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 Dave_C on March 29th, 2015, 12:26 pm 

Hi Vivian,
vivian maxine » March 29th, 2015, 10:19 am wrote: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 appreciate what you're saying. People can have different mental images when reading or hearing the spoken word. Some people might experience a visual 'picture' in their mind while others experience a written word or perhaps even just the word as it's spoken. When I read something, I'm unfortunately one of those people that has the words play out in my head. I read as if I'm talking to myself. I'm sure that's why I read so slowly. When I read a story, I try also to imagine it happening, visualizing the people as they're described or the scene. Different people might have different experiences. Someone with synesthesia for example, might experience a color when they see or hear a number or word.

The point to phenomenal consciousness might be best understood by asking why there is any experience of something at all, regardless of whether it's a spoken word, a visualization of something or whatever. For example, a camera can pick up different colors and a computer can display those colors and could even tell you what color they are. That is, the computer could correlate a certain input from a camera with a word such as red and could even act on it. But very few people would dare suggest that the computer was actually experiencing a color or experiencing the spoken word. That experience of the color or the experience of how the word sounds or how the letters appear to you on a page are subjective experiences, regardless of which way you see or hear them. That phenomenon, the experience of something (whatever it is) is called a phenomenal experience. So phenomenal experiences are typically thought to be the thing we experience that correlates somehow with what's 'out there' in the world. A stop sign doesn't have the property of red that we experience, it has the property of reflecting a certain wavelength of light. There's no redness that we experience on the face of a stop sign. The stop sign is devoid of any color whatsoever. The color that we experience is created by our brain and that color generation is largely thought to be unexplainable in physical terms. Phenomenal experiences, such as the experience of red, correlate with something out in the world, but the thing out there in the world doesn't have the properties that we experience.

There are other phenomenal experiences such as the experience of love or hate, that are also subjective, but they don't correlate with anything out in the world. We experience them, they are subjective in nature, and we can talk about them, but they are completely created inside our brain.

The set of all phenomenal experiences then (assuming we could list them all) is called phenomenal consciousness.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby vivian maxine on March 29th, 2015, 1:03 pm 

Dave_C » March 29th, 2015, 11:26 am wrote:Hi Vivian,
vivian maxine » March 29th, 2015, 10:19 am wrote: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 appreciate what you're saying. People can have different mental images when reading or hearing the spoken word. Some people might experience a visual 'picture' in their mind while others experience a written word or perhaps even just the word as it's spoken. When I read something, I'm unfortunately one of those people that has the words play out in my head. I read as if I'm talking to myself. I'm sure that's why I read so slowly. When I read a story, I try also to imagine it happening, visualizing the people as they're described or the scene. Different people might have different experiences. Someone with synesthesia for example, might experience a color when they see or hear a number or word.

The point to phenomenal consciousness might be best understood by asking why there is any experience of something at all, regardless of whether it's a spoken word, a visualization of something or whatever. For example, a camera can pick up different colors and a computer can display those colors and could even tell you what color they are. That is, the computer could correlate a certain input from a camera with a word such as red and could even act on it. But very few people would dare suggest that the computer was actually experiencing a color or experiencing the spoken word. That experience of the color or the experience of how the word sounds or how the letters appear to you on a page are subjective experiences, regardless of which way you see or hear them. That phenomenon, the experience of something (whatever it is) is called a phenomenal experience. So phenomenal experiences are typically thought to be the thing we experience that correlates somehow with what's 'out there' in the world. A stop sign doesn't have the property of red that we experience, it has the property of reflecting a certain wavelength of light. There's no redness that we experience on the face of a stop sign. The stop sign is devoid of any color whatsoever. The color that we experience is created by our brain and that color generation is largely thought to be unexplainable in physical terms. Phenomenal experiences, such as the experience of red, correlate with something out in the world, but the thing out there in the world doesn't have the properties that we experience.

There are other phenomenal experiences such as the experience of love or hate, that are also subjective, but they don't correlate with anything out in the world. We experience them, they are subjective in nature, and we can talk about them, but they are completely created inside our brain.

The set of all phenomenal experiences then (assuming we could list them all) is called phenomenal consciousness.



Right. I am on my way to read about phenomenal consciousness again as I've not yet grasped the idea. (An aside - I only see the words when I remind myself to return here after lunch.)

And yes to your comment: "The point to phenomenal consciousness might be best understood by asking why there is any experience of something at all," As to what the camera and computer can do or not do, aren't those only copies of what the picture-taker experienced? A way of reporting in pictures instead of in words? You can describe to me in words what you saw from the top of the Empire State Building or show me a picture of what you saw. Either way, it is I who will experience what you saw, not the median you used to show me. All of which simply says what you said: the camera and the computer - or the newspaper full of words - have no consciousness.

Then you tell me there is no red in the red stop light - that it is all subjective - and I stop. Intellectually, I know you are right but I end up with "how do they do that" and I don't have time to find out. So, I'll take your word for it. No doubt the same can be said of the blue across the tops of my brown-lens sunglasses whenever I walk into direct sunlight.

So, is all consciousness totally subjective? Back to your p-consciousness, your first intent. I'll see what I can make of it. Thank you.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on March 29th, 2015, 4:25 pm 

This discussion seems to have consisted mostly of quibbling over semantics. If one uses the Kantian terminology, a phenomenon is an experience somehow prompted by a real object when it is before us. The experience, it is said, does not at all correspond to the real object itself, which is called a noumenon. This raises the question: when we have a memory of an experience formerly caused by a confrontation with a real object, is the memory phenomenal?

In general one might say, as a rule of thumb, that “phenomenal consciousness” [although that expression is far from satisfactory] refers to perceptual experience.

On the other hand, for a realist like Searle, for example, perceptions “are directed at objects and states of affairs.” He calls perceptions “presentations” and not “representations” and argues that “the presentation has to match the state of affairs that constitutes its conditions of satisfaction in the external world.” In other words, the experience of a sense object can only be satisfied if it is equivalent to a real object. Although I am a realist like Searle, I find this argument somewhat circular.

It is important to understand that consciousness is the sort of memory that makes it possible that our actions are not necessarily subject to antecedent causal rules. In fact, it is precisely for this reason that this sort of memory was naturally selected.

In general, all consciousness is memory, for it impossible to experience anything (be it sensory or otherwise) in just an instant. Indeed, an experience devoid of duration is no experience at all. Similarly, a real object that exists for just an instant does not really exist, for to exist for no time at all is not to exist at all. Memory allows us to experience motion and change (from which we derive the ideas of time and space).

To experience the real world is to experience motion and change, for the world is all that happens—not all that is. The perception of a real state of affairs in the world is satisfied when something happens to us—particularly when it painful or injurious. This is our “litmus test” for reality.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby neuro on April 3rd, 2015, 11:49 am 

vivian maxine » March 29th, 2015, 4:19 pm wrote: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.

You may just try Stroop's test:
It is based on writing the names of various colors using inks of the same or a different color (you may easily find examples in internet).

When there is inconsistency, do you have more problems in saying the written word or the color it is written with?
Generally, people have less problems in just reading the word.
But this is partially biased by the need of using language-related areas of the brain to pronounce the answer.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby vivian maxine on April 3rd, 2015, 12:07 pm 

I never heard of Stroop's test. Maybe I'll take a look.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Percarus on April 8th, 2015, 3:09 pm 

Dave_C wrote:... The set of all phenomenal experiences then (assuming we could list them all) is called phenomenal consciousness.


I liked this line, it pretty much sums it up nicely. ‘Consciousness’ is a slippery term. We need to interpret it in a way that gives us a firm grasp of the controversies it occasions while minimizing initial theoretical commitments. We should, in particular, avoid stacking the deck in favour of disputable theories by introducing the topic in ways that from the start narrowly restrict phenomenal consciousness to “sensory qualia” or “felt qualities,” or immediately make the mind’s self-representation essential to, or constitutive of consciousness.

Charles Siewert posits the following three aspects/schools to phenomenal consciousness:
1) Subjective Experience
2) Subjective Contrast
3) Subjective Knowledge

Noumenons (my understanding of it being delved into the 'abstract') can also be categorized through a phenomenal consciousness as a set of phenomenal experiences - in this case I tend to think of higher complex derivatives of mathematics as an example. Ahem, do all individuals possess phenomenal consciousness? My answer would be a definite yes. But what about living entities that lack the capability to express 'will' and intent. Darwinian evolution posits the DNA helix to be a forever changing and adapting mechanistic machine piece that accumulates objective experience, objective contrast, and objective knowledge - ie: on a cellular level we do not possess phenomenal consciousness lest we delve into the aspects of the soul/spirit.

'Experiences' are fundamental for phenomenal consciousness and "Subjective contrast” aims to make phenomenality conspicuous by its absence. Phenomenal consciousness is said to exist where these are features essentially suited for one to claim or desire a subjective, non-theoretical knowledge regarding what features they are, which is not entirely derived from such knowledge of other features. Ahem, I find it interesting to note that humanity is stalled in evolution because we cannot currently exceed the limits of phenomenal consciousness - question, is there other forms of consciousness??

To conclude I would like to quote an earlier post:
wolfhnd wrote:... Here is what neuro wrote on intelligence.

"neurons, their functional state, their connections and the efficacy of such connections are continuously modified by the information itself they are processing (i.e. by the electrical and biochemical activity induced by their processing incoming information), and that they keep re-elaborating their connectivity pattern (an internal representation of elaborated information) even in the absence of external input.
This creates a metaphysical (logic, abstract) domain of information elaboration"

So neurons are constantly changing... What I want to know is how can the effect of neurological change be passed to future offspring? Does the brain have power over the manufacturing of the body's own genetic coding? I am not a geneticist so I look for clarity from someone with more knowledge. So far I assumed that Darwinian evolution occurred due to natural selection alone. Can one's perception of their phenomenal consciousness alter one's gene pool further down the track?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on June 30th, 2020, 5:41 pm 

(1) Consciousness does not exist if one experiences nothing. To put it differently, one cannot be conscious unless he is conscious of something.

(2). Hence, consciousness and experience are one and the same. Obviously, one cannot experience anything if he is completely unconscious.

(3) Accordingly, the expression “conscious experience” is pointless repetition of the same concept. [However, this does not mean that these words cannot be used separately to express the same idea].

(4) If one uses the word “phenomena” to embrace all possible experiences, whether sensory or otherwise, that word is equivalent to both “consciousness” and “experience.” Accordingly, this additional word is both unnecessary and useless.

(5) What differs is the particular character of an experience—whether it is sensory, a raw feeling, purely intellectual and the like. Thus, we should be careful to distinguish between particular experiences and experience itself—the former being the character of a certain experience (the particular content of consciousness) and the latter the ability to have consciousness/experience of any sort. Thus, for example, one may experience a sensation or be conscious of a sensation. Both are the same.


The truth is, all content of consciousness are memories, whether a current memory or one recalled from distant prior memories. Any particular content of consciousness is a memory, because nothing real can exist without some expense of time, no matter how brief.

Can a particular kind of memory result in involuntary actions? The answer is “yes.” Think of “muscle memory” and the autonomic functioning of the internal organs, for example. They result from an unconscious memory, rather like the program of a computer. Because the motions they yield are causally closed, they are fully determined and completely predictable.

On the other hand, can we decide what to do in any given situation if we are completely unconscious? Obviously not. Clearly, the thing that is necessary for volition is consciousness.

Yet, this does not mean that volition is necessary for consciousness. For example, when, while conscious, one has a reflex action of his hand upon touching a hot surface, he will conscious of the fact that his hand moved; but he will also be conscious of the fact that he made no decision to move the hand [that it occurred independently of his conscious faculties]

Thus, consciousness can properly be called the kind of memory that makes voluntary actions possible—“voluntary memory.”

This does not merely add yet another useless expression to mean consciousness. “Voluntary memory” not only penetrates to the root of what consciousness is but also tells us that its origins lie in the brain’s ability to preserve experiences over time—its ability to remember,
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Positor on June 30th, 2020, 11:03 pm 

Neri » June 30th, 2020, 10:41 pm wrote:On the other hand, can we decide what to do in any given situation if we are completely unconscious? Obviously not. Clearly, the thing that is necessary for volition is consciousness.

Agreed. But:

Yet, this does not mean that volition is necessary for consciousness. For example, when, while conscious, one has a reflex action of his hand upon touching a hot surface, he will conscious of the fact that his hand moved; but he will also be conscious of the fact that he made no decision to move the hand [that it occurred independently of his conscious faculties]

Thus, consciousness can properly be called the kind of memory that makes voluntary actions possible—“voluntary memory.”

If volition is not necessary for consciousness (and I agree it is not), how can consciousness be called "voluntary memory"? We could still be conscious even if we lacked the ability to perform any voluntary actions.

Shouldn't the phrase I have marked in bold read "independently of his volition"? Why have you conflated volition with "conscious faculties" here, if the former is only a subset of the latter?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 1st, 2020, 2:07 am 

The truth is, all content of consciousness are memories, whether a current memory or one recalled from distant prior memories. Any particular content of consciousness is a memory, because nothing real can exist without some expense of time, no matter how brief.


That's right, now we're getting somewhere.

when, while conscious, one has a reflex action of his hand upon touching a hot surface, he will conscious of the fact that his hand moved; but he will also be conscious of the fact that he made no decision to move the hand


But that's just an involuntary reflex, to avoid excess heat. The body reacts protectively. That's not the same as someone pursuing, say, fame or notoriety.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 1st, 2020, 3:57 pm 

neuro » March 16th, 2015, 6:35 pm wrote:
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")

I will first tip off the readers to the fact that the post I am responding to above was written in march of 2015. I am cognizant that the original poster has departed the forum likely years ago. This reply does not serve as a reply to user Neuro, but as a continuation of a conversation here for others.

Neuro in this post above, has attempted to adopt a position called Eliminative Materialism. All such positions are complex intellectual traditions containing colorful castes of characters and writers over many centuries. For the purposes of a forum of this type, a desperately short synopsis of "Eliminative Materialism" is "the brain does it".

Eli-mat is a position that consciousness is ontologically equivalent to the "actions of firing neurons" in heads. Eli-mat is not in the mainstream. The vast majority of working neuroscientists today do not subscribe to it. As we shall see below, many highly esteemed scientist do not subscribe to Eli-mat.

I will ask you to re-read Neuro's post, but during the second read-over, notice the following.

1. Neuro has smuggled an identity-that-experiences into his descriptions, in a sneaky way that you overlooked. In short, he has invoked an Experiencing Homonculus in several parts of his description that intended to "reduce" conscious experience to the firing of neurons.

To help guide you, here is one sentence where the smuggling was done
then we have a more complex experience that adds the "subjective" and "personal" feeling to the sensations.

Read that sentence again. Neuro is trying to prove that "having experience" reduces to neuronal firing patterns in the brain, and he is basically attempting to reduce that by asserting that we have experiences. That is circular logic.

"we have a more complex experience"? Uhm.... Who is we? Where is this "we" located in spacetime? Further where is this "we" located in the brain?

To achieve the goal Eli-mat is attempting to do, you cannot avoid these questions by fluffing through them with poetic conversational language. You must describe in concrete terms why this tissue in the brain feels like a "we" having conscious experiences.

Another example
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.

"does not reach our consciousness".
What does he mean by "does not reach our consciousness" ? Is there a central location in the brain that is conscious, but the other parts are not, and so the signals have to "get there"? But why is that part of the brain the conscious part and the other are not? Of course, you and I both understand what Neuro meant at at a conversational level. Sure. It makes sense as a working story. But what are the exact neuronal mechanisms? An Eli-mat has to answer every one of these questions with exact neuronal mechanisms. What Neuro has written is not a reduction to firing patterns. This is futile hand-waving at the Hard Problem.

Now that you can see what the trick is, you will notice that Neuro believed he has solved the Hard Problem by reducing it to neuronal firing patterns in the brain. In totally legal terms, Neuro basically described that when the neuronal signals pass through a filter, they reach the consciousness-processing center, and an experience happens. That's not an explanation , at all. In reality, Neuro has not even put a dent in this problem. In reality Neuro hasn't even scratched the surface of the problem.

Inferential Gap
Ed Witten is one of the greatest living physicists alive today. He is easily in the top 5. His office is a chaired at Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). Among working physicists, many of them contend he is the number 1 greatest living physicist. Ed Witten was the sole discoverer of M-theory , an 11-dimensional generalization of String Theory. This is what Dr. Witten has said about consciousness.

Ed Witten wrote:I imagine that it would be easier to explain the Big Bang in scientific terms, than it would be to explain consciousness in scientific terms.

It was Chalmers himself that said the following. Even if you had a complete and exhaustive wiring diagram of the brain, could you infer from that diagram that the brain was having internal experiences?

Many intelligent, highly-esteemed scientists from a host of disciplines have concluded that you cannot make that inference. It's a non-sequitur.

They might be wrong. But they might be right.

Of course, you could always do what Eliminative Materialists do, and just accept the inference as fact on purely dogmatic grounds. Force it as an axiom in your philosophy.

Go ahead and do that. No harm no foul. Just don't pretend you are sitting on hotcakes evidence that "proves" Eli-mat.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 1st, 2020, 8:04 pm 

Cheron and Hyksos,

Consciousness is necessary for making decisions and acting upon them [volition]. This means that consciousness is the thing that allows volition. Consciousness evolved to allow planning and premeditation before acting. This is why I refer consciousness as voluntary memory. It has obvious evolutionary value over mindless stimulus and response.

However, stimulus and response are still a part of our central nervous system. Thus, in exigent circumstances, for example, where there is no time for planning, the body responds reflexively to preserve itself from danger. Because our faculty for planned action is not involved in such things, they arise from involuntary memories, which are a part of our genetic makeup.

As I have said, both planned and reflexive actions are made possible by memory (voluntary and involuntary) because they cannot exist unless they are spread over time.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 1st, 2020, 8:39 pm 

All right, we're memory, but go further.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 1st, 2020, 8:48 pm 

Hyksos,

Chalmers states the obvious: Our consciousness is subjective yet it arises from purely physical interactions in the brain. This seems very odd indeed, yet we know it happens that way; for a sufficiently forceful blow to the head will eliminate consciousness temporally or permanently depending on the force applied.

However, I do not necessarily think that if we are able to duplicate consciousness in a machine, that we will fully understand why the machine can do it Science models many natural events knowing exactly when they will occur without knowing why. In fact, this is typically the case.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 1st, 2020, 10:34 pm 

Consciousness evolved to allow planning and premeditation before acting.

Giulio Tononi is the world's leading expert on the neuroscience of sleep. He has an ELO number, meaning his publications have been cited by thousands of other researchers in the field.

During Q&A after a lecture Dr. Tononi was still on stage. An audience heckler probed him : "Why did consciousness evolve? How did it evolve?" Tononi's answer was ,


Giulio Tononi wrote:Consciousness did not have to evolve because it is a fundamental property like mass and charge.


For emphasis, that is a neuroscientist saying that. A published post-doctoral neuroscientist.

However, stimulus and response are still a part of our central nervous system. Thus, in exigent circumstances, for example, where there is no time for planning, the body responds reflexively to preserve itself from danger. Because our faculty for planned action is not involved in such things, they arise from involuntary memories, which are a part of our genetic makeup.

Consider the following crude functions of the human brain.
(1) Memory
(2) Descrimination
(3) navigation
(4) motor behavior
(5) understanding speech
(6) producing speech from ideas
(7) vision
(9) learning
(10) planning
(11) . . . et cetera

In the coming decades and centuries, neuroscience will explain all of these crude functions in terms of neuronal correlates. The biological basis of all these functionally-observed behaviors will be grounded in the workings of cell communication and brain states. Bet on it. David Chalmers has repreatedly stated that this will certainly happen, and I agree with him.

However, there remains a question as to why any of these crude input/output dynamics of the brain and body should ever be accompanied by an internal experience by an all encompassing observer, the ephemeral "I" that feels an experience of being. Our current understanding of nature dictates that our sense organs, muscles, and brains need only map inputs to outputs to produce strategies effective at surviving and passing on our genes. There is no identifiable reason for any of this to be accompanied by internal experience of it happening. We should be biological automata that engage in effective behaviors, with no lights on upstairs (so to speak).

The above paragraph sounds like some "internet guy's opinion". Unfortunately, this exact problem (the so-called Hard Problem ) was repeated in nearly verbatim as I have written it here, by Richard Dawkins, while he was being interviewed on TV.

So tell me , Neri -- do you know who Richard Dawkins is?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 2nd, 2020, 1:15 pm 

Hiksos,

With all due respect to Mr.Tononi, even if consciousness is a fundamental property like mass, this in no way forecloses evolution. Animals have evolved greater or lesser mass, for example, to better survive in the conditions extant at various ages of the earth.

I do not know whether or not neuroscience will, in the future, solve the hard problem of consciousness— although I rather doubt it.

You say, even if such a solution is found, there remains a question as to why the dynamics of the nervous system should ever be accompanied by consciousness. This question has a simple answer, at least so far as humanity is concerned.

We are conscious because volition requires it, and volition is the thing that has not only fostered the rise of our species but has also allowed it to dominate the earth.

Our actions are not causally closed as many seem to think, for modern science can no longer guarantee that immutable causal laws predetermine all things that happen. This does not mean, however, that we possess an immortal soul, for it is clear, at least to me, that consciousness is an emergent product of the human brain.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 2nd, 2020, 1:53 pm 

Neri -

We are conscious because volition requires it


Are you saying volition/will is something different to consciousness? That it's not intrinsically part of consciousness? That consciousness only exists because of will?

Will or volition is the power behind choice and decision. But surely unless we were conscious first there'd be nothing to choose or decide about?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 2nd, 2020, 6:43 pm 

I do not know whether or not neuroscience will, in the future, solve the hard problem of consciousness— although I rather doubt it.

It is certainly possible that the neural correlates of consciousness will be found by science. Perhaps we will find that the conscious "Me"/"I" is equivalent to a certain pattern of neuronal activity in the Ventromedial prefrontal cortex. I'm game on such possibilities.

Having said that, I see a disturbing pattern in discussions of this subject on the internet. (Indeed right on this forum in the other thread. I'm sure you know which one I refer.) The disturbing pattern is a person adopting Eliminative Materialism, and then nothing in their posts contains the words "cortex", "limbic system", "hypothalamus" , "nuclues accumbens" , "parietal cortex", "dopaminergic neurons", "serotonin", and so on and so forth. Basically a person claiming they have solved the Hard Problem, discovered that the brain does it, and then not a mention of a single functional brain area. Indeed the word "neuron" itself is somehow absent. It is preposterous. And alarmingly common.

I am open to the possibility that consciousness will never be explained by science. The reasoning for that position is that science deals in 3rd-person observation that can be expressed as information in the sense of Shannon. Perhaps first-person accounts is not the uh.. purview of science. Perchance science does not play in that deck of cards (so to speak). While science has a wide girth in its reach of explanation, the field to which it is applicable has outer limits. First-person accounting is maybe beyond that limit, and science doesn't apply when the subject is the neurons itself. The position makes much more sense in the context of the gedankenexperiment known as "Mary in the colorless room."


for it is clear, at least to me, that consciousness is an emergent product of the human brain.

I have a series of questions for you in regards to your clarity. I will ask your permission before hitting you with them, since it won't be friendly or fun. If you want a series of really hard questions from me, let me know, and I will type them up. (But consider this a friendly warning.)
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 2nd, 2020, 7:52 pm 

Sheron.

If you had read my posts you would realize that I stated repeatedly that volition depends on consciousness. This means that one can make decisions and act upon them only if he is conscious. It is not a difficult thing to comprehend.

Of course, one may be so physically impaired that he has little opportunity to act upon his decisions. This would be the case if one is tightly bound and gagged or paralyzed from the neck down. I also pointed out that one may be conscious of involuntary actions of his own body and gave the example of reflex actions. I stated, in fact, that consciousness is necessary for the will, but the will is not necessary for consciousness. This should be clear enough

I dislike having to repeat myself and expect members to read my posts before commenting on them.

Hyksos,

I certainly did not claim that I solved the hard problem of consciousness. Such a thing would require someone whose intellect far surpasses mine. Indeed, no one has yet solved the problem, and it is doubtful that it will ever be solved.

The problem is this: Exactly how can the brain, a physical object, cause something so seemingly immaterial as thought. Any reasonably intelligent person would agree that the brain does it. It is just that no one knows exactly how. This applies with particular force to neuroscientists. Their promiscuous use of technical terms to describe what the brain does in no way explains how it does it. Perhaps, the physicists ought to have a go at it, for the neuroscientists have provided little insight on the matter.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 2nd, 2020, 8:06 pm 

Hyksos,

Ask whatever questions you like. I will not be available until tomorrow afternoon to answer them. Please number your questions so that I can answer them seriatim.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 3rd, 2020, 2:02 am 

Neri -

I stated repeatedly that volition depends on consciousness.


You're quite right, that's what you said, I beg your pardon.

how can the brain, a physical object, cause something so seemingly immaterial as thought


But it's not in the least immaterial (so I'm glad you said seemingly), it's a physical reaction taking place in the brain. The brain is a physical organ. It would be like saying that what appears on the computer screen is of a different nature/quality to the rest of the workings. It's not, of course.

You said before that we were, fundamentally, memory. Quite right. Memory is stored in the brain, which includes the memory of language, and is triggered by a stimulus. If I ask your name the answer pops up immediately, just like the computer.

So thought is not only material but also mechanistic. It can't ever be more than it is or go beyond its own boundaries, any more than the computer can. It simply is what it is.

But the difference between us and the computer is that we have intelligence. The computer has no intelligence, it's an inert machine. I know the technical people have called it 'intelligent' but they've hijacked that word. It's not intelligent in the sense it can think for itself or make decisions, as we can.

So, whereas thought is both material and mechanistic, intelligence is not, it's of a different order altogether.

One asks, therefore, what the relation is between consciousness, which we are saying is the brain and its activities, and this intelligence. If consciousness is brain activity then they are two separate things and there's no direct relationship.

So intelligence is not a product of the brain. Thought is a product of the brain but intelligence is not. Intelligence is neither material nor mechanistic. Intelligence is not memory or knowledge, it's not related to the past as experience. So intelligence is not of time.

All right so far?

By the way, the user-name's charon, not Sheron, for what it's worth!
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 3rd, 2020, 2:04 am 

Anyway, I'll go on a little bit because you seem fairly interested in this subject.

You see, this leaves us with a certain problem. If we're to limit the description of consciousness to the workings of the brain, which are material, then there's a contradiction. Perhaps it's linguistic but I'm not sure.

As I said, we have intelligence which is not mechanistic. We're self-aware and can think for ourselves, or at least some of us can. We can make up our own minds, which the computer can't do. And we'd say that's because the computer isn't conscious. In fact, it doesn't think at all.

So it appears that the word conscious means self-aware, not just mechanistic. It implies being autonomous, which the computer is not. That in turn implies intelligence, surely?

So it seems that consciousness is much more then the mere physical brain activity after all. If that is the meaning we give it, of course.

If we do give it that meaning then the computer is not conscious, it's just a machine. But we're very conscious and not just machines. Computers have no self-awareness but we do. So it looks as though we're going to have to re-think what we mean by consciousness, or rather 'being conscious'.

Volition, of course, belongs to a thinking entity with self-awareness. Computers, to flog the comparison, have absolutely no volition at all. They're inert machines, they merely function.

This doesn't mean volition is a good thing, though. Volition, will, may be highly destructive. It takes will to dominate others and ourselves. So not everything in consciousness is good, quite the contrary.

But that's enough, isn't it? I digress.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 3rd, 2020, 4:00 am 

Here "conscious" does not = "awareness". Here "conscious" = "having internal phenomenonal experience", in the sense of Chalmers. Dave_C calls this phenomenal consciousness , and has spilled pages of ink defining it. Alright lets do this.

(1)
Is a rock conscious? Yes or no.

(2)
Is a drop of rainwater conscious? Yes or no.

(3)
Is a garage door opener conscious?

(4)
Is a string of christmas lights turned on and shining conscious?

(5)
Say I have started with a large collection of identical garage door openers, and connected them together in a network of wires, where one turning on may turn on others in a chain reaction. I have connected 850,000 garage door openers together in a large hangar at an airport. I wave my hand over several of the laser triggers tripping them. The openers start forming complex patterns of synchronized activity.

Is the gigantic network of garage door openers having a conscious experience? Yes or no. What criteria led you to your answer?

(6)
Is a virus conscious?

(7)
I have an Intel core i9 CPU here. It contains a little over 4 billion transistors. I run benchmarks on it. Is this microprocessor conscious? Why or why not?

(8)
Is a bacterium conscious? Yes or no? Indicate or list the criteria you applied to reach your conclusion.

(9)
Are living mammals conscious all the time , or are they only conscious during certain parts of the day?

(10)
Consider the question "Is the internet conscious?" but do not give an answer. What principled theory applies? What principled experiments could be performed towards answering that question?
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 3rd, 2020, 12:27 pm 

Hyksos,

Currently, consciousness is a biological function only of the living human and animal brain. It is not an absolute. There are degrees of consciousness. Similarly, volition has degrees. Humans have the highest degree of both.

Accordingly, a rock and a drop of rainwater are not conscious, because they are not alive and have no brain. A garage door opener and a string of Christmas lights are not conscious for the same reason.

A large collection of Christmas lights, as you described them, has no conscious content. No matter how large and complex the combinations, they cannot yield a subjective life. The same is true of a collection of garage door openers.

A virus is not quite alive and has no brain and therefore is not conscious.

A microprocessor is essentially an algorithm. As such, it has no conscious content. That is, it slavishly goes through certain steps that are baked into the program. For the same reason, the internet itself is not conscious. However, one hopes that the people who use it are more or less so.

A bacterium is not conscious because it has no brain.

Mammals have a degree of consciousness, depending on the species. It is with them continuously so long as there is no damage to the brain. This includes humans.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 3rd, 2020, 12:45 pm 

Sharon,

We all know what consciousness is because we experience it directly. In fact, there is nothing of which we may be more certain than our own consciousness.

Surely, it is difficult to understand how a lump of tissue can yield a thing so immaterial as consciousness. Yet we know it happens. We may say that consciousness emerges from the interaction of neurons. That is, no neuron taken in isolation is conscious, yet from there interactions, consciousness emerges. The problem is, we have no clear idea exactly how this happens. This is the great problem of Philosophy of Mind.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby charon on July 3rd, 2020, 1:25 pm 

Neri -

Sharon


Charon! I don't actually care but you did tell people to read things properly!

Surely, it is difficult to understand how a lump of tissue can yield a thing so immaterial as consciousness.


But I've answered that. Did you bother to read it? I'm wondering why you merely repeat the same thing again.

It's not immaterial, it's thoroughly material. It's a physical process in a physical, material organ. Everything it does, that the body does, is physical, material. This is simple, isn't it?

Tell me why you say consciousness is immaterial. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm asking.

We may say that consciousness emerges from the interaction of neurons. That is, no neuron taken in isolation is conscious, yet from there interactions, consciousness emerges. The problem is, we have no clear idea exactly how this happens. This is the great problem of Philosophy of Mind.


Precisely, neurons, electrical connections, and so on. It's as physical as a radio or anything else.

Our senses provide sensory data which is processed by the brain. Some of it is stored as memory. From that memory we think. Knowledge and experience is all stored data and from that we think.

Isn't this simple? When you say 'Philosophy of Mind' that's your thought from your knowledge, something you've read or seen and stored up, right?

Our awareness too is sensory. We're aware of light, heat, cold, and so forth. From memory we recognise it for what it is and say 'It's cold or hot, red or blue, round or square' and so on. That's all, it's a physical, sensory process in the brain.

If the mechanism is damaged, either brain or body, it doesn't work properly. It's a biological machine that, like any other machine, can go wrong.

Is this really our problem? Isn't the real problem what we are doing with our thought and knowledge? The world is in a terrible mess and we've created it. We think we're terribly clever but obviously we're not.

Did you read what I said about intelligence? With intelligence all these problems could be solved but we're not interested in that, we're too immersed in much smaller problems of our own making.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby Neri on July 4th, 2020, 11:56 am 

Sharon,

I refer you to my posts of 7/1/20 at 7:48pm and 7/2/20 at 12:15pm and 6:52pm. If you have any interest in what I am saying, I suggest that you read these posts with a view to comprehending them.
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Re: Definition of phenomenal consciousness

Postby hyksos on July 4th, 2020, 9:35 pm 

Currently, consciousness is a biological function only of the living human and animal brain.

You are just repeating this dogmatically, and demanding I go along with it. What criteria are you applying that tells you that only living brains have the "special ingredients" for consciousness?


No matter how large and complex the combinations, they cannot yield a subjective life. The same is true of a collection of garage door openers.

How in the world do you know this? List your criteria.


A microprocessor is essentially an algorithm. As such, it has no conscious content.

Describe in what way the living brain is not an algorithm.

Before you answer, I will remind you that microprocessors are Turing complete. Therefore they can compute any algorithm within the bounds of their RAM.

We may say that consciousness emerges from the interaction of neurons.

What is the special attribute that neurons have that garage door openers do not have?
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