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Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club Message Board › Continuation of 'Theories of Consciousness' thread.

Continuation of 'Theories of Consciousness' thread.

Mark M.
user 36541252
Seattle, WA
Post #: 6
Theo - I owe you an apology. I meant to clarify the sentence about the non-halting problem in my last reply to you. I invoked the non-halting problem in an attempt at humor, implying that my puzzlement at the non treatment of simultaneous parallel thoughts in cognitive studies had me trapped in the illusion that it was an important issue.
Is it possible that the non-halting problem or a related issue may figure in an explanation of consciousness ? I don’t know. But, thinking about it, Terrence Deacon’s idea of the three levels of dynamic logic comes to mind. If a process operates at a higher level, say teleodynamics, then the inability to express that process in terms of morphodynamics may appear from the morphodynamic point of view as a non-halting issue. Perhaps we are talking about some kind of barrier to reductive tendencies. This is tenuous and ad hoc speculation on my part.

Getting back to Godel. I brought him up because some of us had been speculating about what might precede a discovery of an explanation of consciousness. What came to my mind was what fields of study might influence the search for a theory. I thought Godel’s IT might be an argument to steer speculation away from a search for a definition of consciousness, because I personally think that predicating the search for consciousness on a speculative definition is a dead end. I think that instead, if we try to figure out cognition, then consciousness may emerge as a by-product. My opinion is that, instead of treating consciousness as a destination, we should start out with what the brain’s purpose would be ( ie to serve the whole organism. ) and consciousness might then be found as an aspect of cognition that helps the brain fulfill its purpose. I think that the search for a definition of consciousness is a mistake, and I had in mind that Godel might discourage that search, and prompt a more productive redirection.
When I personally think about explaining consciousness, I think about explaining cognition. However, the meetup topic is consciousness, and the north star of most theorists is a notion of consciousness.

As regards that chain of intellects ( Frege, Boole, Hilbert, Russell, Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Godel, Chaitin, Turing et al ): I think that there is a very interesting thread that runs through them all. It is almost synonymous with Analytic Philosophy. Studying them is like staring at a crystal ball that wont settle down.

Paragraph 1 What I put in the post does not amount to a theory of consciousness or cognition, though it does propose an important part of a mechanics for consciousness or cognition.
The post is a question about an innocuous cognitive occurrence which seems to receive no theoretical treatment. I place it in the context of an assumption about brain function, and try to persuade that it amounts to circumstances that merit attention, and express my dismay at the non-treatment of this situation.
Am I deluded that there is something there worth considering ? Am I missing something ? I feel like I am in an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ nightmare, where I have the role of the little boy except I am a drunk homeless man, and I cant tell if the emperor is dressed or not, and maybe I forgot to put my pants on.

Anyway, if I have not made my case by now, maybe I should go back to the drawing board. Thanks again for your input. - Mark
Jon C.
Mercer Island, WA
Post #: 156
Mark, you seem to be supposing that there is some type of rational explanation to the evolution of the mind. But prior to the mind, there was no rationality (setting aside intelligent design). So one cannot think about what would be a goal-based design. All that happened was that successful brains procreated more than unsuccessful brains. And if we look at the brain it becomes clear that massive redundancy is very apparent.

It would seem that there are a vast number of pattern matchers that differ only slightly from each other, and the net result of their operation is some type of selection of the strongest matches triggering a corresponding response. The world is not a logical place, and so the brain needs to handle contradictions without falling apart. Having a multitude of responses that match various ranges of inputs seems like an effective early stage of evolution of the mind, and seems to match what we observe in animals. I think our higher level thinking is just an extension of that. How one gets from low level pattern matching to higher level cognition is an open question., one that consciousness no doubt plays and important contributing role. But the reported consensus among scientist in the field is that they believe animals are conscious, and so tying consciousness to rationality or logic is not compelling.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 402
Gene - Thank you for the feedback.

Examples: I offer the example of two thoughts being at the forefront of awareness at the same time in the hypothetical event where a child meets their father after an extended separation. The child has their memory of their father, and the encounter with the living father brings forth old memories to mind. In this instance the brain contains two very similar thoughts at the same time.
I have offered some basic assumptions which in brief are that the brain is in service to the whole organism, and is under pressure to perform that service.
These priorities shape how the pair of similar thoughts could be processed. The speculation I offer proposes a fashion of information management that seems to engage some of the challenges that we face in trying to understand cognition and consciousness.

With regard to evidence from empirical literature; my point was that I have found no speculation on the above situation. In any case, what I offer is a matter of Analytic Philosophy as mush as anything else. It is almost a classic syllogism. I present conditions, circumstances and suggested consequences. My question is does my logic make sense ?


I'm afraid that I, at least, cannot make sense of this

You worry about situations when "the brain has two very similar thoughts present in two places at the same time." From a philosophy perspective, talking about thoughts being present in the brain in two places at the same time does not make much sense. Thoughts are instantiatied in the brain, but talking of them as being present in a place in the brain and then possibly conflicting with another similar thought which is also in a place in the brain, is what might be called a "category mistake".

I'm not a computer scientist, but I don't see that the situation you describe would be computationally difficult in terms of how it would be "processed". This would not be a philosophical question in any case and could not be pursued without rigorous formulation of the problem in computational terms first.

From the neuroscience perspective, one cannot (currently) rigorously study very specific thoughts such as "memories of one's father" in terms of identifying them in very specific places in the brain, so there is no way to pursue this.

My general approach to issues of consciousness is to avoid any sort of speculation that is not at least somewhat grounded in empirical work.

So I could be missing something here, but my honest opinion is that it is probably better not to pursue this avenue.

Mark M.
user 36541252
Seattle, WA
Post #: 7
Gene - Thanks for taking the time to look it over and give feedback. - Mark
Mark M.
user 36541252
Seattle, WA
Post #: 8
Jon - Thanks for the reply. I have been very busy and unable to reply.
Regarding rationality. You propose that is did not exist prior to the mind. I would think that the line between mind and sentience is very hard to find. That would indicate that mind was not a sudden evolutionary matter, and that the components of mind had an existence and role earlier in evolution. To then extend a speculatively constrained notion of rationality to a larger notion of goal based design, seemingly extending the idea of an absence of logic in a larger slice of evolution does not seem valid to me.
You remark about massive redundancy in the brain. I believe we know so little about the brain, that we are not in a position to ascribe redundancy to its components, and this does not make a case that this is further evidence of a limited rationality.
You end up with the statement that tying consciousness to logic or rationality is not compelling. I completely disagree. I think that the central raison d’etre of the brain is to organize information, and this is nothing else if not the discovery of reason and logic. Are you not using your brain to rationally persuade that the brain is not tied to logic ?

The meetup is tomorrow. Perhaps we can exchange thoughts then. Thanks again for the responses. - Mark
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