Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Discussions on the nature of being, existence, reality and knowledge. What is? How do we know?

Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 18th, 2020, 7:19 am 

The easy problem is how the brain works. The hard problem is how it produces the conscious, subjective, self-reflective experience we all know.

After all, the brain is just a physical organism. Why should it be 'conscious' at all? Where does it get this awareness from? That's the problem.

My answer is simple: it doesn't. Mind is not the same as brain.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 18th, 2020, 9:34 am 

Hi doogles, I have to agree with davidm. Although James is mentioning phenomenal experiences (felt experiences/qualia), that’s because there’s a very common association with the experiences we have and the physical interactions on which those experiences reside. We might even say there’s a 1 to 1 relationship between those experiences and those physical interactions they reside on. For example, we seem to experience the same color every time a certain wavelength of light impinges on our eyes. So as James goes through those discussions on how felt experiences such as color (the felt experience of it as opposed to the wavelength of light) or the felt experiences of music (as opposed to the pressure waves in air that are picked up by neurons in our ear), he’s really referring to the underlying, physical interactions.

I suspect James might be a bit confused by the whole concept of hard versus easy just as you are. He clearly intermingles the terminology of those felt experiences versus the underlying, physical interactions. People in general do this all the time. We understand what is meant because we all have felt experiences, so when the doctor asks me where I feel the pain for example, I can point to a part of my body and I can also tell him a bit about what it feels like such as a dull ache or a sharp pain or a hotness, etc…

In fact, most people don’t even realize there’s any difference between the felt experience and the physical interactions. Most people are surprised to hear that a fire truck or a stop sign isn’t actually red, that the properties of redness that we experience are not out there on the truck or the sign. In fact, it might also surprise people to find out that birds have additional cones in their eyes so it’s unlikely they even experience the same colors we do. In fact, they experience MORE colors than we do. They experience colors we don’t and they correlate with differences in wavelength within the range of wavelengths that we can see. Imagine for a moment going to a planet and finding colors you’ve never seen before. That’s not possible but imagine if it were. What would the colors look like, and would change our pulse rate?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on August 18th, 2020, 9:48 am 

charon » August 18th, 2020, 12:19 pm wrote:The easy problem is how the brain works. The hard problem is how it produces the conscious, subjective, self-reflective experience we all know.

After all, the brain is just a physical organism. Why should it be 'conscious' at all? Where does it get this awareness from? That's the problem.

Yes, that is my understanding of the hard problem. How the brain interacts with the body is part of the easy problem.

It is possible in principle to construct an artificial brain-body system, with feedback just as in a natural organism, but which lacks experience/qualia, so that there is no 'what it is like to be' that system.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 18th, 2020, 10:05 am 

Dave_C -

Don't you think thought and language have a lot to do with it?

A certain wave of light impacts on our senses and is recognised as 'red' because we've learned that. The recognition of it as red is the experiencing of it, not just the particular light but that it's 'red'.

The brain receiving the light wave only processes it. The experiencing of it as 'red' by thought comes out of knowledge. But that knowledge too is held in the brain.

So one can see not only how we function as a total unit but that there's a difference between what the brain does physiologically and what the mind does psychologically.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 18th, 2020, 10:09 am 

Positor » August 18th, 2020, 2:48 pm wrote:
charon » August 18th, 2020, 12:19 pm wrote:The easy problem is how the brain works. The hard problem is how it produces the conscious, subjective, self-reflective experience we all know.

After all, the brain is just a physical organism. Why should it be 'conscious' at all? Where does it get this awareness from? That's the problem.

Yes, that is my understanding of the hard problem. How the brain interacts with the body is part of the easy problem.

It is possible in principle to construct an artificial brain-body system, with feedback just as in a natural organism, but which lacks experience/qualia, so that there is no 'what it is like to be' that system.


Absolutely, it would be a machine without awareness of its own existence.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 18th, 2020, 10:43 am 

charon » August 18th, 2020, 9:05 am wrote:Dave_C -

Don't you think thought and language have a lot to do with it?

Consider the difference between a concept and a phenomenon. A phenomenon is something that happens in the world such as pressure waves in air traveling at the speed of sound. They have amplitude and frequency, and can cause other things inside ears to vibrate in sync.

A concept such as language regards the rules of grammar that people are aware of. Thought often occurs in terms of language, we 'talk to ourselves'. But language by itself is more of a concept, not a phenomenon. I don't think language is a phenomenon and I don't think it has anything to do with the phenomenon of our experiences except as it's used to convey the ideas about phenomenal experience between people.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 18th, 2020, 11:01 am 

But is there the experiencing of anything without knowing you are? If you don't know you're having the experience you're not having it.

So how do you know you're having one?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 19th, 2020, 6:42 am 

Good day to you David_C, and thank you for the comments.

As a side issue, you mentioned that a fire engine was not really red. That's true, but we do call it 'red' because it is reflecting electromagnetic wavelengths in the 'red' area of the white light spectrum to our retinas. Our retinal sensors receive it in the 'red' wavelengths and to all practical purposes, we regard it as 'red'. And yes, we have three types of cones receiving incoming colour stimuli, and birds have four, and their coloured world must appear much more vivid than our own. So, apropos of this side snippet about different colour sensitivities, some people may be interested in the colour sensitivity of a shrimp-like sea animal called a Stomatopod that was being studied at the Vision, Touch and Hearing Centre at the University of Queensland in the 1980s/90s. It had 12 types of cones receiving incoming colour stimuli.

Getting back to this 'hard problem', please understand that I'm still attempting to make sense of it, and that my comments and inputs are genuine attempts to achieve that. I'm attempting to be constructive.

I have to let William James off the hook by the way. We can't say that he was confused about the 'easy' and 'hard' problems. He would not have had a clue about them 140 years ago. As a physiologist/psychologist, he was more interested in facts, and simply supplied the results of experimentation by himself and many others. I do not know of any updated studies in the same field. As far as I know it is one of a kind. He never mentioned 'phenomenal consciousness' or 'qualia'. He does not really refer to underlying, physical interactions. He just simply lists the known bodily physiological effects of incoming stimuli.

It seemed to me that his Chapter on The Production of Movement was very relevant as input to this discussion because he virtually concluded that ALL incoming stimuli from our five senses in touch with the world outside of our bodies are not only recognised and recorded by the brain, but, in fact, produce effects on many parts of our bodies. He actually stated that "Every impression which impinges on the incoming nerves produces some discharge down the outgoing ones, whether we be aware of it or not. ... The only reason why we do not feel the startle or tickle in the case of insignificant sensations is partly its very small amount, partly our obtuseness."

In my last post, I used his two cited examples of the shining of a red light into the eyes, and postulated that if the studies of such were extended to dozens of tissues or organs, we may find many more measurable effects of red light alone. And of course, if we extended this to the maybe thousands of incoming stimuli we receive each day, then our daily physiological bodily changes must be immense. We higher animals are very sensitive organisms.

But I'm told that these changes are part of the 'easy' problem. So the hard problem must be something else.

In my last post I asked myself, "Can we 'experience' changes in pulse rate or amplitude, or in muscle tone?", and answered myself with "We can certainly experience our hearts pounding in our chests, and it becomes a matter of concern rather than calm and comfort. We can sense tension in our skeletal muscles when we become irritable. We can feel heavy with grief or light with joy. We can feel physically tense at times. There is no doubt that we can experience many and complex changes within our bodies."

I can add that we can sense other physiological changes such as 'blushing', 'knots in the stomach', 'sweaty hands', 'breath-holding', 'crying', laughing and 'dry mouth'. You can add to the list if you like. These are all 'experiences' in my book. Obviously there will be gradations of the extent of bodily changes produced by incoming stimuli, whether simple or complex, and gradations to the extent that we experience them. These are macro-changes with macro-feelings. But because we 'experience' them, a sensory input from the organs themselves (eg proprioceptors in the case of muscles) or from nearby tissues ( eg nearby skin thermosensors in the case of blushing [from dilated capillaries]) must be transmitted to our brains.

I have hypotheses as to where those sensory inputs are first received and as to where they finish up, but that is a different story that may sidetrack my desire to understand what this 'hard problem' really is. And I admit that there will be as yet, unanswerable questions as to whether we experience subliminal changes in some way. I think Charon raised that question.

But as far as I can judge by the last set of posts, what I've just said again is not the 'experience' associated with detection of incoming stimuli being discussed by Chalmers.

Just telling me that I have misunderstood the problem, does not help me understand it. So far, no one has attempted to paraphrase Chalmer's example about the 'experience' of the colour red, as I'd hoped.

That's disappointing, but it should be a simple exercise for anyone who claims to understand the 'problem'. A ten-liner or less about the colour 'red', without any other elaboration on other issues, would help me tremendously.

I would appreciate it if anyone made an attempt to paraphrase what Chalmers has in mind rather than just tell me that I have misunderstood the issue. I repeat that I'm attempting to be constructive.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on August 19th, 2020, 8:57 am 

https://iep.utm.edu/know-arg/

Frank Jackson's gedankenexperiment may be helpful here.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on August 19th, 2020, 9:33 am 

doogles » August 18th, 2020, 5:39 am wrote:Let's just focus on 'red' for the moment. I take it that Chalmers is saying ...

Hi doogles. Sorry if it sounds like we keep repeating the same thing over and over. That’s not intended. Let’s talk about the above couple lines, it might help.

I think (maybe) you’ve misunderstood Chalmers here. You say something a bit odd here so let me explain.
Chalmers is saying that many of us don't just see the colour red and have it represented somehow in our brain (that's the easy problem) …

You then continue:
we also have a bodily 'experience' associated with the colour 'red' as well, and that the hard problem is that we don't understand what this bodily 'experience' is.

I want to break up the two parts of this sentence and address them separately.

Let’s define “e-red” as the specific part of the electromagnetic spectrum and let’s define “p-red” as the phenomenal experience of e-red.

1) We can all agree and define what e-red is. It is an objectively measurable phenomenon and it reflects off of fire trucks as you point out. Note that it does not carry with it, any ‘information’ to associate it with p-red.

2) P-red is something our brains create to represent e-red. P-red is a feeling or “bodily experience” of something (cones cells firing that cause neurons to fire, etc…). P-red is literally created in our brain.

3) Chalmers is saying that (people with color vision) see e-red and it is represented by p-red in our brain for some very strange reason he calls a hard problem. That’s not an easy problem, it’s a hard problem because there is no such thing as p-red (so to speak).

In the second part of the quote above, you say that we have a bodily experience which of course is the p-red experience. Yes, that’s the hard problem and that’s the one we can’t explain. Note there is no correlation between e-red and p-red that science can define because p-red is not objectively observable. In fact, the physical world is completely defined without remainder even if p-red doesn’t exist (assuming everything is objectively observable). Why p-red should even exist is the mystery. Right? I can measure e-red with an app on my phone, but there is no p-red in my phone, just a bunch of transistors switching - just as there are only a bunch of neurons firing in my brain. There's no need for p-red, the identification of e-red can proceed without p-red.

How we can explain p-red or any phenomenal experience is a hard problem that science doesn’t have an agreed upon answer to, even in principal, because it’s not an objectively observable phenomenon.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on August 19th, 2020, 10:48 am 

I think part of the confusion in this thread relates to the term 'bodily experience'. Doogles is interpreting this as meaning experience of physiological changes in our bodies. But the hard problem of consciousness is not just about that type of experience; it is about all mental phenomena – seeing, hearing, pain, pleasure, fear, hunger etc, and all types of thought. Perhaps it would be better to refer to 'mental experience'.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 19th, 2020, 3:12 pm 

doogles -

I think Charon raised that question.


I did not. Nothing would induce me :-)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 4:42 am 

Here we go again. What is the point? Move on, grasp the points and move on them.

Doogles says he can't understand it and it has to be explained to him. He could actually just google it himself. If one explanation doesn't hit the mark, another one might.

It's not difficult. In any case, it's all been made very clear. The easy problem is how the brain operates neurologically, the hard problem is how that translates into our self-reflective, subjective consciousness.

One trouble is that they're trying to explain the psychological aspect in physical terms. I don't see how that's possible to do on an internet forum. It requires - if it's possible at all - scientific work. In other words, laboratory work. If it's a physical problem it obviously needs a physical response.

But, for some reason, the philosophers have taken it over. All right, we can use words and description to try to understand it. Personally, I think that's possible although it obviously won't answer the physical issues.

I asked Dave_C a question which he hasn't answered. It was a simple question. I said that any experience is not an experience unless one recognises that one is having it. That's so obvious. So I asked him how we know we're having an experience.

Before, he answered a post of mine by assuming a lecturing stance and began: 'Consider this' and launched into some sort of lecture of his own. So we won't go that way. I'm not lecturing anybody.

It's very obvious how we know we're having an experience - because we recognise it. The only we way we can recognise it is because we've had it before. Or, if not the same one, something very like it.

It's interesting that, when presented with something totally unknown to us, nothing happens. For a moment we're stunned. Only after that does the brain try to label it, categorise it, and so on. Then, when it happens again, there's a recognition. It's very simple.

Doogles' apparent confusion is actually fully justified. He's been told that the physical workings of the brain are one thing and the psychological responses another. They can be separately described but - as he likes to quote William James - it's nevertheless all one activity; we're a unit, functioning as a totality.

There's no difference between recognising a physical response, like blushing, and a psychological response like fear or elation. It's still a process of recognition. What's the difference?

So what's the issue or problem here? As Doogles pointed out, James had never heard of 'easy and hard' because they were invented by Chalmers, but he still recognised the issues.

I'd like to know what the problem with all this is anyway. Is there one or is it a philosophers' amusement? Physically, they're trying to understand the brain and consciousness. We know that - and they haven't so far, not completely anyway. And it's even worse psychologically.

What are we really trying to understand? Ourselves as human beings? Or people like Chalmers who introduce their own terms and language? That means we're not really centred on understanding ourselves but what somebody else means. What's the point of that?

Why don't we go straight to the source of the issue for ourselves - which is, precisely, ourselves? We're having experience all the time. Reading this is an experience. Life is an experience. Everything is an experience. So what's the issue with it?

Someone tell me.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 20th, 2020, 6:48 am 

Charon, I actually agree with quite a few things you said in your last post, but unfortunately I personally like to know "Why?" about many things. So I'll keep trying to figure out things in a way that makes sense to me; it's a personal failing.

TheVat, thanks for the link. I spent a while looking at it. It did occur to me that we all go through the experiences similar to Mary's when we are neonates with no data in our memory banks.

Positor, I think I may have answered your comment below, but my stance is that our brains and bodies virtually act as one. We have vast autonomic nerve connections between our brains and body organs and tissues, plus a large range of hormones produced in the brain and the body, as well as a large body of sensory nerve input back from our bodily soft tissues to our brains.

David_C, thank you very much for that explanation. Wonderful!! It's refreshing to have someone attempt to answer an honest simple question as requested. It is very helpful and non-frustrating.

Were you serious when you added "In the second part of the quote above, you say that we have a bodily experience which of course is the p-red experience. Yes, that’s the hard problem and that’s the one we can’t explain"? I'm a bit confused because that could be rephrased as saying that " ... bodily experience is the p-red experience ... and that's the one we can't explain." If you didn't have a lapse in expression, then I've been on the right track in trying to explain 'experience' in terms of the feedback to our brains from bodily effects associated with incoming stimuli.

If that's what you meant to say, my problem now is that I don't know where to start, because my response would be very much the same.

I can see where a small misunderstanding has occurred. My processing of Chalmer's statement commenced with a representation of e-red being deposited in the brain somehow, and that the p-red was the representation of the 'affect' associated with that primary representation of e-red from body feedback. No matter, the end result would be the same.

I regarded this e-red as being the main substance of whatever our brains use to 'represent' the colour red. There are a couple of hypotheses suggesting that either RNA molecule arrangements or increased cell numbers make up those 'representations' . But whatever it is that represents 'red' in our brains, we do appear to have them. Penfield and Perot (1963; https://academic.oup.com/brain/article- ... 595/321416) were able to trigger recall of memories in a small percentage of conscious epileptic patients over a period of 30 years while using an electric probe. They claimed that these memory recalls in many cases were more accurate than natural recall, and because a number of patients also recalled their feelings and emotions at the time of the events they recalled, they concluded that representations of these 'feelings' were also stored nearby the original images. This of course is a useful explanation for Post Traumatic stress Disorders. As you can guess, I had p-red stored theoretically alongside e-red in the brain.

To my mind, this coupling of representations makes a good working hypothesis for the association between things we see, hear, touch, taste or smell, and our feelings towards them and which we often manifest as changed expressions. We're good at screwing up our faces or showing happy countenances.

In the case of red lights being shone into human eyes, James cited the work of others demonstrating that heart rates increased in rate and amplitude and that hand grip strength increased. If these changes result in a better blood flow and a stronger feeling in the subject, then the subject will have positive feelings about red, and if peripheral sensors communicate a representation of these bodily changes back to p-red in the brain, then we have at least a theoretical working hypothesis about why the colour 'red' is associated with good feelings in some people.

As I said in an earlier post, James mentioned many such bodily changes associated with incoming stimuli from all of the senses. I suppose it's not so much a case of explaining why, but as just accepting that they do occur. If I did have to guess at a reason, I would say that my observation of humans and other animals is that they operate primitively on the basis that survival equates to seeking out those things that make us feel good and avoiding those things that make us feel less than good. If what is said in this thread is taken in conjunction with the observations presented by James, then it's apparent that we have a huge repertoire of signalling mechanisms to achieve that.

I might have to leave this topic at this stage unless someone has a query, but once again David_C, I thank you for your clarification. It made my day.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 7:00 am 

doogles -

That's fine, how you get there doesn't matter - as long as you do. But have you addressed consciousness?

One point about experience is that it's very limited, simply because it depends on recognition and we can't store all data. This is why witness statements vary so much in detail.

Also, as I said, as experience itself depends on something being recognised, there's this strange state of affairs which takes place when something is presented of which we have no knowledge.

When that happens there's no experience even though the thing is there. We see, hear, feel it, and so on, but there's no response from memory.

What we call consciousness is made up of experiences, isn't it? Because we ourselves are memory. If there's no knowledge of something, which is memory, it's not in consciousness at all. So our consciousness is always limited to what is known.

So everything known, then, is stale, second-hand. We can know a tremendous amount, which we do, but it's all old stuff. But life, the living thing, isn't old, it's always new, vital, in the present. This is why reality, for want of a better word, is not an experience.

Do we see that? Everybody wants to 'experience reality' but it can't be experienced. This is why it's essential to go beyond the realm of consciousness. That's where the real things are. Consciousness is only our mind and thought in time but reality, truth, is beyond all that.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on August 20th, 2020, 9:09 am 

doogles » August 20th, 2020, 11:48 am wrote:Positor, I think I may have answered your comment below, but my stance is that our brains and bodies virtually act as one. We have vast autonomic nerve connections between our brains and body organs and tissues, plus a large range of hormones produced in the brain and the body, as well as a large body of sensory nerve input back from our bodily soft tissues to our brains.

I see the 'hard problem' as a wider issue than this. Perhaps the word 'experience' is too narrow. The hard problem involves all mental phenomena – not just physical sensations and the emotions associated with them, but also thoughts, e.g. when I recall a place I have visited, or conceive something imaginary, or solve a mathematical problem, or write a poem or piece of music. Clearly there is a correlation between a particular thought and a particular physical brain state (and possibly some state of the rest of the body), but there is much more to it than simple stimulus-and-response. Memory obviously plays a large part, as well as the ability to synthesize different experiences and formulate abstract thoughts.

But the hard problem is not about the mechanics of experience and thought – it is about the character of the pure experiences/thoughts themselves. It is not just about having a mind – it is about being that mind. That is why it is (currently) a metaphysical rather than a psychological or psycho-physiological problem.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 9:58 am 

Positor -

Exactly, because we are this consciousness, it's not separate from us. We don't experience consciousness as a thing because it would be consciousness experiencing itself.

Consciousness, as we were saying, is the movement of memory and thought; it's the total psychological being - but not separate from the body. Our memory is limited - so any activity of thought is also limited. That's what's going on here!

But I keep asking this over and over... What is this 'hard' problem? What is the problem with consciousness at all?

We're conscious... and then? So are bugs up to a point. But what are we doing with this consciousness? That's the issue but no one's interested.

Science wants to understand it. Great, quite so, but can that be done on a forum? So what exactly are we trying to do here?

Someone tell me.

And hurry up because this topic is now on page 5!
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 10:12 am 

The other thing about this consciousness is that, because it's a movement, it's unstable. It has no stability.

Anything, like the wind or water, that is constantly in motion is essentially unstable. There's only stability in stillness, when all movement has ceased.

But, to us, that is death. Which means that, for us, life is this instability. When the instability becomes extreme then we have psychological problems, the mental case.

But most of us are sort of hovering about the edge somewhat and, to us, that's our normality, hence the utter chaos in the world.

We can't make ourselves still. We can try but that would be a false stillness, it's enforced, artificial. Stillness only comes with understanding. The mind that's radically understood its own activity and nature is still naturally. And therein lies the solution to our problems.

After all, isn't that why we want to solve the issue of consciousness? Or is it just a technical exercise so we can say now we understand consciousness?

Say we have understood it, whatever that means. Then what? Where are we then? What do we use it for?

Someone tell me.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on August 20th, 2020, 12:46 pm 

I think what this thread is struggling with is a confusion between a scientific definition of consciousness and a philosophical one. Between what is objectively measurable and observable and the purely subjective aspects. Between what is physical (and amenable to reduction to discrete and separable physical events) and what is irreducibly mental (and of a holistic nature). As Positor points out, the Hard Problem is a metaphysical (and meta-scientific) one which is not going to be resolved even if we can nail down every single potential change in every synaptic membrane and map every signal pathway in a neural network.

That is the point of the Mary in the Black/White Room entry that I linked to earlier. It is a real challenge to a purely physicalist account of the mind. We can give Mary the most amazing and rich account of what happens when a brain sees the color "red" for the first time, and yet somehow she still doesn't know what "red" is really like until she steps out of the B/W Room and sees it for the first time. This problem is at the heart of what the "qualia" discussion is about. Qualia somehow add to our knowledge. The view from inside a brain is somehow fundamentally of a different character than the view from outside of a brain. It's a profound philosophic question that many scientists would prefer to simply skip. I get that.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 6:20 pm 

Quite so. What's extraordinary is that after 5 pages we're still struggling with common or garden definitions. Why don't they just google it?

Mary


Forgive my saying so, but I've answered that one, completely. But this is the old, old story. Start with theory, you end up with theory. Begin with simple fact, you end up understanding things.

When presented with an unknown there's no response, one goes blank. But, after it's explained, Mary will always know what red is.

What I find laughable is that Mary is cast as a 'brilliant scientist who knows everything (!) about brain states', etc. As if that made the slightest difference.

Someone who doesn't know what curry tastes like will never know until they taste it - no matter who they are.

We've lost the art of simplicity because we've read too much and know too much. A mind like that finds it very hard to understand anything except words. I hope you don't mind my saying that.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on August 20th, 2020, 6:40 pm 

charon wrote:
We've lost the art of simplicity because we've read too much and know too much. A mind like that finds it very hard to understand anything except words. I hope you don't mind my saying that.


A message board is an odd platform on which to dismiss words. I hope you don't mind my saying that.

A lot of useful cognition is not verbal, but words are an essential tool for conveying meaning and sharing insights. Reading is really just traveling for a while with someone else's mind. Very few people "read too much, " IMO. If you've noticed the job performance of the United States current president, who seems to read nothing and pride himself on his intuitive "genius," you may observe a case of a mind that is very impoverished.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 20th, 2020, 6:44 pm 

Vat -

I'm not against words. We're all using words. I'm using words! My point was that there's a vast difference between reading about red (if you've never seen it before) and seeing it. Most of the things we try to discuss have been read about, haven't they? Very few deal with reality direct.

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(PS. Sorry, not causing trouble, but I edited, or rather simplified, that last post slightly. Why didn't it warn me you'd posted before I submitted it? It was on full editor)

Yes, I think most of us have noticed the impoverishment. I think it may have got gradually worse over the last few years.

Did you see Obama's speech? At last, someone who just plainly said it all out loud, probably because they weren't scared of him.

And, while we're at it on the wrong thread, I see another of his cronies, Bannon, has just hit the deck. Along with all the others. One day someone will wake up.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby T. Burbank on August 21st, 2020, 2:35 am 

doogles » August 19th, 2020, 8:42 pm wrote:A ten-liner or less about the colour 'red', without any other elaboration on other issues, would help me tremendously.

If you can prove that you and I see the exact same color “red,” then I would say that there is no hard problem of consciousness for you. But can you prove that? It seems unlikely….

We can prove that the wavelength of the light reflecting off that apple we’re both eyeing is constant. And we can (in principle) prove that our two bodies’ visual systems are processing the light identically, because that involves objectively observable physical activities – of the cone receptors in our retinas, the neurons in our brains, etc.

But I don’t see any way to prove that our two resulting phenomenal experiences of “red” are identical. First, because they are private experiences, which can’t be shared for comparison. Second, because we don’t know the psychophysical laws (Chalmers' term) connecting the objectively observable processing of light with experiences that are not objectively observable.

(I would expect there to actually be slight differences between the phenomenal “reds” that you and I see; we differ some in most things. But whether there are or not is unknowable.)


doogles » August 20th, 2020, 8:48 pm wrote:...my stance is that our brains and bodies virtually act as one. We have vast autonomic nerve connections between our brains and body organs and tissues, plus a large range of hormones produced in the brain and the body, as well as a large body of sensory nerve input back from our bodily soft tissues to our brains.

The brain is a part of the body; it is a physical entity. But the dichotomy at question concerning the HPoC is that between the mind and the body – or between the mind and the brain to make the point even clearer.

Is it also your stance that our brains and minds act as one? If so, the HPoC is to explain how they do.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 21st, 2020, 5:18 am 

Charon

You state "That's fine, how you get there doesn't matter - as long as you do. But have you addressed consciousness?" I made a mental resolve years ago never to participate in a philosophhical discussion on consciousness because they never end up with consensus on anything and go round and round forever. This has been happening in this forum since 2005.

I was going to sign off with my last post unless there was a query. This seems a legitimate query. The title of the thread was Definition of Phenomenal Consciousness and the OP cited a paper by David Chalmers as being the preferred reference. Here's one isolated but pertinent paragraph -- "If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. In this central sense of "consciousness", an organism is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism, and a mental state is conscious if there is something it is like to be in that state. Sometimes terms such as "phenomenal consciousness" and "qualia" are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of "conscious experience" or simply "experience". Another useful way to avoid confusion (used by e.g. Newell 1990, Chalmers 1996) is to reserve the term "consciousness" for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term "awareness" for the more straightforward phenomena described earlier. If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about "consciousness" are frequently talking past each other."

You'll see that he simply prefers the word 'experience'. TheVat uses terms like 'phenomenal experience' and 'qualia'. In your latest post, you use the word 'experience' to mean something like 'long time association with a situation'. I took Chalmers to mean something like "what you 'feel''' or "the feelings you experience" -- such as 'good vibes' or 'bad vibes' in association with things you see, hear, touch, taste or feel. And I entered the chat on that basis because I felt that William James provided not the answer itself, but a basic key to understanding the dynamic basis of feedback from our bodily soft tissues to our brains as a response to incoming stimuli from our five senses in touch with the world outside of our bodies.

I personally regard the feedback we get from our bodies as an ever-present sixth sense. ESP should be called a seventh sense. It mainly comes from a range of proprioceptors in muscles and joints keeping a coordination in our physical bodily movements. But 'knots-in-the-stomach', tightness of the throat, blushing, tenseness, bladder and rectal tenseness, pounding heart, breath-holding, etc etc all indicate that we have feedback sensors in our soft tissues. I have not seen much research on these peripheral sensors apart from those associated with muscles and joints, but they obviously exist. Pain sensation could be regarded as bodily feedback but I think it's too defined from low to high levels to be regarded as a 'feeling' or 'experience' in terms of this thread.

You can tell from my posts in this thread, that I have some problems interpreting what Chalmers means. As I said, I took it that he equates 'experience' (in the feelings sense) to 'phenomenal consciousness' when he says "Sometimes terms such as "phenomenal consciousness" and "qualia" are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of "conscious experience" or simply "experience".

I can see how 'experience' (feelings from body feedback) can make one conscious of one's self. I always regard Descartes as being a bit slow when he suddenly realised as an adult "Cogito; ergo sum". I believe that we have an experience at the infant stage that says "I hurt; therefore I'm me" or "I'm hungry; therefore I'm me". We become conscious of self at a very early stage. It may be stretching a point, but isn't there a common situation when something unexpectedly good happens to a person, and the reaction to associates is to say "Pinch me, so I'll know I'm not dreaming".
.....................................
In a later post, you asked "After all, isn't that why we want to solve the issue of consciousness? Or is it just a technical exercise so we can say now we understand consciousness?"

I think that the reason we indulge in a forum like this is to share ideas. In my case, I do not have a single close acquaintance who would be interested in any of the things we discuss here. I also keep wishing to acquire knowledge about anything and everything (except philosophy). So I'd have to say that this thread to me is 'just a technical exercise so we can say now we understand consciousness'.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 21st, 2020, 5:21 am 

Positor -- "I see the 'hard problem' as a wider issue than this. Perhaps the word 'experience' is too narrow. The hard problem involves all mental phenomena." ... and "That is why it is (currently) a metaphysical rather than a psychological or psycho-physiological problem."

You've probably raised the issue of subjectivity in interpretation of communication. It may have something to do with background learning during our lives. I have a sort of underlying belief that all biological matters can be explained in terms of anatomy, biochemistry and physiology; things make sense to me only if I can interpret them in such terms. I can't handle philosophy as such. Like Charon (maybe), it comes over to me as just playing games with words. I said in my last post how I made a vow to never indulge in a thread on 'Consciousness' in a philosophy thread, mainly because I've never seen consensus on anything.

I like to deal with physiological fact as a starting point and build from there. That's why I introduced data from William James into the thread. he makes sense to me.

Re "The hard problem involves all mental phenomena", I have to admit that I've used isolated singular stimuli for examples of 'experiencing' in this thread, but that was only in an attempt to keep the principles simple. In real life we observe scenarios -- living, moving, complex scenes often involving large numbers of and participants. I daydream in sequential scenarios involving almost all six senses. I can experience degrees of anxiety before tests or examinations, but because of my awareness of the principles I've outlined in this thread, I understand what is happening to me. I could say that on such occasions I'm quite conscious that it's me having that experience.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 21st, 2020, 5:25 am 

Like Positor, TheVat was somewhat pessimistic about any explanation of the 'hard problem'.

TheVat claimed that Frank Jackson's Mary can be given the most amazing and rich account of what happens when a brain sees the color "red" for the first time, and yet somehow she still doesn't know what "red" is really like until she steps out of the B/W Room and sees it for the first time. It is fair enough to say that, and in itself, it was a good example of what this thread is about. To some extent, the scenario is like that of a child reared in the country in the days before photographs and TV being taken to the ocean for the first time. Like Mary, the child has been told all about the ocean by people who have seen it, and is then experiencing this for the first time.

We don't have records of these relatively naive encounters, but we do have videos of children who these days have been told and shown prior vision and sound of the ocean. You will still see that they mostly become overactive, 'dancy' and laugh and yell. A few become reserved and a bit fearful. Like Mary with the red tomato, I believe that it's this experience associated with the ocean that Chalmers believes is hard to explain; that the explanation itself is the 'hard problem'.

I can't see where philosophy, space science, psychical phenomena or anything else apart from physiological, behavioural and psychological sciences can explain their various reactions.

Getting back to the frequent (and jusifiable) comments by members of this forum that many words and terms used in posts lack clear definition, I'd just like to add that when I used the words 'explain their various reactions' above, I could paraphrase that to read 'in a language that is hopefully meaningful to each reader's own terms of reference about what is going on in the brains and bodies of those children'.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 21st, 2020, 5:34 am 

T. Burbank » Fri Aug 21, 2020 4:35 pm wrote:
doogles » August 19th, 2020, 8:42 pm wrote:A ten-liner or less about the colour 'red', without any other elaboration on other issues, would help me tremendously.

If you can prove that you and I see the exact same color “red,” then I would say that there is no hard problem of consciousness for you. But can you prove that? It seems unlikely….

We can prove that the wavelength of the light reflecting off that apple we’re both eyeing is constant. And we can (in principle) prove that our two bodies’ visual systems are processing the light identically, because that involves objectively observable physical activities – of the cone receptors in our retinas, the neurons in our brains, etc.

But I don’t see any way to prove that our two resulting phenomenal experiences of “red” are identical. First, because they are private experiences, which can’t be shared for comparison. Second, because we don’t know the psychophysical laws (Chalmers' term) connecting the objectively observable processing of light with experiences that are not objectively observable.

(I would expect there to actually be slight differences between the phenomenal “reds” that you and I see; we differ some in most things. But whether there are or not is unknowable.)


doogles » August 20th, 2020, 8:48 pm wrote:...my stance is that our brains and bodies virtually act as one. We have vast autonomic nerve connections between our brains and body organs and tissues, plus a large range of hormones produced in the brain and the body, as well as a large body of sensory nerve input back from our bodily soft tissues to our brains.

The brain is a part of the body; it is a physical entity. But the dichotomy at question concerning the HPoC is that between the mind and the body – or between the mind and the brain to make the point even clearer.

Is it also your stance that our brains and minds act as one? If so, the HPoC is to explain how they do.


I have no problem with what you say about 'red' in your first few paragraphs.

I can't believe I ever said that brain and mind act as one. It would have been that brain and body act as a total unit.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on August 21st, 2020, 9:12 am 

Doogles, given your repeated statements that you don't see the value of philosophy -in this case metaphysics - to dealing with the questions about consciousness, I would respectfully request that you let this thread, in Metaphysics, proceed on-topic and post any further scientific analysis in a Science forum thread, perhaps our Behavioral sciences thread. Since you've said that you don't do philosophy, which is rather the focus of PCF threads, this woukd seem a better fit, eh?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on August 21st, 2020, 2:34 pm 

Sorry, must correct this.

Like Charon (maybe), it comes over to me as just playing games with words.


I didn't quite say that. I said it was more about trying to understand an issue through what others have said rather than directly for ourselves.

The point is that's it's we who must understand it all, not others. And, if we don't, how can we discuss what others say? So, to my way of thinking, the pronouncements of others has very little value unless we're clear in our own understanding.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby doogles on August 21st, 2020, 4:57 pm 

TheVat wrote:Doogles, given your repeated statements that you don't see the value of philosophy -in this case metaphysics - to dealing with the questions about consciousness, I would respectfully request that you let this thread, in Metaphysics, proceed on-topic and post any further scientific analysis in a Science forum thread, perhaps our Behavioral sciences thread. Since you've said that you don't do philosophy, which is rather the focus of PCF threads, this woukd seem a better fit, eh?


You are quite correct, TheVat. I made the decision myself to cease posting a few posts back unless there were any queries. Then I received several comments that I addressed.

I probably made a mistake in thinking that someone with a philosophical leaning might appreciate the knowledge that 140 years ago, a physiologist had listed scores of experiments demonstrating that what we see, hear, touch, feel or taste, can actually produce measurable changes to our physiological functioning, and that this could be a factor in the 'experience' we associate with such sensory stimuli.
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