MindBodyProblem

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Now the accusations of PainfulTalk can begin. Originally, I had included an exposition of the concept of causation and an explanation of why it applies only in experience, but that topic is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain, and the transcendental ideality of space and time are enough to see the mistaken assumption behind the mind-body problem.

No doubt the deductions above are difficult to understand. At least I can use this as an experiment to see where people have difficulty and how it can be remedied. As Kant says, “n this case, the danger is not that of being refuted, but of being misunderstood.”

(joke response: ) “You know, you coulda’ just said you’re a pan-psychist, and be done with it.” ;D

(real response: ) I just got back from Whistler, and am still catching up with everything. You absolutely totally completely deserve a full reading and response, and I’ll give it to you.

I have a bunch of stuff (work, meeting people, phone calls, organizing gatherings, fixing people’s computers at their house, urgent emails to respond to) I have to do now, though, so it may be as much as three days before I get back to you.

Based on a quick reading, this seems like "Berkeleyism," but I’m going to have to read this much faster than a skim, to give proper time and attention.

(Ruadhan, if you want there’s a bit of a discussion of this over on EgoBug)

When it comes to where/when experience happens, I’m with computationalism - I would expect artificial intelligences to have experience too, and so I don’t think zombies are possible.

As for the why and how, I don’t have a good answer, partly because I’m not sure I fully understand the question. I’d need to reread this text a few times before I can fully grasp it’s argument.

About the “space is only in our minds” thing: another way of describing it would be to think of a 3D video game world (Say, counterstrike): we see (and imagine) distance and position in it, but in fact, in “reality”, it’s all encoded one-dimensionally on the hard disk. It’s just an illusion in our minds, the game world would still be the same if we took out the screen and the part of the code that does the rendering (By the way, I’d like to try to integrate this in the main text, but first I’d like to see if it corresponds to your point of view).

Lion, take your time. I think these things are sufficiently interesting to think about in detail.

The one thing I would say about reading this is that it’s important to understand that it isn’t presented as something which is merely possible or probable (the way that, e.g. panpsychism is). It’s presented as a proof, which means that the conclusion can’t be rejected without first finding a flaw in the proof.

The comparison to Berkeley has been mentioned before. In fact, when Kant first published the Critique, he was accused of being Berkeley by so many people that he said, in the Prolegomena: “My protestation too against all charges of idealism is so valid and clear as even to seem superfluous, were there not incompetent judges, who, while they would have an old name for every deviation from their perverse though common opinion, and never judge of the spirit of philosophic nomenclature, but cling to the letter only, are ready to put their own conceits in the place of well-defined notions, and thereby deform and distort them. I have myself given this my theory the name of transcendental idealism, but that cannot authorize any one to confound it either with the empirical idealism of Descartes, (indeed, his was only an insoluble problem, owing to which he thought every one at liberty to deny the existence of the corporeal world, because it could never be proved satisfactorily), or with the mystical and visionary idealism of Berkeley, against which and other similar phantasms our Critique contains the proper antidote.”

Clearly he wasn’t pleased at having his philosophy considered to be the same as Berkeley’s. Emile, the inference that space is an illusion is precisely the inference that we aren’t supposed to draw; this is Berkeley’s conclusion - that the objects which we conjecture to exist in space aren’t actually there, and that space itself does not exist and so on. From this, Berkeley inferred the existence of God, as the immediate cause of our experiences.

The difference between Kant and Berkeley’s positions regarding the objects in space is the following. Berkeley supposed that the existence of objects in space is a conjecture. His conclusion was that the existence of objects in space was false and impossible. However, Kant observed that it is perception, and not conjecture, which presents spatial objects to the mind. In accordance with the normal rules of correct thought, one cannot deny the truth of what is presented in actual perception, and so the existence of a spatial world around us is not an illusion, but an empirical fact. What is an illusion is the idea that space and time pertain to the manner in which things would exist outside of our power to represent them to ourselves. Again, this is not a conjecture, but a proof has been presented.

People have a problem understanding this, because they suppose that if something has no existence outside of experience, then it is false and illusory. But this is entirely incorrect, as the example of pain demonstrates, for not everything which is represented in the mind is voluntary, but we can only regard a representation as true if it agrees with its object. But the existence of objects in space is empirically true, that is, it has been found to be true in experience. Consequently, it is true for me to say that my hand is at the end of my arm (something which would be false according to Berkeley), just as, when I am in pain, it is true for me to say that I am in pain.

I haven’t played Counterstrike, but I’ve played those games where you have to wear a virtual reality helmet and you see a three-dimensional world. Donald Hoffman tries to explain Kantian space in his book, Visual Intelligence, (without giving credit to Kant), with reference to virtual reality simulations. I personally don’t like this approach because it suggests that there is a different “reality” apart from the one that we see, and so it gives the impression that the spatial world around us is an illusion, comparable to the Matrix. That is, it is an illustration of Berkeley’s ideas, and not Kant’s. It is also unduly focussed on space, when it is more important to understand that time pertains only to experience. There is no comparable virtual-reality analogy for time, and so transcendental idealism can’t be understood with an analogy to virtual reality. Another problem with it is that the most that can be achieved with it is to communicate to somebody an idea which they will regard as a conjecture. That is, it will seem to be the case that what is said is: “Maybe this is the way things are,” rather than “This is the conclusion that is reached from these considerations.”

That said, though, feel free to add it if you think it will make things clearer for others. I came across this understanding years ago and now I have difficulty seeing where others will have difficulty. I suspect, though, that it is not the idea that space might be an illusion which people find difficult to grasp, but rather the idea that space is not an illusion, even though it has no existence independent of experience. I also tend to avoid metaphors and analogies, and prefer to state things literally, because metaphors are statements which aren’t true, and in the case of an analogy, the reader must introduce his own interpretation of what is being said, unless the author indicates precisely in what way one object is asserted to be like another. On the other hand, perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the situation, and Counterstrike is a much deeper game that I supposed it to be.

No, counterstrike is definitely not a deep game, I just chose that name at random because it’s a fairly famous game in 3D, any other would have worked as well as an example. I don’t know about how Hoffman deals with it, but I believe that since kant’s time, we’ve got lots of new metaphors to use when talking about this kind of abstract metaphysical stuff (Look how many discussions of the “soul”/“mind” now mention software !), still sticking to the metaphors of Kant’s day seems to me a bit like doing multiplications with roman numerals - sure, it can be done, and it used to be done all the time, but we’ve got better now.

I don’t know if I’d say that space is an illusion, and I don’t think the Matrix does much to explain that specific thing. If I understood correctly, your argument (or Kant’s) is that our way of organizing / perceiving space as three-dimentional, etc. is tied to experience ? I see that as similar (but quite stronger) to the idea that colours are a “human construct”, that don’t directly correspond to aspects of the real world (they’re more like averages of frequency of light reflected). So, I’m not as interested in the “virtual reality” side of things as I am in the “it looks like 3D but deep down under it all works as a one-dimensional string of bits on the hard disk).

I’m still parsing the main argument, (trying to figure out what an “extent” is,) but I figured I’d post a part of what I have queued up so far, since it seems relevant to what you all are talking about right now:

I had a hard time reading this, because I use the word “mind” differently than you did. When I realized that what you mean by “mind” is referring to what I call “awareness + mind,” and then reread what you wrote, things made a lot more sense.

To explain a little: I come at it thinking of three separate entities: Awareness, mind, and body.

  • Awareness being simply experience or awareness, without volition. That is, awareness does not do anything, it simply observes. The visage that it sees and hears and feels is called “the experienced.” So we have “awareness” (aka “observer,”) the “experienced” (aka “observed,” aka the “visage,” aka the “phenomenon,”) and the whole thing is wrapped up in one big “experience.”
  • Mind being something material, but material like software. Mind appears to exert some form of volition. At the very least, it sees impulses issuing forth from itself, and it may think that it is responsible for the impulses being issued.
  • Body is clearly material, and requires no explanation.

In my model of the world, mind is material, just like the body. So the problem to me is not Mind vs. Body, but Awareness vs. Mind.

In your language, Mind seems to mean what I call “the experienced.” That is, it’s not on my Awareness-Mind-Body line, but rather, is referring to a location in experience, particularly: “the observed,” or “the experienced.” Or so I gather, from reading what you’re writing.

I avoid that language, (using “Mind” to refer to “the experienced,”) because it can potentially suggest that “the experienced” is the same thing as “the thing that does the thinking.” That is, I think most people, when they are asked: “What’s a mind,” will respond: “It’s the thing that does thinking.” So, that is why I avoid that use.

But I understand what you are saying, now.

I had a hard time reading this, because I use the word “mind” differently than you did. When I realized that what you mean by “mind” is referring to what I call “awareness + mind,” and then reread what you wrote, things made a lot more sense.

Perhaps you haven’t seen my response at WhatKnowledgeDeservesTrust. I saw that you were using the word in a different way than I was and explained that I meant by the mind that object which has experience as its attributes.

I avoid that language, (using “Mind” to refer to “the experienced,”) because it can potentially suggest that “the experienced” is the same thing as “the thing that does the thinking.” That is, I think most people, when they are asked: “What’s a mind,” will respond: “It’s the thing that does thinking.” So, that is why I avoid that use.

This is why I think it would be useful to have a system which would allow people to automatically translate what another says into their own language. Using a system like that would also force people to be more precise in their use of language, because their text would be untranslatable if they use metaphors, because that would require the translation program to add its own interpretation.

In any case, Kant’s term for “the thing that does the thinking” is the understanding. It appears that I have used the word “mind” in a slightly twofold way in the main text - as that which represents and as that to which representations are presented. The two are the same, though, because to say that something is represented by the mind or in the mind are merely two ways of saying the same thing.

Also, I don’t understand what you mean when you say that you’re trying to figure out what an “extent” is. I haven’t used that word.

Emile,

I don’t know about how Hoffman deals with it, but I believe that since kant’s time, we’ve got lots of new metaphors to use when talking about this kind of abstract metaphysical stuff (Look how many discussions of the “soul”/“mind” now mention software !), still sticking to the metaphors of Kant’s day seems to me a bit like doing multiplications with roman numerals - sure, it can be done, and it used to be done all the time, but we’ve got better now.

As I said, I avoid metaphors because they state things that aren’t true. I don’t think I have used any metaphors above, so I don’t know what you mean when refer to “sticking to the metaphors of Kant’s day”. Everything I stated above is asserted to be literally true. Metaphors are appropriate for poetry, but not for philosophy.

In addition, modern philosophers do not appear to me to have any clearer understanding of things than the philosophers of past ages. They appear to be casual essayists who consider philosophy to be an exercise in stating unsolvable problems, using metaphorical speech and giving their personal opinions, as though opinions counted as knowledge of some kind. Proof and rational argument seem to be things of the past.

Lion,

I think there’s a problem with the way that you’re using the words “mind” and “think”. You say that, according to your use of language, a zombie has a mind and thinks. Presumably you wouldn’t say that a stone has a mind and thinks. But what is the difference between a zombie and a stone?

You might say that a zombie computes, and this is why it can be said to think.

But a stone also computes. If we examine the surface of the stone in enough detail, we will find small fluctuations in temperature from point to point. This pattern will change over time as heat is conducted through the interior of the stone, and it will be conducted at different rates in different parts of the stone. Heat will also be exchanged with the environment. Also, there are internal vibrations (phonons) which move through the interior of the stone and scatter off impurities in a complex pattern, and to simulate a few seconds of this would take many hours in a powerful computer. If the complex goings-on in the zombie’s body is regarded as computation then the complex goings-on in the stone must also be regarded as computation.

In fact, if we consider a stone which is the same weight as the zombie, then they are made of the same numbers of electrons, protons and neutrons, and it is seen that the zombie and the stone are merely described by different solutions of the same equation.

Neither the zombie nor the stone are universal Turing machines; both are finite state automata.

You might point to the fact that the zombie is programmable, and so counts more truly as computation than the stone. But to program something we need to alter its initial configuration, and in the case of the zombie, this means that we have to rearrange his electrons, neutrons and protons. But if we can rearrange electrons, protons and neutrons, then we can turn a zombie into a stone or a stone into a zombie, and so both must count equally as computers. You might say that the zombie can be programmed to perform specific computations simply by speaking to it, while it would require advanced technology to program the stone to do a specific computation. But speech is a very advanced and complicated technology, when it is thought of as a way to program a physical object to do a computation, and if we do not in advance know the language which can be used with the zombie, then we might just as well be talking to a stone.

You might say that for some reason the computation performed by the zombie counts as thinking while the computation performed by the stone doesn’t. But if you say that you don’t know this reason, then that is the same as saying that you don’t know what you mean when you say that the zombie thinks. In any case, all computations consist of a series of table lookups, and if one set of table lookups count as thought, while another set of table lookups don’t, then how that can that possibly be, given that the only way that two tables can be different is by listing different items?

Also, it is univerally supposed (as far as I know) that when a physical process is regarded as performing a computation, then it is an objective matter of fact that that specific computation has been performed. So, when a computer factorizes a number, it is supposed that the computation it has performed is the factorization of that number, and furthermore that this is a matter of fact, and not merely one possible interpretation. I find this view to be false, for the following reason.

When we say that the computer has factorized the number, what is meant is that, if the factors had been different, the computer would have given a different output. It is obviously not the specific symbols which have been outputted which constitute the factorization, because they are merely conventions, and other people might use different symbols. Also, when we imagine that there are tables, which are being looked up, these tables are merely our way of conceptually representing the situation to ourselves. For the computer has logic circuits inside it, and the states of the computer are physical states, where electrons are in one place or another, and this is the physical situation, while the lookup tables exist only in our mind.

So if it is to be regarded as an objective fact, and not merely a convention, that the computer has factorized the number, then it must be because, if the factors of the number had been different, the computer would have given a different output.

But if three were equal to one plus one, the computer would also have given a different output, and so I can say that the computer has computed that three is not equal to one plus one. By the same method, I can produce a convoluted reason why, if the factors of some large number were not what they are, my pen would not behave as it does. Consequently, I can say that my pen has factorized that large number.

So I conclude that when some physical process occurs, some people might say that it has performed one computation, and other people might say that it has performed a different computation. Each person takes some mathematical fact in their mind, and says “If this mathematical fact were otherwise, the physical object would have behaved differently.” In this way, they regard the mathematical fact as the cause of physical behaviour, and say that the physical object has verified that mathematical fact.

But the truth is that, since all mathematical facts are true, and if one of them is regarded as false, then all the rest are false too, then for any mathematical fact and for any physical process, one can find a reason why, if the fact were false, the process would occur differently. Consequently any physical process can be regarded as verifying any mathematical fact that we choose.

In any case, this is an aside, and what I meant to say is that if one is to say that a zombie thinks, and has a mind, one must also say that a stone thinks, and has a mind, and in fact one must say that every physical object thinks, and has a mind.

So what I suggest, is that the reason that you say that a zombie thinks and has a mind, but a stone does not, is because the zombie looks and behaves like a person who has experience, and that to say that a zombie has a mind is merely a metaphor.

To address your question: “You say that, according to your use of language, a zombie has a mind and thinks. Presumably you wouldn’t say that a stone has a mind and thinks. But what is the difference between a zombie and a stone?”

I’d say: “Mind is a definition. I’m giving the definition to talk about a useful distinction, the distinction between a mind (like in a zombie,) and a body (like in a stone.)”

You are right, there are blurry edges to that distinction. It goes from “very white” to a place where there’s a fuzzy border and then to a place that is “very dark.”

Does a plant, say, have a mind? I think I could make a case that that’s in that fuzzy border area.

The language of “cybernetic systems” comes to mind. There are these configurations of matter where these hierarchies of capability have been connected to switching systems, and the like. The switching systems even have switching systems.

Perhaps there is a way to articulate the configurations of “susceptability,” of communication and control. Perhaps we can say: “This rock, it has within it no communication and control and response systems in it.” Perhaps. Or perhaps we are narrowing or minimizing a shady region (yet the region remains.)

Whether or not we say that stones think, (and has a mind,) it is not very interesting to me, because, like I said: “It’s all mind, to me.” That is, I view the world, zombie and rock included, as one gigantic computational system.

I do think that it’s more than “just a metaphor” to say that a zombie has a mind, and a rock does not, because people are able to usefully distinguish between things that have minds, and things that are rocks. I think people are really talking about a very real distinction, even though that distinction may not be perfectly black and white.

I think we’re having some difficulty communicating.

The way in which we use words like “mind” is, of course arbitrary.

So, whether one can say that a zombie has a mind depends on how you use the word mind.

people are able to usefully distinguish between things that have minds, and things that are rocks

You seem, to me at least, to be saying here that it is acceptable to say that a zombie has a mind and a stone does not because a zombie really does have a mind and a stone does not.

This seems to me to be circular, but perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what you are saying.

Let’s take Zombies out of the distinction for the moment, because most people don’t talk about Zombies.

I’m saying: When most people say, “A person has a mind, and a stone does not,” I’m saying that they actually mean something, and that something that they mean is sensible.

That is: Just because there’s that fuzzy part there, there’s still a useful distinction being made, regardless of our powers of articulation. Just because we can’t say what exactly it is for a rock to not have a mind, and for a person (or zombie or smart AI or whatever,) we’re still talking about something basically sensible.

I don’t think there is a fuzzy part there when most people say that a person has a mind and a stone doesn’t. I think that what they mean is that the person has experience, and the stone does not. This meaning of the word “mind” has been around for centuries, and the expression “mind-body problem” is in widespread use:

You mentioned earlier that you wanted to use the word in a different sense, to avoid giving the impression that “the thing that does the thinking” was the same as experience. So it seemed to me that you were introducing a new usage of the words “mind” and “think”, and in particular a usage very distinct from what is usually understood by those words, since you say that something can have a mind and can think without having experience.

But anyway, these things aren’t very important.

I consider that mind is to the body roughly what software is to hardware, so the existence (or “meaningfulness”) of minds isn’t any more of an issue than the existence of software.

I suspect this might explain why in the computer age, we’re more ready to admit to the existence of minds and define the “problem formerly known as mind-body” in terms of awareness and experience rather than mind.

Emile’s said it well.

I think that the problem has been severely mis-characterized in the past, and I think that this mischaracterization is at least somewhat part of the reason we’re having such problems today.

I mean, consider: If we confuse the mind (what does the thinking) with experience (observing,) and call them the same thing- then is it really that surprising that people think that they can solve the problem of experience, simply by convincing us that thinking is deterministic? Right?

But if we get used to the language of experience vs. mind vs. body, then it will be clear to people: “Explaining the mind is easy. Explaining experience is damn hard.”

As for history: I think that they actually thought that intelligence and mind and awareness were the same substance. I mean, I’ve read some of these metaphysical dudes’ books. And they actually do not distinguish between awareness, mind, soul, intelligence, volition, etc., etc.,. That is, it was very common in the past to take for granted that if a thing had intelligence, that it was therefor also a mind, that it was also therefore a soul, that it had awareness, that it exercised volition.

And, where did that mind live? It lived in a spiritual plane, they conceived, where it made it’s volitions, and where it decided what to do, and where it (by some connection) communicated with the brain to send it’s messages, and to pick up on what was happening.

So, the reason it was called the “Mind-Body” problem, was based on a misunderstanding, I believe, and nobody ever changed the language.

Come computers, come neuroscience, and it’s quite clear: There is no mind-body problem, it’s all just phsyics.

Come Dennett, and he triumphantly proclaims: “Ta-dah! Nothing’s mysterious! We know everything!”

Not so fast. We don’t understand experience.

We always knew there was something funny and different about awareness, it’s just we didn’t have it modelled right. It’s not surprising that it was confused by what it is so closely in proximity with; The mind is much closer to awareness than the body.

Come Chalmers, and he lucidly makes the case: Not only do we not understand it, it’s hard to understand how we could even begin to understand it, since you have to cross that explanatory gap somewhere.

I think that there is a method of approach: “Follow the money.” That is, reverse engineer how it is that we are even able to talk about the concept of awareness.

If we live on the other side of a chasm between dimensions, if there is actually an awareness-over-mind/body, we’ll see it there. If there is not, we will find a bug. If we find just memetic ego, an ancient holdover of some sort or another, then we have good grounds to believe in an initial condition setting.

But we never have good ground to believe: “We’re not actually experiencing.” That’s rediculous, and everyone should always remember that.

But regardless. I need to understand this “extensions” argument; I’m not really sure what you mean by “extension.” I got the position part. It’s “extension” that is weird.

I think “extension” is like “length”. As is, “it extends through space” (a fancy word but its meaning is nothing fancy).

I think the reason they made up a new word is to cover {length, area, volume} all in one word: I think “X has the property of extension” means “X has a length, or an area, or a volume”.

I mean, consider: If we confuse the mind (what does the thinking) with experience (observing,) and call them the same thing- then is it really that surprising that people think that they can solve the problem of experience, simply by convincing us that thinking is deterministic? Right?

I have never found anybody who claims that the relationship between experience and the physical world can be understood by asserting that thinking is deterministic.

But if we get used to the language of experience vs. mind vs. body, then it will be clear to people: “Explaining the mind is easy. Explaining experience is damn hard.”

Yes, but the problem is that you have introduced a new usage of the word “mind”, and supposed that everybody in the past was wrong because they confused your usage with theirs. But the truth is that your usage of the word never entered their minds at all, so they never suffered the confusion that you refer to.

You have done the same thing with “thinking”. Presumably, you would also say that a body who has no experience can still see, feel love and pain, desire and dread. You have removed from the words the only context which can give them relevance - namely experience. Consequently, your understanding of what thinking is, is vague and confused, as you explain yourself above. You have put yourself in a position where, when asked what you mean by thinking or the mind, all that you can say is that, in your personal opinion, you mean something by those words, but it’s all so vague and fluffy that you can’t actually say what you mean.

If I can assume that you have the same attitude towards pain - that is, you would say that pain has nothing to do with experience, then you can probably find some early philosopher who asked why events in the physical world are associated with pain. You could say, “If only you had the wisdom and insight to know that the real meaning of the word ‘pain’ has nothing to do with the experience of feeling pain, but instead ‘pain’ refers to something vague which I can’t say what it is (but in my personal opinion it means something), then you would see that explaining pain is easy, but explaining experience is hard.”

The actual situation is that if, by ‘pain’, we understand the experience of feeling pain, then we know precisely what we mean by the word. If ‘pain’ is supposed to refer to something which would remain in the absence of experience, then we can have only a vague and nonsensical idea of what the word is to be used for. The same is true of thought, knowing, and feeling.

If you would deprive all of these words of their meaning and say that they are vague and it’s only an opinion that maybe they refer to something, then you leave only the single word “experience” left to describe what is encountered in experience. For thinking, seeing, feeling pain and so on are different types of experience. If they are understood as such, which is the normal use of those words, then there is no confusion about what they mean, because we are familiar with those experiences. But your procedure is to deprive us of the ability to talk about these, by saying that the words have nothing to do with experience, thus leaving us in a state of confusion about what such words could possibly refer to.

I must say that I do not consider this procedure to be a great leap forward in our understanding, whether we have computers or not.

As for history: I think that they actually thought that intelligence and mind and awareness were the same substance. I mean, I’ve read some of these metaphysical dudes’ books. And they actually do not distinguish between awareness, mind, soul, intelligence, volition, etc., etc.,. That is, it was very common in the past to take for granted that if a thing had intelligence, that it was therefor also a mind, that it was also therefore a soul, that it had awareness, that it exercised volition.

I don’t know who you mean by “these metaphysical dudes”, but evidently you haven’t read Kant.

I think that the problem has been severely mis-characterized in the past, and I think that this mischaracterization is at least somewhat part of the reason we’re having such problems today.

The problem was solved in the past, and the reason that people are having problems today is because there has been a rejection of rational thought and proof, and we live in an age where it is considered that everything is opinion and nothing is fact and metaphorical poetry is preferable to rigorous thought and vagueness and informality are preferable to precision.

Come Chalmers, and he lucidly makes the case: Not only do we not understand it, it’s hard to understand how we could even begin to understand it, since you have to cross that explanatory gap somewhere.

Chalmers is one of the greatest of modern philosophers, because, without any discipline of thought at all, he was able to acquire an elementary understanding of a question which had been answered hundreds of years before he was born. He never understood the answer, of course, or even heard of it, but at least he understood that there was a question.

Dennett, on the other hand, can’t even understand the question, because he readily takes his own conjectures and opinions as though they were known facts, and considers that which he merely likes the idea of to be the truth. Consequently, he can believe the absurd conclusion that he doesn’t have experience. Dennett is a modern philosopher in the truest sense of the expression.

I think that there is a method of approach: “Follow the money.” That is, reverse engineer how it is that we are even able to talk about the concept of awareness.

Yes; I agree completely, or at least I would if you hadn’t used a metaphor. The procedure is to take things which we know for certain and enquire how we came to know those things and what other things we can possibly know with the same amount of certainty. It is the origin of concepts and knowledge, and not their usefulness or applicability, that we have reason to investigate. We know the truths of mathematics with certainty, and we also know that we have experience with certainty. By investigating how we can be certain of these, we can begin to look for other certain knowledge.

If we live on the other side of a chasm between dimensions, if there is actually an awareness-over-mind/body, we’ll see it there. If there is not, we will find a bug. If we find just memetic ego, an ancient holdover of some sort or another, then we have good grounds to believe in an initial condition setting.

I have no idea what any of these sentences mean.

But regardless. I need to understand this “extensions” argument; I’m not really sure what you mean by “extension.” I got the position part. It’s “extension” that is weird.

Bayle is right; I don’t mean anything apart from what is usually meant by “extension”. A thing is extended if it has a size. A line segment is extended because it has a length; an image is extended because it has an area; a solid object is extended because it has a volume.

An extended object has parts and is a combination of its parts, but not everything which is a combination of its parts is extended. An argument, for example, has parts, and is a combination of its parts, but is not extended. Only spatial things can be extended. Also, all objects which are extended must be in space, because there is nowhere else for them to be.

I consider that mind is to the body roughly what software is to hardware, so the existence (or “meaningfulness”) of minds isn’t any more of an issue than the existence of software.

The existence of software isn’t an objective matter of fact. As I explained above, when a physical process happens, one person can interpret it as one computation, while another person can interpret it as a different computation. The objective situation is that there are physical particles moving about. The software exists only in your interpretation, and it can be different for different people.

Incidentally, this refutes computationalism.

Hmm I disagree with you on debate methodology here, Ruadhan; just because you think “mind” (meaning “thinking mind” but not necessarily “experiencing mind”) is not a well-defined concept is not always (in my opinion) a reason to refuse to discuss it at all. I think what Lion said makes sense; a lot of people use that concept, and they seem to mean something by it. I think Lion’s stone vs. person example is best, but maybe you’ll be more convinced by an example of a usage that has utility outside of philosophy.

If I show people an A.I. program that plays tic-tac-toe by table lookup, they are likely to say, “that doesn’t even qualify as ‘intelligence’, it’s not like a mind at all”. So there is definitely some vague concept that they are thinking of that, here, helps us to organize the field of A.I. research.

Similarly, even if I buy your argument that, in some sense, any computer can be seen as computing anything, that doesn’t mean that there is no use in taking a Compilers class and learning what a compiler is, or what a regular expression is.

Therefore, I assert that, even when someone introduces into discussion a term which isn’t well-defined, it is often still useful to provisionally use that term – in hopes that, in some sense, the meaning of the term is a conflation of various things, some of which are nonsense and some of which actually make sense. It isn’t always necessary to completely factor out the sensical parts before you start talking.

Now I know you are going to say, “but that contaminates the philosophical proof and any conclusions after the introduction of a bad term into the discussion may be invalid”. But it would be possible to “rope off” the “contaminated” parts of the discussion from the “pure” ones; for instance, you could present the proof above, and then say, “now some people also talk about a “thinking mind” as separate from “experience” – if you do that, here is how your terminology fits into this story; note however that i think the term “thinking mind” is not well-defined and therefore I do not want to build further deductions using this term”.

This “roping off” would of course be easier within your software system.

Myself and Bayle talked about this offline and I think we cleared up some confusions. The concept that you are referring to with the term ‘mind’ is, as I understand it, the concept of information processing which appears to be similar in nature to the type of processing which humans do. I wasn’t saying that this concept shouldn’t be introduced, or is an evil or despicable concept. I was saying that one shouldn’t deliberately abandon the ability to refer to the more precise concept of experience.

Also, when I explained that different people can have different interpretations about which computation was performed by a particular physical process, I was not saying that the notion of computation is meaningless, or that there is no use in talking about it. It is indeed meaningful, and useful, to say that a computer has executed a particular computation. It is especially useful when there is a particular mathematical calculation whose result we want to know. Because we know that we can consistently regard the computer as performing that calculation, this allows us to use the computer to find the answers to mathematical problems.

So, I’m not saying that the notion of computation is useless. What I’m saying is that, from the point of view of somebody else, the computer can be interpreted as performing a different computation. (For example, when we say that the computer has gone through a series of intermediate states, and arrived at an output state, we might consider a computer to be in a state when each of its wires has a specific voltage. Another person might interpret the successive states of the computer to be states where the wires carry specific currents. There are, then, at least two different ways of looking at the same physical process and interpreting it as a series of successive states. That is, there are at least two different computations that we can regard the computer as having executed.)

So, it is not absolutely truly the objective case that the computer has performed one and only one computation. Which computation it has done is a matter of interpretation. The consequence of this is that computation cannot be the cause of experience. In order for computation to cause experience, it would have to be an actual fact (and not merely somebody’s interpretation) that a specific computation has been done.

I agree with most of Bayle’s comments about the use of language, however. Whenever I have used ‘mind’ in the main text above, it is always ‘experiencing mind’ that is meant. People should of course be free to substitute one term for another and use whatever language they wish. So, everybody here who wants to use the word ‘mind’ to refer to the thing that the artificial intelligence community is trying to achieve with software, should be able to substitute some other term of their own choosing when I use the word mind, and that way there should be no disagreements.

However, let me refer to the situation from the WhatKnowledgeDeservesTrust page to illustrate that it is not simply a matter of simple disagreements about whether this word or that should be used. There, Lion asked the question about how can it be that our physical bodies know about experience. Experience obviously isn’t a physical thing and doesn’t influence the course of physical events (because physical law determines how things should change over time). And yet our physical bodies say things like “I have experience.”

Now, this seems like a reasonable question. However, the question only arises because of a metaphor. It is said that the physical body knows about experience, and talks about experience. But, if we are considering something as a physical body, and only as a physical body, then that means that we are considering it only to have physical properties, such as its shape and temperature and so forth. It is correct to say that the physical body moves about, and causes vibrations of the air, because these are the properties that it has, as a physical body. But if we want to say that it asserts something, we must stop thinking of it as just being a physical body and start thinking of it as something which can assert. A physical object cannot assert anything, because it only has physical properties, and an assertion is neither a physical thing nor a property of physical things. An assertion can only be made by an experiencing mind.

So, the question appears because one does the following. First, one regards the body as merely a physical thing, which only has physical properties, and which behaves according to the laws of physics. Then one switches for a moment and considers it as an experiencing mind, which can make assertions, and which asserts that it has experience, and which therefore knows about experience. That is, it is because we ascribe a property to something which, by definition, cannot have that property, that the question appears. The property that we ascribe is the property of “knowing”, or “asserting”. The thing which, by definition, cannot have a property like that is the physical body, because when we regard something as a physical body, we are supposing it to have no properties at all except for physical properties, and “knowing” is not a physical property.

The body itself has moved about and caused air vibrations. We only regard it as asserting something because of our manner of interpreting. We hear the sounds and realise that they are similar to the sounds that are produced when an experiencing mind asserts something and communicates this to us by making a physical body move. Then we hypothesise the existence of such a mind making such an assertion. It is this hypothetical mind which knows about experience, and to attribute the knowledge to the body instead is only a metaphor.

Now, this is the correct answer to the question. The reason that I’m bringing it up here is because it illustrates how we can confuse ourselves if we do not distinguish between metaphors and literal speech. It also illustrates how we can find the answers to questions which interest us if we use language precisely. That is, if we had said all along that physical objects can know things, and assert things, and didn’t realise that this was a metaphor, then we could never find the answer to the question. (Incidentally, just to make sure that everybody understands what I mean by a metaphor, a metaphor is a statement which isn’t literally true, e.g. “Bayle is a pillar of society.”)

It may be that there are circumstances (for example in artificial intelligence) when the word ‘know’ could be usefully employed in a less precise sense, so that one could talk of a physical object knowing something. But not all circumstances are like that, and this one certainly isn’t.

Language is still just a convention, of course, but conventions can lead to confusion. If we want to answer questions which have confused most of the philosophers throughout history, we will have to be prepared to be more precise in our language than they have been.

Bayle also indicated to me that I give the impression of being a stressed out uptight patronizing philosopher Nazi who probably paces back and forth grinding my teeth, twitching, and denouncing everything anybody ever says as vague nonsense. I didn’t intend to give that impression, and I certainly hope I didn’t offend anybody. The problem with metaphysics is that it is necessary to be much more formal than people are accustomed to being, if one is not to merely end up stating opinions and reciting poetry. This is why I think a formal system of argument and vocabulary representation would be useful.

RuadhanO?’Flanagan, I am very, very glad you are posting here.

I find metaphysics difficult to understand. I hope that attempting to translate this into something closer to PlainTalk will help me understand them better.

My first steps towards plaintalk would be:

  • say “size” rather than “extent”
  • “directly talk about experience [rather than “mind”] to avoid the ambiguity” (as suggested by EmileKroeger)

I think I understand “computationalism” and “behaviorism”. I don’t yet understand these other descriptions and explanations (such as “idealism”) of the mind-body problem. So I hesitate to directly edit the document-mode directly.

The explanation of Idealism here seems to be:

  • (A long discussion of “space” and “time”, concluding that)
  • We don’t learn about time through our experiences. The mind must already have the ability to represent things as having duration. The mind must already have the ability to combine representations of 2 events “A” and “B” into a single representation “first A, then B”. If the mind didn’t already have this ability, then there would be no way for the mind to distinguish between “A then B”, “B then A”, or “A and B at the same time”.
  • Therefore, all of the objects which are to be found in space and time are representations of the mind.
  • pain, volition, etc. are also mental representations.
  • Because they are all mental representations, they can all interact with each other.

That last point makes no sense to me. (Am I translating it incorrectly from “Since physical processes are appearances in space and time and are hence representations of the mind, it can be understood without difficulty that they can interact with pain or volition, which are likewise mental representations.” ?)

It seems to be saying that injury causes pain, and volition causes movement, simply because mental representations “can” interact with each other.

So why do other things fail to interact with each other? Why does someone else’s injury fail to cause me pain? Why am I never directly aware of other people’s mental phenomena, only my own personal mental phenomena? Why must I be forced to guess at other people’s mental phenomena, through the indirect route of their mental phenomena causing conscious and unconscious “signals” in the physical world, which then lead to awareness in my mental world?

Why do I perceive the pain of a headache, no matter how much I desire for it to go away?

-- DavidCary

"Glitches in the Matrix ... and how to fix them by Peter B. Lloyd, in the last section “CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE MATRIX” is yet another attempt to answer the question “Can machines be conscious?”

I seem to be missing an essential point. If I understand correctly, Lloyd says that if a programmer knows, in detail, how the (deterministic) software in an android brain will lead to that android uttering “I see colors and feel emotions just as humans do,” then that statement is in fact not caused by emotions – it is faked.

Certainly I agree that, if it was in fact faked (if the “android brain” is merely a cassette tape player, or a radio reciever, or something else of that nature), then once a person knows exactly how that statement was produced, it removes all doubt that the statement was faked.

But the AI researchers I know are trying to produce “true” intelligence, and suspect they may produce “true” emotions. They have produced machines that really do play a good game of chess, machines that really do find the correct solution to a complicated mathematical problem – they don’t merely trick us into thinking they have done these things.

I see 3 ways of interpreting Lloyd’s claim (if a programmer knows, in detail, how the (deterministic) software in an android brain will lead to that android uttering “I see colors and feel emotions just as humans do,” then that statement is in fact not caused by emotions – it is faked.)

Either

  • android brains inherently cannot feel emotions. Only organic brains inside white female humans can feel emotions. Surely this isn’t what Lloyd meant?
  • Emotions are inherently non-deterministic. So if this “evidence” of emotion was produced by a deterministic process, then it obviously was not produced by an emotional (non-deterministic) process. (Yes, but what if the android brain occasionally chooses between 2 alternate actions in some non-deterministic manner? “randomly” ?)
  • Knowing, in detail, exactly how a person is led from one mental state (presumably one that externally appears like an emotional state, although we all know it’s a big fake) to later uttering “I see colors and feel emotions”, somehow invalidates those emotions. So does this mean that, in situations where someone had enough time to know a human well enough to get really good at understanding how that human will react, then any emotional-seeming reactions that were predicted are all invalid and fake? So killing off any such close friends of the human suddenly make his emotions real and valid again? Surely that’s not what Lloyd meant?

None of these 3 options ring true to me, so either Lloyd’s claim is wrong (which is not to say that his conclusion is wrong), or I am completely mis-understanding Lloyd.

The analisys of the Matrix in that test is interesting, but I was pretty disappointed when he attributed Consciousness to Quantum Mechanics. Eeek; I may not know enough to answer the Consciousness question, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be answered by appealing to some subatomic quantum mechanic weirdness.

It’s the wrong answer to the wrong question. He seems to mean consciousness == no determinism, which would be consciousness == free will. Now, I’m not completely certain of what is meant by consciousness, or of what is meant by free will, so maybe an argument could be made that they amount to the same. But it still seems to me that consciousness and free will have mostly been seperate (but related) debates. And as to Quantum Mechanics as the answer to free will:

  1. It’s not certain yet that Quantum Mechanics events are not deterministic. Weird, yes, but not necessarilly non-deterministic; and
  2. Even if Quantum Mechanics were non-deterministic, from the point of view of the brain as a system, there’s no difference between “true indeterministic randomness” from Quantum Mechanics effects, and “kinda random effects” from the rest of the universe - stuff like heat, etc. and
  3. I don’t think the brain is significantly affected one way or another by some atomic-level randomness - it may make it slightly more unpredictable, but it wouldn’t be a fundamental part of the way it works.

Anyway, I disagree pretty strongly with the “consciousness = QM” or “free will = QM” line of argument. I see it as a way of saying “look, humans are special! We’re not just machines, because of Quantum Mechanics MAGIC!”. It sounds like “Van Gogh’s paintings are beautifull because they have plenty of weird subatomic Quantum Effects in them!”.

Not that Humans are necessarily the same as machines. But any explanatin should be based on something a bit more relevant then Quantum Mechanics.

Sory David, I didn’t really answer your question, I went on a tangential rant about QM :)

RuadhanO?’Flanagan, thats great! best discussion, i’ve ever seen .

if nobody opposes, i will make the deductions above a proper page .

done: MindBodyProblemArticle .

for you, it’s my body which has a mind . but you know, that’s not true for me . for me, it’s my mind which has a body .

The rough draft of _Artificial Intelligence and Global Risk_ discusses something that articles “intelligence”. Yudkowsky emphasizes that he is not talking about Spearman’s g-factor (an abstraction of the individual differences in intelligence between humans). Instead, he focuses on “general intelligence, our capacity to handle a wide range of cognitive tasks incomprehensible to other species. … There may as yet be no academic consensus on intelligence, but there no doubt about the existence, or the power, of the thing-to-be-explained. There is something about humans that let us set our footprints on the Moon.

This “general intelligence” and “consciousness” seem to be analogous, in that people seem to intuitively recognize them in other people, but people argue over how to “properly” measure either one.

The computationalists (if I understand them correctly) say that once we have a good understanding of intelligence, we will also understand what consciousness really is. Perhaps they will turn out to be correct on that point, even if it turns out that consciousness is not an illusion.


[new]

LionRantsOnMindBodyProblem


I don’t understand;

General Intelligence seems to me altogether different than Consciousness.

I can conceive of a General Intelligence, even General Super-Intelligence, that was not observed by a Consciousness.

Further:

  • I do not understand how an understanding of General Intelligence can conceivably shed any light on Consciousness. It can only give us explanations of how thinking work, how emotions work, how sensory systems and signaling work, and so on.
    • If waterfalls are conscious, (we do not even know that they aren’t,) even a complete simulation of waterfalls does not yield to us an understanding of how the Consciousness that observes what it is to be a waterfall works.
  • Consciousness is not an illusion: If Consciousness were an illusion, who, conceivably, could be fooled?!

Dave, do you exist?

I think it doesn’t make sense to talk about consciousness in a general way as if it were clear what the word means to the speakers. In WhatIsConsciousness I have argued that consciousness can have different aspects. Intelligence is also a fuzzy notion to the point that people give up and say “intelligence is what an IQ test measures”. It seems clear that they are related. There can be no established awareness of “self” without having a memory about the history of this self and there can be no intelligence without memory. A machine can be made to contain memory, but this doesn’t imply that the machine has a “feeling of self” or even faint “intelligence”. WhatIsIntelligence is another question to be attacked in this context.

I thought we had agreed in WhatIsConsciousness, that we were talking about different things.

  • Survival Imperative
  • IQ, “g,” scorables
  • Intelligence, Mind
  • Self-Awareness
  • Consciousness, Awareness

These five things, (which I just pulled out of my head, pretty arbitrarily,) to me, are all different ideas. But the fifth, by far, is the most radically different.

This is because I can conceive of intelligent minds, even super-intelligent minds, with or without survival imperative, self-aware or otherwise, that operate without consciousness or awareness.

To me, the 5th thing is “me.” The other stuff, is not.

It can be argued (persuasively) that the 5th cannot exist without at least the 3rd.

But I can easily imagine the other 4 running without the 5th.

This is not a fuzzy idea in my mind; This is a perfectly clear, and utterly discrete distinction I am making: The difference between existing, and not existing.

yes, nothing of all you see, does need consciousness or awareness, but without consciousness or awareness you see nothing of all this .
simulation: you can’t simulate the mind . if you simulate it, your creatures feel themselves and are aware of themselves . then for them it’s reality and not simulation . so, men never will simulate mind .
a.i.: not in 20 and not in 50 years . first, the world as a hole must win consciousness and awareness and then we can need our computers and so on in an intelligent way . if we don’t need them intelligent, they don’t will become intelligent . not in a sense, which is good for us .

I understand and agree: Simulation is problematic, because after such a degree, you’ve birthed a child, within the simulation.

That said: We produce children, and we can produce machines that are mind. “Not in 50 years” is an assertion that will require will to enforce, I believe.

But we should move this to another page, since it’s not about the mind-body problem. Perhaps YesAiCanExist, or your ArtenVonWahrheit.

“another page”: no problem .

To quickly address what you were saying about “self” and memory:

It’s clear to me that awareness does not require self-awareness.

For example, if I lose myself in something, I can go long periods without paying attention to myself.

Further, I can imagine a being that is confined to starting at the color yellow, contemplating the color yellow, for long stretches at a time, without a single thought left to itself.

Is it still aware? Of course it is aware. It’s just not paying attention to itself.

Similarly, I can conceive of wiping away memory: It is not at all certain to me that awareness requires a sense of time.

Further, I suppose we could wipe away all “mind.”

There are sensations that it is to have memories, to hear quiet thoughts in the mind, to observe the deep rumblings of the mind and body. I can imagine that those can all be swept away, and yet there still be an awareness observing.

So while it is persuasive (and, with me, has some merit) to argue that observation demands an object of observation, it’s not 95% persuasive.

There is something very mysterious about what I am. It’s clear that it’s “mysterious,” when leading scientists claim that you don’t exist, yet you know with certainty that you do– no?

I’ve been asking these questions since I was 8 or 9. I cheered loudly and made a number of phone calls when Scientific American first published David Chalmer’s articles on the Hard Problem of Consciousness. “Yes, sure. We can time the rotation of objects in the brain. Whoop-dee. But look, you haven’t got us 1 inch closer to understanding the hard problems of Consciousness. You haven’t taken us even a milimeter into a deeper understanding there.”

Understanding how brains rotate images, understanding how emotions manipulate thoughts, and vice versa. Understanding the terrain in the mind: These are all very wonderful things, and will help us create smart cameras and smart systems and intelligences and even whole AI. We may even one day merge with these things. I am very excited by this research, and this study. Sign me up for cybernetic jacks.

But don’t try to fool me, that we’re explaining Consciousness here. That we’re explaining how there is an experience. We’re explaining how situations are modelled within biological computing systems (a brain,) yes. We’re explaining all sorts of stuff. But we’re not explaining experience.

That’s a whole different ball of wax, entirely.

If we want to say: “Well, okay. We only want to talk about Empirical things, here.” Then, fine: Okay. Pragmatism. Gotcha. Let’s figure out how minds work.

It’s just: I’ve always wanted to understand about what I am. Not just the bio-chemo-electro-mechanations of thought and emotion and body, that surround me, reflecting, reacting, planning, contemplating, deciding, dreaming, executing, and so on. But me, the one in the center, watching it all; Just watching. I’ve always wanted to know something about that, aka me.

And I’ve come to realize that we cannot Empirically discover it. I don’t think we can even subjectively discover it. It does nothing. It has no function. It does not need to be there.

It’s like, you go through a castle wall, and then through the castle doors, and into the main chamber, and then into the inner chamber, and then atop a podium, there is an alter, and within the alter, a chest, and within the chest, you open it up, and there’s nothing there. Not by the mechanics of the system. But that’s exactly the vantage point you operate from, and it’s the only thing that even allows the rest of the system to be observed, at all. If you topple the alter, the alter containing nothing, you don’t get to see the show any more.

We could erase just our Consciousness. But let the rest of the mind continue to reflect, react, plan, contemplate, decide, dream, execute, and so on. Just wipe out the Consciousness, let the rest continue to function. What happened? You just lost your ticket, to see the rest of the show. Further, nobody noticed any difference. Whatsoever.

Actually, there is a door. There is a bridge. It is a strange bridge, a crooked bridge, but there is a bridge: The fact that we (well, at least I,) are able to sign for “Awareness” at all. If Awareness were truely completely external, it would be strange / coincidental / intentional that it happened to observe an independent system that talked about Awareness.

some related thoughts in german: ArtenVonWahrheit

I recently read "The Hard Problem is Dead; Long live the hard problem" by Teed Rockwell. I liked the illustration of the two robots. The robots are defined in such a way that, almost by definition, either one or the other lacks consciousness and experience. But there seems to be a bit of confusion about which one is the zombie – or perhaps they are both zombies, or neither.

Further discussion: "The Hard Problem is Dead; Long live the hard problem" "Commentary on a Hard Problem Thought Experiment" "Reply to Commentaries on Thought Experiment"

Because humans are complicated, people who are trying to more deeply understand Consciousness and Awareness often speculate that (relatively) simpler non-human entities are also conscious or aware or both. Perhaps discussing examples of entities that seem to be conscious or aware or both and other things that seem to be neither, and then looking things are different between those two groups (i.e., what things are “correlated” with consciousness or awareness) will help us understand Consciousness and Awareness better.

In particular, in 2012 some philosophers are been discussing “Is the United States conscious?”, “Does the USA experience a stream of subjective experience over and above the individual experiences of its residents?” [1] [2] This seems connected to our discussion AreGroupsReal and HiveMind.

Define external redirect: RuadhanO

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