What we're about
Upcoming events (4+)
Deep dives are an invitation for all our members to post questions within the theme of the topic. Format for this meetup: we will have a general subject area. Participants are encouraged to bring a constrained argument or question that falls into the subject they would like to discuss the possible answers to, with a short discussion as framing thinking. Each attendee should have read the other questions, and come with at least some preparation to discuss them. If you are interested in this format, but do not have a question for one of our meets, that is OK, come anyway, most of our members do not bring questions. We will discuss questions in the order submitted, and let the group decide on when to move on to the next one. If we do not complete discussion of a question collection, we can carry the undiscussed ones over to the next deep dive meetup. As always, please show respect for other members, and their views.
One of the more interesting theories of mind that I have encountered is delusionism – the claim that we are drastically deluded about our own consciousness. As an extension of the series on mind and ontology, we will dig deeper into delusionism.
The leading delusionist thinker is Daniel Dennett, and his opus spelling out the case for delusion is “Consciousness Explained”. Several other delusionist authors include Susan Blackmore, who spells out the case for delusionism in “A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness”, Daniel Wegner’s “The Illusion of Conscious Will”, and David Eagleman’s “Incognito”.
One of the key objectives of delusionist authors is to try to show that we cannot trust our internal views about what is happening in our own minds. To support this contention, they rely upon psychology tests that characterize with some objective information what we think, perceive, or do, and contrast that with self reports.
One of the noteworthy tests they cite, were some tests done with split brain patients. In one test, the verbal eye of a split brain patient was shown one image, and the non-verbal another, then the patient was asked to pick the appropriate object to go with the image. The verbal side was shown a picture of a chicken, and the non-verbal a picture of a snow scene, and then the hand picked up a snow shovel. When asked why, the verbal side claimed the shovel was picked up to “deal with what you get when you have chickens”. IE the speaking side rationalized a confabulated falsehood to try to explain the choice of a shovel. Confabulation, where our consciousness rationalizes what our unconsciousness wants to do, is also a major feature in the studies of decision logic described in Thinking Fast and Slow. We DO appear to confabulate in much of our thinking – rationalize what we either want to do, or did.
Even more untrustworthy than confabulation, is our own understanding of how we see. We THINK that we look at things, and then see them, basically like a camera does. But neurologists have shown that instead, the eye only sees a very narrow pencil thin region in significant detail, and outside of that pencil region we have low resolution sensing focusing mostly on motion cues. Our eyes jitter around to cover a larger field of view than the narrow pencil region, but we are not aware of this. We also have a blind spot in each eye, roughly the size of a quarter held at arms length, that we do not perceive at all. This is all because our unconsciousness assembles the actual raw data of energized or not pixels coming in from our eyes, and post-processes it – with focus on motion, edge detection, color and shape clustering, face-like objects, upright human shapes, and other note worthy recognized objects. Then this post-processed data is fed to us in an illusion of a single photograph-like scene. The blind spot gets “filled in” in this process of manufacturing an image. Note when we look at a scene, we may think we see everything, but we don’t actually have qualia for most of the scene – we instead get fed a “logic placeholder” for much of the scene, and we only “see” qualia for a few select portions we focus on.
An excellent example of this failure to actually see most of a scene, is illustrated by a video of 10 people on a basketball court who are passing a half dozen basketballs around, while themselves moving around the court. The 10 are in two different uniform colors, and the watcher is directed to count the passes between players of a particular color. This is a complex scene, with a lot of activity, and it needs a lot of focus to follow. Most viewers are able to get the count right, and the rest are off by maybe only one pass. But less than 30% of viewers notice the person in a gorilla suit who walks through the moving basketball players. The focus in basketball passes, leads the image one “sees” to generally only include the information one is focusing on. It is not anything close to raw visual data, but significantly digested/summarized images that one “sees”.
The delusionists also cite examples where we do not report anything touching us, if the touch is on our skin for less than 500 milliseconds, but DO report the touch, and identify properly when it started, if the touch lasted longer. This experiment is strong evidence that our conscious experience of the touch is actually DELAYED by 500 msec, then “backdated in our memory to APPEAR to have entered consciousness at the time of the touch, even though it actually did so a half second later.
They also cite the experiments that show “activation energy” to initiate actions up to seconds before a participant reports consciously deciding to perform an action. These experiments are cited to claim that the body makes a decision to initiate an action before the conscious decision.
And they cite audio detection studies, where continuous noises are not even noticed nor reported by the hearers.
Deep dives are an opportunity for us to explore several questions within a thematic area of philosophy. We will be discussion Art in this Deep Dive. Members are encouraged to post narrow questions within this category, which are discussable in less than our full meeting length. Each member who poses a question will serve as moderator in turn. Please post sufficient background for members to understand the question and do some of their own research prior to the meetup. Links are encouraged from question askers. As aways, please be respectful of all views expressed.