Thought vs Matter/Energy

Discussions on the philosophical foundations, assumptions, and implications of science, including the natural sciences.

Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 3:42 am 

Vat -

I understand, and I should probably be quiet - but not for those reasons. I've been doing 'consciousness' for many years and I'm all but too familiar with it. There are very good reasons why science hasn't cracked consciousness and I could give you all of them.

I'm not trying to spoil the discussion, I'm trying to pour some light on it. But people probably don't want the issue clarified in very simple terms because they prefer their insoluble problem. It's a strange phenomenon.

I can do consciousness, it's pretty easy, but because it's not wrapped up in formal-speak you think it's not worth anything. Quite the contrary, it's worth a great deal because it's simple.

I agree I have no answer in neurological terms, how the physical brain operates; I'm not a physical brain specialist and I suspect no one here is either. I couldn't tell you about neurons, etc, except in general terms. If you're saying that's what you want to discuss then fine, I'll disappear.

But consciousness is what we are. Please listen to what I'm saying. Consciousness isn't something objective that one can put under a microscope, it's what we actually are. That means that this whole investigation into consciousness is itself an activity of consciousness, right?

If you see that, then the question is whether consciousness can ever resolve the problem of itself. But I'm asking - what problem? Is there a real and actual problem? Or have we made it a problem?

What is the problem with consciousness? Tell me. We are conscious, not unconscious. We're awake, aware, and we know things. That's to say, we recognise things.

You're reading this now. You know the words and meanings because you recognise them because you have knowledge of English. If you didn't, or weren't aware of where you are, or anything else, you wouldn't be conscious at all.

So being conscious means you're alive, basically. So asking what consciousness is is like asking what life is. Consciousness isn't just the sensory mechanism of the nerves and brain, it's the whole phenomenon of existence.

Can you separate yourself from that? Please ask yourself in all seriousness whether that's possible. When we try to analyse consciousness, the very act of doing that is producing a false schism, a false division in consciousness itself, because the entity who does it isn't separate from consciousness. The experiencer of consciousness is himself part of consciousness: they are one.

So in what terms do we want an answer to consciousness? A partial view with a partial answer? Is that the understanding of consciousness? It's not, is it?

None of this is vague, meandering blah. This is true, it's good logical sense. But if you want me to shut up that's fine, I will. But you'll still be trying to work out consciousness tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that.

But I think we're spoiling lateralsuz's thread. Do you think we should start another one dedicated to consciousness?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 4:08 am 

Here's something more, as I have been challenged.

This is the opening sentence from a paper by Chalmers:

The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why physical processes give rise to consciousness


http://consc.net/papers/universal.pdf

Personally, I would dispute that consciousness is merely the result of any physical process. It's obviously part of it otherwise we wouldn't know we were here. But is that all there is to consciousness?

A moment's thought will tell you that it's not. Consciousness is far deeper than that!
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby doogles on June 26th, 2020, 8:48 am 

When both hyksos and TheVat recommended reading Chalmers before posting again, I thought that I would at least have a lazy look at what this author may have said. By 'lazy', I mean that I looked for some sort of Abstract of his ideas rather than read a whole book. The Wikipedia researcher gave what appeared to be a reasonably good summary and a Daniel Keane in an ABC NEWS article titled Philosopher David Chalmers on consciousness, the hard problem and the nature of reality, summarised some of his views on this site -- https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-07/ ... ss/8679884 .

Does this excerpt summarise Chalmers viewpoint?

"Simply put, the hard problem asks the following question: how can the machinery of the brain (the neurons and synapses) produce consciousness — the colours that we see, for example, or the sounds that we hear?
Look at a brain scan and you will see nothing resembling consciousness. Brains, in fact, do not appear particularly remarkable — which makes the fact that they are even more exceptional.
"The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience," Professor Chalmers wrote in a landmark 1995 paper. "When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect."
"It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.""


This suggests that his main contribution was to suggest that the really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. Could either hyksos or TheVat indicate whether there is something more significant in his book?

It's a tall order to recommend reading a book without indicating the main thrust of that book.

If there isn't something more substantial than what is indicated by the couple of abstracts I have mentioned then I'm inclined to agree with Charon's sentiment that what Chalmers has written is just a minor variation of more of the same old, same old. Regarding the last paragraph, it appears to me that the people in the philosophical discussions never mention the vast field of research from the 1960s to 80s on sensory imaging, the storage and regurgitation of mental images, the work of Penfield and Perot in stimulating recall of mental images in conscious epileptic patients, the areas of brain shown by various methods to be stimulated by sensory experience, or the role of the claustrum as an on-and-off switch for consciousness when stimulated by an electric probe.

I believe the answer will only be found using practical neuroscience, but never in philosophy.

I realise that the two summaries I checked may not have presented the main points that Chalmers makes, so I would be pleased to hear whether I would find something more substantial if I read the book.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Positor on June 26th, 2020, 9:12 am 

charon » June 26th, 2020, 9:08 am wrote:Personally, I would dispute that consciousness is merely the result of any physical process. It's obviously part of it otherwise we wouldn't know we were here. But is that all there is to consciousness?

A moment's thought will tell you that it's not. Consciousness is far deeper than that!

You have conflated "Consciousness is the result of a physical process" with "Consciousness is just a physical process". They are different statements. Consciousness can arise from a physical process but be distinct from it.

Physical processes exist. Consciousness exists. The question (partly philosophical and partly scientific) is: how exactly are the two related? Is consciousness an entirely separate 'substance' from physical matter and energy? If so, how does it physically interact with matter and energy, so as to affect physical particles in the brain in ways unknown to science? If not, how is it produced by non-living physical entities (particles, waves etc), and does it have a causal effect on those entities (at a microscopic level) which cannot be explained purely in terms of the interactions of such particles, waves etc? Does a particular physical state of the brain correspond to a particular mental state (e.g. a specific thought)? And so on.

I don't see why consciousness cannot investigate itself. We can analyse our bodies, so why not our minds?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 11:03 am 

Positor -

You have conflated "Consciousness is the result of a physical process" with "Consciousness is just a physical process". They are different statements. Consciousness can arise from a physical process but be distinct from it.


Yes, the quote from Chalmers says 'gives rise to'. Fair enough. But I also said ' It's obviously part of it' - i.e. part of consciousness is physical. I didn't say consciousness is 'just a physical process'.

Consciousness can arise from a physical process but be distinct from it.


How do we know that? When do we experience being conscious apart and distinct from the brain's activity?

I'm not saying it's not so, I'm just asking.

I don't see why consciousness cannot investigate itself. We can analyse our bodies, so why not our minds?


Because we are our minds. Who is to analyse them? The entity who says 'I will analyse my mind' is the mind!
Last edited by charon on June 26th, 2020, 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 26th, 2020, 11:13 am 

Hi Doogles

You may be right - that the 'thinking' activity of Turtles is entirely hard-wired, but there is also room to doubt.

I liked your point about the 'homing nature' that they have, (and presumably salmon and other creatures have too). It does suggest that this might be hard-wired, but it might equally just be that : the magnetic profile of where we are born leaves its imprint on our memories and sets a preference. I don't know if all turtles return to their place of birth. Could it be that some choose not to?

Either way, we do not seem to have identified anything that breaks the premise in the OP.

The question that hyksos refers to, is whether thought is still within the profile of chemical inevitability - just taking a longer and less obvious route'.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 26th, 2020, 11:16 am 

The Vat

I don't understand why trying to explain Consciousness in terms of the phyiscal material (of our bodies and the wider world), is exclusively philosophical? Surely, finding an explanation is part of the remit of science?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 11:24 am 

I don't think it's philosophical at all. Philosophy is just a lot of speculation, words, thoughts, and so on. It's not an investigation of consciousness unless it deals with observable fact. And then it's not philosophy.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on June 26th, 2020, 3:04 pm 

To find out about yourselves you have to turn to some opaque, complicated academic (who is actually just the same as you are) and try to make sense of his ideas, or whoever's ideas they are.

Oh no you got it wrong here. Chalmers is chapter 1 stuff. You really should aquaint yourself with the Hard Problem. Without this basic foundation, you won't ever be able to make sense of any of the rest of it.


And if anyone thinks, for one second, that Chalmers, poor chap, has the answer they're sorely misguided.

Chalmers definitely doesn't have the answers. He would laugh at you if he heard you say this.



Why is this a problem? Why is practically everything a 'problem'? Go ahead, someone tell me.

Well there already people who assert that consciousness is not a problem, and it is only a problem due to the way we have defined our terms.

The man that did this already was Daniel Dennett. Today his approach is called heterophenomenology. It is definitely not the mainstream approach, and Dennet appears to be its sole advocate. (but for balanced coverage, his book was very very popular ).

There are many other approaches to the problem, all of them in disagreement with each other. Honestly I've probably said too much detail. Consciousness is such a deep and complicated topic that you could go into it as a separate branch of inquiry. YOu could literally make a forum the size of this website that is just dedicated to consciousness alone. There are so many traditions mixed into this and each tradition has its own collection of heavy-hitting intellectuals, writers, mathematicians, and scientists in it.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on June 26th, 2020, 3:07 pm 

charon » June 26th, 2020, 11:42 am wrote:Vat -

I understand, and I should probably be quiet - but not for those reasons. I've been doing 'consciousness' for many years and I'm all but too familiar with it. There are very good reasons why science hasn't cracked consciousness and I could give you all of them.

I'm not trying to spoil the discussion, I'm trying to pour some light on it. But people probably don't want the issue clarified in very simple terms because they prefer their insoluble problem. It's a strange phenomenon.

I can do consciousness, it's pretty easy, but because it's not wrapped up in formal-speak you think it's not worth anything. Quite the contrary, it's worth a great deal because it's simple.

I agree I have no answer in neurological terms, how the physical brain operates; I'm not a physical brain specialist and I suspect no one here is either. I couldn't tell you about neurons, etc, except in general terms. If you're saying that's what you want to discuss then fine, I'll disappear.

But consciousness is what we are. Please listen to what I'm saying. Consciousness isn't something objective that one can put under a microscope, it's what we actually are. That means that this whole investigation into consciousness is itself an activity of consciousness, right?

If you see that, then the question is whether consciousness can ever resolve the problem of itself. But I'm asking - what problem? Is there a real and actual problem? Or have we made it a problem?

What is the problem with consciousness? Tell me. We are conscious, not unconscious. We're awake, aware, and we know things. That's to say, we recognise things.

You're reading this now. You know the words and meanings because you recognise them because you have knowledge of English. If you didn't, or weren't aware of where you are, or anything else, you wouldn't be conscious at all.

So being conscious means you're alive, basically. So asking what consciousness is is like asking what life is. Consciousness isn't just the sensory mechanism of the nerves and brain, it's the whole phenomenon of existence.

Can you separate yourself from that? Please ask yourself in all seriousness whether that's possible. When we try to analyse consciousness, the very act of doing that is producing a false schism, a false division in consciousness itself, because the entity who does it isn't separate from consciousness. The experiencer of consciousness is himself part of consciousness: they are one.

So in what terms do we want an answer to consciousness? A partial view with a partial answer? Is that the understanding of consciousness? It's not, is it?

None of this is vague, meandering blah. This is true, it's good logical sense. But if you want me to shut up that's fine, I will. But you'll still be trying to work out consciousness tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that.

But I think we're spoiling lateralsuz's thread. Do you think we should start another one dedicated to consciousness?

(I'm not a moderator so my strong advice to you is)

To cease this immediately and make a new thread on consciousness.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on June 26th, 2020, 3:52 pm 

lateralsuz » June 26th, 2020, 8:16 am wrote:The Vat

I don't understand why trying to explain Consciousness in terms of the phyiscal material (of our bodies and the wider world), is exclusively philosophical? Surely, finding an explanation is part of the remit of science?


Exclusively philosophical?

I have never made such a statement. In fact, I recommended Edelman for his biological/neurological approach to consciousness. What on earth are you talking about? This is a science thread, and I specifically suggested that this thread deal with the scientific questions of how neurological events give rise to consciousness. That is one explanatory level, and I've been following those efforts for at least two decades. For those interested in the philosophical aspects, and more ontological and metaphysical levels of explanation, I recommended several authors (Chalmers, et al) and further suggested searching our older threads on those topics. Nor do I have a problem with splitting off the philosophical digressions of this thread to form a new one in PCF.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby lateralsuz on June 26th, 2020, 5:03 pm 

The VAT

What you said was...

The question of human thought being reducible to physical processes in neurons, or thoughts having some causal efficacy that is not so reducible, lies in the realm of philosophy.


If I misunderstood you, then I hope you can see why.
You implied that it wasn't anywhere other than philosophy.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 7:59 pm 

hyksos -

Let's deal with this first.

(I'm not a moderator so my strong advice to you is)

To cease this immediately and make a new thread on consciousness.

TheVat liked this post


I'm afraid I got there first. It was addressed to Vat this morning.

"But I think we're spoiling lateralsuz's thread. Do you think we should start another one dedicated to consciousness?"

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=35708&p=351336#p351336

If others are going to answer my posts I'll respond on the same thread. Any other decision is up to Vat - which is why I find it strange that he liked your post but hasn't acted on it.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 26th, 2020, 8:00 pm 

hyksos -

Chalmers is chapter 1 stuff. You really should aquaint yourself with the Hard Problem. Without this basic foundation, you won't ever be able to make sense of any of the rest of it.


He's not chapter 1 stuff for me. As far as I'm concerned his writings are incomprehensible gobbledegook. Whatever it is, it's certainly not simple factual science.

Chalmers definitely doesn't have the answers. He would laugh at you if he heard you say this.


Glad to hear it, although I never said he did. I said anyone who thought he did was misguided.

So, I can't help wondering, fairly obviously, if this person you admire so much hasn't got the answers why are you so interested in him?

I'm not going to answer the rest of your post because you haven't said anything.

It strikes me you have ideas on how others should behave here, which is not your remit, but have nothing to say yourself. Except rely on what others have said, of course.

When you have some decent thoughts of your own I'll answer them.

I've been on many forums in my time. I've encountered several posters who had no skill in the subject concerned so, to compensate, liked to strut about telling others how to behave. It seems to be a syndrome.

This is the second post I've wasted on you. There won't be another one.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on June 26th, 2020, 8:11 pm 

I've been on many forums in my time. There were several posters who had no skill in the subject concerned so, to compensate, liked to strut about telling others how to behave.


Consciousness is such a deep and complicated topic that you could go into it as a separate branch of inquiry. YOu could literally make a forum the size of this website that is just dedicated to consciousness alone.

You believe you are going to solve the hard problem of consciousness in a couple posts on a forum tagged as footnotes on the bottom of someone's else's thread.

Your justification for this freely-chosen behavior is to dismiss all of Chalmers as being "too hard to read". But I won't pretend to strut around and tell you how to behave. Please continue to discredit yourself however you want.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on June 26th, 2020, 9:03 pm 

Looking back through the previous pages of this thread, it appears that it has circled back on the same philosophic and metascience themes several times and was rather misclassified when put in PT. I will move it to philosophy, so that themes like epiphenomenalism, panpsychism, the Hard Problem, causal efficacy, qualia, dual aspect theories, etc can be explored. I will ask those unwilling to follow study suggestions offered (over the entire course of the thread) by DavidC, davidm, hyksos, and myself to not dismiss or express grievances about subjects on which they choose to be uninformed. Contemplative insights would probably fare better in Religion, and all are welcome to start or pick up threads there.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby doogles on June 27th, 2020, 3:48 am 

Just before you shift this TheVat, could I get a word in on the basis of it being a personal theory. I have spent a bit of time on it today, and I would not like to think that I have wasted it ... Please?

lateralsuz wrote:Hi Doogles

You may be right - that the 'thinking' activity of Turtles is entirely hard-wired, but there is also room to doubt.

I liked your point about the 'homing nature' that they have, (and presumably salmon and other creatures have too). It does suggest that this might be hard-wired, but it might equally just be that : the magnetic profile of where we are born leaves its imprint on our memories and sets a preference. I don't know if all turtles return to their place of birth. Could it be that some choose not to?

Either way, we do not seem to have identified anything that breaks the premise in the OP.


Thanks for the comments lateralsuz. I wouldn't say that they are totally 'hard-wired' Actually, there is still a small amount of cerebral cortex in the brain of sea turtles, so they may be capable of a minimal amount of 'thought'. And because there are many homing areas across the world, obviously many turtles have deviated from this programming over the 200 million years they have existed. It's quite speculative about whether its a choice or an accident.

I like your contribution about a possible magnetic profile .. leaving its imprint on memories and setting preferences. But that would also have to be part of the hard-wiring.

Getting back to Chalmers, the previous posts suggest that what he is quoted as saying is ""The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience," "When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect." "It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.""

I thought TheVat had put things back on track when he said "This is a science thread, and I specifically suggested that this thread deal with the scientific questions of how neurological events give rise to consciousness." Is this going to change if the thread goes to Anything Philosophy?

Whereas Chalmers said that we have no good explanation of how or why 'experience' arises, the Wikipedia researcher on Edelman suggests that he made attempts to explain things at a biological level. I like Edelman's definition of consciousness -- "In Second Nature Edelman defines human consciousness as: "... what you lose on entering a dreamless deep sleep ... deep anaesthesia or coma ... what you regain after emerging from these states. [The] experience of a unitary scene composed variably of sensory responses ... memories ... situatedness ..."

I also like Edelman's idea of commencing with neonates and not mature adults. Obviously Chalmer's viewpoint associates 'consciousness' with experience.

This is an excerpt from 'Animals, Brains and Cultures' on what I believe Chalmers and Edelman were talking about. Apologies for the length but it is a descriptive piece of writing. References to any of the following statements are cited in the bibliography of the book. This may be off topic or it just may be a plausible suggestion from my own introspection coupled with research evidence of how and why 'experience' arises in animals.

"I’m born. I can’t recall anything that happened before I was about three years old. So the following is just a guess of mine about what went on before that in my mind.

All of us first enter this world as babies. The primitive parts of our brains (the source of our primitive drives) and their in-built instinctive pathways that control many things including our body temperatures, our mouth and suckling reflexes, the neuro-hormonal control of our viscera and our respiratory and cardiovascular systems are already well developed. Also apparently is our ability to differentiate between sweet and bitter tastes along with our associated likes or aversions to each. We also prefer human voices to other sounds, and female over male voices. But whether this is genetically determined or learned while we are in the womb in the manner I am about to describe would be difficult to decide.

Outside of this, we have a mass of raw neurones in our cerebral cortex, the last parts of our brain’s evolutionary development, just waiting for input. Anatomists have already recognised that up to about 18 months of age, most of those neurones have not yet connected with each other.

If we picture the birth environment in our minds, we should be able to imagine the stimuli that are available for detection by our senses. Whether we are capable of sentience at the time of birth is another matter. I have been present at the birth of thousands of animals and have viewed films of human births, and it is my opinion that neonates have virtually no conscious awareness of the world about them. There are potential stimuli, but whether neonates consciously detect them in any form is obviously a matter of conjecture. You, yourself are living proof of this. Can you remember anything that you were involved in before the age of about three years?

Let’s keep imagining. Among the first stimuli to test our senses would be the change from a warm, wet, and slimy, to a dry environment. Then there would be a conglomeration of sounds, the touch of our mother’s skin, the smell of our birth environment including the smell of our mother, the satisfaction of a teat in our mouth, the taste of warm milk, and maybe the sights of those attending at our birth, and the birthplace. I used the term ‘available to test our senses’ because as I said, I doubt that any neonate is aware of anything soon after birth. A stage must arrive though when the repetition of stimuli such as the sound and smell and touch of a mother become familiar and recognisable, indicating some sense of security, and becoming meaningful as the normal.

Let’s change our imagination to the microscopic level. Imagine those microscopically small nerve endings in our cerebral cortices. Imagine that a chemical odour, a body smell from the skin of our mother, reaches the back of our nose and stimulates a sensory nerve in the olfactory body, where it triggers an impulse down a nerve pathway to our thalamus. From here, an impulse travels through any of the available circuits to our cerebral cortex and/or to our short-term memory area. The thalamus could have selected a general area for smell sensations in the cerebral cortex. At the end of the line, a single neurone or even a bunch of neurones organise/s an arrangement of molecules somehow and this arrangement, whatever it is, represents the smell of our mother at that time. Psychologists tend to label such a trace as a 'representation'.

All I can suggest at this stage is that you imagine this - an arrangement of chemicals or molecules or neurones representing that smell will serve as a working theory. The exact changes that represent these residues in our brains are still not clear but there are some possibilities.

In Physiology of Small and Large Animals (1991), Ruckebusch and his co-authors (p 370) state “The molecular basis for long term memories involves changes in the ribonucleic acid (RNA) composition of neuron cell bodies and, in turn, their synthesis of specific proteins. How neuronal activity is transformed into RNA changes remains unknown.”

In 2008, Jahanshahi and his co-workers demonstrated that the number of neurones known as astrocytes, increased significantly in the hippocampus of rats that learned how to negotiate mazes.

So we have one working theory suggesting changes in proteins within cells, and another showing increases in the numbers of a certain type of cell. As you can perceive, we do not yet know the answers as to what constitutes memory residues. Some evidence suggests it could even be a variation of combinations of peptides in synapses.

It doesn’t really matter for the sake of this argument exactly what happens at the end so long as the same restructure, representing a sensory input residue, is consistent in each person.

There also appears to be a feedback set of neurones that connect the residues from these sensory inputs back to our thalamus, with the potential of being redirected once again to other parts of our brains.

Now the first time or two that this happens, nothing special affects us as little babies. But day by day, with repetition, this end cell, molecular or cell number, re-arrangement is repeated with certainty, becomes established in our little minds as a representation of the smell of our mothers. The smell of our mother becomes meaningful to us. It becomes the first piece of information that we know.

We start to feel secure with this. It is the first building block of our inner world that represents the world outside of our bodies. Imagine adding the touch and feel of our mother, the taste of her milk, the sounds of her voice, and the smell and sounds of all those people who come and visit and we will get an idea of how we become who we are at a very early age. Repeated stimuli through most of our senses create an inner world in our brains that is meaningful as a replica of the outside world, and which hopefully gives us a sense of security. Maybe this happens when we are about three years of age.

We can judge the time of onset of the development of vision input, not necessarily meaningful, by observing the first time babies seem to be looking at us in an inquisitive manner. The first time I became aware of this was when one of my granddaughters, Grace, was born. It felt slightly strange to be looking at a three weeks old baby who appeared to be staring back at me trying to work me out.

Research published by Courage and Adams in 1990 suggests that it is not until babies are two months of age that they start to focus on the eyes, noses and mouths of faces. They are least two years of age before they see as well as an adult. As I said earlier, these nerve connections may not become set pathways until a number of repetitions of the same sensory stimulus trigger off changes in the end neurones or sets of neurones. This theory of numerous repetitions being necessary to set up distinct changes at the end, fits in with the current theories of committing information to long-term memory.

Then month by month, new stimuli will be sensed and stored in our minds as representations of the environment."


These sensory image representations of course are the basis of all life experience.

The work of Penfield and Perot is evidence that such memory residues or representations exist as our sensory experiences in life.

I expect criticism, because it's novel, but does it make sense to anyone else?
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on June 27th, 2020, 9:35 pm 

Hi Doogles,
Whereas Chalmers said that we have no good explanation of how or why 'experience' arises, the Wikipedia researcher on Edelman suggests that he made attempts to explain things at a biological level.

Chalmers is just one of many who have pointed out issues surrounding phenomenal consciousness. Edelman is one of 10x many who have pointed out how to explain things at a biological level. I would agree these two seemingly disparate views help to separate 2 ways of thinking about the problem of consciousness but I’m afraid it’s not so easy. I hope this explanation helps. The concept of phenomenal versus psychological consciousness is at the center of Edleman’s (and Dennett’s and many other’s) confusion. Chalmers in fact, would have no problem at all accepting all that Edelman is saying here, he's not at odds with what Edelman says. But Edelman is not addressing the issue unfortunately.

From what I’ve seen, it’s very difficult for most to understand what the problem is all about. Why is there a problem at all? What is the problem? Why is it so difficult to resolve?

To start, it would help to understand 2 different definitions of “consciousness”. One is called “psychological consciousness” by Chalmers and has also been called the easy problem of consciousness. It’s not easy though, there’s nothing easy about it. But that’s ok, it’s just a label.

The easy problem (psychological consciousness) regards what can be objectively observed. Psychologists are interested in consciousness, and what they study is ‘easy’. Neuroscientists interested in how neurons interact, and how they work, are studying the easy problem. Trying to determine how DNA interacts with the neurons and what the various molecular interactions within the neuron are and how they work are ‘easy’. These are all things that science can agree upon. Someone in Australia can do a test on a neuron, and a scientist in Switzerland should be able to duplicate those results. Easy only means that we can, in principal, make measurements and come to agreements.

The hard problem (phenomenal consciousness) regards what can’t be objectively observed. The quote you provided is instructive.
"The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience," "When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect." "It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does."

The hard problem is of course, why we should have any sensations at all. Why shouldn’t all those molecular and cellular interactions proceed in an objectively observable way WITHOUT some added phenomenon occurring such as sensations and feelings?

The distinction between the easy problem and the hard problem is fundamental to discussions regarding phenomenal consciousness. It’s so important, I put a thread together years ago to refer to later. It’s worth going through at least the OP of this thread to grasp the basics of the easy versus the hard problem.
viewtopic.php?f=51&t=28417

To get back to Edelman, I’ll go through this quote and at the end of each section where he discusses something, where he tries to make a point, I’m going to put either “easy problem” or “hard problem” afterward so you can see what he’s really talking about and how he conflates the two.

"I’m born. I can’t recall anything that happened before I was about three years old. [EASY because he talks about recall at an age.] So the following is just a guess of mine about what went on before that in my mind. [Unclear, is he talking about the experience he had before 3? If so, this references the HARD problem.]

All of us first enter this world as babies. The primitive parts of our brains (the source of our primitive drives) and their in-built instinctive pathways that control many things including our body temperatures, our mouth and suckling reflexes, the neuro-hormonal control of our viscera and our respiratory and cardiovascular systems are already well developed. [EASY] Also apparently is our ability to differentiate between sweet and bitter tastes along with our associated likes or aversions to each. [our experience of tasting regards the HARD problem but it’s unclear if Edelman actually means this] We also prefer human voices to other sounds, and female over male voices. But whether this is genetically determined or learned while we are in the womb in the manner I am about to describe would be difficult to decide.[EASY if this is simply a genetically determined or learned trait]

Outside of this, we have a mass of raw neurones in our cerebral cortex, the last parts of our brain’s evolutionary development, just waiting for input. Anatomists have already recognised that up to about 18 months of age, most of those neurones have not yet connected with each other. [EASY problem]

If we picture the birth environment in our minds, we should be able to imagine the stimuli that are available for detection by our senses. [EASY problem] Whether we are capable of sentience at the time of birth is another matter. [Sentience is a specific type of phenomenal conscious experience so HARD problem] I have been present at the birth of thousands of animals and have viewed films of human births, and it is my opinion that neonates have virtually no conscious awareness of the world about them. There are potential stimuli, but whether neonates consciously detect them in any form is obviously a matter of conjecture. You, yourself are living proof of this. Can you remember anything that you were involved in before the age of about three years? [EASY problem. Memory is an EASY issue.]

Let’s keep imagining. Among the first stimuli to test our senses would be the change from a warm, wet, and slimy, to a dry environment. [Conflated again. Warm Wet Slimy and Dry are adjectives that often describe a felt experience but are intimately related to a physical state.] Then there would be a conglomeration of sounds, the touch of our mother’s skin, the smell of our birth environment including the smell of our mother, the satisfaction of a teat in our mouth, the taste of warm milk, and maybe the sights of those attending at our birth, and the birthplace. I used the term ‘available to test our senses’ because as I said, I doubt that any neonate is aware of anything soon after birth. [EASY problem. He outright says that he’s assuming no awareness of the phenomenon.] A stage must arrive though when the repetition of stimuli such as the sound and smell and touch of a mother become familiar and recognisable, indicating some sense of security, and becoming meaningful as the normal. [This stage that arrives Edelman seems to believe carries feeling so is a HARD problem. Why should this stage carry feeling?]

Let’s change our imagination to the microscopic level. Imagine those microscopically small nerve endings in our cerebral cortices. Imagine that a chemical odour, a body smell from the skin of our mother, reaches the back of our nose and stimulates a sensory nerve in the olfactory body, where it triggers an impulse down a nerve pathway to our thalamus. From here, an impulse travels through any of the available circuits to our cerebral cortex and/or to our short-term memory area. The thalamus could have selected a general area for smell sensations in the cerebral cortex. At the end of the line, a single neurone or even a bunch of neurones organise/s an arrangement of molecules somehow and this arrangement, whatever it is, represents the smell of our mother at that time. Psychologists tend to label such a trace as a 'representation'. [EASY problem. Nothing here really distinguishes the felt experience from the description of physical states.]

All I can suggest at this stage is that you imagine this - an arrangement of chemicals or molecules or neurones representing that smell will serve as a working theory. The exact changes that represent these residues in our brains are still not clear but there are some possibilities. [EASY problem. Again, nothing to distinguish felt states from physical states.]

In Physiology of Small and Large Animals (1991), Ruckebusch and his co-authors (p 370) state “The molecular basis for long term memories involves changes in the ribonucleic acid (RNA) composition of neuron cell bodies and, in turn, their synthesis of specific proteins. How neuronal activity is transformed into RNA changes remains unknown.” [EASY problem.]

In 2008, Jahanshahi and his co-workers demonstrated that the number of neurones known as astrocytes, increased significantly in the hippocampus of rats that learned how to negotiate mazes. [EASY problem]

So we have one working theory suggesting changes in proteins within cells, and another showing increases in the numbers of a certain type of cell. As you can perceive, we do not yet know the answers as to what constitutes memory residues. Some evidence suggests it could even be a variation of combinations of peptides in synapses. [EASY problem]

It doesn’t really matter for the sake of this argument exactly what happens at the end so long as the same restructure, representing a sensory input residue, is consistent in each person. [EASY problem]

There also appears to be a feedback set of neurones that connect the residues from these sensory inputs back to our thalamus, with the potential of being redirected once again to other parts of our brains. [EASY problem]

Now the first time or two that this happens, nothing special affects us as little babies. But day by day, with repetition, this end cell, molecular or cell number, re-arrangement is repeated with certainty, becomes established in our little minds as a representation of the smell of our mothers. The smell of our mother becomes meaningful to us. It becomes the first piece of information that we know. [EASY problem, though he’s starting to conflate the experience of meaningfulness which is a felt (HARD) issue with the molecular chain of events which is EASY]

We start to feel secure with this. It is the first building block of our inner world that represents the world outside of our bodies. Imagine adding the touch and feel of our mother, the taste of her milk, the sounds of her voice, and the smell and sounds of all those people who come and visit and we will get an idea of how we become who we are at a very early age. Repeated stimuli through most of our senses create an inner world in our brains that is meaningful as a replica of the outside world, and which hopefully gives us a sense of security. Maybe this happens when we are about three years of age. [HARD problem. Why should we pass through a change in our experience level from ‘no experience’ before the age of 3 to ‘having experience’ afterwards? Do babies less than 3 years have no sense of pain? Shame on Edelman to even suggest that!]

We can judge the time of onset of the development of vision input, not necessarily meaningful, by observing the first time babies seem to be looking at us in an inquisitive manner. The first time I became aware of this was when one of my granddaughters, Grace, was born. It felt slightly strange to be looking at a three weeks old baby who appeared to be staring back at me trying to work me out. [Seems Edelman is suggesting a 3 week old baby can now have experiences so that’s a HARD problem which is in contradiction to his statements earlier.]

Research published by Courage and Adams in 1990 suggests that it is not until babies are two months of age that they start to focus on the eyes, noses and mouths of faces. They are least two years of age before they see as well as an adult. As I said earlier, these nerve connections may not become set pathways until a number of repetitions of the same sensory stimulus trigger off changes in the end neurones or sets of neurones. This theory of numerous repetitions being necessary to set up distinct changes at the end, fits in with the current theories of committing information to long-term memory. [EASY problem again. When and how the body changes to adjust to physical reactions to the environment are EASY in that we can objectively observe them as Edelman points out.]

Then month by month, new stimuli will be sensed and stored in our minds as representations of the environment." [EASY problem per context. Edelman talks about physical states that represent sensing as opposed to the experiential states.]


What Edelman points out and what most people think about when referring to “consciousness” will generally be about the EASY problem, not the HARD problem.

If (big if) all we had to do were to work out all the easy problems in order to resolve the hard problem, then really, there wouldn’t be a hard problem at all. This is Dennett’s point. I suspect (without digging deeper) this is also Edelman’s point. And if that’s all there was to it, then perhaps there’s nothing more to worry about. We’ll eventually get through all the little issues of how molecules interact in each cell, how each cell interacts, and how the brain then produces a physical state which can be EQUATED to a phenomenal state (a felt experience). Sounds great. Less filling… Make mine a Miller Lite….

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning slams into the brick wall of reality. There’s a reason all those neuroscientists, biologists, physicists, and even those lunatics we call philosophers in 2 disparate camps are all yelling at each other across a wall that never gets any lower and in fact, grows higher every year. We're not resolving the EASY/HARD problem, it's actually getting worse. There are problems with the above, problems we’ve not resolved and we should agree upon, but which can’t be resolved using our present understanding of nature. The conception Edelman presents requires that we make exceptions to how nature works because of the HARD problem. We have to ditch some of our most precious axioms regarding nature in order to accept the stance that Edelman (and so many others) want to believe in. We have to accept non-physical interactions if we’re to accept the physical interactions Edelman wants. I realize that doesn’t make any sense, but I think that’s enough for one post. Suffice it to say, what people are arguing about is how to make the seemingly obvious square peg, fit into our round hole view of nature. There are too many contradictions and it simply doesn’t work.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby hyksos on June 27th, 2020, 10:07 pm 

There are problems with the above, problems we’ve not resolved and we should agree upon, but which can’t be resolved using our present understanding of nature.


This is the most brilliant insightful sentence I have ever seen written on this forum, and I've been here for years.

The conception Edelman presents requires that we make exceptions to how nature works because of the HARD problem. We have to ditch some of our most precious axioms regarding nature in order to accept the stance that Edelman (and so many others) want to believe in. We have to accept non-physical interactions if we’re to accept the physical interactions Edelman wants. I realize that doesn’t make any sense, but I think that’s enough for one post.


Of course there are million things I want to say about this. I will bite my tongue and tie myself to a chair by rope to stop from intervening in this thread. I will let you guys knock the ball around before I wait for the right time to engage.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby doogles on June 28th, 2020, 6:02 am 

Thank you very very much Dave_C for the obviously large amount of thought and work you put into your last post.

It's dawning on me that the reviewers of Chalmers philosophy that I consulted, had not really explained properly what exactly constituted the 'Hard Problem of Experience'. I had addressed the problem as if it was an understanding of what constituted 'experience' itself. You'll have to forgive me for being a bit naive about the terminology being used.

Your detailed responses and comments alongside each part of the dialogue suggest that the hard problem is not an understanding the development of 'experience' per se (that's 'easy'), rather it's an understanding of why we develop emotional feelings associated with sensory inputs, or during memory recall of sensory representations (eg PTSD).

I would like to clarify that before I go any further because I have a few ideas about 'emotions' and 'feelings'.

I had a look at that OP of the other thread you linked and it makes sense. I also had a look at the paper by Chalmers that you linked, but could not find a clear statement in plain English about exactly what he had in mind.

IF (Capital letters), the 'Hard Problem' is an explanation for the feelings we experience with the consciousness of 'self' and sensory inputs, then all I can say is that what I see as the answer lies in "more of the easy' answer; it involves more of the physiologically-known responses. But I'll leave that till I get confirmation from Dave_C or anyone else that I've perceived the problem in the correct perspective.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby TheVat on June 28th, 2020, 10:24 am 

Why there are qualia at all is the heart of the HPoC. Why we have a subjective aspect at all, rather than simply function as a "p-zed" (Chalmers slang for philosophical zombie) that processes information and exhibits behaviors without any inner perspective -- this is where the question moves from science and its "easy" problems, to philosophy and the HPoC. But even if we set qualia aside, there are holistic aspects of the mind's operation that challenge the traditional reductive methods of neuroscience that have treated the brain as a moist computer and require addressing emergent higher-order properties.

As Dave_C (I sense that forum moniker is not pure coincidence) elucidates, it is easy for threads to meander between the EPoC and the HPoC. Perhaps this thread lives in a zone both science and philosophy, and needs some sort of "both worlds" category to address both phenomenal and psychological consciousness. (for those looking on, who may not be well versed in philosophy jargon, it's worthwhile to learn the meaning of "phenomenal" as philosophers use it, which is quite distinct from its street usage)
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 28th, 2020, 12:26 pm 

Vat -

I readily confess all this terminology confuses me. I don't understand it and have no wish to use it, if I'm honest.

You know what I'm like, I just take everyday things and go from there. If that's all right with you. It doesn't make me less insightful, if you don't mind my saying so.

Neurologically, I have no idea, as I've said before. I'm not a neurologist and I don't have access to sophisticated equipment capable of scanning the brain, or nerves, and all the rest of it, so I can't go that route.

But, as far as I can see, the neurologists who can do all these things have no answer either so, if you don't mind my saying so, it looks as though the question's redundant, and certainly on the internet.

What we can do is think about it simply and logically. If that reduces the issue to 'philosophy' then so be it. But I don't see it that way, I still regard it as a practical matter. It's not really 'philosophical' to me.

So how do we have experiences of, say, tastes or flavours? Or indeed any feelings internally?

I think it's fairly simple, personally (don't laugh). We have taste buds. The body has senses and one of them is taste. It doesn't understand 'strawberry' or 'cheese' but each food produces a particular sensation - sweet, sour, bitter, and so on. That's right, isn't it?

We also have language and recognition, which is the memory of experience. The first time we taste, say, cheese there's a sensation. People call that cheese, there it is on the table. So that sensation is recorded as 'cheese' and henceforth recognised as that.

Is this a great problem of consciousness? I don't think so. It's what consciousness is, the faculty of awareness. There's physical awareness (we're not unconscious) and there's the awareness internally.

That too is sensate, as sensate as the physical nerves. Thoughts are a biological electro-material process in the brain. They are dependent on memory because we can't think of something not already stored in the brain cells. If it's not in there somewhere it doesn't exist for us.

That is our consciousness. Our consciousness, apart from being physically awake and conscious, is what we think and feel. It's also the language we use, so it becomes complex, but that is still part of thought. So psychologically, that is our consciousness, rooted firmly in memory.

We are, in fact, memory. All our thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, problems, aspirations, etc, are in that area. They too belong to the past as experience. They've been named and recorded, just like the taste of cheese.

All this psychological activity is sensate, related to the brain, the nerves, the senses, the whole biological organism . You know how, given a bad worry, it affects the body as well; it's not confined to the mind.

So that is our consciousness, both surface and hidden. And that consciousness is what we are, it is us. Consciousness isn't something objective like a car or a tree. It's actually what we are, and I don't think we realise that sufficiently.

So then the problem arises of how we can observe or investigate this consciousness. The experiencer of consciousness can't step outside it and look because the experiencer of consciousness is intrinsically part of it: he is that very consciousness and it is him.

We can look partially. We can analyse our thoughts, etc, but both the analyst and the analysis are also a thought process. So any results we get are always incomplete and, because of this, the problems are never completely resolved.

It actually requires a completely different approach to the whole issue, but that's another subject.

To go back to qualia, as I said, it's not difficult, at least not from here. It's all sensate and part of the whole physical process which includes the mind, the mind being part of the brain.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on June 28th, 2020, 9:29 pm 

Hi Doogles,
IF (Capital letters), the 'Hard Problem' is an explanation for the feelings we experience with the consciousness of 'self' and sensory inputs, then all I can say is that what I see as the answer lies in "more of the easy' answer; it involves more of the physiologically-known responses. But I'll leave that till I get confirmation from Dave_C or anyone else that I've perceived the problem in the correct perspective.


Thanks, that’s a good lead in. Yes, the hard problem can’t really be resolved by adding up all the easy problems, or at least Chalmers and many others would say so. Perhaps Edelman would disagree. There is no agreement on why we should have any experience at all and Chalmers (and many others) would say an explanation can’t be had, even in principal. But that's only a relatively small piece of the impossible puzzle people are playing with. The explanations of how phenomenal consciousness arises in a brain have issues themselves. In other words, neuroscience would tell you (today) that our phenomenal experiences are emergent on the sum total of all the neuron interactions. Unfortunately, there are contradictions within this logic such as what Chalmers calls "counterfactual sensitivity". But these additional requirements levied against this theory of how consciousness emerges from a brain, violate things we know about nature. So although we have a hard problem of consciousness, we also have problems with our present understanding of how consciousness can arise in a brain.

I have to travel this week on business but I'll work on a better response. I think this does address the OP. Epiphenomenalism is one of the issues with our present understanding of how the brain works, but there are others.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby Dave_C on June 28th, 2020, 9:32 pm 

hyksos » June 27th, 2020, 9:07 pm wrote:
There are problems with the above, problems we’ve not resolved and we should agree upon, but which can’t be resolved using our present understanding of nature.


This is the most brilliant insightful sentence I have ever seen written on this forum, and I've been here for years.

Thanks for the lavish compliment. I'm going to print this out and frame it! Hope I don't disappoint you. :)
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 29th, 2020, 12:09 am 

why we should have any experience at all


Because we'd be dead if we didn't. Or comatose. Or something. But not alive and functioning normally.

There's a difference between why we have experience and how. If we had no experience we'd be dead. How we have it is something else, but not very difficult. Things happen and they're recorded as memory. If they weren't recorded memory wouldn't exist and we wouldn't be able to function.

We keep questioning ordinary things. Why don't we ask what's wrong with the world, the chaos, the immorality, the violence? Putting that right is far more important than worrying about why apples are round and snow is white.

I don't know why I get involved with this stuff, it's so frustrating. Nobody cares anyway.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby doogles on June 29th, 2020, 6:15 am 

Thanks TheVat for that mention of qualia, and for recognising that answers to the 'The Hard Problem' may be as much in the Science area as the Philosophy. And Charon, I tend to find my thoughts running in parallel with yours on the subject.

I see where David_C has called up his 2015 thread, so I'm not sure where to put these comments. Because I've followed a little of what I said in 'thoughts vs matter/energy', I'll post it here. David_C has obviously studied Chalmers extensively and by rights, I shouldn't be saying anything without studying the works of Chalmers. Unfortunately this thread will have been done and dusted by the time I research the literature before I make any comments.

IF this following quote is a reasonable excerpt of the crux of the issues considered by Chalmers, then I hope members will not crucify me for making some additional suggestions that may throw some light on 'The Hard Problem'.

"Visual experiences. Among the many varieties of visual experience, color sensations stand out as the paradigm examples of conscious experience, due to their pure, seemingly ineffable qualitative nature. … Why should it feel like that? Why should it feel like anything at all? …

Other aspects of visual experience include the experience of shape, of size, of brightness and of darkness. A particularly subtle aspect is the experience of depth. … Certainly there is an intellectual story one can tell about how binocular vision allows information from each eye to be consolidated into information about distances, thus enabling more sophisticated control of action, but somehow this causal story does not reveal the way the experience is felt. Why that change in processing should be accompanied by such a remaking of my experience was mysterious to me as a ten-year-old, and is still a source of wonder today.

Auditory experiences. In some ways, sounds are even stranger than visual images. The structure of images usually corresponds to the structure of the world in a straightforward way, but sounds can seem quite independent. …

Musical experience is perhaps the richest aspect of auditory experience, although the experience of speech must be close. Music is capable of washing over and completely absorbing us, surrounding us in a way that a visual field can surround us but in which auditory experiences usually do not. …

Tactile experiences. Textures provide another of the richest quality spaces that we experience: think of the feel of velvet, and contrast tit to the texcture of cold metal, or a clammy hand, or a stubbly chin. …

Olfactory experiences. Think of the musty smell of an old wardrobe, the stench of rotting garbage, the whiff of newly mowngrass, the warm aroma of freshly baked bread. Smell is in some ways the most mysterious of all the senses due to the rich, intangible, indescribable nature of smell sensations. … It seems arbitrary that a given sort of molecule should give rise to this sort of sensation, but give rise it does.

Taste experiences. Psychophysical investigations tell us that there are only four independent dimensions of taste perception: sweet, sour bitter, and salt. But this four-dimensional space combines with our sense of smell to produce a great variety of possible experiences…

Experiences of hot and cold. An oppressively hot, humid day and a frosty winder’s day produce strikingly different qualitative experiences. Think also fo the heat sensations on one’s skin from being close to a fire, and the hot-cold sensation that one gets from touching ultra cold ice.

Pain. Pain is a paradigm example of conscious experience, beloved by philosophers. Perhaps this is because pains form a very distinctive class of qualitative experiences, and are difficult to map directly onto any structure in the world or in the body, although they are usually associated with some part of the body. … There are a great variety of pain experiences from shooting pains and fierce burns through sharp pricks to dull aches.

Other bodily sensations. Pains are only the most salient kind of sensations associated with particular parts of the body. Others include headaches … hunger pangs, itches, ticles and the experience associated with the need to urinate. …

Mental imagery. Moving ever inward, toward experiences that are not associated with particular objects in the environment or the body but athat are in some sense generated internally, we come to mental images. There is often a rich phenomenology associated with visual images conjured up in one’s imagination, though not nearly as detailed as those derived from direct visual perception. …

Conscious thought. Some of the things we think and believe do not have any particular qualitative feel associated with them, but many do. This applies particularly to explicit, occurent thoughts that one thinks to oneself, and to various thoughts that affect one’s stream of consciousness. …

Emotions. Emotions often have distinctive experiences associated with them. The sparkle of a happy mood, the weariness of a deep depression, the red-hot glow of a rush of anger, the melancholy of regret: all of these can affect conscious experiences profoundly, although in a much less specific way than localized experiences such as sensations. …

… Think of the rush of pleasure one feels when one gets a joke, another example is the feeling of tension one gets when watching a suspence movie, or when waiting for an important event. The butterflies in one’s stomach that can accompany nervousness also fall into this class.

The sense of self. One sometimes feels that there is something to conscious experience that transcends all these specific elements: a kind of background hum, for instance, that is somehow fundamental to consciousness and that is there even when the other components are not. … there seems to be something to the phenomenology of self, even if it is very hard to pin down.

This catalog covers a number of bases, but leaves out as much as it puts in. I have said nothing, for instance, about dreams, arousal and fatigue, intoxication, or the novel character of other drug-induced experiences. … "


I see four factors that may be missing and which may be of relevance. David_C has indicated that it's an incomplete list. Some items in the above list seem to get close, but don't quite nail the issues.

I'll just touch on them.

1) Our Sixth Sense The above list covers the five senses in touch with the outside world, plus pain. In most of the reading I've done over the years, everybody seems to overlook our ever-present sixth sense. This is NOT ESP, but a real full-on feedback system from every soft tissue in our bodies. ESP should be called a 7th Sense. I see that Chalmers speaks about a Sense of Self and this sixth sense would explain this sense of self. Most soft tissues of our bodies have proprioceptors or 'stretch' sensors in them. They detect constriction or dilation of muscles, gut, blood vessels etc and the sensation of which they constantly feed back to our central nervous system and spinal cord. They are essential in our skeletal muscles for the maintenance of balance and for the knowledge of where our limbs are at any given time. I'll be lazy here and insert an excerpt from an essay I wrote in 2010 on 'feelings'. The 'feeling of tenseness' for example comes from these sensors in muscles under tension if we are irritable. "It was a book called 'Origins of Neuroscience' by Stanley Finger and published in 1994 that set me off on this analysis path. The physiologists have attempted to make sense of feelings by interpreting them as feedback from our bodies to our brains in the form of nerve impulses. In the nineteenth century, William James and Carl Lange independently came up with the same theory.– that ‘feelings’ produce emotions in the sense that our bodies send messages back to our brains constantly. For example, we all feel increased muscle tension when we are irritable, annoyed, angry, or anxious about anything; we all sense a pounding heart when we receive a fright; we’ve all sensed a dry mouth on occasions when we have been out of our comfort zones and we can perspire when we are under stress, particularly on the palms of our hands. Adding to this list, we can include ‘knots’ or gnawing in the stomach and the heat rising in our faces when we blush from embarrassment. The latter of course is due to the capillaries in our faces and necks expanding and increasing the blood flow, thus producing a feeling of increased warmth on the peripheral nerves in the affected areas. In the same category we can list going white with fright. In fact changes to blood vessels were considered by Carl Lange to be the main ingredient of emotions.

Blood vessel constrictions and expansions are very complex processes when you consider the range of medications that doctors use these days to control high blood pressure. There are angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin 1 and 11 receptor antagonists, alpha adrenergic receptor blockers, beta 1 and 2 adrenergic receptor blockers and endothelin 1 blockers as some examples. You don’t have to remember the names of these medications but just to get the message that blood vessels are under very complex controls in our bodies and that the effects of their expansion or constriction cause changes, that in turn change the impulses coming from nerve endings all over our bodies that our brains interpret as feeling ‘comfortable’ or ‘uncomfortable’. Carl Lange could be at least partly right, but one would think that muscle tension, gut feelings, dryness or wetness of the mouth and maybe many other sources of body feedback would have to play a part.
In fact, if you think about it, ‘feelings’ are a very important survival mechanism not only in us, but in other animals as well. Simply, if we keep doing those things that make us feel good and in particular avoid those things that our five senses in touch with the outside world, as well as our sixth sense body feedback, inform us that we don’t like, we will survive better in a simple hunter/gatherer world. But we no longer live in a simple hunter/gatherer world, and most of us have to tolerate a degree of ‘bad’ feelings in order to survive."


I have a 10000 word essay on this alone. But the above should be enough to start off some discussion.

We have a constant feedback sense of self from our sixth sense.

2) Affects are stored alongside image residues. According to the research of Penfield and Perot, these body feedback affects are also stored in the brain alongside the image representations that were associated with them at each phenomenal perception. Hence we experience PTSD any time we recall past unpleasant experiences. The converse applies as well -- that pleasant affects are stored alongside pleasant experiences.

3) We rationalise by Association of stored images or scenarios with other stored experiences. I was intrigued by the notion in some posts that something like the colour 'red' can evoke pleasant feelings in some people. In thinking about that, I could only come up with the notion that the colour red is associated with many flowering plants -- roses, poincianas, flame trees, red fruits and vegetables, bright toys. If affects are associated with the storage of images of these in our minds, they would all be associated with intact gardens or living areas in temperate climates and certainly not something like war-torn landscapes. Maybe blue is only seen on mostly sunny days or when seas are calm.

4) Giant neurones. I have an intention to post some thoughts on The Mind's Eye one day, especially since Crick (of Watson and Crick fame) discovered 'giant' neurones. The body of the neurones appear to be located in the claustrum, but the axons and dendrites virtually form 'ring roads' all over the cerebral cortex. These giant neurones represent a means of connecting and collating bits and pieces of stored images from all over the cerebral cortex to match with new sensory inputs. If pleasant, neutral or bad affects are stored alongside existing images in our cerebral cortices, then we will have like affects associated with fresh phenomena.

Please regard the above thoughts as something to be kicked around. I have thrown them into the ring with little amplification and simply as working theories. As I said in a previous post, if they are correct, then the answer to the 'hard' problem becomes one of just more of the 'easy' problems.

And bear in mind that we have all of the necessary tools in the form of an autonomic nervous system and of multiple endocrine glands to be regarded as a highly emotional animal. The fact that we have 'experiences' associated with sensory inputs or sense of self should not be surprising when you consider our anatomy and physiology.

The moods produced by music by the way, may have a different explanation, but I won't discuss that now.
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 29th, 2020, 7:45 am 

And Charon, I tend to find my thoughts running in parallel with yours on the subject.


I'd be surprised if you didn't. We've been doing this since childhood. We see a strange thing and Mummy says 'ball' so now we know it's a ball. Animals like dogs do the same.

We see people shouting and the word 'anger' is used so now we recognise that reaction as anger both in ourselves and others.... etc, etc. There's nothing mysterious about it.

As regards music, it's just another input from the senses that has a physiological effect which can be identified from memory - sad, uplifting, and so on.

Big deal, really. There are far more interesting things about consciousness, though, far more interesting. This stuff is superficial.

And it still doesn't have much relation to lateralsuz's thread title!
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Re: Thought vs Matter/Energy

Postby charon on June 29th, 2020, 7:52 am 

Dave_C -

why we should have any sensations at all


That's absurd, completely absurd. Because we're here, because we function that way. Not having them is the abnormality, not having them.

I don't understand this, I really don't. Why do we have legs? Why are bananas yellow? Why is Trump such a dick? I don't know!
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