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 owleye on February 4th, 2015, 7:25 pm 

wolfhnd » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:05 pm wrote:owleye I posted some more in the lounge because it was a side issue. Mostly just speculation but I was curious how people feel about there own consciousness. It was something I was thinking about that neuro posted that made be wonder why we were separating consciousness from intelligence. It's my assertion that paradoxically it is reflective thought that raises the level of consciousness at the higher end of the scale. This is an evolutionary artifact and mostly due to the physical structure of the brain. I'm not making a claim that in any way resembles pop culture's "higher plane of consciousness" and I totally reject the idea of a "blank slate".


Intelligence is a particular property. Consciousness is a particular property. A dog has intelligence, as you might ask any dog-owner. Not all dogs are equally intelligent. Drape a towel over a dog and it may try to figure out how to get it off and not succeed. Other dogs are quick to rid themselves of it. Obstacles present themselves to dogs and cats. Each species has the intelligence to decide which method of overcoming the obstacle is best, though, for some, not so intelligent, some obstacles just can't be overcome (directly). For some, the dog will cry out in a special way and expect someone to help the dog get past the obstacle. All these are signs of intelligence. Of course dogs are conscious as well. The question then becomes whether machines, when faced with the same problems can overcome obstacles. Of course the may not do it in the way a brain figures it out, but one may suppose a machine might be capable of overcoming an obstacle. The roomba, I believe is so equipped. Homing missiles have a certain intelligence. Smart bombs might be considered intelligent. In all these cases, the machine is never considered to be intelligent.

Donald Davidson wrote a paper and held a talk on this very subject on which I attended. When I asked him about his depiction of intelligence in animals, especially to include human intelligence, which was quite elaborate, I asked a question of him where I thought his description could conceivably programmed into a sophisticated computer. The question was what would be need to make such an intelligent machine have consciousness. He came back with a quick reply: Perception. And this is critical I think. All this talk about intelligence is best described in what humans (and animals) have in the way of a cognitive capability. Cognition, while fitting with perception in animals, doesn't really depend on it. Humans, and animals conceivably be intelligent without consciousness. Perception doesn't supply anything essential or useful to intelligence (or so it seems). The brain can receive sense data and process it without the organism actually perceiving anything (seeing, hearing, etc.)

So, you know what neuro says about intelligence. Tell me whether or not a machine capable of the same 'modalities' is actually thinking. For example, is Watson, the machine built to respond to Jeopardy answers, doing any actual thinking? It does seem to match what neuro describes as modality 3. Alternatively, are the descriptions given by neuro performed by anything the requires consciousness to perform. Isn't what is being described something the brain is doing. The brain is the information processor of note. Yes, as a cons conscious being you become aware of it and indeed believe you are the one that is doing the thinking, but just what does consciousness actually do, respecting cognition?

Ok. What you write represents a kind of stream of thought that has taken a look at the problem. It appears that what you want from your responders is help in trying to make this stream better defined so that you can develop a model that you believe will make sense to you. I've chosen instead to more or less ignore the stream of thought, and feel that's your task to clarify what you have in mind. My responses are critical and are more in keeping with the idea that the author should have a thesis and some sort of argument as to why there is merit to it, opening it up for criticism (perhaps only when there is some confidence that the thesis is adequately supported. Criticism, in that sense, is your friend. It doesn't work so well on a board like this, but this is how such boards all over the internet go about their business. You gain by writing, not so much by the actual criticism but that you feel you should better explain yourself. In do so, you wind up gaining ground.

In any case, because you were so tentative, I chose to provide some background on the topic.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on February 4th, 2015, 8:12 pm 

Thank you owleye there is a lot to think about there. I hope Dave forgives us :-)

Really what I was doing was exploring in a way what I was taught as a child which I think I internalized. It goes something like this: Humans are the only creatures that can contemplate god and thus are the only creatures with souls. Having long abandon god I have simply inserted reason it the place of god. You may call it meditation if you like but it is more active than that and a highly habituated world view. Which leads me to my point and I don't want to seem curt but we need to move this to another forum so I will be brief. Just keep in mind I'm hostile to neuro's emergent properties and any suggestion of a "blank slate".

I recognize that "The brain can receive sense data and process it without the organism actually perceiving anything (seeing, hearing, etc.)" My argument is the brain is to some degree the physical manifestation of my culture. Where culture is meant to imply every thing that has ever been part of the environment humans and their ancestors evolved in and my evolution specifically. To separate intelligence or consciousness into discrete levels or types over simplifies the nature of what has been evolved to work as interdependent perceptive organs. I can't do this idea justice at the moment but I will get back to you when some genusis figures out a simple way to explain it.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Eclogite on February 4th, 2015, 8:41 pm 

Consciousness is the best reality show on the planet. Just don't imagine you're the director.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on February 4th, 2015, 9:07 pm 

Are you saying I'm crazy? :-)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on February 5th, 2015, 2:08 am 

If you didn't see this article it's a treat, we studied this in psychology in college but I had forgotten about it.

The split brain: A tale of two halves

"In Gazzaniga's video, the boy is asked: who is your favourite girlfriend, with the word girlfriend flashed only to the right hemisphere. As predicted, the boy can't respond verbally. He shrugs and shakes his head, indicating that he doesn't see any word, as had been the case with W.J.. But then he giggles. It's one of those tell-tale teen giggles — a soundtrack to a blush. His right hemisphere has seen the message, but the verbal left-hemisphere remains unaware. Then, using his left hand, the boy slowly selects three Scrabble tiles from the assortment in front of him. He lines them up to spell L-I-Z: the name, we can safely assume, of the cute girl in his class. “That told us that he was capable of language comprehension in the right hemisphere,” Gazzaniga later told me. “He was one of the first confirmation cases that you could get bilateral language — he could answer queries using language from either side.” "

http://www.nature.com/news/the-split-br ... es-1.10213

He didn't see any word but he is conscious of the question and can answer it but still has no idea how, that is just great as if this isn't confusing enough lol

You could call this subconscious consciousness but of course we realize that it support Eclogite suggestion that verbalization is distinct from consciousness but we already knew that. I would still suggest that the little guy that sits in the chair on the left side is full consciousness in the human sense.

The next question is since animals don't have the verbal brain centers humans have does that mean they do not experience consciousness the same way we do? I think that gets back to what neuro is saying that without that little guy in the left chair it's apples and oranges.

Something they didn't address was the theory of consciousness being measurable by the number of connections in the brain as Giulio Tononi suggests. If you split the brain doesn't that reduce the number of connections?

What I want to do is talk to someone who can do the mathematics using notions from information theory. The obvious danger in this approach is that you build a model that reproduces the observations but has nothing to do with what is really going on. Any of you guys have experience working with information theory?

I know why I'm interested in this but I'm still curious why everyone else may be?

More questions than answers we must be making progress heh heh
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby owleye on February 5th, 2015, 9:50 am 

wolfhnd » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:12 pm wrote:I recognize that "The brain can receive sense data and process it without the organism actually perceiving anything (seeing, hearing, etc.)" My argument is the brain is to some degree the physical manifestation of my culture. Where culture is meant to imply every thing that has ever been part of the environment humans and their ancestors evolved in and my evolution specifically. To separate intelligence or consciousness into discrete levels or types over simplifies the nature of what has been evolved to work as interdependent perceptive organs. I can't do this idea justice at the moment but I will get back to you when some genusis figures out a simple way to explain it.


Hmmm... The use of 'manifestation' seems wrong. One might have feelings of guilt and ask the question 'how is this manifested'. In response we might say that the guilt is manifested by how it is displayed in public, say by drooped shoulders, sad eyes, being quiet, possibly distressed or even in another direction, by flailing about, in denial about it, showing resistance to what's going on inside. Over protesting. If you've read Ruth Benedict, a philosopher in my era, you would discover that one's culture provides all the possibilities and impossibilities of one's mind. In that sense, culture represents the manifestation of the possibilities and impossibilities of one's mind. What is thought here is that we are culturally determined (or at least that's Benedict's theory.) There are also some who think that we are biologically determined. All our behavior is built in and manifests itself as behavior that is shown to the world.

Relative to you final comment, I'd add that philosophy is a very difficult discipline. I want to give you a story my my development as a philosopher. I think it is worth telling because each of us is different when it comes to becoming a philosopher. Though I've always been inclined toward philosophy (it was kind of a fun topic for nerds and sophomoric types, I found it too hard for my pee brain while in college, and chose mathematics instead, I later returned to school deciding that I might try again. However, once again I begged off in favor of anthropology and to a certain extent in psychology. Some years later, I decided to sink my teeth into philosophy and began to find it much easier. I'm a slow learner. However, once engaged not only did the topics become manageable, the experiences I had in a wide variety of courses, coupled with life experiences made it a much easier discipline. After 40 or so years, I found my niche and I haven't looked back. I returned to school once again, after having spent much time on philosophy boards and entered grad school without an undergrad degree in it, though,of course, I'd taken many undergraduate courses, which were now too easy for me. Grad school got me interested in the canon of western philosophy which I had little difficulty with, until I reached Kant, which I decided to tackle with great interest. Unfortunately I was very much unprepared for the thesis I set myself and couldn't even decide what it might be. Even so, I'd collected a treasure trove of Kant source documents and secondary literature, the most helpful being Michael Friedman's "Kant and the Exact Sciences", which though I learned enormously from this book, skewed by thesis in such a way that it slid out of existence. And, of course, with all such efforts, more reading was required. In any case, while I had written many pages that constitutes the thesis and its support, by this time our family moved away and I no longer had any support from my counselors, and in addition contracted prostrate cancer and a number of other ailments, that kept me from finishing it within the time allotted. Indeed, the bureaucratic aspects of this were coming on, which turned out to be very cumbersome. Questions were arising whether I properly entered grad school (it was a special program for older students who had degrees in other discipline, but was somehow changed while I was there.) In any case, I had to resign myself to not finishing this more difficult way of getting my MA, and was unable to return to school since then. But the philosophy boards, never far away have sustained me. Though not degreed, I yet feel comfortable with it, as if I had had the degrees. I concluded that in order to attain the highest degrees, you have to be young and smart (as well as have the time and energy) to do what is required. However, I'm a slow learner, and yield to those who can get through it at young age.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby wolfhnd on February 5th, 2015, 11:35 am 

Manifestation: an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea.

I clearly have a vocabulary problem I admit it.

Trying to convey an idea as concisely as possible makes it worse. While I really appreciate you helping me Owleye I'm torn between responding to you and getting back to what Dave want's to talk about. I will respond in a way over at the topic I started on PoS. I don't want to sound unappreciative because that is not the case it's only difficult to prioritize. We explored a little the idea of a "higher level of consciousness" as in a theological or metaphysical sense and that is what got us off track.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on March 15th, 2015, 6:12 pm 

I thought the definition of phenomenal consciousness was relatively straight forward but comments from wolfhnd and others made me realize that many people have a hard time grasping the concept. I did some searching to try and understand it and came up with a paper by Sytsma & Machery, “Two Conceptions of Subjective Experience”. From the introduction:
Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception.

We argue, first, that our findings cast doubt on the claim that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness is shared by the folk or is a part of folk psychology. Second, if our analysis of the folk conception is correct, then it raises serious doubt about whether there is a hard problem of consciousness to be solved. The hard problem is typically justified on the grounds that phenomenal consciousness is “the most central and manifest aspect of our mental lives” (Chalmers 1995, 207). Our findings challenge this justification: If the folk do not recognize that states such as seeing red and feeling pain are phenomenal, then it is hardly credible that phenomenal consciousness is central and manifest.


Here, they’re using the term “folk” to represent people who don’t have a background in philosophy of mind and it’s suggested that if the concept of phenomenal consciousness isn’t understood in the same way by folk as by experts such as Chalmers, then essentially, there is no hard problem. Their work revolves around the concept of valence which is to say that “mental states have valence if and only if they are pleasurable or disagreeable.” Clearly, not all mental states (phenomenal states) have valence. If you smelled something that was not recognizable for example, you may not believe it has valence. Such a smell would have some pure phenomenal character with nothing to associate it with.

The paper reviews experimental work done using subjects who must respond to questions about what robots or people might experience. Here’s a summary of their findings and conclusion, as taken from the paper:
The experimental studies reported on above offer preliminary evidence that the folk do not recognize the phenomenality of mental states such as seeing a color, hearing a sound, smelling, feeling pain, and experiencing some emotion. To put the same point differently, in clear contrast to philosophers (Section 1), the folk do not seem to believe that there is something common to all these mental states—namely that they are phenomenal. The evidence for this difference between the folk and philosophers comes from three sources. First, study 1 showed that the folk are willing to ascribe seeing red to a simple robot, but deny that it feels pain; in contrast, philosophers deny that the robot can be in either state. Second, unlike philosophers, the explanations given by those folk who deny that the robot could see red did not indicate that phenomenality was at issue. Finally, studies 2 and 3 support our positive account of the folk conception of subjective experience: The folk’s responses across modalities, and for a range of stimuli within the olfactory modality, correspond with the valence of those states, but not with their phenomenality.

We have seen that the folk are much more likely to ascribe mental states that lack valence (seeing red or smelling isoamyl acetate) to the robot than they are to ascribe a mental state with positive or negative valence (feeling pain, feeling anger, smelling banana, or smelling vomit). While each of these states is phenomenal, only those states that the folk were willing to ascribe to the robot Jimmy lacked a valence. Furthermore, people’s relative willingness to ascribe the other mental states to the robot seems to correlate with traditional views about how essential valence is to that state. Valence is strongly associated with mental states like feeling pain or anger and the folk were unwilling to ascribe these states to Jimmy; in contrast, smelling banana and smelling vomit involve perceptual discriminations that can be carried out in the absence of any valence and participants were split in ascribing these states to Jimmy. For isoamyl acetate - an olfactory stimulus with no known valence for most people - however, participants were willing to say that Jimmy could smell it. Thus, across perceptual modalities, people’s willingness to ascribe a mental state to a simple robot depends on the valence associated with the relevant perceptual modality and within the olfactory modality, people distinguish between mental states with and without a valence (Figure 7).

... In contrast to philosophers’ emphasis on the phenomenality of subjective mental states, for the folk, subjective states seem to be primarily states with a valence. … We believe that the preliminary evidence reported here at least justifies taking seriously the hypothesis that philosophers’ and ordinary people’s conceptions of subjective experience differ in the way we proposed.
… At this juncture, it is important to ask why we should believe that there is really a hard problem of consciousness. That is, why should we believe that there are experiences, as defined, such that an aspect of them is expected to be left unexplained even after we have thoroughly accounted for their functional roles? Chalmers’s answer is characteristically limpid. As noted above, he suggests that phenomenal consciousness is undeniable because it is “the most central and manifest aspect of our mental lives” (1995, 207). In other words, on the basis of their introspective, first-person access to mental states such as seeing red or feeling pain, we are supposed to know that these mental states have phenomenal properties. As such, phenomenal consciousness has the status of an explanandum, but explaining it poses a hard problem: Chalmers holds that when we compare our first-person knowledge of the phenomenal properties of states such as feeling pain and seeing red to the functional accounts of these mental states, we will conclude that these accounts have failed to explain what had to be explained—viz. what it is like to be in pain and to see red.

Our findings cast some doubt on Chalmers’s and others’ justification of the hard problem of consciousness. If the account of the folk conception of subjective experience presented in this article is correct, then the folk do not find phenomenal experience manifest; their first-person experience with mental states such as seeing red and feeling pain does not lead them to judge experience with mental states such as seeing red and feeling pain does not lead them to judge that these mental states are united by each having a phenomenal aspect. But if most people do not judge that mental states such as feeling pain or seeing red have phenomenal properties in spite of their introspective experience with these states, then phenomenal consciousness can hardly be supposed to be “the most familiar and manifest aspect of our mental lives,” as Chalmers puts it. It would be unclear whether these mental states have phenomenal properties at all. But, then, why should we view the hard problem of consciousness as a genuine problem?

… we have argued that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience differently. If this is correct, then the folk conception of subjective experience is not the origin of the hard problem of consciousness and cannot be used to underwrite it. Our skeptical challenge concludes that this undermines the usual justification for this supposed problem.


So clearly, many people had trouble identifying phenomenal experiential states and the concept of valence helps to distinguish what it was that made it difficult. I wonder if that’s the case for anyone here that has trouble with it? Any thoughts?

The second thing is the challenge that if this folk conception is NOT the same as the one presented by philosophers of mind, then perhaps this presents a challenge to the hard problem. Although I think the authors have an interesting perspective and present valid findings, I disagree that we might conclude there isn’t a hard problem. If I were to ask engineers and physicists what the definition of energy is, I suspect I’d get a very different conception of energy when asking folk who had no similar formal education. Consider for example, how many uses we have for the term "energy" that don't mesh with the scientific definition yet these folk definitions of energy are useful in conveying what we are thinking. Furthermore, I suspect that there are many people who simply won’t be able to grasp the scientific definition of energy, regardless of how much instruction they were given. I suspect there’s something inherent in our brains that allows us to learn some things well and not others. I have a very difficult time understanding finance, economics and similar subjects for example. I honestly don’t think I would be able to grasp many of the concepts that appear in those areas just as I don’t believe that some people will be able to ever grasp the scientific definition of energy. That isn’t to say that the scientific definition of energy isn’t useful or is somehow invalid. Similarly, I suspect there will be those who won’t be able to grasp the definition of phenomenal consciousness but that isn’t to say that the concept isn’t valid or useful. Phenomenal consciousness will still be a hard problem, regardless of how easily folk can understand it. Perhaps part of the problem in understanding the definition is educational and another part is inherent in what individuals have the ability to conceive of. Thoughts?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on March 15th, 2015, 7:51 pm 

Silly to me, that one might dismiss the challenge of qualia because most of the readership of People Magazine aren't familiar with the concept. The fact that quantum tunneling is obscure to most people doesn't mean that QFT poses no interesting metaphysical questions about the essential nature of subatomic particlels. Can't for the life of me see what this study shows beyond an obvious social reality that most "folk" aren't into phenomenology.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on March 15th, 2015, 7:56 pm 

That dress of disputed hue, in the news, might help advance awareness a bit of how our sensorium is an interpretation of the world rather than an accurate objective report.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 16th, 2015, 5:36 am 

Dave C -

Unfortunately, this definition assumes nature is inherently dualistic (ie: natural dualism) and no one seems to like dualism. The alternative is to either explain phenomenal consciousness in strict physical terms (ie: so the hard problem is just another easy problem) or we dismiss phenomenal consciousness altogether (ie: eliminativism).


Why is it dualistic? I find it hard to understand why me thinking what I think is wholly separate from physically observable phenomena. I may not be able to see how these things connect directly but I do assume they do because they do.

There was a time when people thought our eyes looked outward into the world and bounce of it and reflect back. The gist of that thought was always correct. The eyes and the world interact although our interpretation of how this happens has differed over time the main principle of the thought will never change.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Rilx on March 16th, 2015, 6:54 am 

Dave_C,

I think that your definition of phenomenal consciousness by a list of properties is problematic.

There's an anecdote of Plato meeting the same problem when he began to define man in the same way and gave up after "featherless biped" when Diogenes had brought him a plucked hen. Different viewpoints bring forth different explanations with different concepts: "folk", "philosophical", "scientific", etc.

If we think consciousness as a strong emergent property, shouldn't we define consciousness by emergence: why and how it has emerged and what is the result. (I've read your posts and know that you are familiar with the concept.) In the structure of emergence those easy problems represent rather results of downward causation, a changing and potentially infinite set.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on March 16th, 2015, 10:35 am 

Braininvat » March 16th, 2015, 12:51 am wrote:Silly to me, that one might dismiss the challenge of qualia because most of the readership of People Magazine aren't familiar with the concept.


It does not seem to me that this was the claim in that article.
It seems to me the point was:
1) Chalmer states that we clearly have the perception that the process of "sensing" something is a subjective experience that does not reduce to the physical effects brought about in our brain. The hard problem of consciousness then arises as the need to explain what is the relation between such physical events and our consciousness.
2) The reported experiments suggest that we clearly have the perception that the process of "sensing" something is a subjective experience - which does not reduce to the physical effects brought about in our brain - only when such experience is associated to an emotional valence.

This, if proven true, would invalidate Chalmer's starting point.
And if this were the case, then there would not be any "hard problem" with phenomenal consciousness, we could reduce it to the physical events occurring in our brain (or in a robot's "brain") and the "hard problem" of consciousness would vanish, because it would be split into two components: a purely physical phenomenal consciousness and a "personal" and "subjective" emotional reaction to such phenomenal consciousness when it has some vital valence (which is much less hard to attribute to physical and biological mechanisms and processes).

Actually, this is a nice way of putting it: when an oblique line is present in our visual field, a number of neurons fire in the associative visual cortex; those that are best tuned to the precise angle of the line fire most actively. So, phenomenal consciousness of an oblique line can simply be reduced to the pattern of discharge of a population of neurons, which all together converge in indicating that it is more probable that a line with a certain inclination is there, rather than a line with a different inclination or some other visual element.

This activity pattern in neurons doesn't have any vital relevance and does not reach our consciousness unless it gets associated with some meaning that makes it somehow relevant.

This process can be explained by neural selective attention mechanisms, that "filtrate" experiential inputs (and internally arising associations and thoughts) based on "emotional" relevance and pertinence with the current flow path of our thought processes.

Finally, if the specific neuronal activity pattern that "detects" a "signal" (something that can be attributed a meaning) elicits an emotional response, with its associated complex pattern of bodily sensations (visceral sensations and proprioceptive perception of emotion-associated mimic and postural acts - what Damasio has called the somatic marker of emotion), then we have a more complex experience that adds the "subjective" and "personal" feeling to the sensations.

This last step, however, is independent of phenomenal consciousness.
Feeling pain is a complex emotional reaction to a physical response of the nervous system, but the "personal" component of this does not arise from the QUALIA of sensation due to phenomenal consciousness:
- either it arises from the emotional response generated by those "qualia" (which, per se, simply reduce to neuronal activity patterns)
- or the "qualia" have nothing to do with phenomenal consciousness and simply reflect emotional valence of sensations (which I believe is not what people usually mean by the term "qualia")
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on March 16th, 2015, 11:37 am 

I will have to try and go over this again later, to fully grasp your point.

Chalmers holds that when we compare our first-person knowledge of the phenomenal properties of states such as feeling pain and seeing red to the functional accounts of these mental states, we will conclude that these accounts have failed to explain what had to be explained—viz. what it is like to be in pain and to see red.


I just didn't fully understand why the failure to make that comparison (1st person experience versus functional account) by some persons would be relevant. Or why the emotional "valence" is all that relevant to the matter. I feel that any person can be made aware that there is a gap between seeing red (i.e. experiencing the "felt" quality of redness) and seeing a cluster of firing neurons that somehow signifies that a brain is producing the experience of "seeing red."

Perhaps I am not getting this because I find the use of "emotional" to be rather vaguely defined and somehow obscuring the meaning of qualia. I admit I am distracted right now, and I will try to get back later.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on March 16th, 2015, 12:26 pm 

Hi BadgerJelly,
BadgerJelly » March 16th, 2015, 4:36 am wrote:Why is it dualistic? I find it hard to understand why me thinking what I think is wholly separate from physically observable phenomena. I may not be able to see how these things connect directly but I do assume they do because they do.

This part is dualistic:
... There is something that occurs during the operation of a conscious brain .... These phenomena are subjective in nature and although they supervene on the brain, they can not be measured or described by explaining what goes on within the brain such as the interactions between neurons, the resulting EM fields produced nor anything that is objectively measurable.

Dualism can admit that these phenomena supervene on the brain and dualism may or may not admit that these phenomena have causal efficacy, but if these phenomena can’t be explained or described in purely physical terms, then the phenomenon is dualistic.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on March 16th, 2015, 12:37 pm 

Hi Rilx,
Rilx » March 16th, 2015, 5:54 am wrote:Dave_C,

I think that your definition of phenomenal consciousness by a list of properties is problematic.

There's an anecdote of Plato meeting the same problem when he began to define man in the same way and gave up after "featherless biped" when Diogenes had brought him a plucked hen. Different viewpoints bring forth different explanations with different concepts: "folk", "philosophical", "scientific", etc.

If we think consciousness as a strong emergent property, shouldn't we define consciousness by emergence: why and how it has emerged and what is the result. (I've read your posts and know that you are familiar with the concept.) In the structure of emergence those easy problems represent rather results of downward causation, a changing and potentially infinite set.

Note that the list isn’t mine, I took it from Chalmers’ book – although I would agree with his list.

I understand that trying to define something as you say leads to the difficulties you describe, but the intent Chalmers has, isn’t to define anything rigerously. He only means to give sufficient description to allow one to identify in general terms what the phenomenon is he is trying to get at. Take our experience of the color red for example. Chalmers isn’t trying to define red so that it can be differentiated from the phenomenal experience of blue or pain or sweetness. He’s only saying that the red experience we have can be included in the set of phenomena that makes up phenomenal consciousness.

Regarding strong emergence, strong emergence requires downward causation and there is no such theory regarding downward causation in neuroscience. That isn’t to say people haven’t tried, but theories regarding how neurons interact are not strongly emergent theories. My next thread will be on emergence and will go into further detail so I’ll leave it at that.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 16th, 2015, 2:37 pm 

DaveC-

Dualism can admit that these phenomena supervene on the brain and dualism may or may not admit that these phenomena have causal efficacy, but if these phenomena can’t be explained or described in purely physical terms, then the phenomenon is dualistic.


Just because something cannot currently be described in "physical" terms does that make it dualistic ?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on March 16th, 2015, 3:09 pm 

I guess the contention is that our subjective (phenomenal) experiences can't be explained in physical terms. It is impossible in principal. Note that neuroscientists aren't looking for any new physics to explain anything that goes on in the brain. I think if you asked them, they'd generally claim there's nothing objectively observable that can't be explained in physical terms in principal. Some have gone so far as to start developing dynamic models of the brain (ie: Blue Brain Project).
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on March 16th, 2015, 11:49 pm 

neuro » March 16th, 2015, 2:35 pm wrote:Feeling pain is a complex emotional reaction to a physical response of the nervous system, but the "personal" component of this does not arise from the QUALIA of sensation due to phenomenal consciousness:
- either it arises from the emotional response generated by those "qualia" (which, per se, simply reduce to neuronal activity patterns)
- or the "qualia" have nothing to do with phenomenal consciousness and simply reflect emotional valence of sensations (which I believe is not what people usually mean by the term "qualia")

So what exactly do you mean by "qualia"? Surely pains are qualia?

If qualia "simply reduce to neuronal activity patterns", why call them qualia? If they are not simply another name for "neural activity patterns", how are they different? What distinctive property do they have when "unreduced"? The seemingly obvious answer would be that they are felt or experienced, but they would then be "personal" per se, would they not?

If "feeling pain" is an emotional response generated by qualia, what are we left with if we subtract the emotional response? Do pain qualia themselves feel painful? It would not make sense to say that feeling pain is an emotional response to feeling pain!

On the question of valence, some feelings (e.g. puzzlement) can be strong emotions without having any inherent pleasure/displeasure component (although puzzlement may cause pleasure or displeasure – or be neutral between them – depending on the circumstances). And some feelings (e.g. the reaction to a particular smell or taste) can be strong but finely balanced on the pleasure/displeasure scale; we can say, for example, that a particular food tastes very strange but that we cannot quite make up our mind whether we like it or not. So I don't think the "valence" hypothesis is adequate.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 17th, 2015, 5:50 am 

Dave C -

I have mention this before but many people either refuse, or just cannot, appreciate what you're talking about. It is so simplistic it bypassing our attention. Many regard it as solipsism but that is wide of the mark although similar.

No one can explain what the experience of the colour yellow is. We can talk about measurements of wavelength pigments, rods in the eye, etc., but that is not the experience of yellow. The quality of yellow is a personal emotional experience differing from individual to individual. This creates the problem of being unable to directly compare individual personal experiences because they are individual personal experiences.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby mtbturtle on March 17th, 2015, 7:01 am 

Searle I think would put it that consciousness has a first person ontology which can not be reduced to third person phenonmena.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on March 17th, 2015, 8:47 am 

I had the impression that we had done a step forward, with Dave_C introducing the clear difference between phenomenal consciousness and emotional experience.

Instead, we keep going back to this question of pain or seeing yellow being a "quale".

The whole question of qualia is, in my opinion, quite confusing.
It is quite similar to the question of god: one has the impression they must exist so they have to. (!?)

Think of you looking at a picture of your mum.
Your phenomenal consciousness might well be different, but must be comparable to that of anybody else.
All that makes this experience substantially different for you than it is for other people is not "phenomenal consciousness", but rather all the meanings and emotions you link to this picture.

Even looking at a color inevitably acts on our mood and elicits associations and memories (both emotional and conceptual).

Even looking at a straight line may elicit mild emotions (if it is oriented so that it slightly rises to the right most people would feel a positive emotion whereas the opposite occurs if it declines from left to right).

But this is not phenomenal consciousness.

Any sensation becomes a perception in the moment itself that we give the sensation a meaning, by passively being affected by some emotion, instinctively associated to it, by connecting it with similar past experiences, by attributing it an emotional value, a possible relevance to our interpretation of reality and to our behavioral strategy.

But Chalman's argument above suggests that this is not "phenomenal consciousness".
It is an evaluation of emotional valence (or overall relevance, possibly purely cognitive, not necessarily positive or negative).

Now, I have the impression the concept of "qualia" just stays in the way. It clearly cannot relate to phenomenal consciousness, given the above, and if it relates to the transformation of a sensation into a perception, i.e. to the process of giving a meaning, evaluating the relevance, interpreting, then it is a subsequent process, it is not a property of sensations, it simply is an aspect of our mental activity; but if qualia relate to consciousness in general, and not to phenomenal consciousness, then what do they add to the concept of consciousness tout-court, what is the usefulness of a concept ("qualia") which seems to relate to a specificity of the process of sensing, but actually arises due to a subsequent step of emotional and cognitive interpretation?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on March 17th, 2015, 8:55 am 

mtbturtle » March 17th, 2015, 12:01 pm wrote:Searle I think would put it that consciousness has a first person ontology which can not be reduced to third person phenomena.

I think this is the crucial aspect.
But it is something different from phenomenal consciousness (if I got what the latter is).
It has nothing to do with sensation.
It is a question of how we LIVE things - i.e. all that we add to sensation - not how things hit us.
We cannot sense something without interpreting it, relating it to us and our life, giving "sense" to it.
And this already occurs at intermediate stages of cerebral elaboration of sensations and experiences, well below the level of consciousness, in strict association with subcortical processes of emotional, gratificational and motivational evaluation.
I believe this is why the first person ontology comes about.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 17th, 2015, 9:04 am 

Are we simply trying to avoid saying consciousness is emotion simply because it shows that we cannot say there is a point where one exists before the other?

Can any of us have an experience defunct of emotional content? Is the "emotional experience" actually just simply "the experience"?

Can I really have a tactile, musical, auditory, olfactory, pain, heat, sense, mental experience without any emotional content?

I like Chalmers I just don't get how we can distinguish emotion as something other from what I have mentioned above. I do not see that we have emotional responses toward experiential content at all. I see experience as an emotional thing in the first place.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 17th, 2015, 9:07 am 

BadgerJelly » March 17th, 2015, 9:04 pm wrote:Are we simply trying to avoid saying consciousness is emotion simply because it shows that we cannot say there is a point where one exists before the other?

Can any of us have an experience defunct of emotional content? Is the "emotional experience" actually just simply "the experience"?

Can I really have a tactile, musical, auditory, olfactory, pain, heat, sense, mental experience without any emotional content?

I like Chalmers I just don't get how we can distinguish emotion as something other from what I have mentioned above. I do not see that we have emotional responses toward experiential content at all. I see experience as an emotional thing in the first place.


And yes I have purposely not taken into account how Chalmers expresses "emotion".

Sorry :)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on March 17th, 2015, 10:56 am 

badger,
are you claiming that phenomenal consciousness coincides with the emotional experience associated to sensation?

If so, I don't see the need to coin the term phenomenal consciousness in the first place, and even the term qualia becomes quite useless (=emotional content).

Your position reminds me of your previous claim that ontology and epistemology are just one and the same thing. I don't feel such claims help much in clarifying the questions at hand and producing a constructive discussion. Do you?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Dave_C on March 17th, 2015, 12:33 pm 

I resurrected this thread to see if there were any more clues as to why people have such a hard time conceptualizing phenomenal consciousness (as defined by Chalmers) but I'm still as mystified as ever. Some people (BiV) get it. Lots of people don't. I don't know why. I thought the paper by Sytsma might help but I think it just caused more confusion.

Let's look at a bimetalic strip similar to those used to measure temperature. The strip has 2 different types of metal bonded together that expand and contract depending on temperature but do so to different degrees. That allows the strip to curl up more or less depending on temperature, so it relates that change in dimension to something such as a thermostat to allow for control.

Imagine the bimetalic strip sitting on a table outdoors where temperature changes. It bends back and forth depending on ambient temperature. Question is, does the bimetalic strip feel anything? Does it feel how hot or cold the air is? I think most people would say no. If it did, that would be qualia or phenomenal experience. The strip wouldn't be able to tell you anything about it, in fact the function of the strip might be interpreted as the strip changing state because of its phenomenal experience, but this won't seem like a reasonable suggestion to most.

How about we put the bimetalic strip in a thermostat? Does it perhaps begin to have some kind of phenomenal experience?

If we put the thermostat in a simple robot (such as "Jimmy" as explained in Sytsma's paper) so that it reacted to the environment such as by moving away from areas that are too hot or too cold, would it feel temperature then? People might be inclinded to say yes at this point just as they said Jimmy could 'see red' per Sytsma's paper.

As we make things more complex and produce behaviors like humans, some people tend to believe that those systems begin to have phenomenal experiences. There's clearly no defining line, no separation below which the complexity of the system isn't capable of having any experience of something.

The punchline is that this thing that the system experiences is one of the phenomena defined by phenomenal experience per Chalmers. The sensation of heat or cold is just one phenomenal experience among many, so if a bimetalic strip had an experience of temperature, it would be completely unable to relate that experience to anything. It would be a pure, singular experience with no meaning and no way to relate the experience to anything else in the world (no valence), but it would be a phenomenal experience just the same. So a phenomenal experience (per Chalmers) is what we sense, regardless of whether or not we associate anything with it such as emotion or valence. There are many other phenomenal experiences. We could identify them by asking whether or not a simple inanimate object such as a bimetalic strip could have that experience or not. If the answer is no, we might be talking about a phenomenal experience.

Does any of that help to give a more clear understanding?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby BadgerJelly on March 17th, 2015, 12:55 pm 

I know what you mean :)

It is perhaps easier to refer to the old man in the head watching a TV screen. The point being that there is no man in my head or a TV screen. I can still see though. Having an eye doesn't explain how we can see it only shows that a certain mechanism is needed for sight to be experienced.

Neuro -

Maybe its helpful to someone. My point is that he is using normal words in a different way than usual and it may help to read them as having a slightly different meaning. Emotion is a big deal when it comes to consciousness.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby TheVat on March 17th, 2015, 1:05 pm 

Dave, I think you've helped to clarify that experience requires a conscious experiencer. We don't say "thermostats experience a warm room in a different way than I do," but we might say that "dolphins experience the echoes of their own voices in a different way than I do." I can see a future where science might recognize awareness, this notable property of certain kinds of highly-organized matter, is in fact a state of matter, just as we now recognize solid/fluid/plasma as states of matter. Fluids have emergent properties, like "wetness." Cogni-matter (to coin a term for this state of matter) has emergent properties like "feels." Fluid's "wetness" can be observed externally from a macro-scale perspective. Cogni-matter's "feel-ness" can be observed internally, by the lump of cogni-matter itself, which indicates a universe where a certain state of matter has the unique property of being observable only by the matter in that state. It is a unique form of observation, not at all like inanimate observations, e.g. the decoherence of a quantum state by the the collision of a passing photon or other particle. [ /rambling ]
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby vivian maxine on March 29th, 2015, 11:19 am 

Dave_C » February 2nd, 2015, 1:40 pm wrote:
wolfhnd » February 2nd, 2015, 1:08 pm wrote:That is why I thought that the idea of projection was so useful because the color red is not the property of anything. You have projected red on to an object. I cannot think of what red is without language so for me consciousness implies a higher level of cognition than awareness.

..... that you can't think of red without language, then I wonder if you truly have no experience when you look at something that's red? I'm sorry, I don't mean that in any derogetory way whatsoever.


Perhaps two different ways of reacting have to do previous experiences? I just recently read an article saying that some people see the word when you say it and others see the picture. Some people dream in pictures, some in words. The author even applied this concept to children learning to read. Some recognize the word when it appears again simply by its form, its spelling, etc.; others see a picture that recalls what the word says.

I don't see the word "red"; I sense its color and the many ideas that red implies. Sometimes this has to do with what I've recently experienced. Example: today, when I read your conversation about how you react to "red", I kept seeing the pictures of the explosion in NYC. Other days, different reactions.

But that's just how it feels to react in pictures. If you used a scientific term that meant nothing to me and I only had a dictionary definition, I think I'd react by seeing the word next time you used it.

Is there sense to that?
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