Half a second to consciousness

I'm not sure I know what you are saying, Malf. Is it that we should suspend our questioning of how things came about and just accept that the consensus view is correct (which is fortunate for materialists as that is the current consensus view)? Of course it varies from person to person - isn't that the point of discussing it?

Or are you saying that we should just trust the researchers to provide the answers eventually? That more and more brain scans will eventually explain how the brain produces consciousness? That's doesn't work for me because I don't start with the assumption that the brain does produce consciousness.
 
I'm not sure I know what you are saying, Malf. Is it that we should suspend our questioning of how things came about and just accept that the consensus view is correct (which is fortunate for materialists as that is the current consensus view)? Of course it varies from person to person - isn't that the point of discussing it?
Definitely keep questioning... but not from the perspective that the "other" position makes less sense or is more ridiculous than one's own position.

Or are you saying that we should just trust the researchers to provide the answers eventually? That more and more brain scans will eventually explain how the brain produces consciousness? That's doesn't work for me because I don't start with the assumption that the brain does produce consciousness.
Read widely from various sources and apply scepticism to all sides and be wary of anyone with certainty that they have all the answers.Try and come up with a 'best fit' model if you feel you need one, but don't cling to it too hard. I agree it's best not to start with any assumptions.
 
Read widely from various sources and apply scepticism to all sides and be wary of anyone with certainty that they have all the answers.Try and come up with a 'best fit' model if you feel you need one, but don't cling to it too hard. I agree it's best not to start with any assumptions.
I'd say that's more or less the way I approach things that I want to know more about. But that doesn't preclude me from having opinions. I don't know whether my worldview is a good fit because I can't know what is really true. Nor do I claim that science is bunk because my life benefits greatly from the advances in science. I do react to being told that because science makes those advances then I should be patient and wait for science to explain reality for me - especially when my own experience and reason is at odds with the consensus on matters of metaphysics.
 
This is my point about personal (in)credulity and what 'makes sense'. It varies so much from person to person (not to mention from philosopher to philosopher) that to use it in an argument is worthless. I try really hard to not use arguments from incredulity on here these days, even though they appear good enough for Chalmers to use ;).
What you fail to realise, is that science itself uses similar arguments, but in a slightly different context. You actually can't get away from arguments about credibility, plausibility, etc. Sure - once you have reduced a problem to equations that can actually be solved (that bit is very important) the rest is simply grinding through the math - but it starts with questions about plausibility.

David
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
At this point, we're simply going around in circles. I've already told you that the process is not amenable to reductionism, but I have described it for you so far as is possible. I'm not sure why "a non-necessary causal process" is in principle any less explanatory than "a necessary causal process". We have experience with both - the first, introspectively; the second, scientifically, or, in other words, out in physical reality. (And yes, by "unburdened" I mean "not deterministic", in the sense of its outcome not being forced or necessitated).
You have no idea whether we have experience with non-necessary causal processes.

But I can explain a necessary causal process to a certain degree. It is a process that follows a flowchart parameterized by previously established facts of the matter. I step through the flowchart, taking deterministic paths at each decision point. It's possible that one of the boxes in the flowchart has me consulting a source of random bits. A no point do I consult an oracle of indeterministic or "non-necessary" information.

Can you give me a description of non-necessary decision making on this level?

ETA: Here's another way of answering your question: it decides which path to take causally. That causal process, though, is not a necessitated one.
I still need some more hand-waving about how the path is chosen, if not deterministically by following a flowchart.

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

You have no idea whether we have experience with non-necessary causal processes.

But I can explain a necessary causal process to a certain degree. It is a process that follows a flowchart parameterized by previously established facts of the matter. I step through the flowchart, taking deterministic paths at each decision point. It's possible that one of the boxes in the flowchart has me consulting a source of random bits. A no point do I consult an oracle of indeterministic or "non-necessary" information.
Why does the deterministic path at each decision point get taken? Why does that particular decision happen rather than another?

You can certainly make this just-so claim. However, you do not have proof that consciousness is immaterial nor that any so-called immaterial things are not bound by laws of physics. Even if they are bound by "laws of immateriality," you have no proof that those laws aren't deterministic/random.
Where are these laws and what are they made of? How do they impose constraints on consciousness or matter?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Depends on your starting point. I don't think idealism is strange at all. Indeed, when I was much younger I scratched around in libraries and bookshops looking for something that made sense. I finally found it when I read about idealism.

Conversely, I was scratching around because the more I thought about a mechanistic universe and how it might have come about, the less it made any sense. All those coincidences. All that chance coming-together. All those empty explanations involving the law of large numbers. None of those contrivances are necessary if you think of reality as a manifestation of an infinitely creative mind. Mind is only strange if you insist it must be produced by matter.
My feelings are similar - Materialism starts with a something from nothing miracle, as noted by Sam Harris, and then just has a collection of brute facts that - as Feser notes - don't actually explain anything.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

I'm curious about anyone's reply to this:

I have a set of states, the present State of Affairs (SoA) at time T1, which we can represent with S@T1 = {s1, s2,.....sN}.

Then I have a set of states at T2, S@T2 = {s1_a,s2_a,......,sN_a}.

What does it mean for some subset of S@T1 to be the cause of a subset of S@T2? How does one determine what subset of S@T1 is the cause of the respective subset of S@T2 that represents the effect?

Is the effect a subset of S@T2, and does that mean the effect follows the cause? Because if a brick breaks a window it seems that there is a point where the brick hitting the window and the window shattering are happening at the same time...does this call for another set of states between T1 and T2? Or does the cause and effect happen at the same time?

And if the brick is the cause, and the shattered window the effect, doesn't that mean there is a relationship there where that which represents the effect determines what happens after the cause is applied? In which case the cause isn't what reduces the possible things that can happen at T2 to the actuality of S@T2 - so what does?

I've wondered about this for years now, and still not sure there's a definitive answer....

"Change is far more radical than we are at first inclined to suppose."
― Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution
 
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A no point do I consult an oracle of indeterministic or "non-necessary" information.
At no point have I mentioned an "oracle" or any other (external) source of information on which free-will decisions are based. I think this demonstrates pretty clearly that you are reading me based on your preconceptions, which is possibly why you don't/wont/refuse-to understand.

But let's look at your description of deterministic decision-making:

It is a process that follows a flowchart parameterized by previously established facts of the matter. I step through the flowchart, taking deterministic paths at each decision point. It's possible that one of the boxes in the flowchart has me consulting a source of random bits
What's curious to me about it is that you describe a discretised process, whereas most determistic processes are continuous. This can't even be gotten around by saying "But we need to mirror free will", because the will, too, is continuous, albeit that some moments are more significant than others. But anyway: yes, sure, I can provide a similar overview for a non-necessitated (free-will) process, although allowing for continuity (based on your description as far as is possible):

It is a process that follows a continuous causal path where previously established facts of the matter effect that path. The agent's will progresses along the path, which, whilst caused by prior facts, is caused non-necessarily rather than necessarily ("deterministically"), such that it may have been other than it is. It's possible that the willing agent (willingly, via the same non-necessitating causal process) chooses to make certain parts of the path subject to randomness.

Finally: I think Sci is asking some very, very important questions. In my view, the "deterministic versus random/arbitrary" dichotomy ultimately breaks down, but I've accepted it for the sake of argument.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
At no point have I mentioned an "oracle" or any other (external) source of information on which free-will decisions are based. I think this demonstrates pretty clearly that you are reading me based on your preconceptions, which is possibly why you don't/wont/refuse-to understand.
I was simply using the term oracle to refer to whatever additional information and/or decision-making capability you are referring to. Please believe me when I say I have no idea what sort of "oracle"* you are talking about, so I have no preconceptions about it.

What's curious to me about it is that you describe a discretised process, whereas most determistic processes are continuous. This can't even be gotten around by saying "But we need to mirror free will", because the will, too, is continuous, albeit that some moments are more significant than others. But anyway: yes, sure, I can provide a similar overview for a non-necessitated (free-will) process, although allowing for continuity (based on your description as far as is possible):
Remember, I'm only using the flowchart as an analogy to make it clear that all steps of the decision are predetermined by the parameters to the decision and by temporary values calculated during the decision making. And possibly by true random bits allowing arbitrary selection of paths.

It is a process that follows a continuous causal path where previously established facts of the matter effect that path. The agent's will progresses along the path, which, whilst caused by prior facts, is caused non-necessarily rather than necessarily ("deterministically"), such that it may have been other than it is. It's possible that the willing agent (willingly, via the same non-necessitating causal process) chooses to make certain parts of the path subject to randomness.
I do not know what it means for something to be caused non-necessarily and yet still actually occur. At the point where you are left with two choices, what exactly happens to cause one of them to ultimately occur? It is not a deterministic choice, based on some subset of some sort of flowchart. It is not a coin flip. How does it work? What is the "oracle" that contributes to the process? Why aren't you left hanging forever? Why don't you do both things?

Finally: I think Sci is asking some very, very important questions. In my view, the "deterministic versus random/arbitrary" dichotomy ultimately breaks down, but I've accepted it for the sake of argument.
And as I have said countless times, feel free to reject one or the other or both. That does not add clarity to your non-necessary decision making process.

~~ Paul

* Please substitute your own term if you don't like my scare-quoted term.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Why does the deterministic path at each decision point get taken? Why does that particular decision happen rather than another?
I do not know, but the process is described by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. And at the quantum level, some of the processes are stochastic, not deterministic.

Where are these laws and what are they made of? How do they impose constraints on consciousness or matter?
I doubt that the laws have physical existence. They simply describe what we have learned about the world. I think that consciousness is a physical process, so it follows the laws the same as anything else. It is possible, though I think unlikely, that there is a fundamental aspect of consciousness that we have not yet discovered ("panpsychism").

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I'm curious about anyone's reply to this:

I have a set of states, the present State of Affairs (SoA) at time T1, which we can represent with S@T1 = {s1, s2,.....sN}.

Then I have a set of states at T2, S@T2 = {s1_a,s2_a,......,sN_a}.

What does it mean for some subset of S@T1 to be the cause of a subset of S@T2? How does one determine what subset of S@T1 is the cause of the respective subset of S@T2 that represents the effect?
Determine which members of S@T1 are required to effect S@T2. Those are the determinants of the cause. But the cause also involves the laws of physics that get us from S@T1 to S@T2.

Is the effect a subset of S@T2, and does that mean the effect follows the cause? Because if a brick breaks a window it seems that there is a point where the brick hitting the window and the window shattering are happening at the same time...does this call for another set of states between T1 and T2? Or does the cause and effect happen at the same time?
The sets of states are continuous or possibly discrete at Planck time. Only by experiment can we determine what is required in one set to effect the next set. We don't know how the effect takes place except to the level we can explain it in physics. This means there will probably never be an ultimate explanation.

And if the brick is the cause, and the shattered window the effect, doesn't that mean there is a relationship there where that which represents the effect determines what happens after the cause is applied? In which case the cause isn't what reduces the possible things that can happen at T2 to the actuality of S@T2 - so what does?
I do not understand this question.

~~ Paul
 
Hi Paul,

I think the real problem in this discussion is that you are so "used to" the idea of necessitated causality that you don't (can't? It seems increasingly likely) recognise that it has "mysteries" as deep as those of non-necessitated causality. You simply take it for granted! That when a, b and c precede, d must ensue. You don't seem to question the strangeness of this idea - it "must'? But why on Earth "must" it? What is it that "compels" it, and why? - but when somebody puts an alternative to you, then all the questions get pulled out!

Note that I am not saying that something like the laws of physics do not exist in some sense, and lead to the sort of processes which I think we would agree that they do - I'm simply saying that in some hypothetical universe where they - and necessitated causality itself - did not exist, this state of affairs would sound as strange and difficult to justify as you seem to find of the non-necessitated causality which I've tried to introduce i.e. I do not think that the fact that you think it strange and lacking is a good reason to doubt the reality of non-necessitated causality, particularly since it is introspectively valid.

Unless there's anything you think particularly important I address, I think I'll leave this dialogue there. I think it can only get increasingly repetitive and fruitless from here on.
 
P.S. One thing I really ought to have addressed in Paul's last which I missed but will cover now is that I am not proposing the existence of, nor does non-necessitated causation require it, some sort of "oracle" or anything "extra" from which magic "missing" decision-making power is pulled.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
I think the real problem in this discussion is that you are so "used to" the idea of necessitated causality that you don't (can't? It seems increasingly likely) recognise that it has "mysteries" as deep as those of non-necessitated causality. You simply take it for granted! That when a, b and c precede, d must ensue. You don't seem to question the strangeness of this idea - it "must'? But why on Earth "must" it? What is it that "compels" it, and why? - but when somebody puts an alternative to you, then all the questions get pulled out!
It "must" follow in the sense that thousands of years of observation and theory building tells us that it must follow. But the fact that it does follow is separate from the ultimate question of why. I admit I have no answer to that. But no one has any answer to that question on any topic.

We build a computer and it works deterministically according to the laws of physics.

All I want from you is some hand waving idea of what goes on when I'm down to two choices and I pick on of them non-necessarily. You seem unwilling to venture a bit of an explanation. Is it because any sort of explanation will make it seem mechanistic and thus deterministic?

Note that I am not saying that something like the laws of physics do not exist in some sense, and lead to the sort of processes which I think we would agree that they do - I'm simply saying that in some hypothetical universe where they - and necessitated causality itself - did not exist, this state of affairs would sound as strange and difficult to justify as you seem to find of the non-necessitated causality which I've tried to introduce i.e. I do not think that the fact that you think it strange and lacking is a good reason to doubt the reality of non-necessitated causality, particularly since it is introspectively valid.
It's not introspectively valid. When I introspect on a decision, I'm clearly not seeing most of the steps I went through to make that decision. I might talk to myself about some of the steps along the way, but would you claim that I can describe exactly how I made the final choice? If you would claim that, then I ask you to describe it.

P.S. One thing I really ought to have addressed in Paul's last which I missed but will cover now is that I am not proposing the existence of, nor does non-necessitated causation require it, some sort of "oracle" or anything "extra" from which magic "missing" decision-making power is pulled.
But surely it must. Otherwise that leaves us able to describe only two ways of making a decision: deterministically and randomly. That is, unless you're really claiming that those two ways don't exist, in which case we've got nothing. In particular, why has physics not found anything that can be described as non-necessitating processes? And surely the fact that you're giving it the name non-necessitating suggests there is something else there.

~~ Paul
 
Paul, I think your message only confirms that our dialogue is becoming repetitive and thus not worth continuing - once again you request a reductive explanation of a process which I have affirmed several times is not amenable to (any further) reduction.

I hope you don't find this rude - I do continue to find all of this interesting, and I very much appreciate your interlocution, which has helped me to think more carefully about how to put my case, but I think we've reached the point of dimishing returns - wouldn't you agree?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

I do not know, but the process is described by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. And at the quantum level, some of the processes are stochastic, not deterministic.

I doubt that the laws have physical existence. They simply describe what we have learned about the world. I think that consciousness is a physical process, so it follows the laws the same as anything else. It is possible, though I think unlikely, that there is a fundamental aspect of consciousness that we have not yet discovered ("panpsychism").

~~ Paul
So you're saying there aren't any actual laws, they are just a name for patterns we've seen? Then what you're saying is that nothing ensures the observed patterns (whether completely predictable or stochastic) hold?

But then there certainly isn't determinism, just randomness that sometimes has a completely predictable pattern and sometimes does not. And so everything happens for no reason at all which would, AFAICTell, contradict the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Determine which members of S@T1 are required to effect S@T2. Those are the determinants of the cause. But the cause also involves the laws of physics that get us from S@T1 to S@T2.
Since what qualifies as an isolated state is dependent on how one chooses to parse reality there are arguably infinite, or at the least an incredibly vast, amount of states. How does one determine which members of S@T1 are required?

Also I thought there were no laws? If the laws are just descriptions of patterns they don't have any normative power to get us from S@T1 to S@T2.

The sets of states are continuous or possibly discrete at Planck time. Only by experiment can we determine what is required in one set to effect the next set. We don't know how the effect takes place except to the level we can explain it in physics. This means there will probably never be an ultimate explanation.
But physics is, at best, isolating the minimum subset states in one instance that are necessary for a subset of states in another instance. It would be an odd universe if all that there was to causation was simply having a set of states that, when present, cause another set of states to exist. It makes it seem like the universe is an endless while-loop checking to see if certain states are met and then instantiating the states representing the effects in the next go around.

How does one even begin to figure out which states at S@T1 are causes for states at S@T2 in such a reality?

I do not understand this question.
Is it characteristics of the brick or characteristics of the window that ultimately determine the final state in question, namely the shattered window?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
Paul, I think your message only confirms that our dialogue is becoming repetitive and thus not worth continuing - once again you request a reductive explanation of a process which I have affirmed several times is not amenable to (any further) reduction.
Not even a hand-waving description? Apparently you experience this when you introspect. What is it like?

I hope you don't find this rude - I do continue to find all of this interesting, and I very much appreciate your interlocution, which has helped me to think more carefully about how to put my case, but I think we've reached the point of dimishing returns - wouldn't you agree?
I guess so.

~~ Paul
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
So you're saying there aren't any actual laws, they are just a name for patterns we've seen? Then what you're saying is that nothing ensures the observed patterns (whether completely predictable or stochastic) hold?
Apparently they hold, or computers wouldn't work, the GPS system would be hopeless, and I could fly.

But whether math and the laws of physics actually exist as things or forces, well, I don't really know.

But then there certainly isn't determinism, just randomness that sometimes has a completely predictable pattern and sometimes does not. And so everything happens for no reason at all which would, AFAICTell, contradict the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
Why would you rule out determinism as a high-level outcome of quantum mechanics? Computers work. They are completely predictable.

Since what qualifies as an isolated state is dependent on how one chooses to parse reality there are arguably infinite, or at the least an incredibly vast, amount of states. How does one determine which members of S@T1 are required?
Design experiments with small number of states and figure out the required subset. Scientists do this all the time, particularly in particle accelerators and with lasers.

Also I thought there were no laws? If the laws are just descriptions of patterns they don't have any normative power to get us from S@T1 to S@T2.
Something has the power. I'm just not sure if I would say it is the laws. It might be better termed "physical behavior" or something like that.

But physics is, at best, isolating the minimum subset states in one instance that are necessary for a subset of states in another instance. It would be an odd universe if all that there was to causation was simply having a set of states that, when present, cause another set of states to exist. It makes it seem like the universe is an endless while-loop checking to see if certain states are met and then instantiating the states representing the effects in the next go around.
That might be a perfectly good analogy. Hell, we could be a simulation.

How does one even begin to figure out which states at S@T1 are causes for states at S@T2 in such a reality?
So let's say we can't. What does this have to do with free will?

Is it characteristics of the brick or characteristics of the window that ultimately determine the final state in question, namely the shattered window?
Clearly both.

~~ Paul
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Apparently they hold, or computers wouldn't work, the GPS system would be hopeless, and I could fly.

But whether math and the laws of physics actually exist as things or forces, well, I don't really know.
Well if there is no imposition that demands things conform, determinism isn't a problem for free will. And since randomness is nonsensical, as it suggests things happen for no reason at all, that also isn't a concern.

Why would you rule out determinism as a high-level outcome of quantum mechanics? Computers work. They are completely predictable.
Computers as abstractions are completely predictable, as devices they are not. Even then their predictability is due to the causal power of humans rather than a general causal power imposing itself on humans.

Design experiments with small number of states and figure out the required subset. Scientists do this all the time, particularly in particle accelerators and with lasers.
Where do you even begin though? How could we ever get to the point where there were scientists if every event was seen as genuine possible cause to every succeeding event?

It seems to me we recognize there's more to causality than events preceding successive events. Humans seem to have an imperfect but arguably good enough ability to detect causal power.

Something has the power. I'm just not sure if I would say it is the laws. It might be better termed "physical behavior" or something like that.
Well if that something is a Prime Mover, a being of Pure Actuality, then it definitely shifts the assumptions about causation. That would then impact our assessment of whether there's any problem for free will with respect to the rest of the universe.

That might be a perfectly good analogy. Hell, we could be a simulation.
That would only push the problem of causality down to how the simulation is run. If it's an Idealist simulation, as some have suggested***, then I don't really see the problem for free will since Mind(s?) would transcend/supercede Time/Causation.

There's also the Peer to Peer Simulation which suggests a distinction between the world observed and the place of consciousness within it - Arvan's New Theory of Free Will.

Basically the universe being a simulation seems to raise more questions for the nature of causality than it removes, since now we simply pass on the question of causation to the frame of reality higher than the simulation.

So let's say we can't. What does this have to do with free will?
Free will as a possibility depends on how one thinks causality works. I've already linked to possible models before.

Clearly both.
So you'd agree causation depends on effective properties (the nature of the brick that is thrown) and receptive properties (the nature of the window that is impacted)?

*** Notes:

a) Is the Universe a Self-Computing Consciousness? From Digital Physics to Roycean Idealism

b) http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0801/0801.0337.pdf
The Physical World as a Virtual Reality
Brian Whitworth

c) Bernard Haisch -> IS THE UNIVERSE A VAST, CONSCIOUSNESS CREATED VIRTUAL REALITY SIMULATION?

(Guy is a physicist who helped start the Digital Universe Foundation)

http://cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/408/672
 
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