicate with the brain, when and how does it develop. Lots of questions so please be as detailed as you can. I have heard people talking about souls for decades but nobody ever seems to be able to describe them or support their idea with more than simple assertion, which experience has taught me to reject out-of-hand initially.

Look forward to some details.


Akamu said...

Consciousness is an interesting topic I have been discussing with other people recently. There are two questions which are always asked: First, is the mind the brain? Second, if the mind is not the brain, then is it emergent from the brain or does the brain relay mind?

A vast majority of the people I talk to are ones who advocate Type-Identity and Functionalist theory (though I imagine a majority of people in the world as a whole would embrace Dualism...but that's just a feeling). Type-Identity simply states that the brain is the mind in the same way that water is H2O. Functionalism makes a subtle distinction and says that matter is not what makes the mind; mind is determined by the function of its parts. So if we somehow stumbled upon the correct formula in duplicating the same processes which happen in the brain, then we can give birth to strong A.I. I always found this amusing because PETA is constantly speaking out against animal testing, claiming that certain behavioral tests can be perfectly duplicated via computer simulation. However, under functionalism, if a computer was somehow perfectly attuned to immitate animal brain functions, then there should be a computer-rights activist group speaking out against such tests. Functionalism maintains that as long as any artificial structure can perfectly mimic all brain functions, then that system will be as conscious as any human being or well as hold the capacity to feel pain.

There is one implication of Type-Identity theory and Functionalism which I always think about. This isn't a problem with the theory or a concern per se, just more along the lines of an observation. If these theories are indeed correct and all of consciousness and sensory perception simply boils down to chemical and electrical processes firing away in the brain, then can it be said that any idea one may have cannot possibly contain any "truth" value? If an idea is equivalent to an electrical impulse, then this idea cannot be any more true or false than a kitchen sink. True or false judgments then are merely illusions created by whatever it is "we" are. This wouldn't be a very productive view to embrace, as it would undermine any attempt we make in understanding the world. So I suppose we could become nihilists or ignore the fact that we can't "know" anything and go on pretending we do.

Contemporary cognitive science, I believe, finds functionalist theory to be the most correct at the moment. Does anyone think its implications are problematic? I personally don't see "problems" with it as I said above...but it does seem to undermine what humans in general intuit themselves as being. I am quite undecided about the whole issue of consciousness as I am neither a scientist nor a proclaimed "enlightened being."

Vicente said...

Yes, that is one definition of consciousness,...relative consciousness,...the ordinary consciousness of the sentient, sciential beings. This relative or object-ive consciousness arises from knowledge,...from conditioned knowing. Like conditioned knowing, relative or object-ive consciousness is always connected with the past.

Unconditioned consciousness arises from gnowledge, uncover it, we must find our Unborn Awareness. This "beyond brain" consciousness pivots from the present, not the past.

Above the portico at the Temple of Delphi are the words Gnothi Seautin, Gnow Thyself. It does not say "know thyself. Those who know very often do not gnow.

According to the Greeks, gnowledge (unconditioned knowledge) arises from Thymos, the heart; whereas knowledge arose from psyche, the brain.

Heart centered cultures, like the Maya, Bon, Egyptian, Vajrayana Buddhism, etc., considered the brain (knowledge) nearly worthless. Today's cerebral-centric society considers the heart (gnowledge) worthless.

Keep in mind, in near-death experiences, many subjects are officially brain-dead, yet consciousness continues, albeit an unacceptable version of consciousness to the science community.

The most fundamental instruction of Vajrayana Buddhism is to Find The Consciousness You Had Before You Were Born. That consciousness is before the brain.

Neil said...

There is reluctance, in biology, to postulate an information world to help with problems about genetic and other determination. Generally, we are not keen on admissions of anything non-material (though then hack off down the multiverse routes or ideas that the ultimate reality is holographic, expanding at us from the edge of the universe). Words like soul and god have been around for a long time - the questions for me are whether something like them can help with more modern adjudication on evidence. Yes, genetics provides information about the range of possibilities. But clearly, regulation of the genetic expression involves interpretation. And this is epigenetic. It seems that those were right who called for a middle ground, with some predetermination that interacts with some form of epigenetic development. Perhaps it is as Thomas Hunt Morgan suggested, “a process of pure epigenetic development, as generally understood nowadays, may also be predetermined in the egg” . The nowadays of the 21st century may take us back to some of the understanding and insights of the early 20th, a time when a balance of epigenesis and preformation seemed likely, a time for a bit of predeterminism and a bit of cellular free will. I am agnostic about the non-physical as I can't disprove it, but it does seem worth some pondering and we don't have theories that fully explain the evidence - we rarely do, if at all.

Neil said...

Biological definitions of life tend to have changed rather a lot since I was an undergraduate. Our increased understanding of the physical- chemical basis of living systems has increased enormously over the past century and it is possible to give a plausible definition of life in these terms. “Living organisms are autopoietic systems: self- constructing, self-maintaining, energy transducing autocatalytic entities” in which information needed to construct the next generation of organisms is stabilized in nucleic acids that replicate within the context of whole cells and work with other developmental resources during the life-cycles of organisms, but they are also “systems capable of evolving by variation and natural selection: self- reproducing entities, whose forms and functions are adapted to their environment and reflect the composition and history of an ecosystem” . Such a perspective represents a fulfillment of the basic dual insights of Schrödinger near mid-century (his famous 'what is life lecture'). Much remains to be elucidated about the relationships among the complex molecular systems of living entities, how they are constrained by the system as a whole as well as by physical laws. Indeed, it is still an open question for some as to whether we have yet a sufficiently rich understanding of the laws of nature or whether we need to seek deep laws that lead to order and organization. At the start of the new century there is a sense of the importance of putting Schrödinger's program into a ‘systems’ context. Significant challenges remain, such as fully integrating our new view of organisms and their action with evolutionary theory, and to understand plausible routes for the emergence of life. The fulfillment of such a program will give us a good sense of what life is on earth. Work in artificial-Life and empirical work seeking evidence of extra terrestrial life may help the formulation of a more universal concept of life. Yet it still may be a mistake to ascribe consciousness to 'life', even in new definitions of that.

Vam said...

Ah ... I see a cow and become aware from memory that what I am seeing is something in my mind, which incidentally seems congruent with what I may touch and hear. I do not however really ' know ' what the cow is seeing in its mind, as it looks at me, or what it aware of in its memory.

I turn my gaze and see a tree. It strikes me that both the cow and tree are formations in my mind, from a vanilla ground of I do not know what. And that, there are forms of knowledge of, say, cow and tree, which I become aware of from memory, that again indicates a vanilla ground of I do not know what.

Finally, I know I am the observer, apart from these ' forms ' of perception and knowledge, that is the both the self - experiencer ( affected ) and the self - witness ( the unaffected vanilla ground of I do not know what ).

Each vanilla ground is as imperceptible as Space. I know nothing, can know nothing, of Space without lumps or particles of matter to mark it. And like Time, which is likewise as imperceptible without change or motion in it !

In these considerations, of the vanilla grounds, the material is not even relevant. Concepts springing from the material ... physics, biology, genetics, religion, advaita, nirvana ... they all bring me back to the same. The Ground(s).

With my familiarity with the entire process(es), I believe all forms of ' experience or perception ' and ' knowledge ' are as pre-existing in the Ground(s) as this entire manifest material universe was in that that was at or before the big bang.

In other words, the forms of ' experience ' and ' knowledge ' of all things extinct yet pre-exists. Even, all possibilities not, or not yet, manifest.

Ulysses said...

I don't see how can Dennett can dissect consciousness via demonstrations of visual perceptions. It's a long stretch. As I see it the visual perception itself is an example of consciousness of suggested visual material. There is nothing new about the mind filling in the blanks in many aspects of consciousness aside from the art world. These visual tricks don't necessarily indicate that our consciousness in fooling us into believing we are living in a conscious world. He seems to totally bypass the mental processes. Consciousness is essentially "awareness" of our being and of course we have different levels of consciousness. Consciousness, subconsciousness and super consciousness may be the most recognized forms. If I am fooled by a magician's illusion then basically I am conscious of the illusion whether I'm aware of how the illusion comes about or not. I just don't see the equating of optical illusion with illusory consciousness. I expected more from the video and felt Dennett really left it as open at the end as it was in the beginning. At the end I felt "that's it?"

Justin said...

....Those who reject a physicalist ontology of

"consciousness must find ways of modeling it as a nonphysical aspect of reality. Thus those who adopt a dualist or anti-physicalist metaphysical view must in the end provide specific models of consciousness different from the emergent models."

Actually this can be false if one realizes that consciousness need not be modeled - indeed must not be modeled - as entitative - if it is to be correctly understood. Consciousness is not an example of something. It isn't something. It is existential not essential.

So it comes down to what the word "model" means. If by that you mean an entitative description of something that exists "in the world" then I think that no specific model will ever be found for consciousness and that having one, or attempting to find one, would be distortive. Of course you have said modeled "as an aspect of reality" which is not limited to presence in nature, so maybe your use of the word is actually correct. I tend to think of "modeling" as "objectification" and subsequent determination of the rules of objective interaction instead of phenomenological or metaphysical description. But maybe that is wrong. I am not sure why I think the word "model" need be used that way. Perhaps because it implies the separation of what is meant from the meaning itself?

I am not saying that "consciousness" does not have a meaning that it cannot be understood and that the word does not have a meaning. However this meaning ultimately is existential. And that means it is at that nexus where meaning and what is meant are not distinct. Your post is fascinating that is for sure.

It also does not mean that the content of consciousness and the sequence of experiences that one has, or potentially can have, cannot be mapped onto a physical structure and then, by predicting the physical future via physical theory and doing the inverse map we can then even determine what the content of the future consciousness will be. Nor does it mean that "killing" does not "cause" "death" and sex does not "cause" "life" - and both sex and killing are ultimately physical acts. (Interesting that one is considered "ethical" and the other not)

But this is no great insight and is not in the least dependent on neurology. One can already do this based on simple object models. For example just look down at the current computer screen and you can predict to a large extent what you will experience if you shut the computer off. You can also predict, - not advocating it however ;) - that if you were to remove your eyeballs that you would be what is called "blind". There are a host of other conclusions that we have made for years. Way before neurology ever entered the picture people who were called "crazy" were called "sick in the head". Now they are just more detailed. For example I don't think it has been long that people have know that the back of the head is particularly relevant for vision and I am sure currently they have a lot of the processing mapped out.

Both substance

"dualists and property dualists must develop the details of their theories in ways that articulate the specific natures of the relevant non-physicals features of reality with which they equate consciousness or to which they appeal in order to explain it.

Justin said...

You have to be careful. You are assuming that consciousness has a nature. That can mean that conscious is natural. It actually is not natural. It is existential. To put it another way, consciousness is never positionally conscious of itself. To paraphrase Sartre consciousness is always a non posititional (or non - thetic) consiousness (of) itself else it would be an unconsciousness. But this does not imply that consciousness can ever be thetically conscious of itself (or of anothers consciousness). It is sort of like consciousness will be as a mirror reflecting into a mirror if it ever were to attempt to become conscious of itself and there would be no content.

Now this all presupposes that consciousness experiences itself as an it-self. There are experiences in which the notion of separation of self from the experienced goes away and there is then an experience in which consciousness is what it experiences, or better experiences being what it experiences, or even better experiences being experience, or even better experiences being, or to put it as best I can experiences Being, or realizes Being Being, or Is the realization of Being Being (obviously struggling for the phrase here maybe becomes Experiencing Experiencing Experiencing? - where the first "Experiencing" is nominative, the second, verbal, and the last directly objective but in which the meaning of these categories have completely broken down and one sees their essential unity in the true meaning of Being - sorry - best I can do - maybe Vam can help or maybe Molly can help). These experiences are foundational for a true understanding of the meaning of consciousness itself, its existential nature, and at the same instant foundational for the meaning of all Being to include objective being and in particular material objective being or matter as described by physics.

Do you know of any contemporary living philosopher who is - making progress is probably the wrong word but - lets say doing original work?

Justin said...

"Consciousness is essentially a closed loop. 80% of all conscious activity arises from within the brain, only 20% is from external sensory input."

Well, that is interesting. Wasn't sure that any "arised" form the sensory input *outside* of the brain?! Great trick that term- "arised"! - kind of like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat, or like Jesus pulling Lazerus out of the grave. We'll have to watch that left hand when the right is trying to distract us!

Physically, sight originates with a kind of ballistic interaction with the eye. Energy is transferred from the environment and into the brain, the impulse or signal presumably being somewhat lost in thermal noise eventually but not before affecting persistent structure (storage at least till I am senile ;) ), where it can be stored as potential energy in chemical bonds and where its information content can be preserved as a message.

But you are saying that a percentage of conscious activity arises directly from from within the brain. So I guess I have two questions:
1) Are you implying that there is a physical model of the brain that is sufficiently detailed to track the energy that presumably arrives in the brain ultimately from food and distinguish its amount from that which arrives through the sensory apparatus? And is the ratio you described 80/20 is based on that? Meaning is it a ratio of the energies from these two sources? I would have thought that it was much lower for the signal. I am not talking about the nuclear energy in the food which is obviously much higher but just the chemical energy of the valence relationships. I think the signals coming in provide very little of the energy. Much less than 20%

I have not done the math (but based on your post I will) of the ratio of energy of the chemical bonds that are destroyed by the respiration oxidation reduction reactions in my brain compared to the energy of the light incident on my eyes and the sound energy deposited on my ears and the energy associated with tactical impulses etc. but I will bet dollars to donuts that food provides much much more than 80% and most of the "conscious activity" if you mean the electro chemical activity of my brain and not consciousness directly, is received from food and not from the senses. Now I will grant that that small part that comes in from the senses is critical.

You can see it in a typical transponder design. Once the signal to noise ratio is established at the low noise amplifier at the antenna the signal can be manipulated and processed all over the place using amplifiers the energy of which has nothing to do with the signal. Or are you saying 2) that 80% of the information content comes from somewhere other than the senses? Well, then we get into a detailed discussion of Claude Shannon's work and again I don't see where you get the ratio. You would need to define all possible messages and then track the equations he came up with to show how the various signals result in the discrimination between the possibilities and here I think that you might find that the signals coming in are providing most of the information - much more than 20%- and that the food is providing only the amplifying energy.

I note that there are others sources also. One can stick an electrode into a brain and transfer energy directly. Also one can - well - really shake a head! Make it "see stars"! lol. :)

Justin said...

"I see no reason at all to assume that anything gives rise to consciousness beyond electricity and chemistry."

Now you have used a term "gives rise" and you have used the term "arise" so you have done it twice! ;) and you have said that you see "no reason at all to assume that anything" other that "chemistry and electricity" does this. Lets look in detail at what that means.

First of all, lets look at what "chemistry and electricity" means. I will take this ultimately to be reducible to meaning "all of current physical theory" so I assume that you mean that if I take all of the current physical theory and set up the interaction of particles, the structure, etc of a brain that that will "cause" consciousness. Now I have no problem with the belief that in fact that will happen - that consciousness will occur if you arrange the matter that way - and will cease if you de-arrange it- but here is the problem I have when you say "no reason at all to assume that anything....beyond...electricity and chemistry...." etc

The problem is that the sum total of all electrical and chemical law - even if extended to all physical law - does not in fact predict consciousness. In fact there is no physical property of the assembled and functional brain that in physics or chemistry would cause one to say "and then it becomes conscious" or "and then it sees". Physically, it remains a natural objective structure and there is no existential implication. There is no "seeing" that results from the physical theory, there is just dynamic interaction of the particles, correctly as you have pointed out I think due to electrical forces between atoms and in particular their valence electrons, which is what non-nuclear chemistry is. So what the physical theory predicts is just a slightly different arrangement of the particles - not consciousness - on principle. Physics does not predict consciousness. Therefore I conclude that there is some other principle "beyond the electricity and chemistry" that is surely required. Else we can, if you want, redefine what "electricity and chemistry" are (take it beyond Guass' laws or beyond QED).

But we must do something as there is nothing in those theories that predicts consciousness at all!

I have studied the laws of Electricity and Magnetism and the associated laws of dynamics in classical and modern theory as closely as I can and really must object that they would allow one to predict that any structure would become conscious. That is simply not a result of the theory. The theory does not predict that and it is a scientific misrepresentation to say it does. Can you show some idea or hypothesis on how these laws actually predict what you are claiming that they predict? Not a specific structural hypothesis but how any law that ultimately just deals with the change in "location" or in the modern sense in "the probability of appearing of a particle" because there the "appearing" can be inside of an instrument and does not refer to consciousness but rather to energy exchange, can ON PRINCIPLE ever hope to realize such a fantastic claim as to predict that consciousness will occur?

Justin said...

Physical laws just show how things move! They are only intelligible existentially when experiences for which they predict the object content are in fact experienced. So, for example, if I take an electromagnetic wave at Ku band frequency and shine it in your eye the physics and chemistry will predict that as I slowly raise its frequency that it will eventually pass through the various frequency bands till it comes to the optical range and begins to hit the resonant frequency of the forced harmonic oscillation of the atoms in your eye (speaking classically) and that oscillation will be physically translated into electric current and electro chemical signals that will travel out into the brain is some pattern and then describe the resulting chemical and electrical "endgram" in the brain. That's it. Nothing more. No matter what happens they predict only that these particles will have a certain motion and result in a certain structure and result in a certain motion of that structure. Only when I append the additional phrase: "And then you will see red light" does the prediction contain a reference to consciousness and that statement "And then you will see red light" is not a physics statement. It is not chemical and it is not electrical statement and it is no-where to be found in any of the physical laws (Guass's, Newton's, QED) that I know of.

If fact the problem is even deeper. Science itself cannot be conducted based on physical theory alone. Let me explain what I mean. Science in the post Aristetilian sense is dependent on observation and comparison of that observation with prediction. The physical theory can describe for example that an electric current will occur in a wire and that the arm on a current meter will move and that, if illuminated by an source of electromagnetic radiation of the right frequency will reflect that light and that the light will move into your eye if you point it at it and etc into the neurology etc but it will never form the phrase that goes "and then you will see the needle move". So the very predictions of science on which experiment can be made are inherently non- physical. Science is a study only of nature and nature itself is only part of experience.

To put it simply as I can all of physical principle can only predict the "location" (using the term loosely in a quantum theoretical sense) of matter. But there is not a shred of evidence in electricity and magnetism, not a hint, in all of physics, that conscious would ever result from any physical structure. Consciousness is not a consequence of the current physical theories, irregardless of what initial conditions are set up or what version one uses (classical, modern etc) . In fact, with respect to neurology, it just results in a prediction about the structures that will occur if for example light is shined into the eye. It can tell you in detail what will happen to the arrangement of molecules but makes no prediction that then, in fact, consciousness will occur.

If fact physical theory alone is not capable of even predicting the results of its experiments! if I think very carefully about it. Some other principle like "What you see is the light" or something not in physical law must be used!

I challenge you to show me wrong on that and show me where or how it does. I just do not see it.

Now you may say I am making a mockery of science and the scientists do daily predict the results of their experience. In a sense you would be right but it doesn't help. Let's look at that.

Justin said...

Even if you include predictions about the fact that "the various meters and LEDs that scientists see will in fact be seen" in the term "physics" or "science" by connecting it to nature - which is reasonable because it is in fact the experimental aspect of physics, and it is correct to claim that it is a "natural science" then there is still a problem. Basically, the theory would then consist of two parts - one is the part that contains the laws of motion of the particles, the electricity, the chemistry, the neurology etc That is that part that we call "chemistry or electricity" etc and it would then need another part that associates this with some experience. That latter part would not be chemical nor electrical. So while you could
get away with calling it science by expanding the term beyond the so- call laws of physics to something that is a reference to consciousness (like "and then you will see red") you could not reduce that part of the science to electricity or chemistry. So the claim you are making would still be false. Science would now allow you to predict that if I attach a Van deGraft accelerator to a particle detector, that *you will see* this LED start counting upward but you will then not be able to reduce science to electricity and chemistry!

Or if you prefer, a scientist could predict that if he stimulated the right part of your brain that "you would then see red" but that last phrase is devoid of any physcial read - electro-chemical - content. It goes beyond it and is in fact a phenomenological description. So you would have restored physics from my making a mockery of it only be extending it to phenomenology and the reduction you attempted would again fail.

Either consciousness is not physical or another physical theory is needed, one that is not physical or in the end even natural. But the very terms physical and natural have been deliberately set up as distinguish from the terms metaphysical and supernatural in western thought at least, and therefore one can go further and claim that no physical or natural explanation for consciousness will ever be - nor can ever be -proposed, and the reason is because consciousness itself is not natural or physical. It is metaphysical. It is supernatural. This does not mean anything other than consciousness is not what it experiences or better consciousness is not its thetic content.

This has nothing to do with the latest advances in neurology. This has been known for centuries. The problem is only that the neurologists are ignorant of the meaning of their own philosophical, artistic, and religious traditions and consequently ignorant of the meaning of their own work. It is not surprising. It is not their field. They are, after all, scientists and not philosophers, or artists, or priests and have not studied the right texts.

Justin said...

"This is not as big a mystery as the posts here seem to think. I would strongly recommend some, even cursory, study of current research in neuro-science and behavioural/cognitive experiments being done by Persinger and others. The brain is being mapped and it won't be very many more decades before all the 'mystery' removed."

The term mystery has a very long history. There is no chance that neurology can remove the mystery. All of material existence is contingent! The following statement is just ridiculous: "This is not as big a mystery as the posts here seem to think." It is perhaps exactly the opposite and the fact is that the reason this group even exists is because people are trying to grasp and articulate the extent to which it is a mystery. You see in a strange way to realize its mystery is what it takes to understand it - or is a direct result of understanding it. It is in fact what mystery itself is. It is the source of all mystery. So, unlike in science, when mystery is seemingly removed through understanding, when it comes to real, non- scientific, or non-natural experience, mystery is not removed but heightened - or rather ones appreciation or realization of it is improved and one realizes the extent to which all experience is - inherently- - in essence- mysterious.

A failure of this reasoning caused the so called "shipwreck" of philosophy around the time of Kierkegard and Nieztche and is the cause of the existential boredom and crisis underlying the works of Samuel Becket like the play "End Game" or "Waiting for Godot" or other absurdist drama. It is the source of the crisis in No Exit by Sartre. It was mapped out before WW2 and in fact as early as the writing of Genesis. The issue has been, I think, decided. (Or maybe not as so few seem to have realized the meaning of the work done)

It (purely scientific reasoning) was rejected by the Beatific Poets who "re-discovered" Hinduism and Bhudism - (I know - whenever a European "discovers" anything we eventually find out that an Indian - of some kind ! ;) - had been living there for a long time before - Ha! ;) )

Haven't you seen 2001 a Space Odessy by Kubrick? That was done in the 60s long before the current surge in neurology got its start.

The non-mysterious thinking has also been rejected in all of the mystical traditions of the religions (see Sufi-ism, Kabala, Zen, or the mystical aspects vice the fundamental aspects of St Teresa, or St John of the Cross) - Unfortunately and tragically not in their fundamentalist counterparts.

Or you can just ask Molly about synchonicity. She got it from Jung and that term was defined long before neurology got much of a start. I am sure she will tell you that it holds a little mystery and wait till they understand that!

Where we will go from here we do not know. But one thing for sure anyone who tries to interpret neurology as having any central bearing on the Mystery of Life and I capitalize deliberately, is just plain wrong. They will only show a more detailed knowledge of the physical structures associated with the experiences. But we already knew it was in the brain! The only issue that neurology will decide is exactly where in the brain and what the chemical and physical correlates are. That is all. That is all on principle. Only when combined with phenomenology as Husserl wanted to do for psychology, over a hundred years ago now - its not a modern discovery - it has nothing to do with "recent advances" I think, can it be of use. We need to understand what has already be understood before we can advance!

Justin said...

"We already know the general area of the right side of the brain where our feelings of 'self' reside. In fact, if we stimulate that same area we create a feeling in the subject of 'another' self.

Fine. So now we know which side its on. Before we knew it was "in the brain" now we know its on the "right side". Let's assume we know it all - that means we can predict the exact position (speaking classically in a physical sense) of every particle! Then what! We are still no closer to eliminating the mystery. It will not mean that it is.

A duality that "is usually ultimately described by the subject as god-like."

Ah but there is the difference you see. God-like is not God. Just as you can stimulate the brain so that the person sees red even though there is no optical stimulation of the eye so you can create all kind of experience by manipulating the brain. But don't you see that this does not do much more than saying that if you create a baby that it will see or that if make a man blind or kill him he will not? And we have known that for centuries! How will modern neurology teach us more than that?

(Don't get me wrong - I love science and eagerly await reading about these things when I have time but I just don't see what is happening now can change much of what we already know. Flesh out the details maybe.)

Neurology will actually help in the future (near future I hope because my goose is cooked soon but I am afraid it will be before I get to see it) but has not much yet. It will help with clarify the morphology of the experiences. Something like what systematic philosophy tried to do can be aided by neurology. By understanding the structure in detail we can help characterize and discriminate subtly between different aspects of the phenomenology. An example is long term and short term memory. That kind of distinction can be had by the combination of psychological experiment with neurology. When that progresses to an examination of religious experience then it can be very useful I think. The "varieties of religious experience" can be mapped neurologically I presume or hypothesize. I obviously do not claim to know now but I think it reasonable.

In the end it might even help by allowing us to manipulate the brain so that it is better able to experience the Mystery. Unfortunately, that same capability will probably allow us to eliminate that ability and reduce us to a kind of high functioning insect cleansed of any aesthetic or ethical sense - devoid of any awareness of the Mystery. That will be a sad day. To do this it need only retain the interpretation of existence in the will to power. This will retain the survival instinct which must be retain in order to continue the species itself, (one wrong move and you get suicide - but based on the phenomenology I think just a small technical obstacle). But it will never do away, intellectually, with the meaning of the Mystery. Even if you blind everyone the light is still there and the fact is that everyone will still *be* blind.

Justin said...

What will happen is that they will see that the religious foundation has no correlate outside of the body. They will then conclude that it is "not real" or "not about reality" but "purely a mental phenomena" and therefore de-legitamize what others claim to be its meaning. This has already been tried of course but that will not prevent them from trying again based on this "new evidence" that shows that the information is not tied to sensory information.

But hell, that level of destructive capability is not new either. We can do even better with self annihilation. We can destroy not just one idea but all of them. We can blow the world up or release some kind of super virus that destroys the race. So the new neurological kind of intellectual castration is only a more limited and subtle form of murder. The old ones have been around a long time and we have been struggling as a species not to use them so hopefully cooler heads will prevail and consciousness will not be so low as to reduce us to intellectually "pure electrical and chemical" entities and then, based on that false understanding, attempt to eliminate through neurological manipulation all awareness of the alternative.

So I'll go further then and extrapolate on the data a little. There will be a struggle. Those who believe that we are "merely chemical and electrical signals" will at one point realize that while the endochrine system has been useful in preserving the species by instilling a desire for life in certain situations it is not itself indespensable and by carefully engineering the will to power and identity the species as a whole can be made to function without Mystery or any of the understanding of metaphysics that is, in a real sense since I am extrapolating ;), based on our sexuality. They will realize that the insects had it right and especially the ants and the bees and the urge to procreate need not be instilled in all individuals and can be made autonomous even and not dependent on any conscious correlate. (Hell, truth be known they may even conclude that consciousness itself is not needed and they just need a kind of perpetual motion machine!) They will in fact want to eliminate the consciousness of mystery for the same reason you want to be convinced and convince us that we are electrical and chemical and for the same reason that you cannot see that that is false right now without recourse to neurology. Not for the reason that you are convinced. I didn't say that. But for the reason that you want to be convinced. For the reason that you want that position of the "detached observer" that can manipulate perfectly because of its predictive theories.

Justin said...

See, you did not even know that your "objective theorizing" was based on a desire. Perhaps there is something to Dennet after all! ;) His brain is fooling him!

That struggle will be formed when those people come up against those whom we will try to ready. They will be trained to recognize the Mystery as the source of what we call good and see that the castration of the human race by elimination of the cognitive aspects of its endochrinology would be - well - a crime? - a disaster? - chose a word. They will be trained to embrace humility and recognize, like Arjuna in the Bahagavada Gita that the outcome of the battle is not relevant but that they must still fight out of duty. They will watch you carefully, form associations that preserve the future of what we now call "rights" and be willing to sacrifice their own lives for that meme which is what we now refer to as "the Good".

An important part of that struggle is ongoing now and it is the necessity of clearly rebutting the "mechanical" interpretations of our Being-there, not because we want them to be wrong, but because they are wrong and the consequences of the culture loosing sight of that and simultaneously gaining manipulative control over neurology will be parallel to the development of large scale nuclear weaponry and must be fought through the limitation of power of those at the apex of primate hierarchy.

We only just missed blowing a large part of our civilization away during the Cold War. Maybe we can do it again.

Just read God Emperor of Dune by Herbert. Its not my idea. Its been around for a while. Read Frankenstein for crying out loud. But whatever you do make sure its not recent work and make sure its not scientific!

Neil said...

A delight to read you Justin. I am out of my depth in philosophy as a professional subject, much as I would be in maths outside business teaching these days. Originality might not be where we need to go - if they'll forgive me I tend to see Orn and Vam as 'original enough' when they insist on trying to make sense of our own experience, or you and Francis in 'clarifying mode' - in another way Molly in 'embracing' something positive when perhaps I have collapsed a bit - there is something original in being reminded there may be something worthwhile at what we might call 'points of exhaustion'. We may well be living in a shadow world of four dimensions of space and two of time (whatever) and on the point of developing new sensing.

I rather like the idea that our existing history of 'legitimation' has collapsed (Lyotard's postmodernism) - but I also feel that we have developed chronic forms of legitimation in our practical dialogues - wealth creation is surely now the sacred cow, more securely embedded in our general-social rationalisations than ever. Lyotard said 'over- simplifying to the extreme postmodernism is incredulity towards metanarratives' - the 'over-simplifying to the extreme' was instantly forgotten. I'll have to miss out the argument here, but I tend to conclude that the problem in originality for philosophy relates to the ease with which we can be critical and show problems remain to be resolved against a desire for certainty and a lust for easy legitimation more generally. This is all wrapped up in much of the evidence we would need for fair dialogue being hidden (reasons of national security and all that jazz). Machiavellian lying 'beats' a technology of truth that relies on openness. We have not developed the conditions for truth that do not give an 'enemy' advantages to beat us down rather than improve the general lot because we live in conditions in which knowledge is not power. This leads me to the sad conclusion that the problem is politics and not philosophy (or sociology, psychology or science).

The issue is presumably about how to develop arguments that do not leave people behind to return to what is easy enough for them to 'chew'. The answer for most philosophers is just to write for those who are not easily left behind, and leave the real questions alone (how we don't just form another professional interest group being a big one). I can point to where I think the professional advances are being made - but I conclude these are not advances but new esoteric fashions that neglect the legitimation technology we need to move to an original state.

Neil said...

These would be examples of people doing philosophy in a modern way. The subject is alive and well - my guess is we have to put in some hard work to change our personal positions and be able to think more originally. Many arguments put forward as contrasting positions can be seen to have similar roots (a technical feature of Wittgenstein).

Stotz, K. and Griffiths, P. E. (2008). “Biohumanities: Rethinking the relationship between biosciences, philosophy and history of science, and society”. Quarterly Review of Biology, 83(1): 37–45.

C. Hitchcock (2004 ed.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science, Malden, MA: Blackwell. /Goodies/ - is a good site on thought experiment.

Bourbaki, N., 1986, Theory of Sets, Elements of Mathematics, Paris: Hermann Scheibe, E., Between Rationalism and Empiricism, Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Physics, ed. by B. Falkenburg, Berlin: Springer Ludwig, G. and Thurler, G., 2006, A new foundation of physical theories, Berlin: Springer

Ludwig died fairly recently. Most of these other guys are contemporary. I don't know of anyone who is writing about these advances for the layman. I always recommend the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy online (free), but even this is hard work. What's on view for those who can take it are good reviews of old and new philosophy well beyond any text you can buy - and the great advantage of experts who generally summarise a range of argument and help a lot with not re-inventing the wheel. Alain de Connes has a great website with all his work free - sadly well beyond me, though I have made some feeble efforts (this is not a bad place to realise most of us don't know what maths is!). Searching the SEP (Stanford) with terms like 'biology', 'structuralism in physics', 'relativism' or old chestnuts like Descartes and so on is generally rewarding. If you know about Thomas Kuhn (and his specious use in social science), the line through Bourbaki, Scheibe, Snell and Ludwig is interesting in limiting the notion of generic frames of reference or paradigms and those who claim the 'new physics' is a paradigm leap from Newton and so on. Checking out Kuhn and 'structuralism in physics' at the SEP would probably save the need to read the books! Check out consciousness there and my 'erudition' will collapse somewhat too (though I would rather my cutting and pasting was known in here)! I do read journals fairly often - but it's rare to find much worthwhile. I'm currently working on evidential underdetermination in science (of theory) - SEP great here too - the danger lies in forgetting to try to bring one's own internalisation of the work out in some fresh manner and apply what should be well known arguments in new areas (a highly neglected form of originality).

Pat said...

The nervous system contains a substance, tubulin, which creates a quantum-scale interface to consciousness, which is actually contained in the Calabi-Yau space. The brain forms the interface between that consciousness-space and our space-time through our bodies. This, of course, is given a string theory paradigm, which is not proven experimentally but is the only theory on paper that fills in (or has the capability of filling in) all the blank areas in quantum mechanics and the Standard theory.

Neil said...

Tubulins are targets for anticancer drugs like Taxol and the "Vinca alkaloid" drugs such as vinblastine and vincristine. The anti-gout agent colchicine binds to tubulin and inhibits microtubule formation, arresting neutrophil motility and decreasing inflammation. The anti- fungal drug Griseofulvin targets mictotubule formation and has applications in cancer treatment. Visions of myself and Pat in bathchairs at the convalescent home for mad techno-speculants needing to finalise string theory to cure our gout! I should think I would concede my Kaliber Yawn theory that string theories are an illusion created by a lack of alcohol in such circumstances.

Arguments on life and consciousness seem to imply 'why' questions to me - perhaps necessitate them. Memory sort of links to a world of logical necessity (a view from Leibniz). I don't think this big - I'm more concerned we get on with better decision-making that is a contribution to an open society - without this we are cast into some kind of 'killing competition' even if we just leave it to evolution to wipe us out.

Pat said...

LOL!! Could well be. The last time I had a pint of ale, I was sick as a dog. I just can't seem to tolerate alcohol anymore. I suppose God is preparing me for a long dry spell. ;-)

the fact that we exist in a continuum implies that the system is teleological. Thus the need for our 'whys' to be answered. I fear, though, that most of the answers will elude us while we're incarnate.

Neil said...

I suppose most of our experience of the why continuum has been disappointment - largely because it's been about manufacturing consent - the human sciences have certainly played their part in this. There has been some focus on what gets 'hard-wired' in the brain, leading to the notion that religion is and that this togetherness is an evolutionary advantage. I tend to like notions of extra-human consciousness because I would prefer something better to tune into. I much prefer a world in which, told at the door of a New York restaurant in the 1960s that there was no admittance to women wearing trousers, Gillian Anscombe (a catholic philosopher with a clutch of kids) promptly removed hers, to a world of worthies who prosecute women for wearing them. 'Hard-wiring' is clearly something for biology to be looking at, but how has it come to Dawkin's black box to be ignored as irrational - itself an irrational, unexplored base for 'rational science'? Introspection has led me to know there is lots of hard-wiring in me I would rather do without, except in time-constrained moments of fight- flight and maybe some forms of enjoyment. I am still hard-wired against being attracted to black women (no doubt a great relief to them) and inclined to be attracted to white and Asian women and not men of any shade. I seem, these days, to have become hard-wired against advertising, cosmetics and commodity-fetishism - which are linked to disgust in me (such a link is proposed as a learning mechanism for hard-wiring). There is much 'false-consciousness' I would like to sweep away in order to have better environmental effects on what I can be (though we don't want a bunch of PC Nazis in charge of this). We could have a more virtuous circle of 'consciousness'. I was brought up in a false consciousness of hating Germans and Japanese and considerable other racism. I suspect it's Muslims these days. If we end up not being able to define consciousness I guess we get this about right - there are possibilities and probabilities. So how can I be so sure about false consciousness?

Ulysses said...

Perhaps it's not false consciousness at all but simply irrational reasoning, discretion gone wild or living an indoctrinated lie.

Molly Brogan said...

I am not sure there is "false" consciousness, but that we deem it so, and this may be relative. The Dennett video struck me because I thought it illustrated nicely the idea of viewpoint. I could feel myself change, or had a change in feeling once I "saw" what he was leading me to see. At first, I could not see it, then I could. And once I could, my viewpoint changed. This doesn't mean that my previous viewpoint was false and my new viewpoint true. It only means that my viewpoint has changed. Unless it means something to me to give it this value. And then I do.

It struck me that we go through life like this, missing the complete picture (which to Pat, might be God's Will, or, the big picture of possibility) and only seeing, feeling, thinking, believing what our current viewpoint allows. It is a change in view that allows us to see more, and not more coming into being, Nothing changes but our viewpoint, in the Dennett example, it only included a visual perception, but in life may include conceptual, perceptual, emotional, rational and many more changes. But consciousness is consciousness, there is only brahman.

Someone in another group suggested there is pure consciousness (knowing of everything and everywhen or cosmic consciousness) or consciousness in context - consciousness that is filtered through our experience (which is shaped by your viewpoint) I suppose, the integration of these might be the non dual perspective. /dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes.html Here is another interesting Dennett video, where he leads us through his thinking on the concept of memes. How does our environment or our experience effect our consciousness. The answer is, of course, that it influences us in many subtle and profound ways - until it doesn't. And it doesn't when we gain the understanding that it doesn't need to, that our viewpoint need not depend on the content of our experience, in fact, it is the other way around, our experience is the manifestation of our consciousness through viewpoint. When we can operate from this realization, our viewpoint and experience become one creative dynamic, with awakened imagination providing all the necessary energy.

Dexter(QuoteGuy) said...

I like Albert Einstein's quote on why most people don't experience consciousness.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

So to experience consciousness, one must embrace the fact that there is no "me" and "you". There is the collective "we".

I also love his use of the word compassion. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Compassion is the ultimate example of understanding that it's not all about me. It's all about WE. Blessings all!


Pat said...

Dawkins is just a money-grubber. He has not offerred anything really new to the argument and his faith is just as strong as those he condemns. He may be bright but he still has a big propblem with internal consistency, which, to me, makes most of his work yesterday's rubbish dressed as haute-cuisine.

The ancient art of competition requires an opponent. This, in itself, is self-destructive to a society once they've reached a
certain level of population. So, those with an 'ancient mindset'
would have us have enemies, so that we can beat them and feel better for it. It is NOT a 'civilised' act or mode of thinking. It encourages hatred and violence for no other reason thatn some parts of society expect it of us (in order to prove our worth TO society). So,
we leave the homeless person to rot on the street, walk past them and turn our heads to see what the 'Leader of the Free World' has said lately. To God, both of those individuals (the homeless and the leader) are equal participants in creation. It would behoove us all if we would treat one another as true equals (with respect to right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.).

Neil said...

There used to be a laboratory joke that the stuff you were swilling down the sink was what you were really looking for. There are a lot of moments in science that I'm inclined to think 'bugger, that explains a lot' of - viewpoints that are somehow 'better'. Sometimes, such moments have left me wondering how I had managed to be so inadequate before. When it comes to consciousness, it's pretty clear our definitions wander and it must, presumably, be as hard to work out a satisfactory notion of 'false consciousness'. Slip's comments are entirely pertinent. I wouldn't challenge the others either, though I'm sure we could get into further elaboration.

My experience of public debate as we witness it in newspapers and current affairs is always that it is too limited to obvious interests that need challenge that never seems to come. Expert professors are
wheeled on and tell us we might find happiness in being happy! Others that the war in Afghanistan is to keep our streets safe - some bland assumption is made that 'we' are somehow happy to exchange blowing the crap out of Iraq (etc.) to maintain our security. Bwankers come on and tell us we 'will starve to death' without their wheeler-dealing. Entertainment TV is full of jingles that make me sick. 'The Wire' is more accurate than political punditry. I'm sure many will recognise this tale and could add to it. I'd just take one more step - the grim spectacle of business teaching by people who have done no more than attended university and read some bits of textbook-level dross and don't know why it is mostly wrong.

I don't believe the above is false consciousness, but rather that it is designed to tune us into something I would give the label to, something not necessarily an essence. It's a bit like seeing crowds persuaded by demagogues - only this is more obsequious - a sort of banal totalisation. Without pursuing this, I'd jump back top ideas that the Nazis' evil was banal and bureaucratic. I can cry out that their 'doings' were false - but how do we find a way for sufficient fact and information, reasoned through, to be present in 'public
consciousness' to feel that what we get is not false and manipulated - remembering that there are some who can never be satisfied on this. It's the feeling that arguments that can be clearly made are routinely excluded in favour of the false balance of air time for a few viewpoints (usually hymns we have heard over and over) that can all be exploded by critical reasoning that sickens me enough to believe something as broad as consciousness is false. Part of this may be the creation of 'govern-mentality' in which we accept only privileged 'representatives' get the full facts, and thus all we can do is accept or challenge their integrity rather than make our own decisions.
Currently, throwing debate 'open' to emails and so on, merely seems to throw up goons. I'd say public consciousness is now being falsely represented because of an unwillingness to take on new technology and research methods in real time dialogue - the very 'viewpoint' that can be shown to work over and over in representing public consciousness - presumably allowing it to be worked on through fair argumentation.

I have wondered whether this latter stuff could be a viable commercial model given many of us reject newspapers and television.

Justin said...

The trick will be to avoid the dangers of mob psychology where everyone starts to act as if they were anonymous or hidden and they loose their "ethical" footing.

Some may say we need to make the internet completely non-anonymous. I hate that idea. I think we need to make it completely anonymous except for anyone who acts at the head of any form of pyramidical organization. Then, if they accept that authority, the ability to decide the fate of GE or Toyota, or the ability to decide the fate of the USA or Germany, or the ability to decide the fate of the catholic church, or the ability to decide the fate of the teachers union, when they get there they must loose all of their rights to privacy - or at least most of them and everyone should be able to monitor their conversations. Especially conversations between any two of them.

Secrecy should be eliminated from all hierarchy and maintained as an exclusive right for individuals.

The penalties for violating this should be criminal and severe. Enforcement agencies should be via a strictly term limited and democratically elected police force that is independent from the government and has its own tax base. Also there should be a second police force, again term limited and elected, that should have the sole task to monitor the first. The forces should be 1-1. For every regular police officer there should be a police enforcement officer whose sole authority would be to arrest the first police officer if he violated the law. This second police force should run with some kind of journalistic-police credentials meaning they have the responsibility to publish what is going on and also arrest authority - with their own jails etc.

But I have trouble with mob behavior, you know? The lynch mob. Don't know where to go with that. Got any ideas?

There is also a big transition problem. I do not think the government, nor the credit card agencies, will give up their invasion of our right to privacy. The NSA should be illegal. Luxembourg has it right. It should be illegal for government to collect anything but the most cursory of statistics on its citizens. How is Africa reformed? Their leaders there are terrible mostly (except for Tutu and the ANC God bless them!). How do you stop organized crime?

How do we get there? The real problem is not the system! It is the ethical awareness that underpins it. Look at a place like Russia. You can see that no matter what the system is they will have problems and eventually resort to tyranny. What is needed is a kind of discrediting or de-legititemization or "shunning" process where everyone would be very ashamed should they kill someone and if not then no problem because if they are ever found out they even their mother won't speak to them until she sees genuine contrition (OK make an exception for mothers ;) ).

So what we need is a building of ethical consciousness which means building awareness of the meaning of life. Something like Sakarov called for. We need new modern refuseniks, Like those that put the statue up in Tieneman square. The program right now should also be education. As much as possible. For everyone. And not just shallow technical education. Probably the biggest problem is that objectivity and the hard sciences have had this false imprimatur placed upon them and the rigors of metaphysics and ontology have been completely lost. The first step will be when the students start flooding back from hard science into studying history and arts and philosophy and the other humanities and science is seen as "merely technical" which is what it is.

Right now a government leader can kill thousands of innocent people and still have a coquetish entourage following them around opening the doors and fawning in admiration. In my opinion we basically need to wake up to their malevolence.

Even Obama. He should be held accountable for innocent life lost by US strikes in Afganistan. Is he?

I think Focault's work on prisons is key for the future of political science.

Ulysses said...

I think we can see in small segments how consciousness changes collectively but the actual measurement of such seems out of reach as global boundaries still define our means of communication and even that would have to pass the Archy level of truth scrutiny. The facades of the great Republic and Socialist nations leave behind a huge bewilderment when the communication convolutes behind the scenes reality. Arch is spot on in identifying the foremost fear of any leadership as being the collective consciousness come to full fruition. It seems a common trait of leaders is to keep malfunction at a consistent level for job security purpose. An interesting point is that even though ME can effect change in collective consciousness the very fact that ME is not a collective consciousness, in and of itself, makes the overall changes ineffective in that the extended collectives are disparate as much as we are here.

Ulysses said...

I think we can see in small segments how consciousness changes collectively but the actual measurement of such seems out of reach as global boundaries still define our means of communication and even that would have to pass the Archy level of truth scrutiny. The facades of the great Republic and Socialist nations leave behind a huge bewilderment when the communication convolutes behind the scenes reality. Arch is spot on in identifying the foremost fear of any leadership as being the collective consciousness come to full fruition. It seems a common trait of leaders is to keep malfunction at a consistent level for job security purpose. An interesting point is that even though ME can effect change in collective consciousness the very fact that ME is not a collective consciousness, in and of itself, makes the overall changes ineffective in that the extended collectives are disparate as much as we are here.

Allan said...

consciousness; in following this line and some TV programs and or other assimulted data (no I am not borg.) One of the strange things was that the body is made of of billions of individual cells none of which have consciousness.. this basic fact I believe to be true. So it is occurring to me that if you take these individual cells and combine them into a body there would be nor reason to expect anything more than a functioning blob of cells in the form of a body. Now if you insert the ever elusive soul you would suddenly have consciousness.

Justin said...

If you realize (start from the fact that) consciousness is not a mechanism then the fact that manipulating a mechanism affects it does not mean its a mechanism or that there is a *mechanical* linkage to it.

Furthermore if you understand what a mechanism means to include roughly it "being an object" and you understand that "consciousness" means to be an "experiencing of the object" as *opposed* to the object itself. Then saying that consciousness is a mechanism is a contradiction in terms and no empirical question is needed to determine whether it is materially affected. It cannot be affected materially because what we mean by the term is not something either objective or material. That does not mean it cannot be manipulated by manipulating a physical object. It is obvious it can. It only means that the linkage need not be material indeed cannot be material.

Consider the mechanism of your brain. If consciousness is an objective property of that mechanism then you are correct. But if consciousness is not an objective property (meaning that when say "consciousness" we mean something other than an objective property ) then describing the influence of matter on it in terms of a mechanism which is an interaction between two objects

I further assert that what I mean by "my consciousness" is not some property of what I experience. Therefore it is not objective, therefore it is not material.

Lee said...

There may be something in what you say Allan, there may not be. The problem I have with your interpretation is really just this bit:

'So it is occurring to me that if you take these individual cells and combine them into a body there would be no reason to expect anything more than a functioning blob of cells in the form of a body.'

We know for example that when we mix certain chemicals together we can get all sorts of reactions, we know also that when we add electricity into the mix then all sorts of weird and wonderful things can happen. So it is not beyond the realms of possibility that all of the cells in the brain along with the chemical cocktail and electricity can and I suggest does create consciousness.

A further reason why I say this is because I do not believe that the soul is in any way made of matter.

Of course not all mechaninsims can be said to be objects either. Would you not call mathematical formula mechanisms? Lets take Pi for example, is it not a mechanism by which a carpenter can figure out the diameter of round table that he has been asked to build?

Justin said...

consciousness is existential. It is not something, let alone something that could be placed inside of something else. That would make it spatial and temporal. It is existential in meaning and fact. It is a reference to the fact of having been or of being. So until consciousness occurs then you aren't or if you prefer, you weren't- without it you can't be. There is some wiggle room here in two directions:.

If you are unconscious and lying on a table then one might say that you still are there lying on the table and to destroy your body would be murder, and so some ideas of "you" include or bridge during these lapses of consciousness. On this lies a lot of medical ethics and the abortion debate is tied to it with the mere potentiality of becoming conscious and having a materially differentiated biology leading some to conclude that "you" existed from the moment of conception (don't necessarily agree with that just describing it).

However, if we were to permanently remove consciousness from your body and then see it lying on the table the correct conclusion would be you are no longer there, you aren't, you are "dead", and in fact that is what happens when someone is pronounced "brain dead" even though many of their cells, indeed many of their brain cells are "alive". If, on the other hand, we were able to revive you, and your body was necessary for that revival, or some other material structure was required for that revival, like data in some machine, then that material instantiation could still be referred to as "you" and care fore it would fall under ethical restraint. However, that is only because "you" could be potentially "revived" meaning brought back to consciousness. The fact of consciousness is still existential for you.

The second way there is wiggle room is that by some meanings conscious can be conscious and "you" still aren't. There are some modes of consciousness that comprehend - I'll use the shorthand phrase - "mystical" union. This mode of consciousness is non-individuated and not separated from its content and the meaning of "you" therefore is not differentiated from all other being. Because the term "universe" is so close to the term "all other being" and not just "all other being" but "all being" and ultimately "being" they are frequently confused. In a sense it then can be conceived that the preexisting world individuated into a "me" when I became conscious and there is an attempt to date "me" before my birth, or indeed before the moment I became conscious in the womb. But even that doesn't work because the preexistence was not "me being conscious" and while it is true that the universe existed before humankind it is not know that there is, or was, a "consciousness" "prior" to that. There are some other ideas that believe in my individuated pre-existence and while I am not completely sure I think that these are a form of fundamentalism and are not strictly speaking valid, or rather they may be valid but evidence is required to substantiate them. The experience of mystical union however transcends time and is. That is different than saying that the universe was conscious before I was differentiated from it and therefore I always existed but was then inserted into my body.

Neil said...

In Don Quixote the only player who knew what was really going on was the horse. With Wallace it's his dog Grommet, Orn. There are many statements that we cannot know about something or another.

Gibbs said...

Doesn't everything in the body have a physiological component? But that is not the point about consciousness.

Whatever else consciousness is - is that it's essence is the awareness of awareness plus. The plus factor are the idiosyncratic meanings we consciously and unconsciously attribute to any of our individual experiences. So that the mystery of consciousness I believe is ultimately bound up with understanding the way we individually generate meaningful connections.

Molly Brogan said...

Yes, and I think we generate meaningful connections by the experience of consciousness, not the intellectual speculation of consciousness, as has been suggested in a couple different threads. I believe that states like cosmic consciousness (experience all time and others and all that is) can and are experienced in sleep and deep meditation or contemplation. Also, the undifferentiated, ineffable, omniscient, realm of all possibility can be experienced in sleep or deep meditation and contemplation. Once accessed, it is carried with us like a background program running though all our experience. We all have the potentiality. We recognize and experience when a change in viewpoint allows the possibility to manifest as real in our experience. The intellectual speculation may lead us to a change in viewpoint, or it may not. Our viewpoint manifests the experience.

Gibbs said...

Also, the undifferentiated, ineffable, omniscient, realm of all possibility can be experienced in sleep or deep meditation and contemplation.

The atonement thing - that everything is connected with everything else - appears to me to be obvious. But so what? Individuals must still individually reckon with the meaning of that experience which is different for different people.?In reflections about the nature of consciousness I think there is entirely too much emphasis

on the unity 'thing' and way too little on differences. Case in point - my personal and professional experience (I am a practicing psychoanalyst for the past 44 years) indicates there is not just one consciousness (such as unconscious, sub conscious, pre conscious, but a continuum of consciousness.

Among the states of consciousness along the continuum o consciousness are:
kaleidoscopic consciousness, symbiotic consciousness, transcendent consciousness, transitional consciousness, transformational consciousness, ego consciouness,
unity or
syntehtic consciousness, and cosmic consciousness - perhaps more.

Consciousness functions like a filter which enables a person to organize the raw data of their experience. Each state of consciousness functions as a different filter or set of filters which changes (interprets) what is perceived with alternative perspectives.

This way of viewing things is what I think accounts for the stark difference in differing interpretations as to the nature of lets say synchronicities. Jung's basic unproven assumption about the collective unconscious as the core of reality enables his mystical magical interpretation of synchronicities to be what it is -? whereas an assumption of lets say the personal unconscious generating personal meanings of whatever is perceived would result in a purely naturalistic non mystical non magical interpretation of the nature of synchronicities.

Viva le differance!

Molly Brogan said...

Yes, I see your point. From my view, consciousness just is, and our viewpoint is the filter. As you say, the difference between us.

Gibbs said...

I think that consciousness is not just a static consciousness that existentially is... Instead I think that consciousness is an active process.... similar to the concept of self esteem. Self esteem is less a noun than a verb. One has self esteem when they are actively engaged in a process of self esteem regulation. Thus if I am right it is more accurate to say that one who has self esteem has been self esteeming.

WideOpen said...

It's really very simple when viewed from the vantage of the indivisibility of the appearing phenomena from consciousness.

The wide-open relaxed space that gently cradles all thought is the self-knowing capacity of existence.

All the mental anguish that ultimately leads nowhere is a result of the very basic misunderstanding about the fundamental nature of reality that is currently the accepted norm. By taking ourselves to be divided individuals that generate our own consciousness we immediately fall into believing that we are trapped in the limited realm of cause and effect. We have no logical basis for this belief and no experiential evidence to back it up, it is simply what we have been told.

So why not give yourselves a break and take a second to recognise what is always already the case, the openness of perception that is synonymous with basic intelligence and natural compassion. Have the courage to look clearly at your own life and see if there is something that is always stable, always present and always alert, regardless of what circumstantial phenomena is appearing.

This is the most important thing you could possibly do with you life!

Molly Brogan said...

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