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Consciousness as Irreducible

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5 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

A - I saw running in the lobby today.

Can you frame your example in terms of mental action, such as remembering, imagining, thinking, or dreaming? The first problem I see is that an outside observer cannot experience your mental action.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Can you frame your example in terms of mental action, such as remembering, imagining, thinking, or dreaming? The first problem I see is that an outside observer cannot experience your mental action.

My example simply illustrates the absurdity of the concept "disembodied action".

 

Mental actions are incredibly complex processes spread across various parts of the brain and across time - each is a complex process involving the various portions of the complex natural system which is your brain, it is not surprising we do not yet fully understand them nor can we presently fully explain them.

IMHO It is much more straightforward and indeed trivial  (based on Objectivist philosophical fundamentals) to conclude on the one hand that mental actions consist in complex actions of the complex system which is your brain... than to make the leap of faith required on the other hand, to conclude ANY disembodied action is possible (which has nothing to do with what we currently can or cannot observe or explain specifically with respect to the processes of the brain).  In fact,  all current evidence of disease, damage  from trauma, neurosurgery, and the like, links each and every one of your examples "remembering, imagining, thinking, or dreaming" to processes of the brain... i.e. they are affected or cease when the complex processes of the brain are interfered with.  This supports that mental "action" is what the brain does.

 

In any case, my point was not about the very complicated question of HOW or WHY brains are conscious, but that embracing "disembodied action" is a grave philosophical error.

Are you proposing that "disembodied action" is possible?

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10 hours ago, William O said:

Where are you getting the idea that Binswanger is a substance dualist?

From his lecture "The Metaphysics of Consciousness" (1998), as reported by Diana Hsieh in "Mind in Objectivism" (still downloadable at  http://www.dianahsieh.com/docs/mio.pdf ).   Granted 1998 was over 20 years ago, but that lecture is still for sale as of today at the ARI estore for $7.  

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5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In fact,  all current evidence of disease, damage  from trauma, neurosurgery, and the like, links each and every one of your examples "remembering, imagining, thinking, or dreaming" to processes of the brain... i.e. they are affected or cease when the complex processes of the brain are interfered with.  This supports that mental "action" is what the brain does.

I agree with Binswanger when he argues that "Mental actions are manifestly different from brain actions." Our awareness of a dream, for example, is not the same thing as the brain processes attending (or causing) that experience. I'm pretty sure I disagree with his take on the causal efficacy of consciousness, but that objection is still in development.

5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Are you proposing that "disembodied action" is possible?

I don't know what you mean by "disembodied action," which is why I asked for an example relating to mental action. To me "embody" and "disembody" assume a thing which can exist apart from the body. I don't think the concept is valid for mental action. You can't take dreaming, for example, and separate it from the human being who dreams. Nor do I think a body alone can dream. A human is not merely his body, unless you're a materialist, which I'm not.   

Edited by MisterSwig

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37 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Are you talking about a spirit or some kind of ghost?

No, I'm talking about consciousness.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

No, I'm talking about consciousness.

Does consciousness exist as an entity separate from the brain?  As an entity separate from the identity (identity = existence) of the brain? As an entity separate from the attributes (entities are their attributes) and actions (processes) of the brain?

What else is required to define the presence of a spirit or ghost? 

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11 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I'm not clear on what you mean by "material connection."

Take this from Grames, which I agree with:

"Binswanger is correct to argue against a version of reductionism that would deny consciousness exists.  But to investigate the physiological nature of brains (human or animal) to identify what actions of consciousness are and how they occur is not reductionist.  Binswanger is wrong to adopt the dualist premise that consciousness is one of the fundamental ontological components of the universe, literally a yet to be discovered substance."

All I mean to say is that anything that is real is in some way itself physical, or an aspect of something physical. So I'm not just saying hylomorphism where mental things exist as a mental substance or exist as distinct mental things, even if they are dependent on distinct physical things or physical substance. I'm saying that the only kind of thing that exists (in terms of fundamental ontological components) is physical.

Switching the context to internal mental events does not change anything. I don't see why it would. You observe internal actions, you observe external actions. They are actions just the same. 

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13 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Does consciousness exist as an entity separate from the brain?

I would classify "brain" as a part of an entity (human being), and "consciousness" as an attribute of the human entity. The brain-consciousness relationship is less clear to me. I believe there are more parts involved in causing consciousness than merely the brain, yet the brain is necessary. I therefore tend to subclassify "consciousness" (its action and content) as a product of the brain's reaction to stimuli. Apart from my own introspection, I only have physical analogies to offer as examples. Consider how your skin color is one of your main attributes, but it's also a product of your skin's reaction to stimuli. Would you say that your skin and its color are one and the same thing? They are inseparable, yet distinctive in nature.

13 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

As an entity separate from the identity (identity = existence) of the brain?

Yes. A consciousness is not a brain. Though we would need to agree on a definition for "entity." Consciousness is not a physical entity.

13 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

As an entity separate from the attributes (entities are their attributes) and actions (processes) of the brain?

Yes. Again, a consciousness is not a brain. Would it help to make a distinction between a functioning and a non-functioning brain? In order to function properly, a brain needs other things, such as sensory nervous signals and oxygenated blood. So what do you mean by a "brain" entity? It's part of a whole organic system. The brain, itself, would do nothing except deteriorate. Likewise, consciousness would do nothing by itself except fade out of existence. Yet both are things. Both are something in relation to the whole person.

13 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What else is required to define the presence of a spirit or ghost? 

I'd say a non-physical entity that is not sustained by a physical system.

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16 hours ago, Grames said:

From his lecture "The Metaphysics of Consciousness" (1998), as reported by Diana Hsieh in "Mind in Objectivism" (still downloadable at  http://www.dianahsieh.com/docs/mio.pdf ).   Granted 1998 was over 20 years ago, but that lecture is still for sale as of today at the ARI estore for $7.  

I don't have a copy of the paper... why do you think he even goes there... I mean this all smacks as contradictory to Rand's effort to dispel the false dichotomies and firmly ground free will and consciousness in the real world rather than in some other dimension.

Any insights or care to speculate?

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16 hours ago, Eiuol said:

All I mean to say is that anything that is real is in some way itself physical, or an aspect of something physical.

If the "something" is a human being, then his consciousness is not an aspect of "something physical," it's an aspect of a human being, which is a physical-mental systematic whole. If a human being is defined as a physical entity, then we simply disagree at the definitional level.

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I don't have a copy of the paper... why do you think he even goes there... I mean this all smacks as contradictory to Rand's effort to dispel the false dichotomies and firmly ground free will and consciousness in the real world rather than in some other dimension.

Any insights or care to speculate?

He does not know or accept that information is a physical phenomenon properly included within the scope of physics, first defined by Claude Shannon in "A Mathematical Theory of Communication".  If information can only be semantic he cannot conceive of studying information non-semantically.  For those that persist in doing so anyway, they must be denying the existence of semantic information.  Then he has the additional problem, how is it possible for purely semantic information to have physical consequences such moving one's limbs and communicating thoughts in speech or writing?  The new mental force or substance bridges the gap between semantic meaning and physical causation.

Binswanger also misuses the concept of irreducible in the context of the axiomatic concept of consciousness.  What is epistemologically irreducible is not necessarily physically or metaphysically irreducible.  Life is also an axiomatic concept but it is absurd to claim living things are not composed of physical parts that can be studied.

This line directly addresses the title of the thread:  Consciousness is epistemologically irreducible because it is axiomatic but it is an error to claim consciousness is physically or metaphysically irreducible.

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19 minutes ago, Grames said:

He does not know or accept that information is a physical phenomenon properly included within the scope of physics, first defined by Claude Shannon in "A Mathematical Theory of Communication".  If information can only be semantic he cannot conceive of studying information non-semantically.  For those that persist in doing so anyway, they must be denying the existence of semantic information.  Then he has the additional problem, how is it possible for purely semantic information to have physical consequences such moving one's limbs and communicating thoughts in speech or writing?  The new mental force or substance bridges the gap between semantic meaning and physical causation.

Binswanger also misuses the concept of irreducible in the context of the axiomatic concept of consciousness.  What is epistemologically irreducible is not necessarily physically or metaphysically irreducible.  Life is also an axiomatic concept but it is absurd to claim living things are not composed of physical parts that can be studied.

This line directly addresses the title of the thread:  Consciousness is epistemologically irreducible because it is axiomatic but it is an error to claim consciousness is physically or metaphysically irreducible.

Agreed.

As to information, isn’t that simply some physical existent exhibiting attributes, properties, eg patterns capable of “informing” a perceiver about something? A newspaper or a fingerprint are real existents capable of informing me respectively of world events and “who dunnit” by virtue of my notions of causation I take into account when I inspect either.

Without a chain of causation leading from the referent directly to the configuration of the entity, neither could constitute actual information about the referent.

So I guess I’m wondering about what in reality “semantic” versus “non semantic” anything could mean.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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17 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

So I guess I’m wondering about what in reality “semantic” versus “non semantic” anything could mean.

Claude Shannon defined (and coined?) the word "bit".  The Shannon Limit is real.  Einstein's restriction on information transfer not exceeding the speed of light is apparently a truth.  All the recent progress in understanding the physics of black holes has centered around considering what happens to the information that gets trapped within the event horizon, and uses a conservation law for information.  You would be amazed at the amount of abstract mathematics involved in capturing keystrokes and sending them to distant places, or the multiple overlapping coding and multiplexing schemes that make cell phones possible.   All that and more is what "non-semantic information" refers to.  Semantic information is meaning as assigned or interpreted to symbols by consciousness.

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6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If the "something" is a human being, then his consciousness is not an aspect of "something physical," it's an aspect of a human being, which is a physical-mental systematic whole

I didn't say that a physical entity is "nothing but" physicality. "Physical-mental" is a redundancy. Any entity is the things it does. It's fine to be redundant for emphasis, but that's it. I'm not sure what you're trying to point out.

 

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On 5/1/2019 at 6:03 PM, Eiuol said:

I didn't say that a physical entity is "nothing but" physicality. 

Then I don't understand what you meant by this...

On 4/30/2019 at 7:37 PM, Eiuol said:

I'm saying that the only kind of thing that exists (in terms of fundamental ontological components) is physical.

Is the mind not a fundamental ontological component of a human being? How are you using "ontological"? Are you saying that the mind can be reduced to something physical? The "consciousness is reducible" proponents seem to be equating consciousness with brain processes, and then brain processes with the brain, and then the brain with physical matter. Is that your position?

Edited by MisterSwig

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33 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

physical matter

That's a little bit of a loaded term... and it misconstrues the position you claim others have taken here....

(BTW are you proposing other "matter" exists in reality?  Nonphysical or supernatural matter?)

 

Your use of "physical" might imply some kind of restriction i.e. stuffs only subject to study by the science of physics... which is not the position any of us has presented.

 

The brain is a natural system acting according to the nature of that system... and hence is physical biological and psychological all at once. 

 

Nothing exists outside of the reality and existence of the natural world, including you, and the fact that you are conscious.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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4 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:
33 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

physical matter

That's a little bit of a loaded term

I see it as redundant. Matter is physical.

18 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

and is misconstrues the position you denigrate....

How so? Are you not reducing the mind to matter?

20 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

are you proposing other "matter" exists in reality? 

No. I'm suggesting that other existents exist.

22 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Nonphysical or supernatural matter?

Nonphysical. Not supernatural. Not matter.

31 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

The brain is a natural system acting according to the nature of that system...

No. It's a part of a natural system. It's an organ. Remove it from a human being, and it won't be a system. It'll be a deteriorating organ. 

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Is the mind not a fundamental ontological component of a human being?

It is a component in the same way that sight is. It is not a distinct type of object.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

How are you using "ontological"?

Metaphysically fundamental.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Are you saying that the mind can be reduced to something physical?

Consciousness isn't reduced to something physical any more than running is reduced to something physical. So in that way, consciousness is not reducible because it's an activity that the entire entity does - not merely a sufficient degree of neural activation. To be sure, a certain degree of neural activation is necessary for consciousness, except that doesn't mean that consciousness is nothing but neural activation.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Is that your position?

See SL's post.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What do these other “existents” consist of?

I'm holding off on another full-blown exploration of mental existence until I'm done thinking about some related topics which might appear in a future essay. For now I'll stick with Rand on the subject (ITOE, p. 249).

Quote

The axiom "existence exists" is wider than the concept of the external world. It includes everything, as I indicated, including your mental states, mental processes, and such phenomena as ideas or feelings, which are not in the same category as physical reality, but they exist.

Elsewhere she named concepts, thoughts, emotions, and memories as "phenomena of consciousness." (p. 154)

I would also include dreams and hallucinations.

What do these mental things consist of? They consist of themselves. They are mental phenomena. They don't have physical components. An idea has existence and content. A particular idea has its particular existence and particular content. Beyond that, I'm not yet prepared to speculate.

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30 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

The axiom "existence exists" is wider than the concept of the external world. It includes everything, as I indicated, including your mental states, mental processes, and such phenomena as ideas or feelings, which are not in the same category as physical reality, but they exist.

With the new conceptual framework of information theory even mental phenomena can now be included with the category of "physical reality".  The distinction between the external world and the content of consciousness is still important for epistemology, but not for metaphysics and ontology.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

What do these mental things consist of? They consist of themselves. They are mental phenomena. They don't have physical components. An idea has existence and content. A particular idea has its particular existence and particular content. Beyond that, I'm not yet prepared to speculate.

I'll respect your holding off going into a full blown exploration.

So I'll only remind you of this:  Whenever you get around to it, whatever your conception of mental things, which consist of themselves, and do not have physical "components", recall that they are causally and necessarily linked to the natural world - their very existence, and their nature,  i.e. their identity, is wholly dependent upon the natural world.  Whatever concept you come up for mental things, it must be consistent with what we know about mental things' dependence upon the existence of a brain and the brain's function and configuration, as when either of these is interfered with or destroyed so also are mental things interfered with or destroyed.  Moreover, mental things do not and cannot exist in any way independently of a functioning brain, and as such mental things exhibit a one way absolute metaphysical dependence upon the configuration and functioning of a natural material system. 

This undeniable one way absolute dependence has metaphysical philosophical consequences which should not be ignored during the full blown exploration.

Good luck!

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4 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

What do these mental things consist of? They consist of themselves. They are mental phenomena. They don't have physical components. An idea has existence and content. A particular idea has its particular existence and particular content.

This is a confusing way to talk about it.

First off, it is fair to consider information a part of physical reality, much like how light is part of physical reality, or color, or taste (information can't be called an object,. but it is physical)  To call consciousness and other mental phenomena as mental is just to say that they are internal processes of information processing. Color is not a thing you "put onto" objects; flavors are not "put onto" objects. Mental content is not a distinct form of existence, and fundamentally unique compared to anything else that exists - it's just a type of information. So asking what they consist of doesn't make sense. The mind (consciousness) is an action, and action don't really "consist of" anything. What does running consist of? But there are physical parts to the degree that you, the entity, need physical components (more specifically, tangible components) to do anything. 

 

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