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Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › Consciousness, by Andrew

Consciousness, by Andrew

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 128

>"Ian
I agree with that paragraph.

As for the explanation I understand that the three of you believe that there is no quantum behaviour or other 'new physics' involved. You Peter believe that the whole consciousness thing emerges from increasing complexity of neural networks, there is a continuum from basic not-conscious awareness to full consciousness but the difficult emergent features of conscious sensation cannot be reduced or analysed into components. You Ian believe something rather similar, it seems to me, the difference being that the conscious experience can be analysed into 'atomic' components of the 'sensory alphabet' so that there is a discontinuity between not-conscious awareness and consciousness.

But I bet one or both of you is going to correct me on that."

Thank you for clrifying this point, Andrew. Fear not! I am in 100% agreement!

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 129

Peter, I fully agree with your analysis of this speific issue so far:

>"I want to try to collect every response and discuss them, because it seem that more discussion will lead to better understanding. For instance when you say that I think that 'the problem will "just vanish"' my one line answer would be "No. I don't believe it ever existed"... but I have to be careful because we now agree that there are in fact two hard problems, namely:
1. Reporting on sensations (I think we all agree that is impossible, so "hard" is a bit of an understatement lol)
2. Explaining sensations"
A former member
Post #: 74
Hi Ian,


Collating you (somewhat dispersed, lol) responses to me:


Ah, Peter, so you do after all "see the problem". I think that I must have consistently misinterpreted you right from the start. You are I think saying that you don't see any problem in explaining "freewill" in terms of current knowledge (in principle) (?)

Neither do I, of course, but for yet another reason. For me it is simply a non-issue, a bastard beast-of-burden born of excessively theological rumination on the perceived obligation of moral responsibility:


However, I also see no problem in explaining intelligence, learning, awareness, consciousness, self-consciousness etc. so your specific point wrt freewill does not impact on the wider discussion.


I said, and you replied:
So when I say that I do not see what the problem is, I'm really saying:

Your objective is, in my view, illusionary: no explanation at the level of the brain's physical workings can, in principle, exist. All you have is an Emergent Phenomenon which (to my mind) provides an entirely coherent explanation of all these sensations: that's all I believe you can ever have, and as I'm perfectly content with that, I see no problem."

Many thanks for that crucial clarification Peter. You agree exactly with Camilla and myself (Andrew?) on the precise nature of the Hard Problem, so we are indeed not talking past each other!

Except, of course that I think the Hard Problem is in fact easy lol. I completely agree that if I accept your worldview (by which I mean a fundamental understanding of how everything really works) the problem immediately becomes extremely Hard. To me, this is a good reason why I think you should consider my worldview seriously even though it may contain one or two features you don't like much. Actually.. "a bucketload of features you find repugnant" might be closer to the mark: even that is a bit mild lol. "Universe Threatening" ?

So, let me list some of those features of my worldview I think you don't care for:
. The difference between Strong and Weak AI is null
. Reductionism Fails
. Strong Emergence Exists
. Different Physical levels exist, describing systems in different ways and with different physical laws.
. These levels are separate - you cannot get from one to the other because Reductionism fails. They arise through Emergence, and this Emergence gives rise to the different physical laws. It has to be Strong Emergence, because under Weak Emergence you can get from one level to the other, and Reductionism does not fail. All such levels are (in principle) equally valid: you have to choose your levels in a sensible way, of course, if you want levels that are useful as well as valid.
. If we ignore QM uncertainty then the Universe is deterministic by your definition. (I suspect you agree with that bit). In consequence Randomness does not exist.
. However just because the Universe is deterministic does not mean we have any means (even in principle) to determine what events will actually occur, or what state any given system will be in at some point in time based on its current state. Specifically, we can only achieve this reliably (i.e. with accuracy we can control) in the case of analytic systems. Almost all systems of the remotest interest are non-analytic.
. In consequence the Universe, though deterministic, is unpredictable. Literally, we cannot predict its behaviour.
. Unpredictability take the place of Randomness. We'd have to say Brownian Motion was unpredictable, not random: but nothing substantive would actually have changed.
. The Laws of Physics created by Strong Emergence are not "strange, new or weird" but straightforward and commonplace. I have discussed this in other posts, citing as examples: Boyle's Law, The (pretty patterns you get from playing with the non-) Mandlebrot set, Traffic Flow in a City, a National Economic Model and the Weather.


Is that enough repugnance?


Now, I am not asking or expecting that anybody should agree with all this: just hoping you will try to understand it so we can communicate, and also just accept that I have thought about this for many years, that I hold these views sincerely, that I find them complete and self-consistent, and that I did not dream them up by myself but got then from (principally) "Godel Escher Bach" plus my (rather limited) understanding of Chaos Theory and considerations of the implications of Godel's Theorem.


You carried on:
You however think -- unprecedentedly within the history of human intellectual endeavour! -- that the problem will "just vanish" as we develop progressively more sophisticated AI systems. I agree with you that consciousness cannot be programmed. It is not software. (Are you agreeing with my second claim?) The reliance on "emergence" IMV -- and I hope that by now it ought to be starkly apparent to all -- at least appears to others unpersuaded by the thesis to be a strategy to avoid trying to analyse the problem(!!!). Since I am quite confident that you are not intellectually dishonest I can only conclude that you have a picture of knowledge as a whole which differs very radically from my own.

TY for concluding that I am not simply performing a slight of hand analogous to Berlusconi passing a law saying that laws don't apply to him. That precise point did trouble me for many years.

Yes to all points.

Except, minor variations for discussion: As I previously mentioned, I think that the problem never existed rather than that it will simply vanish. Also, I'm not convinced that the precise point where our worldviews diverge is in our "pictures of knowledge" but I agree the divergence it pretty fundamental and lies in that sort of area.

Continued in my next post (with some overlap to improve clarity ans continuity). Silly software lol.



Peter

A former member
Post #: 78
Hi Ian,


Continuing... (with some overlap to improve continuity and clarity)



You carried on:
You however think -- unprecedentedly within the history of human intellectual endeavour! -- that the problem will "just vanish" as we develop progressively more sophisticated AI systems. I agree with you that consciousness cannot be programmed. It is not software. (Are you agreeing with my second claim?) The reliance on "emergence" IMV -- and I hope that by now it ought to be starkly apparent to all -- at least appears to others unpersuaded by the thesis to be a strategy to avoid trying to analyse the problem(!!!). Since I am quite confident that you are not intellectually dishonest I can only conclude that you have a picture of knowledge as a whole which differs very radically from my own.

TY for concluding that I am not simply performing a slight of hand analogous to Berlusconi passing a law saying that laws don't apply to him. That precise point did trouble me for many years.

Yes to all points.

Except, minor variations for discussion: As I previously mentioned, I think that the Hard Problem never existed rather than that it will "simply vanish". Also, I'm not convinced that the precise point where our worldviews diverge is in our "pictures of knowledge" but I completely agree the divergence it pretty fundamental and lies in that sort of area.


Many moons ago people used to argue vehemently about the number of angles who could dance on the Head of a Pin. As far as I am aware this issues was never properly resolved. But the problem did not "just vanish": rather, it became apparent, in the light of increased understanding, that the question simply had no meaning. Now, I am well aware that you disagree with much of what I say, but what we are trying to achieve here is to explain my WorldView, not promote it. I believe that we will one day succeed in building effective AI systems. I suspect that these will be different from humans in many ways, but still broadly commensurate in terms of overall intelligence and capabilities and with similar total processing power. Crucially, though, I also believe we will achieve this without needing or being able to describe or explain consciousness et. al. at the the level of neurones (or their artificial counterparts). So, similarly to the Angles on the Head of a Pin, if I am right, we will then see that the Hard Problem never really existed.

My WorldView can perhaps best be expressed as the "Strong Theory of Levels". I hope you can see what I mean by this simply by reading the list of repugnant features in my previous post with sufficient care and attention to detail. The essential features are the existence of descriptions of systems within the Universe at different levels, where the descriptions and laws of physics at these different levels are in general totally dissimilar from each other, where all such levels are in principle equally valid viewpoints, and where you cannot in general deduce the features of one level from those of another with scientific rigor.

As I mentioned, earlier, I did not dream this up all by myself: these views are not in fact "a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain": nor indeed am I either Shakespeare or Macbeth. Nevertheless, when I first came to confront this WorldView in its entirety, it did worry me. Could these levels really be that disjoint? Had I perhaps cheated, and somehow performed the Berlusconi conjuring trick you so kindly say you don't accuse me of. As I actually enjoy analising things, I was in fact somewhat sad to have formed a WorldView that defined some interesting problems out of existence.

A further couple of decades of observation and thought have convinced me that there are good, underlying systemic reasons why these different levels should exist and exhibit the features, and in particular the essential disjointedness, I attribute to them.

Trying next, to make these beliefs more "scientific", you will have noted that some things you all view as a change in principle (i.e. a qualitative change) are in my view in fact simply apparent qualitative changes produced by truly massive quantitative changes. I don't of course hold that this is always the case, lol. My view gives rise to what I could term (I hope without confusion) the "Continuum View" as distinct from the "Watershead View". Under the Continuum View these different levels would not in fact be totally disjoint. If you took a series of different levels (all actually describing the same system of course) at successively greater separation, I would expect to see an exponential increase in the extent to which the descriptions and physical laws diverged. It certainly lies beyond my actual capability in practice to construct a metric that could measure the difference between sets of scientific descriptions, and and laws, and probably beyond my intellectual ability also, but that does not mean that such a metric is impossible to construct, and that the quantitative version of the Theory of Levels cannot exist. My view is that if we did produce such a theory we would indeed find the exponential divergence of levels I describe and the practical upshot of this would be:
1. It would indeed be impossible in general to discern any similarity between the descriptions and physical laws associated with different levels.
2. It would indeed be quite impossible in general to produce scientific deductions of the description and laws of one level from another level to any significant extent and certainly not to the standards of rigor and completeness needed by Reductionism.
3. But there would in fact sometimes be some small conclusions you might be able to draw about one level by consideration of another.

If you feel that point 3 somehow negates the earlier (qualitative) expression of my views the answer is "No". It is in fact a neat exposition of the effects of the "Continuum Theory". In any qualitative view, sufficiently small items must vanish. In the quantitative view it simply becomes more explicit just how small they are. My earlier assertion that "no explanation (ed: of consciousness et.al) at the level of the brain's physical workings can, in principle, exist" is in no way weakened by admitting that you may, sometimes be able to deduce some small feature exhibited by consciousness by consideration of the organization or behaviour of neurones in a brain.


continued - next post




Peter
A former member
Post #: 79
Hi Ian,

I think this the next comment you make pertinent to my views is:

Andrew: >"Now, I think consciousness is an evolved feature of our minds that improves upon this sub-conscious way of life. It enables better instant decisions for survival. The problem which Ian has emphasised and which I have tried to define above is that we do not know how the mind generates that conscious form of mental experience, as in the experience of the colour red, as distinct from the unconscious form that any of today's computers exhibit. A computer will record and process the wavelength of the light and it will assign a digital code to the colour red, but it will not share our conscious experience of red. Nor do we know how to program that experience. That is where the problem lies. If, Peter or anyone else reading this, if you still do not get the issue then we should stay on discussion of this point until you do!"

Apologies therefore to the rest of you for still being a little out-of-phase with current exchanges. Please be patient with me! Camilla and I completely agree with Andrew on this issue, and Peter has sort-of acknowledged it, but thinks that – backed up by some system which in some as-yet unspecified way is sufficiently “complex” or “rich” – the problem will somehow evaporate because these subjective, incommunicable felt sensations will suddenly somehow just appear, without any further either mathematical or physical theoretical preamble!

Could we all please individually communicate agreement with what I’ve typed in the preceding paragraph? (Peter, no aspersions cast or intended; I just want to confirm that I’ve got the facts straight, because it seems to me at the moment that this is our debating group’s current state-of-play.)


Your have your facts straight.

I think the words you use to express them may be a bit pejorative, but you clearly understand my position.

So I'll restate my position briefly:

We all agree that the "Hard Problem" is "How do we explain sensations such as consciousness or the colour red in terms of the physics, the physical structure, the behaviour of neurones, in the brain?"

My view is that the Hard Problem is not hard at all. It is either "Totally Impossible" or "Non Existent" depending on which way you look at it. You simply cannot (again IMO) provide an explanation at that level.

Equally Andrew, I agree that "we do not know how to program the experience of the colour red": and in my view we never will: it is impossible, in principle, to do so.


Ian when you say:

Peter has sort-of acknowledged it

My answer is "NO".

I have not "sort-of acknowledged it". I have repeatedly, explicitly and emphatically endorsed this view, and can find no point at which I disagreed with it, nor can I find anything I have said which might conceivably have led anybody to imagine that I did disagree with it.

You continue:

Peter ... thinks that – backed up by some system which in some as-yet unspecified way is sufficiently “complex” or “rich” – the problem will somehow evaporate because these subjective, incommunicable felt sensations will suddenly somehow just appear, without any further either mathematical or physical theoretical preamble!

Again "NO".

I agree with your broad perception of my position, but I cannot accept the more specific assertion that I have nowhere described what I think causes sensations to appear.

I have stated quite clearly, and I think more than once, my view that the brain is a learning machine, by which I mean a system with enormous computational power, the ability to reference and modify its own internals and a set of desires to drive it: and as far as I am aware you agree with me on this point. These terms/definitions lead to an "identity crisis" that I will deal with in my next post, but it's essentially technical and does not impact the broad issue of what intelligence or consciousness are, or how they arise. So, continuing to address that broad issue, my view is that any "sufficiently powerful" system will develop a WorldView and in due course Awareness and Consciousness for the sort of reasons Andrew suggests - it improves decision making, leading to more desirable outcomes. As I understand you also agree with this view.

Going beyond this is indeed hard. We differ, I think, in our expectations of what sorts of descriptions or explanations can in principle exist, and what predictive power they might have. My view, of course is that at the level of the physical brain - its neurones and their connectivity chart and other physical components - no meaningful explanation of the phenomena under discussion can exist. I accept that the higher level descriptions currently lack detail or predictive power. However, until we secure agreement (which may never happen) that it is at those higher levels we should be working, the co-operative project to try to improve on that lack of specifics cannot even commence. I believe, thought, that if we did make progress at that level we would find that we were actually addressing the scientific/engineering question "how do we set about building an AI" rather than the philosophical one "what is consciousness and how do we explain its emergence?"



Let me now turn my attention to the "identity crisis" I mentioned earlier. It may be important, or at least entertaining.


....


Peter


A former member
Post #: 80
Let me now turn my attention to the "identity crisis" I mentioned in my previous post. It may be important, or at least entertaining.

We agreed in the other thread on the definition of a system and that you (Ian) Camilla and myself were all systems, as would be any AI we managed to knock up in our copious spare time.

Andrew, I'm not excluding you because I think you are in any essential way different from the rest of us (even though I'm a SeaSlug and you are not, lol) but simply because I don't think you were ever specifically party to that agreement.

Anyway.. I'm a system and I have a causal net, which determines my behaviour. We all accept that, I think.

Oops... NO.

I am a compact physical being... I end (approximately) at the exterior surface of my skin. If (I accept it's arguable) I have intelligence, personality, consciousness, identity, etc. they are vested somewhere inside me. My identity does not include my entire external environment. In consequence, if I am a system, that system does not include my entire external environment either, or even that part of the external environment that can have some effect on me. By the same token MY causal network is the part of some larger causal network that is permanently associated with me. The trouble, of course is that MY causal network, on it's own, then does nothing. It is merely a description of how I might behave if subjected to certain external events. Only the larger, complete causal network actually causes anything. But that larger causal network is not MINE: if I am suddenly transported from my study to the surface of the planet Venus my identity is not changed, so neither can the system that IS me, or the causal network that belongs to me be changed. Indeed, both are unchanged, whereas the wider system and the larger causal network have changed radically.

Of course, if I don't find a gas mask and life support system PDQ I may suffer some pretty radical changes also, but that's a different problem.

The issue is that we say "Peter is a system" and then change the meaning of "system" to include relevant aspects of my external environment, and similarly extend my causal network to include the additional bits that are patently not transferred with me when I am transported to Venus - evidence the fact that while I have not changed, my behaviour changes totally: I suddenly become much more interested in gas masks and life support systems at the expense of discussions about consciousness.

The identity crisis then comes down to the fact that the term system either does or does not include relevant aspects of the external environment as the context requires, and "my causal net" similarly refers to the causal net associated with either of these meanings of system, again as the context requires. If we ever need to discuss where intelligence or consciousness reside, causing the issues of identity to become important, this may create a great deal of trouble. To demonstrate this, I invite you to consider Aunt Hillary - the intelligent Ant Hill in Godel, Escher Bach - where it is in fact the Ant Colony as a whole that exhibits intelligence and consciousness - and the individual ants (which are compact entities with physical identities, though not necessarily much in the way of personality) are analogous to the neurons in a human brain. Identity, and the seat of consciousness, clearly become much harder to determine, not least because Aunt Hillary is not quite a physical entity, is geographically dispersed, and definitely not compact.


Such Joy



Peter
A former member
Post #: 81
Hi Ian,

Peter: ... I mention all this to try to show how critical the concept of emergent phenomena is, and also how important the idea of predictability is, because it is the concept of unpredictable emergence that lies at the heart of the disagreement.”

Peter, you have understood the position on this issue held jointly by Camilla and myself. I suspect that Andrew holds it also, but he’s a lot less “conservative” than the rest of us. That is, he (unlike yourself?) believes along with Camilla and myself that physics is “the ultimate container science” in that whatever physics forbids is not available as any sort of explanatory resource to any other physical/(biological) science either. Andrew holds the door open to the possibility of resolution of the problem via the auspices of QM, yet whilst agreeing with at least Camilla and myself – and now, apparently, Peter also – on the recognition of this “illuminated inner world” (not necessarily Andrew’s own terminology but pretty similar; apologies for any inaccuracies of rendition) which we might try regarding as “true” consciousness, he fails to explain, as did Roger Penrose before him, how exactly (or even vaguely!) any allegedly QM-mediated “conscious architecture” could pull off this neat trick of generating an illuminated inner world from mere biologically natural collectives of neural nets in some manner which wouldn’t be available to some network which were reliant on “simply classical” physical rules!

So I’m still somewhat puzzled! (Hope no-one’s anticipated me in the meantime as I’m still caught in the throes of catch-up.

Hmmm

I'm stugling to fully understand this. Parts of it have a convolution quotient in excess of the (admittedly very small) capacity of my mind lol.

Mainly though, I'm unclear what it is that you are still somewhat puzzled about (last sentence). This is in danger of going into FreeFall by recursion of course...


For the rest:

I don't think I'm that averse to the idea that physics is “the ultimate container science”, unless of course you try to insist that physics exists at only one level or is deductively connected (= reductionism?) through all levels. If only one level then:
String Theory
QM
Elements, Atoms and Molecules
....
?

I'm unclear what you mean by "whatever physics forbids". I love the mental image of physics as some authority whose actual embodiment in this astral plane is Nanny McPhee (http://www.imdb.com/t...­) but I'm unclear as to how physics might set about forbidding anything as abstract as an "explanatory resource".

Sorry.. couldn't resist.


Though this talk of forbidding really does puzzle me, I think the key point is that if you believe in Reductionism it may well be that there exists some single level where you can ground everything or from which you can deduce everything. But I don't believe in Reducionsim: on the contrary I think it may be possible to use Godel's theorem to prove it's untrue; so this is clearly an area for substantive discussion.

I would not want to close the door to QM effects being significant, but I am quite confident they are not, and I don't want to let them into the conversation until it's clear they are needed as they do massively complicate things.

On the other hand, in a deterministic Universe (where Randomness is trivially impossible) in which Reductionism also holds, I think that everything must be 100% predictable, so you might genuinely need QM to permit consciousness et. al. to arise.

I feel (I choose that word advisedly) that some level of uncertainty, randomness, unpredictability is needed for consciousness et.al. to arise; and if you systematically eliminate all other possible sources, QM may be your last best hope. Of course, my WorldView is substantially different, so the issue does not arise for me, but the question:
"Is some level of uncertainty, randomness or unpredictability needed for consciousness et.al. to arise?"
may be a fruitful topic of discussion.


Finally, I have a bit of trouble with "illuminated inner world" and "true consciousness"; and I think this is mainly because they pertain to a WorldView to which I do not subscribe.



Peter
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 130

(From Peter):

I'm unclear what it is that you are still somewhat puzzled about (last sentence). This is in danger of going into FreeFall by recursion of course...

.. In reference to Andrew still upholding the possibility of some QM-mediated resolution of the problem, juxtaposed with his acknowledgement of the very real appearance of the “illuminated inner world” of consciousness, whilst being as he had earlier acknowledged aware that the “mere mechanism” of QM underpinning if it be true leaves us none the wiser than we would be by having recourse to the explanatory scope of classical physics alone.

For the rest:

I don't think I'm that averse to the idea that physics is “the ultimate container science”, unless of course you try to insist that physics exists at only one level or is deductively connected (= reductionism?) through all levels.

In a sense, everything empirical is ultimately applied physics.

(I really, really mean this, folks. It’s an unpopular view these days, but if anything such an emotional gut reaction ought to count in its favour!)

You just try to do something “not allowed” by the laws of physics – unless it is “allowed”, of course, but we just hadn’t realised it. It is at such moments that physics “expands” Such moments are few and far between. The first occasion was as said Faraday/Maxwell. The second was of course the Principle of Relativity. (GR was “merely” a generalisation of Newtonian gravitation to a non-euclidean, reactive space-time backdrop incorporating the Principle of Relativity.) The third was QM. String theory and cosmological inflation are speculative and thus “not yet physics”.


If only one level then:
String Theory
QM
Elements, Atoms and Molecules
....
?

Fundamental physics does not explain either the complexity or the contingency of the world – and hence, in relation to the latter property, the reluctance of some staunchly physical realist critics (i.e. actual mathematical physicists such as Fay Dowker, Andrew!) – to wholeheartedly embrace the decoherence interpretation of QM! – but it does set constraints on the possibility of certain states of affairs. In the sense so defined you could define me as a “weak reductionist” – the flip side of weak emergence – but I am not aware that the term is current and in any case I can already sense Andrew’s hackles rising at the prospect of further proliferation of philosophical terminology.

I'm unclear what you mean by "whatever physics forbids".

Hope that I’ve just made things clear!

I love the mental image of physics as some authority whose actual embodiment in this astral plane is Nanny McPhee (http://www.imdb.com/t...­. ) but I'm unclear as to how physics might set about forbidding anything as abstract as an "explanatory resource".

Explanatory resource: some nomic complex – i.e. corpus of relevantly applicable physical laws which acting in conjunction within specified circumstances runs the predictive, simulated phenomenology accurately enough that one could fairly conclude that “Nature actually does do things in accordance with this particular mathematical framework” – on which one calls when flummoxed by every other conceived stratagem.

Sorry.. couldn't resist.

Though this talk of forbidding really does puzzle me, I think the key point is that if you believe in Reductionism it may well be that there exists some single level where you can ground everything or from which you can deduce everything. But I don't believe in Reducionsim: on the contrary I think it may be possible to use Godel's theorem to prove it's untrue; so this is clearly an area for substantive discussion.

Sorry we’re talking at cross purposes. Gödelian considerations become relevant in being the mathematical analogue of my claim that physics will never discover a final theory. Newtonian physics certainly was thoroughly undermined and subsumed by its successors, and we have no reason to suppose that this usurpation series will ever terminate. The point is, anything real will – at any stage in the game – be found to be reducible to nomic interactions either “parochially” (e.g. some law such as Boyle’s Law) or else right down there at the frontier coalface. (QM, GR or whatever.)

I would not want to close the door to QM effects being significant, but I am quite confident they are not, and I don't want to let them into the conversation until it's clear they are needed as they do massively complicate things.

(Force Andrew to justify himself, eh? Shrewd move! cool )

On the other hand, in a deterministic Universe (where Randomness is trivially impossible) in which Reductionism also holds, I think that everything must be 100% predictable,

.. agree ..

so you might genuinely need QM to permit consciousness et. al. to arise.

Je n’ai pas besoin de cet hypothèse!

I feel (I choose that word advisedly) that some level of uncertainty, randomness, unpredictability is needed for consciousness et.al. to arise; and if you systematically eliminate all other possible sources, QM may be your last best hope.

Justification?

Of course, my WorldView is substantially different, so the issue does not arise for me, but the question:

"Is some level of uncertainty, randomness or unpredictability needed for consciousness et.al. to arise?"
may be a fruitful topic of discussion.

Finally, I have a bit of trouble with "illuminated inner world" and "true consciousness"; and I think this is mainly because they pertain to a WorldView to which I do not subscribe.

No you havent; you’ve already ‘fessed up to acknowledging the nature and cogency of the Hard Problem!


Peter
A former member
Post #: 82

(From Peter):

I'm unclear what it is that ...

.. In reference to Andrew ...

OK, so nothing to do with me then ...pass.



For the rest:

I don't think I'm that averse to the idea that physics is “the ultimate container science”, unless of course you try to insist that physics exists at only one level or is deductively connected (= reductionism?) through all levels.

In a sense, everything empirical is ultimately applied physics.

(I really, really mean this, folks. It’s an unpopular view these days, but if anything such an emotional gut reaction ought to count in its favour!)

You just try to do something “not allowed” by the laws of physics – unless it is “allowed”, of course, but we just hadn’t realised it. It is at such moments that physics “expands” Such moments are few and far between. ... String theory and cosmological inflation are speculative and thus “not yet physics”.

I think I can buy all of that.


If only one level then:
String Theory
QM
Elements, Atoms and Molecules
....
?

Fundamental physics does not explain either the complexity or the contingency of the world – and hence, in relation to the latter property, the reluctance of some staunchly physical realist critics (i.e. actual mathematical physicists such as Fay Dowker, Andrew!) – to wholeheartedly embrace the decoherence interpretation of QM! – but it does set constraints on the possibility of certain states of affairs. In the sense so defined you could define me as a “weak reductionist” – the flip side of weak emergence – but I am not aware that the term is current and in any case I can already sense Andrew’s hackles rising at the prospect of further proliferation of philosophical terminology.

I think I agree, by which I mean I agree unless it suddenly transpires I've signed up to something I failed to fully comprehend, in which case I reserve the right to re-consider.

I'm unclear what you mean by "whatever physics forbids".

Hope that I’ve just made things clear!

Indeed you have: I'm not ecstatic about the terminolgy though.

... but I'm unclear as to how physics might set about forbidding anything as abstract as an "explanatory resource".

Explanatory resource: some nomic complex – i.e. corpus of relevantly applicable physical laws which acting in conjunction within specified circumstances runs the predictive, simulated phenomenology accurately enough that one could fairly conclude that “Nature actually does do things in accordance with this particular mathematical framework” – on which one calls when flummoxed by every other conceived stratagem.

Hmmmmm OK


Though this talk of forbidding really does puzzle me, I think the key point is that if you believe in Reductionism it may well be that there exists some single level where you can ground everything or from which you can deduce everything. But I don't believe in Reducionsim: on the contrary I think it may be possible to use Godel's theorem to prove it's untrue; so this is clearly an area for substantive discussion.

Sorry we’re talking at cross purposes. Gödelian considerations become relevant in being the mathematical analogue of my claim that physics will never discover a final theory. Newtonian physics certainly was thoroughly undermined and subsumed by its successors, and we have no reason to suppose that this usurpation series will ever terminate. The point is, anything real will – at any stage in the game – be found to be reducible to nomic interactions either “parochially” (e.g. some law such as Boyle’s Law) or else right down there at the frontier coalface. (QM, GR or whatever.)

Then I have misunderstood something, either what you are saying here, or what Reductionism is, or what either you or Camilla have been saying. Or possibly you misunderstood what I was getting at....

My understanding was that Reductionism asserts that you can always, in principle, derive/deduce/predict any physical law starting from First Principles or Basic Physics (Camilla's term , I believe) in a rigorous scientific way. If Reductionism in this sense is true then Strong Emergence cannot exist, since the definition of Strong Emergence (as I understand it) is that new laws that cannot be derived/deduced/predicted in this way will in fact emerge. Maybe Reductionism does not make quite such a categorical statement and b]can not therefore be used to disprove Strong Emergence, in which case I simply don't care about it. However, if Reductionism is as categorical as that, then I believe that Godel's theorem can be deployed to disprove it.

I would not want to close the door to QM effects being significant, but I am quite confident they are not, and I don't want to let them into the conversation until it's clear they are needed as they do massively complicate things.

(Force Andrew to justify himself, eh? Shrewd move! cool )

Andrew or Roger Penrose, whoever is the most authoritative.. lol

On the other hand, in a deterministic Universe (where Randomness is trivially impossible) in which Reductionism also holds, I think that everything must be 100% predictable,

.. agree ..

so you might genuinely need QM to permit consciousness et. al. to arise.

Je n’ai pas besoin de cet hypothèse!

Accepted. I remain uncertain. I said "might" because:

I feel (I choose that word advisedly) that some level of uncertainty, randomness, unpredictability is needed for consciousness et.al. to arise; and if you systematically eliminate all other possible sources, QM may be your last best hope.

Justification?
­

I said "feel" because I feel this may well be true but find it hard to justify. We are talking here about a Universe that is totally devoid of any uncertainty, randomness or unpredictability; one that is not only deterministic but also predictable, meaning that with a sufficiently fast computer we can predict everything that is going to happen, with 100% accuracy, and in advance. It is all so so pre-determined, so fixed. I just feel that these things need a bit more freedom in order to emerge.

Of course, my WorldView is substantially different, so the issue does not arise for me, but the question:

"Is some level of uncertainty, randomness or unpredictability needed for consciousness et.al. to arise?"
may be a fruitful topic of discussion.

Finally, I have a bit of trouble with "illuminated inner world" and "true consciousness"; and I think this is mainly because they pertain to a WorldView to which I do not subscribe.

No you havent; you’ve already ‘fessed up to acknowledging the nature and cogency of the Hard Problem!

Cross purposes again , I think. My problem is with the terms. I'm not sure exactly what they mean or how they differ from the terms (awareness, consciousness, self consciousness) we already have.

Peter
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 135


From Peter:


Finally, I have a bit of trouble with "illuminated inner world" and "true consciousness"; and I think this is mainly because they pertain to a WorldView to which I do not subscribe.

No you haven’t; you’ve already ‘fessed up to acknowledging the nature and cogency of the Hard Problem!

Cross purposes again , I think. My problem is with the terms. I'm not sure exactly what they mean or how they differ from the terms (awareness, consciousness, self consciousness) we already have.

I’d be in favour of a radically complete “terminological makeover”. Thanks to the depredations of litterateurs and of those would-be scientific and almost universally venally opportunistic social meddlers called psychiatrists – not to mention Marxist politicos, radical feminists and the disaffected in general – the word “consciousness” has as I’ve previously remarked become thoroughly debased, diffuse and multi-definitional since the sharp scholarly clarity which shone so brightly yet, tragically, briefly since the Enlightenment.

Since then, the intellectual temperature has plummeted in consequence of infill of the clear blue sky by the banal grey clouds of lazily feuilleton-driven, chattering obscurantism.

Unfortunately, in the absence of a philosophical consensus which is highly unlikely to be forthcoming there will be no universal or even near-universal acceptance of my advocacy of the concept known by the name of secondary qualities or phenomenal qualities being substituted for “consciousness” in the effort to make the denotoation of the words or phrases absolutely unequivocal. “Awareness” more typically simply means (communicable!) knowledge! That is, the stuff of “thought”. (Access-consciousness, if you don’t mind using Ned Block’s term.)

Andrew – or is it you, Peter? I’m losing track of all these smoothly divergent threads! – sensibly suggested that the term “self-consciousness” should be strictly reserved for reflexive knowledge concerning oneself. (With the colloquially predominant connotation of “acute embarrassment or shyness” being reserved as an ineradicable special case, unlikely to be dislodged upon the initiative of a bunch of mere academics.

Who are we supposed to be anyway? L’Académie Française?



Peter
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