Forum Borealis has become a goto podcast of mine. It was really cool chatting with Al.

#41
Yes. I understand that you find the explanation unsatisfactory and incomplete. Is there a model that is complete and satisfactory? And that brings us back full circle: Why would a proponent of fundamental consciousness exclude an explanation on the basis that it stretches their credulity? You would be justifiably indignant if it were the other way round.

We should consider all perspectives, but be aware that none is any more ridiculous than the one we favour.
Well if we explain consciousness by saying it can't be physical, people may feel that is implausible/unpleasant/a copout or whatever, but it isn't a verbal trick. Whereas saying that consciousness just is something else that isn't consciousness is a verbal trick. In other words, instead of applying Sherlock Holmes' doctrine, that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, a person using the "just is" argument is simply evading the obvious conclusion!

Clearly,if you (I don't mean you personally - you are quoting a line of thought) argue with semantic tricks no conclusion is ever possible.

David
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#42
Well if we explain consciousness by saying it can't be physical, people may feel that is implausible/unpleasant/a copout or whatever, but it isn't a verbal trick. Whereas saying that consciousness just is something else that isn't consciousness is a verbal trick. In other words, instead of applying Sherlock Holmes' doctrine, that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, a person using the "just is" argument is simply evading the obvious conclusion!

Clearly,if you (I don't mean you personally - you are quoting a line of thought) argue with semantic tricks no conclusion is ever possible.

David
Yeah, this is how I see the distinction.

The "skeptic" movement's argument against consciousness being fundamental is nothing more than a shaming tactic (proponents fall for "woo", meanwhile "skeptics" are "Brights"), whereas the argument against materialism is a logical & empirical conclusion (interested readers please see Clifton's An Empirical Case Against Materialism) based on starting with materialist ideas of what makes up reality and concluding mental characteristics cannot in principle arise from interactions of said components.

Feser notes the way certain kinds of materialism are a collection of brute facts taken on faith - basically magic in the philosophically pejorative sense.

Indeed, if any view is plausibly accused of being “magical” in the sense in question, it is atheism itself. The reason is that it is very likely that an atheist has to hold that the operation of at least thefundamental laws that govern the universe is an “unintelligible brute fact”; as I have noted before, that was precisely the view taken by J. L. Mackie and Bertrand Russell. The reason an atheist (arguably) has to hold this is that to allow that the world is not ultimately a brute fact -- that it is intelligible through and through -- seems to entail that there is some level of reality which is radically non-contingent or necessary in an absolute sense. And that would in turn be to allow (so the traditional metaphysician will argue) that there is something which, as the Thomist would put it, is pure actuality and ipsum esse subsistens or “subsistent being itself” -- and thus something which has the divine attributes which inexorably flow from being pure actuality and ipsum esse subsistens. Hence it would be to give up atheism.

But to operate in a way that is ultimately unintelligible in principle -- as the atheist arguably has to say the fundamental laws of nature do, insofar as he has to say that they are “just there” as a brute fact, something that could have been otherwise but happens to exist anyway, with no explanation -- just is to be “magical” in the objectionable sense. In fact it is only on a theistic view of the world that the laws of nature are not “magical”; and the Mackie/Russell position is (as I argue in the post linked to above) ultimately incoherent for the same sorts of reason that magical thinking in general is incoherent. As is so often the case, the loudmouth New Atheist turns out to be exactly what he claims to despise -- in this case, a believer in “magical powers.”

Of course, there are other senses of the word “magic.” For example, the term is also used to refer to phenomena that are paranormal or occult, but not intrinsically unintelligible -- phenomena which do have an explanation, but where the explanation lies beyond the everyday material order of things and is to a significant extent closed to our investigation. Now, as I indicated earlier, there is no necessary connection between the “supernatural” (in the theological sense) and the “magical” in this paranormal sense. Someone could be a theist and reject all alleged paranormal phenomena. And someone could be an atheist and believe that there are some genuine paranormal phenomena. (C. D. Broad was one example of such an atheist. I do not know whether Stephen Braude would call himself an atheist, but his interest in the paranormal does not seem to be motivated by any religious concern.)
 
#44
I am still listening to this giant podcast!

@Alex - you said
You can't just contact Rupert Sheldrake and say I have been reading your book and I just wanted to ask a few questions
I have had a number of interesting email exchanges with him that began exactly like that!

Question - who was your interviewer on this show?

David
 
#45
It's interesting that he suspects that rather than consciousness collapsing probability waves, collapse is consciousness. IOW, as far as I can see, as soon as possibilities eventuate, they give rise to experience. It's an interesting idea and I haven't made up my mind whether it's correct, but it's certainly something that will marinate in my mind for a while.
I agree with that. The struggle to define consciousness is muddied by the variation in types and scales of consciousness. So if consciousness is somehow fundamental, we have to try to distill out what is the simplest element of consciousness that can be iterated and scaled up or down to produce more or less complex forms of consciousness. Consciousness is Oneness diverging and reflecting.

Oneness is an intuitive yet nonsensical proposition. We can metaphor around it and logic our way down into a tighter orbit around it, but Oneness is the beginning and end of logic and existence. It is ineffable and undefinable. The beginning of existence is differentiation in the Oneness and a reflection. Differentiation along various dimensions results in an identity/sameness and change/difference. Oneness is the Abyss or Chaos because there is no differentiation and therefore no patterned regularity or identity. To differentiate or define or overlay pattern is to bring order or regularity or rationality out of the chaos.

The collapse of the wave function is the process of bringing order to chaos. It is the process of differentiating or defining.

An object cannot be conscious by definition. And "pure awareness" cannot be conscious because awareness means nothing without an object of which to be aware. The phrase "pure awareness" is really just a metaphor for the ineffable Oneness and meditating on the Oneness evokes the feeling of freedom and transcendence which we call the mystical experience which is a dissolution of identity and its associated mental structures and stresses.

A water molecule in its observed state is an object and therefore not conscious. A water molecule with its dipole orientation in superposition could be thought of as existing on the boundary of the undifferentiated Abyss of chaos that interpenetrates all. I think that the transition of the water molecule from superposition to an observed definite state might be considered consciousness because it involves differentiation and reflection (reflection because observer and water molecule are the Oneness self-reflecting)

Scale up this process many orders of magnitude and... voila... you end up with the human experience of consciousness.

Object and memory are the same thing. Without memory there is no identity and therefore no differentiation or change. Differentiation between objects results in similarities and differences between objects which are "metaphors" or reflections or symbolic representations. All objects are symbolic representations of symbolic representations which is ultimately differentiated self-reflection. "Information" is another iteration of symbolic representation or reflection and is a kind of metaphor. Differentiating 1 from 0 and reflecting results in infinite information. Infinite information is meaningless chaos so the Oneness reflects upon this Abyss and forms an identity and uses metaphor to bring order to it.
 
#46
Well if we explain consciousness by saying it can't be physical, people may feel that is implausible/unpleasant/a copout or whatever, but it isn't a verbal trick. Whereas saying that consciousness just is something else that isn't consciousness is a verbal trick.
Not so sure exactly what you mean here. Just because the "biological/neurological processes" model doesn't coincde with your idea of immaterial consciousness, you can't say that it's a "verbal trick". Still, I've been here long enough to see verbal gymnastics and pseudoprofundity from the "consciousness is fundamental" proponents. Bernardo is a master at this, playing off the language limitations, and definition handicaps, that beset the field (I might even refer you to Hurm's post preceeding this :)).

It is not a "verbal trick" to say that he physicalist position is supported (not proved, obviously) by the wealth of correlative evidence before us, and that has been persuassive to many "great thinkers", as well as the academic consensus... But here's the question that almost everything we discuss boils down to: What is the difference between "chemistry" and "biochemistry"? "Conscious awareness" appears to be a product of, or strongly associated with, biological systems (in this "realm" at least). Why is that? On the face of it biochemistry appears to be nothing more than an interesting branch of chemistry; the way the elements are put together defines it, but those elements are no different from the "routine" elements of stardust. This is a falsifiable proposition: Find "something else" outside those elements that is unique to biochemistry.


In other words, instead of applying Sherlock Holmes' doctrine, that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, a person using the "just is" argument is simply evading the obvious conclusion!
Careful here. Once we introduce PK and other forms of psi and mediumistic communication, the idea of "impossible" becomes moot. Conan-Doyle (despite his personal dalliances) considered the supernatural "impossible" in his Holmes stories. Indeed, one of the "ten commandments" of detective writing is: All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. ;)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#47
Not so sure exactly what you mean here. Just because the "biological/neurological processes" model doesn't coincde with your idea of immaterial consciousness, you can't say that it's a "verbal trick". I've been here long enough to see verbal gymnastics and pseudoprofundity from the "consciousness is fundamental" proponents.
Examples? I still don't even know what pseudo-profundity is. Seems like a meaningless word, since it isn't clear how one distinguishes between the pseudo-profound & the actually profound. What category does the following fall into:


Bernardo is a master at this, playing off the language limitations, and definition handicaps, that beset the field (I might even refer you to Hurm's post preceeding this :)).
You would have to show us why either Hurm or Bernardo is "pseudo-profound" rather than just hitting the limitations of your comprehension. Nothing in Hurm's post seemed like an attempt to persuade by lofty language - rather it's in line with the work he's talked about both here in the past and on his blog.

The physicalist position is supported (not proved, obviously) by the wealth of correlative evidence before us, and that has been persuassive to many "great thinkers", as well as the academic consensus...
But if academic consensus is itself built on ignorance or anti-theist goals it hardly matters, though the global academic consensus on these questions may not, in fact, align with physicalism when we take the non-Western world into account. Even within the Western world the question is only now gaining traction with an increase in advocates for some immaterialist position.

In any case the right answer isn't a popularity contest. What matters is the argument someone uses to justify physicalism getting mental characteristics from matter which lacks all mental aspects, which would in turn be separate from the correlations between mental activity & physical brain states which no serious metaphysics - even Idealism - denies.

But here's the question that almost everything we discuss boils down to: What is the difference between "chemistry" and "biochemistry"? "Conscious awareness" appears to be a product of, or strongly associated with, biological systems (in this "realm" at least). Why is that? On the face of it biochemistry appears to be nothing more than an interesting branch of chemistry. The way the elements are put together defines it, but those elements are no different from the "routine" elements of stardust.
I agree with you here, partially, though with the caveat that we know so little about even this "mundane" reality it's hard to know with certainty whether organic compounds are necessary.

Careful here. Once we introduce PK and other forms of psi and mediumistic communication, the idea of "impossible" becomes moot.
Not at all, the rules of logic would still hold - see my last post where Feser distinguishes between the paranormal/supernatural and the nonsensical "no reason at all" magic materialism/physicalism often employs with its appeal to scientific laws for reality.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#48
Object and memory are the same thing. Without memory there is no identity and therefore no differentiation or change. Differentiation between objects results in similarities and differences between objects which are "metaphors" or reflections or symbolic representations. All objects are symbolic representations of symbolic representations which is ultimately differentiated self-reflection. "Information" is another iteration of symbolic representation or reflection and is a kind of metaphor. Differentiating 1 from 0 and reflecting results in infinite information. Infinite information is meaningless chaos so the Oneness reflects upon this Abyss and forms an identity and uses metaphor to bring order to it.
I strongly suspect you'd like this book:

"...according to information theory, the measure of a given message's information content is directly proportional to its "surprise value", it's improbability. So, for example, the information value that "it will be cloudy in Seattle" is much lower than, say, "it will snow in Miami". Thus, the quantity of information contained in a message is related to the amount of difference it communicates - Gregory Bateson even defined information as "the difference that makes a difference". And yet, as theorist Mark C. Taylor has pointed out, the unprecedented has the highest information content, and yet is unreadable. A truly singular, unprecedented phenomenon would in some sense make no sense - we would lack the tools of signification necessary to read or interpret it. This marks out the way in which all communication is tied to unspoken precedent, an "unthought thought", a present absence for which there can be no algorithm, insofar as the algorithmic articulation of the necessary preconditions of communication would itself be unprecedented, unreadable."
-On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences
 
#49
Ok. It's tricky when one is replying to person A, in the context of person A's comments, and person B chips in without that context, but here goes:

Examples? I still don't even know what pseudo-profundity is. Seems like a meaningless word, since it isn't clear how one distinguishes between the pseudo-profound & the actually profound. What category does the following fall into:




You would have to show us why either Hurm or Bernardo is "pseudo-profound" rather than just hitting the limitations of your comprehension. Nothing in Hurm's post seemed like an attempt to persuade by lofty language - rather it's in line with the work he's talked about both here in the past and on his blog.
I was responding David's charge that physicalists resort to "verbal tricks". I can accept that our prior understandings, and biases, may see verbal tricks where others don't... I am sympathetic to an idealist worldview but find "whirlpools of consciousness" more or less meaningless (Bernardo). There is something attractive about oneness (Hurm), but how does one really parse the sentence:

The phrase "pure awareness" is really just a metaphor for the ineffable Oneness and meditating on the Oneness evokes the feeling of freedom and transcendence which we call the mystical experience which is a dissolution of identity and its associated mental structures and stresses.

Have a read through his post again and, despite the cleverness of the vocabulary, does one really come out of it with a firmer grasp of... well, anything?

You're right, I may be simply reaching the limits of my comprehension, but it's all I've got :) This may also be David's problem when he sees a "verbal trick". I get that.

But if academic consensus is itself built on ignorance or anti-theist goals it hardly matters
A big "if"...
though the global academic consensus on these questions may not, in fact, align with physicalism when we take the non-Western world into account. Even within the Western world the question is only now gaining traction with an increase in advocates for some immaterialist position.

In any case the right answer isn't a popularity contest. What matters is the argument someone uses to justify physicalism getting mental characteristics from matter which lacks all mental aspects, which would in turn be separate from the correlations between mental activity & physical brain states which no serious metaphysics - even Idealism - denies.
Again, I was responding to David, who seems to enjoy referencing those persuaded by a fundamental view of consciousness, but I agree, it's not a popularity contest.


I agree with you here, partially, though with the caveat that we know so little about even this "mundane" reality it's hard to know with certainty whether organic compounds are necessary.
Yet you appear convinced that it can't maintain conscious awareness, and are prepared to deride someone who keeps that option open?





Not at all, the rules of logic would still hold - see my last post where Feser distinguishes between the paranormal/supernatural and the nonsensical "no reason at all" magic materialism/physicalism often employs with its appeal to scientific laws for reality.
Heh. Again this was a reference to detective fiction started by David. But perhaps it is a strawman version of physicalism that "appeals to laws", rather than using them as helpful tools to describe nature?
 
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#50
I strongly suspect you'd like this book:

"...according to information theory, the measure of a given message's information content is directly proportional to its "surprise value", it's improbability. So, for example, the information value that "it will be cloudy in Seattle" is much lower than, say, "it will snow in Miami". Thus, the quantity of information contained in a message is related to the amount of difference it communicates - Gregory Bateson even defined information as "the difference that makes a difference". And yet, as theorist Mark C. Taylor has pointed out, the unprecedented has the highest information content, and yet is unreadable. A truly singular, unprecedented phenomenon would in some sense make no sense - we would lack the tools of signification necessary to read or interpret it. This marks out the way in which all communication is tied to unspoken precedent, an "unthought thought", a present absence for which there can be no algorithm, insofar as the algorithmic articulation of the necessary preconditions of communication would itself be unprecedented, unreadable."
-On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences
"The difference that makes a difference"
"Unthought thought"
"A present absence"

So many delicious transcendental paradoxen in one paragraph... sounds like my cup of tea. :)
 
#51
I was responding David's charge that physicalists resort to "verbal tricks". I can accept that our prior understandings, and biases, may see verbal tricks where others don't... I am sympathetic to an idealist worldview but find "whirlpools of consciousness" more or less meaningless (Bernardo). There is something attractive about oneness (Hurm), but how does one really parse the sentence:
I consider that stating that consciousness awareness is just a word for a physiological condition (usually unspecified) is a verbal trick.

Not yours, it probably originated with Dennett (and that is a compliment to you!).

I tried to explain why above. Saying that conscious awareness is just a word, is almost the same as saying it is an illusion. I mean, the nearest analogy would be to say (seriously) that the gale blowing outside the house is just molecules moving about! Since molecules are always moving about, the explanation doesn't tell you anything - you still need to know why the gale is just molecules moving about. In this case there is a simple answer, but in the context of consciousness awareness an 'explanation' of that sort functions as a way to sidestep the fact that you don't have an explanation.

BTW, I agree with you about whirlpools of consciousness and similar metaphors - they don't do much for me either!

David
 
#52
There is something attractive about oneness (Hurm), but how does one really parse the sentence:

The phrase "pure awareness" is really just a metaphor for the ineffable Oneness and meditating on the Oneness evokes the feeling of freedom and transcendence which we call the mystical experience which is a dissolution of identity and its associated mental structures and stresses.

Have a read through his post again and, despite the cleverness of the vocabulary, does one really come out of it with a firmer grasp of... well, anything?

You're right, I may be simply reaching the limits of my comprehension, but it's all I've got :)
It reaches the limits of everyone's comprehension because it is fundamentally incomprehensible. You don't get a firmer grasp of anything because there is nothing there to grasp. All one can do is: string metaphors together in such a way as to orbit more and more tightly around this black hole at the center of all logic and structure and existence. There is no logical explanation or definition of consciousness because consciousness is the first line of poetry upon which volumes of prosaic analysis have endlessly expounded to form the mostly rigid structures of logic defining our present existence. The dissolution of egoic identity pulls one further into that black hole at the center of everything which can lead to the weird and dangerous and interesting stuff that occurs when rigid structures break down. Some people come back out with an altered egoic structure shedding the stresses of the former. Some people gain creative insights. Some people never come back out and go insane. The numinous Nothing is both promising potential, and categorically creepy.
 
#53
I strongly suspect you'd like this book:

"...according to information theory, the measure of a given message's information content is directly proportional to its "surprise value", it's improbability. So, for example, the information value that "it will be cloudy in Seattle" is much lower than, say, "it will snow in Miami". Thus, the quantity of information contained in a message is related to the amount of difference it communicates - Gregory Bateson even defined information as "the difference that makes a difference". And yet, as theorist Mark C. Taylor has pointed out, the unprecedented has the highest information content, and yet is unreadable. A truly singular, unprecedented phenomenon would in some sense make no sense - we would lack the tools of signification necessary to read or interpret it. This marks out the way in which all communication is tied to unspoken precedent, an "unthought thought", a present absence for which there can be no algorithm, insofar as the algorithmic articulation of the necessary preconditions of communication would itself be unprecedented, unreadable."
-On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences
Since I'm flat broke at the moment I put this book on my wishlist so maybe I'll get it as a gift soon :)
 
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#55
#56
malf said:
It is not a "verbal trick" to say that he physicalist position is supported (not proved, obviously) by the wealth of correlative evidence before us, and that has been persuassive to many "great thinkers", as well as the academic consensus...
Unless someone argues that the brain plays no role in the workings of the mind, all main competing positions are supported by the same evidence.

About the "great thinkers", it seems to me that most insightful thinkers of the last 100 years have not really supported mind=brain.

Academic consesus: that's great for stuff that is well comprehended. For deeply puzzling and difficult issues such as this one, consensus is just the byproduct of what they teach.
If academia taught panspychism as the orthodox view we would have a panspychist consensus. One way or the other an argument by consensus is not really a good one :)

cheerio
 
#58
As a response to all the metaphor talk, I have to say it is the goal of science to address observed measurables!!! If something is not measured in SI units (physics) - it needs to measured semi-empirically as "differences that make a difference". (Bateson).

Now, just as physics has two categories of measurements -- so does the study of information. Information has meaningful real-world relations - just as physics has force. Information has structured logical relations - just as physics as structural relations about mass (think quantum, atomic, cosmological and chemical structures).

Under structural relations; the science is from information theory and covers Thermodynamics, Shannon's MTC and the field of logic. There are other more derived measures for the results of organization of systems such as complexity. These fields are objective science and are poorly understood in the general public.

The other side from structure is our "measurements" of real-world meaning and the science of linguistics helps. Here the field categories are pragmatics, semantics and syntax. Metaphors - as semantics - help us compare the language. However, information science is more concerned about the data of real-world communication and the effects of the meanings behind the symbols.

Data is the bedrock in constructing process models and mental process are no different. Metaphors are wonderful to contemplate - but organized scientific measurement data is the way the issue will be resolved!!
 
#59
As a response to all the metaphor talk, I have to say it is the goal of science to address observed measurables!!! If something is not measured in SI units (physics) - it needs to measured semi-empirically as "differences that make a difference". (Bateson).

Now, just as physics has two categories of measurements -- so does the study of information. Information has meaningful real-world relations - just as physics has force. Information has structured logical relations - just as physics as structural relations about mass (think quantum, atomic, cosmological and chemical structures).

Under structural relations; the science is from information theory and covers Thermodynamics, Shannon's MTC and the field of logic. There are other more derived measures for the results of organization of systems such as complexity. These fields are objective science and are poorly understood in the general public.

The other side from structure is our "measurements" of real-world meaning and the science of linguistics helps. Here the field categories are pragmatics, semantics and syntax. Metaphors - as semantics - help us compare the language. However, information science is more concerned about the data of real-world communication and the effects of the meanings behind the symbols.

Data is the bedrock in constructing process models and mental process are no different. Metaphors are wonderful to contemplate - but organized scientific measurement data is the way the issue will be resolved!!
I agree that there is much more useful information to be gained from a study of information. Much of it is over my head, but I'm glad there's folks out there pioneering that field. This is expanding the field of physics and a very positive thing.

In attempting to develop a metaphysics I think there are two separate problems and they easily get conflated. We probe the boundaries of knowledge in search of patterns and laws and so what was once metaphysics is brought into the domain of physics (or other sciences). The second problem is ontological which cannot be reduced or answered without circularity or infinity. It could be that the "spooky" nature of quantum physics could be an encounter with the inherent circularity of existence: the snake eating its tail.

Do you think there is a boundary to knowledge (pattern/logic/rationality/structure/Logos)? It seems to me that there is no grounding of the structural aspect of reality and that all efforts to find a foundation lead to either circularity or infinity - this invokes the image of a bubble of structure floating on chaos or a boundary around all that is knowable... and stepping up to that boundary brings us face to face with the numinous.

If the structural aspect of reality is grounded on a deeper structure, what is it? And what is that grounded on? Turtles all the way down? How do you avoid circularity or infinity when attempting to discover the foundation of existence? How can one see one's own eyes without a mirror? Likewise perhaps we cannot describe consciousness directly but can only look at its reflections through metaphor. This is not to say that there is not much more useful info we can learn about consciousness and how it functions in its various manifestations... but like everything else science explores, there's a difference in asking the ontological question, "what is it?" and asking, "how does it work?" My contention is that the ultimate answer to the ontological question is: "a mirror" and this is what the observer effect and other quantum weirdness is telling us. Science is fundamentally limited from accepting this notion because circularity is a logical fallacy and science relies on logic.

So I think there is much more useful information to be gained through scientific study of physics and the brain and the mind. But fundamentally and ontologically I believe consciousness is a self-reflection that brings order out of chaos and that's what happens when an observer collapses the wave function.
 
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