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How is this statement true? "A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something."

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On 12/25/2022 at 10:27 AM, Easy Truth said:

So consciousness is not defined as awareness. Meaning awareness of awareness is the indicator of consciousness in the context of this thread? Where does existence and the awareness of it fall in? Meaning without awareness of self? It seems that consciousness is being defined at a certain level of awareness. As in a bacteria is not conscious because it is not aware of itself. Perhaps a certain level of ability to identify is necessary.

A lawnmower is not conscious, not because it is not aware of itself, it simply is not aware/conscious. To say a clock is aware of time is a metaphor. Or a car being aware that there is not enough gas.

Sometimes consciousness is shown to be a chemical reaction. Sometimes it an awareness of awareness. Sometimes awareness of self as apposed to other consciousness or possible consciousnesses (plural). And sometimes as having freewill.

I suspect this is at the core of your question/interest. You are trying to disprove something. I would like to know what are you trying to disprove to "them"? And what is it that "they" believe?

The what I'm trying to disprove is idealism. The "them" is all idealists, generally, but only hypothetically. I've had a lot of Yogacara idealists in my life, and read a lot of ancient works on the topic. Ditto for Madhyamaka, and theres a lot of overlap. I don't talk to any of "them" any longer, as I left Mahayana Buddhism awhile ago. So, I'm trying to defeat arguments I'm aware of, rather than any tangible person.

Perhaps the "them" is, in the end, me lol! I used to be an idealist, I woke up from that asinine worldview, argued against it with other idealists for awhile, realized they are hopeless, and only speak in self refutation they are incapable of comprehending, and moved on. Now I'm tying up loose ends, and jettisoning the last of a broken philosophy from my conclusions on reality. But I don't accept things without logical reasoning, nor do I want to ever backslide, hence, I'm trying to truly defeat these ideas, rather than merely moving on, with the shadow of hubris on me, only assuming they're false. 

Specifically, the "them" in your quote of me was about a conversation discussing yogis who think they are conscious eternally, including while asleep, even before they were born, and after death.

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On 12/24/2022 at 9:35 PM, Boydstun said:

Frank, on solipsism, some of my remarks in the immediately preceding post may help (my addition to Rand).

Concerning idealism, the burden should be on the idealist to show that the world is not as it is perceived to be, namely, as existing and in the ways it does exist and as independently of our discernment of it. That independence element is part of what is in our perceptions. We have ways of teasing out particular elements in our perceptions that depend upon our own location, state of motion, or perceptual system. Such would be the enlargement we have of the moon near the horizon in our perception of it. We take a photograph of the witnessed scene, and it shows no such enlargement. Similarly, with the Mach-band illusion we experience when we carefully cut out a particular chit of gray from a number of those color strips you can get at the paint store. Placing the chits of the same grey we have cut out side-touching-side snugly on a table before us, it will appear that the grey darkens near the abutting edges. And we know perfectly well that each of those chits was uniform in its grayness all over its surface. Unlike the moon illusion, science has identified how the Mach-band effect comes about: through the pattern of circuitry (lateral inhibition) of the receptor neurons of the retina. But when it comes to idealism, there has to be a general argument given for it, aiming to show that all percepts or fundamental facets of all percepts are in some systematic way contributed by the conscious subject. Then the work of the realist can begin, which is to show what error there is in that general argument. (I think Moore did this with Berkeley, and I presume an Objectivist refutation of the arguments Berkeley gave would differ somewhat from Moore's.)

That's a good point. And when we shift the burden of proof onto the idealists, we find they can only talk in looping, self referential, and ultimately,  self refuting statements. If all is mind/unreal, nothing can be proven. Proving things to be unreal also disproves the proof, because they'd demonstrate that their proof is false, they merely imagined it lol! It cannot be done. Without "real," proof is impossible. 

And I think Objectivism is a good argument against slipping from there into doubt about the burden on realism, into skepticism. 

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On 12/24/2022 at 11:16 PM, Eiuol said:

Would you truly say that when meditating, you are not conscious of anything but consciousness itself? Sure, you can say that you are focused on nothing but consciousness, yet at the same time, I would say that you are conscious of whatever is on the periphery. As far as I understand, even when you attain the friend of mine after a few hours of meditation, you are directing your attention in a way that physical sensations fall by the wayside. I think this can be demonstrated with fMRI research. But in a more philosophical way, consciousness is experienced in reality, on top of how consciousness is the unity of various contents; when consciousness is focused on itself, as a totality, consciousness still includes all the sensory experiences of the body. You couldn't scrub away everything underlying consciousness, even if you wanted to.  

Deep jhana meditation is said to be literally nothing but a floating imaginary light, or nothingness, or pure consciousness (whatever that means), or neither perception nor non perception (again, whatever...), etc. Supposedly people in these states can't sense anything until they emerge.

It is an argument worth considering, as it's not just normal meditation where one still hears dogs bark, feels the wind, etc.

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10 hours ago, Frank said:

Deep jhana meditation is said to be literally nothing but a floating imaginary light, or nothingness, or pure consciousness (whatever that means), or neither perception nor non perception (again, whatever...), etc. Supposedly people in these states can't sense anything until they emerge.

Yeah, I understand that they say this is what's going on. But I think the idea of "pure consciousness" already presumes a metaphysical stance about the nature of consciousness, so it would make sense that such a deep meditative state could only be described as pure consciousness. I mean, as far as I understand, attaining such a state they would claim is approaching or transcending our illusory notions of reality, therefore all that could remain is pure consciousness. And this would seem legitimate, because it involves a very "birdseye view" of one's thinking and one's place among all conscious entities. I don't deny that this experience is real, and is a type of experience I think is consistent with what the human brain can do. But since I have a totally different stance about the nature of consciousness, on a metaphysical level, my description is necessarily different from theirs. It's not that they are peeling away the illusions all around us, but that they are altering the way that they control conscious attention. 

To be a little more clear, these meditative states don't prove that consciousness can in fact be conscious of nothing but itself. A metaphysical stance about consciousness comes first, or at least that's something Rand would agree with. Only later can we really get at discussing the scientific details of how the brain attains these states. 

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15 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Yeah, I understand that they say this is what's going on. But I think the idea of "pure consciousness" already presumes a metaphysical stance about the nature of consciousness, so it would make sense that such a deep meditative state could only be described as pure consciousness. I mean, as far as I understand, attaining such a state they would claim is approaching or transcending our illusory notions of reality, therefore all that could remain is pure consciousness. And this would seem legitimate, because it involves a very "birdseye view" of one's thinking and one's place among all conscious entities. I don't deny that this experience is real, and is a type of experience I think is consistent with what the human brain can do. But since I have a totally different stance about the nature of consciousness, on a metaphysical level, my description is necessarily different from theirs. It's not that they are peeling away the illusions all around us, but that they are altering the way that they control conscious attention. 

To be a little more clear, these meditative states don't prove that consciousness can in fact be conscious of nothing but itself. A metaphysical stance about consciousness comes first, or at least that's something Rand would agree with. Only later can we really get at discussing the scientific details of how the brain attains these states. 

Interesting. I wonder how she would explain these states? In the Objectivist understanding, what is happening when people experience these things?

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We could speculate, but I don't think Rand really started to dive into philosophy of mind or the nature of consciousness as much until near the end of her life. As she thought about free will, her answer would be that what is happening would be a scientific question. A philosophically consistent answer for her would be one that integrates body and mind. Harry Binswanger has developed ideas about consciousness, although personally, I found that his ideas are unsatisfactory. The point I'm making is that analyzing what is happening in all kinds of states of consciousness is a very cutting-edge research question for neuroscience and psychology, and requires a wide range of concepts to understand on a philosophical level, a wider range than was even available in Rand's time.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Frank said:

Interesting. I wonder how she would explain these states? In the Objectivist understanding, what is happening when people experience these things?

According to Branden she would tell him that she doesn't know much about psychology. These states are psychological states. As in different states of sleep. Phenomena like flight or fight responses or even near death experiences when oxygen is limited.  Or rebirthing experiences induced by certain breathing. Or who knows what comes up with LSD. None of them come to a point of demonstrating that "you create existence" ... objectively speaking. Subjectively, okay, fine, you do.

But ultimately what you create is the choice to focus or not. That's what you create. Otherwise, contradictions can exist. Your mind can create anything. If existence is your imagination, then anything goes. There is no need to use logic. Just imagine the truth.

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On 12/25/2022 at 6:27 PM, Easy Truth said:

So consciousness is not defined as awareness. Meaning awareness of awareness is the indicator of consciousness in the context of this thread? Where does existence and the awareness of it fall in?

The post-kantians claim that all consciousness is basically self-consciousness (this is also true of indian philosophy, but I'll limit myself to the former). The argument can take this form: self-awareness is a quality possesed by certain objects of observation (humans), but not by other objects (like rocks). Now, if you have no clue what self-awareness is, you are unable to recognize it, even if you encounter it a quintillion times. You must have a prior acquaintance with it, even to recognize it in your own person. This prior acquaintance is demonstrated by showing how all human judgements, without exception, have a universal abstract form, which could be formulated like this: 'I'm aware of my self-awareness'.

Take the statement: 'I love the Spice Girls'. What is its basic form? 'I know that I'm acquainted with my musical taste'; I know (awareness), that I'm acquainted with myself in some way (self-awareness). Another example: the statement 'Tiger Woods did not properly study his opponents' occurs in a declarative form: 'I know that I'm acquainted with my opinions about Tiger Woods'. 

Now, do you imagine your reality? Well, not quite. The mind does have the power to delimit itself to particular thoughts; however, to delimit itself to something is, nevertheless, a form of being limited. Those two perspectives are reconciled by synthesis: consciousness is theoretically unlimited, but practically limited. That is, there's no theoretical limit to how much you can alter your world, but there's the practical limit of being constrained by your past choices and shortcomings. By the time you finished reading the previous sentence, you've already deduced time, space and Kant's categories (which he merely lifted from Aristotle). This kind of dual-consciousness is Rand's starting point, and she never considers anything other than what is given in it: 'I don't feel that I create nature, therefore I don't. I feel that I'm free, therefore I am free. Q.E.D.'

Inspired by Kant's third critique, Hegel and Schelling consider the possibility of an original non-difference of freedom and determinism. The unconscious plant has no clue what its doing, yet it appears utterly purposive, as if it was consciously grasping at some end-goal. The kantians try to strip away the mistique surrounding freedom by proposing that determinism and freedom could be a single phenomenon: a blind, mechanical march of nature towards increasingly sophisticated tools of self-knowledge (organisms). Under this model, there's no skepticism about whether the world of mental phenomena conforms to the world of material objects, since they're one world, not two. This is a proto-darwinian view that suggests the possibility of laws which are both mechanical and somehow purposive (laws of evolution).

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8 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

This kind of dual-consciousness is Rand's starting point, and she never considers anything other than what is given in it: 'I don't feel that I create nature, therefore I don't. I feel that I'm free, therefore I am free. Q.E.D.'

I don't follow how this viewpoint is anything like Rand's starting point about consciousness. On the other hand, it actually isn't clear what you mean by this kind of dual consciousness. More than that, I don't think Rand would say there is any essential difference between awareness and consciousness. For her, we have perceptual consciousness, and conceptual consciousness, neither of which are different broadly speaking except what kind of content or the form of content. 

 

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

it actually isn't clear what you mean by this kind of dual consciousness.

It means that consciousness is split into volitional and non-volitional aspects, as described in the paragraph from which you quoted. As for the Rand connection, she claims that because sense perception is lawful (as shown even during illusions, such as the stick appearing bent in water), this adds to the proof for realism. Her other claim is that free will is axiomatic, because looking for proof presupposes that you only accept claims which you can vouch for. But idealism of the Hegel variety does not actually claim that there's no lawful perceptual apparatus coming into contact with a world; nor does it prove freedom simply by appealing to the experience of adjusting your level of focus.

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10 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

It means that consciousness is split into volitional and non-volitional aspects, as described in the paragraph from which you quoted. 

I read the paragraph a few times. This might be what you're trying to say, but what you actually wrote in the first place seems to be demonstrating something very different than anything Rand has said about consciousness. Could you write it more clearly?

It's pretty confusing to talk about Hegel and post-Kantianism when the thread is talking about the Eastern philosophy version of idealism and when nobody brought them up. 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's pretty confusing to talk about Hegel and post-Kantianism when the thread is talking about the Eastern philosophy version of idealism and when nobody brought them up. 

Read the title of this thread, then read the first posts. Perhaps, since you contributed some posts about meditation, you forgot that this thread is not about a particular kind of idealism. Berkley, Eastern philosophy and my contribution (a post-kantian stance) were brought up later for the sake of discussion. 

I won't rewrite the paragraph, because I didn't claim that O'ism is compatible with idealism. I said that Rand takes the feeling of freedom to be actual freedom, and the experience of passive receptivity (sense perception) to be actual passivity. Idealists don't. Simple.

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1 hour ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I won't rewrite the paragraph, because I didn't claim that O'ism is compatible with idealism.

Didn't mean to suggest that you were claiming that. Nothing wrong with describing other kinds of idealism. It got messy when you mentioned:

On 12/28/2022 at 11:48 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

This kind of dual-consciousness is Rand's starting point, and she never considers anything other than what is given in it: 'I don't feel that I create nature, therefore I don't. I feel that I'm free, therefore I am free. Q.E.D.'

It's not clear what the kind of dual consciousness is, and when you mentioned volition versus non-volitional, that didn't add clarity. I'm not trying to make an argument there, I'm saying I would like to understand what you're saying, so it would help me if you explained the idea in a different way. 

But I am saying that from the gist I get, I say that it's false Rand considered the nature of consciousness in the ways that you described. Feeling free is not proof that you are free for Rand, the proof is in the activity of focusing. Not feeling that you create nature isn't proof that you don't create nature for Rand, the proof is in the way that being conscious of something means being conscious of something outside that internal experience. There is no duality present, there aren't wholly distinct modes of consciousness. There's just consciousness or not. As far as I understand, your point was along the lines of "here's what a Hegelian would think, here is a shared question or idea that Rand considered a starting point, and here is how she goes in a different direction than a Hegelian". My question or dispute is that she is in a totally different headspace and conceptual space, and is more along the lines of "throw all of this out, and start someplace completely different". 

2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Rand takes the feeling of freedom to be actual freedom

I don't think she even considers the question about feeling free or not. Doesn't matter what you feel, because you are present within the doing. Not the subjective feeling of doing, but the activity of consciousness in the first place. 

2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

the experience of passive receptivity (sense perception) to be actual passivity.

This might not be an important point, but I don't think she makes any argument for actual passivity in perception. Passive in terms of not a volitionally directed process, your perception still does something actively and with purpose. 

Maybe what I'm really getting at is something like when you wrote this:

On 12/28/2022 at 11:48 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

Inspired by Kant's third critique, Hegel and Schelling consider the possibility of an original non-difference of freedom and determinism. The unconscious plant has no clue what its doing, yet it appears utterly purposive, as if it was consciously grasping at some end-goal.

Except I would say that Rand doesn't consider the possibility of there being a difference between freedom and determinism. It's just an incoherent idea for her philosophy, for there to be a difference. 

If any of this sounds aggressive, I don't mean to be.  I find the topic fascinating so it would be interesting to hear you expand. I'm just pushing back to say that Rand for the most part it ignores any kind of idealism, including not spending much time bothering to refute it. Not just her thinking that idealists get it wrong, but that they utterly lost their minds even in the questions they ask.

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39 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
3 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

the experience of passive receptivity (sense perception) to be actual passivity.

This might not be an important point, but I don't think she makes any argument for actual passivity in perception. Passive in terms of not a volitionally directed process, your perception still does something actively and with purpose. 

These metaphors could confuse the points being made. Consciousness is a process or in a sense a potential. Volition is "doing something/choosing". This (consciousness) process can be "done" or it can just happen. Passivity can simply mean it happened which it can, non volitionally i.e.  perceptually.

Consciousness is the faculty of awareness—the faculty of perceiving that which exists.

Awareness is not a passive state, but an active process. On the lower levels of awareness, a complex neurological process is required to enable man to experience a sensation and to integrate sensations into percepts; that process is automatic and non-volitional: man is aware of its results, but not of the process itself. On the higher, conceptual level, the process is psychological, conscious and volitional. In either case, awareness is achieved and maintained by continuous action.

48 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Except I would say that Rand doesn't consider the possibility of there being a difference between freedom and determinism. It's just an incoherent idea for her philosophy, for there to be a difference

Again are you saying freedom to mean freewill? To be a difference or to not be a difference?

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Suppose I say that strawberry yogurt is a light dessert. I take it that the word 'light' means 'easy on the stomach', not that yogurt is made of sunlight, or that it's light like a bird's feather, or that yogurt is an easygoing individual. How is that obvious? By refering to the full sentence, its surrounding paragraph (after all, it might be a post about things made of sunlight), and cues from earlier posts. It doesn't look like this is a popular idea on ObjectivismOnline.

For example, this part:

22 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

(Idealists do not) prove freedom simply by appealing to the experience of adjusting your level of focus.

...makes reference to Rand's theory of volition as focus-regulation. A few hours later, the same poster makes this claim:

9 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

I said that Rand takes the feeling of freedom to be actual freedom.

which means: for Rand, the shift from lesser to sharper focus is 'your fault' simply because you feel that you're the one producing that shift. 

My point? Not everybody assumes that feeling like you're 'seizing the reigns' of your mind, is an argument. And not everybody assumes that passively receiving visual and tactile sensation proves that the mind does not unconsciously originate its contents. However, everybody starts with the experience of perceiving an allegedly external world and of having control over one's mind.

This is not a serious level of discussion, so I will not be replying to any further requests for clarification. Everything is 'messy' when it's read in a certain manner.

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On 12/23/2022 at 3:11 PM, Frank said:

I certainly don't want the statement to be false, and I'm in no way arguing against it. I'm much more comfortable with Rand's position than the idealist lunacy alternatives. However, I'm not clear on why it would be impossible for a consciousness to be aware only of itself. And I don't want to just acdept her position out of desire to be comfortable. I want to accept it because it is unavoidably true. Could people please clarify?

 

On 12/24/2022 at 4:31 PM, Frank said:

That said, the point remains: how does Rand disprove the idea that consciousness can observe only itself? In the ultimate sense, not in this outrageous and easily disproven yogi scenario. 

There is no proof and can there can never be a proof, because the concept of proof presupposes so much that there can only be circular arguments.  Rand settled on identifying the fundamentals of her philosophy as axioms, themselves using a vocabulary of axiomatic concepts.   One is satisfied with the axioms or one is not, but there is no arguing for them.  They can be demonstrated, but no more.  Opposing philosophies are the same way but not all of them identify their fundamentals as explicitly.

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On 12/30/2022 at 12:10 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

This is not a serious level of discussion, so I will not be replying to any further requests for clarification. Everything is 'messy' when it's read in a certain manner.

"Not a serious level of discussion" sounds like "I don't like that you aren't agreeing or seeing that my points makes sense, you're just not taking it seriously." I even said that one point of mine might not even be relevant.

On 12/30/2022 at 12:10 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

which means: for Rand, the shift from lesser to sharper focus is 'your fault' simply because you feel that you're the one producing that shift. 

But I don't think that Rand makes this argument.

That's not a complaint about the discussion on idealism. It's just a comment that I don't think you're characterizing her argument correctly. 

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On 12/24/2022 at 11:16 PM, Eiuol said:

You couldn't scrub away everything underlying consciousness, even if you wanted to.  

This is a very minor and very irrelevant point, but scrubbing away the underlying consciousness is the point of all the meditative exercises I've ever heard of before.  I think that's part of why it's so incredibly difficult to truly "be zen"; even in the absence of any external stimuli whatsoever, the mind naturally wants to think about something.

I'm not sure if it's actually possible to go totally mentally blank for more than a minute or so at a time.  I never did, despite all my efforts in my teenage years, and although some people do claim to be able to do so it's a claim which can't be verified very easily.  And even if a minute or so is possible, is an hour possible or is there some hard upper limit on how long the human mind can remain totally empty?

And does the meditator still have human rights while they remain mindless?  :P

Anyway.  It really isn't relevant but it is interesting, and I wanted an excuse to throw my 2 cents in.

On 12/24/2022 at 11:41 AM, DavidOdden said:

Easy cases are that rocks have no consciousness, men do. Find where you would draw the line, saying for example that ‘a leech is conscious; a sponge is not’. I expect that you will puzzle over tardigrades.

Nope.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that no single-celled organism known to man is conscious, because all of their actions are the direct result of chemical reactions.

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14 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Nope.  I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that no single-celled organism known to man is conscious, because all of their actions are the direct result of chemical reactions.

I don’t know what you’re saying “nope” to – are you claiming that it is e.g. self-evident that tardigrades do are not conscious? I assume you know that they are not single-celled organisms. As for the question of single-celled organisms possibly having consciousness and especially the “because” part, what is your logic here? If you’re just reciting an observed correlation in what we know about extant life-forms on earth, I’m willing to stipulate that it’s probably true, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the nature of consciousness, it only tells us about the nature of consciousness in organisms that we are aware of. It’s list knowledge, and not knowledge of causal relations. Anyway, on what basis do you claim that single-cell organisms have no consciousness? We can take rocks and snakes as clear cases – can you say on what basis you would claim that a rock is not conscious but a snake is, especially if you cannot define the difference between “conscious” and “alive”.

Really, the only thing at issue here is the epistemological one about undefined terms.

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On 1/4/2023 at 10:11 AM, DavidOdden said:

I don’t know what you’re saying “nope” to – are you claiming that it is e.g. self-evident that tardigrades do are not conscious? I assume you know that they are not single-celled organisms.

Basically.  I didn't put any real thought into it (and for some reason I did think they were single-celled) but I mean - they're tardigrades.  It does seem rather self-evident that there really can't be all that much going on up there.

 

I alluded to the fact that the actions of a single-celled organism are direct stimuli-responses to various chemicals.  That's one approach to determining something's consciousness (the analysis of the mechanisms behind its actions) but on second thought it's really not the best one, since we don't yet understand the mechanical principles of our own kind of consciousness.  It's circumstantial evidence at best.

 

On 1/4/2023 at 10:11 AM, DavidOdden said:

Anyway, on what basis do you claim that single-cell organisms have no consciousness? We can take rocks and snakes as clear cases – can you say on what basis you would claim that a rock is not conscious but a snake is, especially if you cannot define the difference between “conscious” and “alive”.

Since we don't have little windows into the internal lives of things like rocks and snakes, the best we can currently do (and possibly the best we could ever do) would be to abductively speculate on such inner lives, based on observable behavior.  The more complex and long-range the observable behavior, the greater depth and complexity of mind we should infer as its cause.

 

Rocks, for instance, have no observable behavior unless acted on by an external force.  You can put a rock in any conceivable environment or scenario and it will stay right there until or unless something else moves it.  We can therefore safely assume that rocks have no inner lives whatsoever.

Single-celled organisms do have behavior, all of which can be adequately explained by the concentrations of various chemicals within themselves and in the surrounding environment.  I suppose the case could be made for some strange sort of single-celled mind which concerns itself exclusively with such chemical gradients, but I still think it's safe to assume that they simply don't have any.

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I don’t think that a focus on the mechanics of consciousness tells us much, if anything about what consciousness is. The mechanics will be fairly similar across all Earth animals for evolutionary reasons, indeed all life on Earth has certain structural similarities for evolutionary reasons, but we should not conclude that the accidental developments on Earth define what it means to be “alive”. So we should probably base our account on what things do, not how they are built.

The most basic fact of consciousness is that beings which have it can perceive the external world. “Perceive” is the verb of consciousness, that is, if you can perceive, you have consciousness. Unfortunately, an amoeba can respond to its environment, so why would we not say that it has consciousness? My fragmentary solution (FYI) is a hybrid of behavior and building blocks, focused on perception, which is more complicated that direct sensation-and-reaction. We have to specify what must be true for a being to perceive (but I don’t care what the physical structure of the being is). First, there has to be a system of input devices so that you can hear, see, smell, or feel heat or pressure etc – some kind of sensory nerves. Second, there must be a way to convert that input into some kind of uniform internal representation (you don’t have actual light or sound rumbling around in your body). Third, there must be a way to retain that information for a useful amount of time. Fourth, there must be a way to do certain computations on the current representation and on stored representations – does the thing look like food or a predator?

Assume a simple animal that has some sort of visual input system that detects blue light vs. red light – it eats blue things and runs from red things. It must be able to detect light, and process it according to some standard similar to human “red” vs “blue”, meaning that it not only can it sense a difference between “red” and “blue”, but it can retain that information long enough to shunt the information to some gadget that controls its actions – flight or bite.

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49 minutes ago, DavidOdden said:

I don’t think that a focus on the mechanics of consciousness tells us much, if anything about what consciousness is. The mechanics will be fairly similar across all Earth animals for evolutionary reasons, indeed all life on Earth has certain structural similarities for evolutionary reasons, but we should not conclude that the accidental developments on Earth define what it means to be “alive”. So we should probably base our account on what things do, not how they are built.

Yes, definitely.  As I said it's really only circumstantial evidence; it can be useful as additional information but by itself it cannot properly answer the question.

50 minutes ago, DavidOdden said:

My fragmentary solution (FYI) is a hybrid of behavior and building blocks, focused on perception, which is more complicated that direct sensation-and-reaction. We have to specify what must be true for a being to perceive (but I don’t care what the physical structure of the being is). First, there has to be a system of input devices so that you can hear, see, smell, or feel heat or pressure etc – some kind of sensory nerves. Second, there must be a way to convert that input into some kind of uniform internal representation (you don’t have actual light or sound rumbling around in your body). Third, there must be a way to retain that information for a useful amount of time. Fourth, there must be a way to do certain computations on the current representation and on stored representations – does the thing look like food or a predator?

Yes, that generally sounds about right, but how can we use it to determine what something's consciousness is like?

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12 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

 My fragmentary solution (FYI) is a hybrid of behavior and building blocks, focused on perception, which is more complicated that direct sensation-and-reaction. We have to specify what must be true for a being to perceive (but I don’t care what the physical structure of the being is). First, there has to be a system of input devices so that you can hear, see, smell, or feel heat or pressure etc – some kind of sensory nerves. Second, there must be a way to convert that input into some kind of uniform internal representation (you don’t have actual light or sound rumbling around in your body). Third, there must be a way to retain that information for a useful amount of time. Fourth, there must be a way to do certain computations on the current representation and on stored representations – does the thing look like food or a predator?

Assume a simple animal that has some sort of visual input system that detects blue light vs. red light – it eats blue things and runs from red things. It must be able to detect light, and process it according to some standard similar to human “red” vs “blue”, meaning that it not only can it sense a difference between “red” and “blue”, but it can retain that information long enough to shunt the information to some gadget that controls its actions – flight or bite.

Using your formulation , consciousness would ‘apply’ to bacteria and other ‘simple’ forms of life. A single celled organism discriminates between ‘stuff’ outside of itself and what is inside itself and is organized and maintains the ‘stuff’ inside itself in such a way as to keep the distinction between itself as an entity and the ‘rest of reality’.

Stretching the analogy further, perhaps to the point of breaking lol , the primordial soup of ‘raw’ chemicals is a collection of rocks whereas bacterium are snakes that organize and utilize the properties of the chemicals in a specific way. Information about chemical processes that underlay the mechanics of protein manufacture and energy extraction incorporates the idea of perception in some form. 

 

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14 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Yes, that generally sounds about right, but how can we use it to determine what something's consciousness is like?

We use it (the above model) to clear up what kind of thing we are talking about. This distinguishes consciousness from what an amoeba does, and potentially answers the tardigrade question, as long as we can answer the scientific questions about what tardigrades can actually do (I don’t know tardigrades, I just sort of know about them). Amoebas respond immediately to light, and show no evidence of higher-level processing where for example they are repelled by certain wavelengths and attracted by others. The question of whether amoebas perceive is a scientific one, not a philosophical one, so the contribution of the model is only to identify which concept is under discussion.

Apart from sci-fi scenarios, I don’t think we can experience another being’s consciousness, so I can’t know if ‘your red’ feels the same as ‘my red’, but we can start to classify consciousnesses, according to what the beings can do with their consciousness. The above basic elements of consciousness don’t distinguish between a conceptual consciousness vs. what I guess I’d call a stochastic-sorting consciousness that has a handful of piles that it tosses perceptual inputs into (a handful of eat, sex, kill, use, avoid…). Instead, we need to focus on particular types of consciousness, ones that can do different types of things.

Further subdivisions of types of consciousness risk seriously transgressing the science / philosophy boundary, but it doesn’t take any special training or equipment to distinguish human-type consciousness from animal consciousness. We can easily point to logic, concept-formation and volition as faculties which distinguish men from snakes, and I am satisfied with unifying those three as aspects of the faculty of reason – unifying man’s essential nature, rather than disintegrating it into a laundry list of specifics. The first apt question then would be, how do we know that the nature of man’s consciousness is radically different from the nature of a snake’s consciousness? The simple answer is, have your snake neighbor sign up for OO and let him argue that his consciousness is the same in kind as mine. He might convince me, if he uses reason rather than emotion (which is the essential nature of snake consciousness). It is a scientific question, but it’s pretty low-key science.

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2 hours ago, tadmjones said:

Using your formulation , consciousness would ‘apply’ to bacteria and other ‘simple’ forms of life. A single celled organism discriminates between ‘stuff’ outside of itself and what is inside itself and is organized and maintains the ‘stuff’ inside itself in such a way as to keep the distinction between itself as an entity and the ‘rest of reality’.

Yes, and the delineation between a chemical reaction vs. free will is clear. But perception is a reaction, a subspecies of that concept. Now is perception "being conscious"?

The maintenance of the "stuff" inside, that you bring up is "life" isn't it? And it is not consciously done in the case of a simple life form. But it is done and attributed to the entity. Hence the idea of volitional vs non-volitional consciousness. So it lives non-volitionally.

The delineation could have be done in the area of rights but it won't work. Should a bacteria have rights. At what point does an organism require rights. One could say it does not have the proper consciousness for it to be appropriate. But then, is a child conscious. Or one could say, it is not conscious in the sense that it has free will etc. Or simply … it is not conscious.

But "the primacy of consciousness" is not about any of this. It's simply that you can't be conscious of "nothing". You will always be aware of something. And if you are aware of something that is aware, it is aware of something.

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