New Book From Dennett...

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#21
This was my point - how do you explain what happens to consciousness during deep sleep from any position other than mind=brain? I am actually beginning to see how a "materialist" point of view might look on this subject. (Having said that, I hate polarizing. I prefer to think that we are all at different places along a sliding scale between the two extremes)
There's a thread with varied papers/videos related to dreaming that might be of interest.

Actually, I think Dennett is the one playing with words - I really believe that this is the level of this scientific debate. I think he wants to cleverly dither between saying we are conscious, but not explaining how this happens, and saying we are not conscious - it is all an illusion.
Agreed. A relevant paper from the Dennet Debunked discussion thread I posted above:

Heterophenomenology Debunked

What is analyzed in this paper is of fundamental importance to the viability of Dennett’s works on mind and consciousness. Dennett uses the heterophenomenology method as the basis to ground his thoughts on subjectivity and phenomenal experiences. It is argued here that Dennett’s formulation of heterophenomenology fails to provide the founding framework with which to ground studies on consciousness and qualia. Analysis in the paper has important import on the rest of his theory of consciousness and mind, for without credible philosophical underpinnings, his reasoning on consciousness and mind at large is not likely to amount to much.
I'd also recommend for anyone who hasn't read it Andrew Clifton's refutation of materialism:

An Empirical Case Against Materialism

Empirical arguments for materialism are highly circumstantial —based, as they are, upon inductions from our knowledge of the physical and upon the fact that mental phenomena have physical correlates, causes and effects.

However, the qualitative characteristics of first-person conscious experience are empirically distinct from uncontroversially physical phenomena in being—at least on our present knowledge—thoroughly resistant to the kind of abstract, formal description to which the latter are always, to some degree, readily amenable.

The prima facie inference that phenomenal qualities are, most probably, non-physical may be resisted either by denying their existence altogether or by proposing that they are properties of some peculiar sort of mysterious physical complexity, located, for example, within the functioning of the brain.

It is argued here, however, that the first, eliminative hypothesis is empirically absurd—while the second is extravagant, vague, ad hoc and (for various additional reasons) profoundly implausible.

Taken together, these considerations provide a compelling empirical case against materialism—yet its converse, mentalism, is usually regarded as subject to serious difficulties of its own.

I conclude by suggesting empirical and theoretical desiderata, respectively, for the vindication of materialism and alternatively, for the development and defense of a potentially robust and viable mentalist theory of consciousness.
 
#22
Malf, if there is one thing I do not do, it is play with words - I don't like it - if I thought that was all I was doing, I'd be inclined to ban myself from the forum!

Actually, I think Dennett is the one playing with words - I really believe that this is the level of this scientific debate. I think he wants to cleverly dither between saying we are conscious, but not explaining how this happens, and saying we are not conscious - it is all an illusion.

The point is that whether not not we have biological processes that give us awareness, nobody is explaining how these work - so why the hell did he title one of his books, "Consciousness explained" - isn't that playing with words?
I have been quite clear on the part that is the illusion and it is NOT our conscious awareness. Despite what you want us to believe, these biological processes are pretty well understood. But , important question: Are you claiming that these biological processes are uninvolved in our conscious awareness?

The bottom line is, he doesn't give us an explanation of how awareness arises. One day there will be an explanation, and all his posturing will look damn silly. Whether that explanation is couched in terms of materialism as we now know it, is another matter.
He doesn't give an explanation that satisfies you, fair enough. Given that explanations (in the detail you demand) are non existant (no matter the '-ism') that seems a little churlish. The philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, no intellectual slouch, might be helpful here:



Don't you ever worry that you yourself are being fooled - not that you are conscious - but with the idea that real, hard science has all this buttoned up.
Hang on! Am I saying "science has it all buttoned up", or am I promoting "promissory materialism".? You can't have it both ways :D

Why do I get the feeling statins are about to be introduced to the argument? ;)
 
#23
I have been quite clear on the part that is the illusion and it is NOT our conscious awareness. Despite what you want us to believe, these biological processes are pretty well understood. But , important question: Are you claiming that these biological processes are uninvolved in our conscious awareness?
Have you read Dennetts new book?
 
#27
One (of many) biological system contributing to perception and awareness. Not too in depth, it's only wiki.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_system
Yes, but Malf, nobody is suggesting that the brain doesn't do anything! It quite clearly pre-processes the data from the eyes and ears into information like "Grandma is approaching in a red coat". The quibble isn't with that layer of things - because those steps occur without conscious involvement - once you have learned to recognise your grandma.

Specifically in this context it is about actual awareness. A sophisticated automatic visual surveillance system might recognise faces etc, but nobody suggests that it is actually aware. In Chalmers' terminology, you are looking at an 'easy problem'.

David
 
#28
One (of many) biological system contributing to perception and awareness. Not too in depth, it's only wiki.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_system
A 2006 University of Pennsylvania study calculated the approximate bandwidth of human retinas to be about 8960 kilobits per second, whereas guinea pig retinas transfer at about 875 kilobits.[6]
This is what I'm talkin about! To advance our understanding, science needs to measure information as a parallel system to the chemistry and physics.

I am excited to get my hands on Bach/Bacteria. It is waiting for me at my favorite book store. I may strongly disagree about DD's metaphysics regarding Materialism, but he is an insightful thinker. I have been ranting about affordances on Skeptico. I am eager to read his take on them, memes and how information is embedded in bio-processes.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#29
Marcus Arvan was actually a student under Dennet, but he rejected Dennet's New Atheist catechisms - that real free will is impossible , that compatibilism makes any sense, and that materialism could be true.

From that last link:

Anyway, here's why I think the book is underappreciated. Here's a first pass: it's a book that more or less singlehandedly caused me, a one-time staunch physicalist, to become a mind-body dualist. I know this is just a personal anecdote, but still, I think it is worth dwelling on for a moment. I started out my undergraduate career doing philosophy of mind at Tufts with Dan Dennett, one of the hardest-core physicalists out there. I was completely on board with him. Dualism had always seemed silly to me, and completely at odds with any scientifically respectable account of reality. And reading David Chalmers' book The Conscious Mind didn't sway me at all. The Zombie Argument -- the argument that Chalmers' entire book was based on -- immediately struck me then (just as it does now) as utterly question-begging. It seemed to me that will share Chalmers' intuition that zombies are conceivable, and so metaphysically possible, if one antecedently finds dualism attractive. Since I didn't find dualism attractive in the slightest, the Zombie Argument seemed silly to me.

Anyway, I more or less remained a physicalist...until I read Rosenberg's book. What was it about the book that did it for me? What was it that converted me into dualist? The first preface of Rosenberg's wonderful premise hits the nail on the head.
All to say we shouldn't give up on materialists - they can be cured. ;-)

p.s. I do think he makes free will more of a problem than it needs to be, but OTOH P2P is a great hypothesis for a functional explanation for how reality works.
 
#31
Marcus Arvan was actually a student under Dennet, but he rejected Dennet's New Atheist catechisms - that real free will is impossible , that compatibilism makes any sense, and that materialism could be true.
It's always disturbing (but not surprising) to see that epistemological issues and overall philosophy can possibly be replaced with blatant indoctrination (of any kind) in our education system.

We underestimate the impact that authority figures have in college age kids. I would enjoy reading a study that examines the effect that his teachings had on their lives... For some reason, the word "nihilism" comes to mind.
 
#32
Yes, but Malf, nobody is suggesting that the brain doesn't do anything!
That seems to depend on who your talking to and the point being made. But at least you acknowledge that these biological processes are crucial to our conscious interaction with our environment.


It quite clearly pre-processes the data from the eyes and ears into information like "Grandma is approaching in a red coat". The quibble isn't with that layer of things - because those steps occur without conscious involvement - once you have learned to recognise your grandma.
To the bold, it's up for debate I guess, and depends on how you understand (and define) 'conscious involvement'.

It's also interesting that you have granted what you would call 'quail' as a property of (what you call) preprocessing (colour). Maybe you're softening David? :)


Specifically in this context it is about actual awareness. A sophisticated automatic visual surveillance system might recognise faces etc, but nobody suggests that it is actually aware. In Chalmers' terminology, you are looking at an 'easy problem'.
This is where Piglucci might say you're attributing a faux profundity to the process of experience that is unnecessary. Dennett might say that all the processes that are whirring away on the 'easy problems' ultimately dispense with the hard problem. Or another way to think of it is that the processes are so effective at what they do, they give the 'illusion' of the hard problem.[/quote]
 
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#33
Note. Nobody is implying that any of this isn't incredible, it is. Then again, any model (material or otherwise) that describes a conscious experience is going to appear incredible to the experient. I think dualism is incredible, but that alone isn't an argument against it.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#34
It's always disturbing (but not surprising) to see that epistemological issues and overall philosophy can possibly be replaced with blatant indoctrination (of any kind) in our education system.

We underestimate the impact that authority figures have in college age kids. I would enjoy reading a study that examines the effect that his teachings had on their lives... For some reason, the word "nihilism" comes to mind.
It is an interesting question - how many people have "skeptics" driven to depression based on the poorly thought out metaphysics of materialism?

Of course if academia acknowledged that materialism - if it were at all possible - would make all human life worthless (as at least the materialist Rosenberg admits) they would have to shift their efforts to disproving it empirically and arguing against it in philosophy. At least that would be the only moral course.

Rosenberg, however, also makes anyone sane recognize materialism must be false when he says all thoughts have to be illusions in his book The Atheist's Guide to Reality:

Now, here is the question we’ll try to answer: What makes the Paris neurons a set of neurons that is about Paris; what make them refer to Paris, to denote, name, point to, pick out Paris?...

The first clump of matter, the bit of wet stuff in my brain, the Paris neurons, is about the second chunk of matter, the much greater quantity of diverse kinds of stuff that make up Paris. How can the first clump—the Paris neurons in my brain—be about, denote, refer to, name, represent, or otherwise point to the second clump—the agglomeration of Paris?...

A more general version of this question is this: How can one clump of stuff anywhere in the universe be about some other clump of stuff anywhere else in the universe—right next to it or 100 million light-years away?

...Let’s suppose that the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way red octagons are about stopping. This is the first step down a slippery slope, a regress into total confusion. If the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way a red octagon is about stopping, then there has to be something in the brain that interprets the Paris neurons as being about Paris. After all, that’s how the stop sign is about stopping. It gets interpreted by us in a certain way. The difference is that in the case of the Paris neurons, the interpreter can only be another part of the brain...

What we need to get off the regress is some set of neurons that is about some stuff outside the brain without being interpreted—by anyone or anything else (including any other part of the brain)—as being about that stuff outside the brain. What we need is a clump of matter, in this case the Paris neurons, that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.

Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#36
Why unnecessary?
Facial recognition software doesn't have an experience. We do.

You can claim a "faux profundity" but the burden is on you to demonstrate that it is such.
Can you?
I don't even see it as profound necessarily - consciousness just transcends mechanistic explanations because it's an intrinsic, qualitative aspect of reality.

A Simple Proof of Mind-Body Dualism

"...the idea that the categorical properties that stand behind the relational properties of physics are properly called “physical” is implausible. Calling them “physical” is akin to calling Descartes’ notorious “mental substance” physical because it is, by definition, a substance. The fact of the matter is that the categorical grounds that Stoljar wishes to call “physical” are utterly different in kind than any other property in the world (except for, again, numerical properties, which certainly aren’t physical).

The “categorical grounds” that stand behind the physical relations that science studies – and, I admit, these grounds may well include qualitative properties of consciousness – are utterly unlike things physical properties such as electrical charge, neuronal firings, the “strings” of string theory, and so on. The categorical grounds that Stoljar calls physical cannot in principle be studied by science. If that is not sufficient to qualify something as “non-physical”, I don’t know what is.

At any rate – and I take it this is really the most important idea – regardless of what we call these things, it still follows from my argument that the qualitative properties of consciousness that we have long been concerned about cannot, in principle, be accounted for by any type of science. And isn’t that enough to refute every type of physicalism in the philosophy of mind that has ever been proposed?"
 
#37
There's a thread with varied papers/videos related to dreaming that might be of interest.



Agreed. A relevant paper from the Dennet Debunked discussion thread I posted above:

Heterophenomenology Debunked



I'd also recommend for anyone who hasn't read it Andrew Clifton's refutation of materialism:

An Empirical Case Against Materialism
It is an interesting question - how many people have "skeptics" driven to depression based on the poorly thought out metaphysics of materialism?

Of course if academia acknowledged that materialism - if it were at all possible - would make all human life worthless (as at least the materialist Rosenberg admits) they would have to shift their efforts to disproving it empirically and arguing against it in philosophy. At least that would be the only moral course.

Rosenberg, however, also makes anyone sane recognize materialism must be false when he says all thoughts have to be illusions in his book The Atheist's Guide to Reality:
One can google and find refutations of any metaphysic proposed. I'm not really sure it gets us anywhere?
 
#38
Why unnecessary?
Facial recognition software doesn't have an experience. We do.

You can claim a "faux profundity" but the burden is on you to demonstrate that it is such.
Can you?
Not really my claim, but Piglucci's... and I can't put it any better than in his video above. Perhaps he would say that 'the burden' is on Chalmers (and others) to demonstrate the profundity and 'otherness' of their 1st person experience.... Of course it feels profound because it's theirs, and is meant to feel like that. (he would probably put it better though, in a pleasant Italian accent like yours, Bucky ;) )

Perhaps it's worth remembering that in the entirety of biology, the building blocks appear to be nothing other than the 'physical' (atoms, molecules etc.)
 
#39
Not really my claim, but Piglucci's... and I can't put it any better than in his video above. Perhaps he would say that 'the burden' is on Chalmers (and others) to demonstrate the profundity and 'otherness' of their 1st person experience.... Of course it feels profound because it's theirs, and is meant to feel like that. (he would probably put it better though, in a pleasant Italian accent like yours, Bucky ;) )

Perhaps it's worth remembering that in the entirety of biology, the building blocks appear to be nothing other than the 'physical' (atoms, molecules etc.)
The point is that you have top notch scientists and philosophers expressing a spectrum of views regarding the nature of consciousness. If you want to work at the level of simply asking what science says, then take your pick of replies, but don't be fooled by the idea of taking a consensus view - most of those in any consensus are simply scientists who aren't really interested in the subject.

However, we aren't about doffing our caps to particular scientists and accepting that they know best (you may have already noticed that). This forum is here to help people think about these issues themselves, not regurgitate perceived wisdom.

Ultimately science was and is about explaining our experiences. When people looked up into the sky and say the sun, moon, and stars moving across the sky, they wanted to understand what they were seeing. We got Newton's laws, and explored space to an ever greater extent. However, because of the power of the church (to burn the awkward squad) science stayed out of the mental realm.

Without the church, I am pretty sure all the issues we discuss here would look vastly different.

Remember that the Church used to (and still does to a fair extent) condemn most of the phenomena we discuss as works of the Devil, or at least as phenomena that are best ignored because they lead people astray. Strangely, you are inclined to follow Church doctrine in this respect! Maybe you started out as a Christian - I don't know - but if you did, you may be still influenced by their teachings!

Here is a fascinating book by Marjorie Wollacott, who started out as a hard nosed scientist (a neurologist), except that she had some personal experiences.....

https://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Awareness-Awakening-Scientific-Mind/dp/144225033X

I don't know if this book has been discussed here before, but I would really recommend you read it! It is not overly technical, and it should make you think about just why conventional scientists say what they do, and what they ignore in order to do this.

David
 
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#40
The point is that you have top notch scientists and philosophers expressing a spectrum of views regarding the nature of consciousness. If you want to work at the level of simply asking what science says, then take your pick of replies, but don't be fooled by the idea of taking a consensus view - most of those in any consensus are simply scientists who aren't really interested in the subject.

However, we aren't about doffing our caps to particular scientists and accepting that they know best (you may have already noticed that). This forum is here to help people think about these issues themselves, not regurgitate perceived wisdom.

Ultimately science was and is about explaining our experiences. When people looked up into the sky and say the sun, moon, and stars moving across the sky, they wanted to understand what they were seeing. We got Newton's laws, and explored space to an ever greater extent. However, because of the power of the church (to burn the awkward squad) science stayed out of the mental realm.

Without the church, I am pretty sure all the issues we discuss here would look vastly different.

Remember that the Church used to (and still does to a fair extent) condemn most of the phenomena we discuss as works of the Devil, or at least as phenomena that are best ignored because they lead people astray. Strangely, you are inclined to follow Church doctrine in this respect! Maybe you started out as a Christian - I don't know - but if you did, you may be still influenced by their teachings!

Here is a fascinating book by Marjorie Wollacott, who started out as a hard nosed scientist (a neurologist), except that she had some personal experiences.....

https://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Awareness-Awakening-Scientific-Mind/dp/144225033X

I don't know if this book has been discussed here before, but I would really recommend you read it! It is not overly technical, and it should make you think about just why conventional scientists say what they do, and what they ignore in order to do this.

David
It ain't a cheap read :)
 
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