Is Consciousness an Illusion?

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

Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on May 27th, 2016, 11:54 am 

Thanks DragonFly. Also, regarding “free-will” (aka “conscious-control”, “autonomous-ness”), this illusion exists and is perpetuated by of our psychological inability to correctly interpret the sequence of our own experiential events, i.e. in its correct chronological order!

There is a very short time lag (milliseconds?) associated with the “experiencing” (of an experience) versus the “knowing” (of this experience). Note: the correct chronological sequence is that the “experiencing” is prior to the “knowing”. In other words, we can’t “know” what we feel until after we “feel” it!

It is because of this closeness in time, and our psychological nature, that we inadvertently reverse the actual chronological sequence of events. Simply put, we view the events in reverse order. This reverse viewing creates the illusion of “self-causation” (free-will, conscious-control, autonomy, etc.). It creates the sensation of being the "knowing causer” of our own experiences (“felt effects”). It creates the sensation that we somehow “know” and can "cause" what we are going to do/feel (experience) PRIOR to it actually happening, which then creates the feeling of “causer/self-causation” -- "free-will" -- "conscious-control" -- "autonomy" -- "determiner of our own actions" -- "self-destiny" -- etc. etc.

In actuality there is no free-will, no conscious-control, there is only us experiencers experiencing experiences. And if we experiencers possess a memory, then we also get to “know” what we experience (which in-itself is an experience), and then call this "knowing", “consciousness”.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby DragonFly on May 28th, 2016, 11:00 pm 

Old Rasputin » May 27th, 2016, 10:54 am wrote:

In actuality there is no free-will, no conscious-control, there is only us experiencers experiencing experiences. And if we experiencers possess a memory, then we also get to “know” what we experience (which in-itself is an experience), and then call this "knowing", “consciousness”.


All good, Rasputin!

No "could have" done differently, "should have", "might have", "ought to have had", and no "if's" but for exercises (actuality trumps all). No shame; no blame.


Now’s pen inscribes, based on what was just there,
Its written words phrasing our sentence here.
Although it may spell to us right or wrong,
Even one letter’s change hasn’t a prayer.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby uninfinite on May 29th, 2016, 9:05 am 

DragonFly » May 29th, 2016, 4:00 am wrote:
Old Rasputin » May 27th, 2016, 10:54 am wrote:

In actuality there is no free-will, no conscious-control, there is only us experiencers experiencing experiences. And if we experiencers possess a memory, then we also get to “know” what we experience (which in-itself is an experience), and then call this "knowing", “consciousness”.


All good, Rasputin!

No "could have" done differently, "should have", "might have", "ought to have had", and no "if's" but for exercises (actuality trumps all). No shame; no blame.


Now’s pen inscribes, based on what was just there,
Its written words phrasing our sentence here.
Although it may spell to us right or wrong,
Even one letter’s change hasn’t a prayer.



The natural connotation of my remarks is that human beings ARE moral animals with a moral sense - like a sense of humor; we have a sensitivity to the moral implications of our actions and those of others. Yet you maintain your survival of the fittest/dog eat dog idea of evolution, and an objectivized idea of morality, despite everything I've said - and simply restate your original view. Thus, I'm wasting my time responding to your remarks.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on May 29th, 2016, 11:28 am 

Dragonfly wrote:No "could have" done differently, "should have", "might have", "ought to have had", and no "if's" but for exercises (actuality trumps all). No shame; no blame.

Now’s pen inscribes, based on what was just there,
Its written words phrasing our sentence here.
Although it may spell to us right or wrong,
Even one letter’s change hasn’t a prayer.

…yes, …and in a very pleasing (and interesting) way to say it, …very nice
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby DragonFly on May 29th, 2016, 1:56 pm 

Old Rasputin » May 29th, 2016, 10:28 am wrote:
Dragonfly wrote:…yes, …and in a very pleasing (and interesting) way to say it, …very nice


Omar Khayyam was famous for promoting the now as all there is, among other great themes, and so many people have taken his Arabic quatrains and added their own transliteration to them, the best of which transmogrifications were by Edward FitzGerald, although some writers tried to stay literal, but FitzGerald made it into the greatest poem in history, as well as the most often illustrated one (I've done one; just finished it).

The original, close to the Arabic, is perhaps something like this:

Nought can be changed of what was first decreed,
Grieve as thou wilt, no heart but thine will bleed;
If thy life long, thine eyes shed tears of blood,
'Twill not increase one drop woe's raging flood.

Compare to FitzGerald's gem:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on March 27th, 2017, 11:50 am 

Having reread some of the older threads, I see that I did not provide follow-up comments on this topic.

I noticed that many of the comments, with some notable exceptions, reveal an inability to fully appreciate the circular reasoning involved in the claim that consciousness is illusory.

Dennett offers the proposition, “Consciousness is an illusion.” This proposition is false, because the expression, “illusion” presumes the very thing he seeks to disprove. That is, an illusion presumes that a conscious subject is experiencing it. Nor does the result change if expressions such as “imaginary” are substituted for illusory, for only a conscious subject has an imagination. This seems to me so simple and straightforward that I wonder how anyone can fail to understand it.

Further, because “experience” requires a conscious subject to do the experiencing, “consciousness” and “experience” have the same meaning. The confusion seems to arise from a failure to take into account the following explanation provided in my OP:

“Dennett conflates consciousness with the contents of conscious [objects of consciousness]. In this regard, he emphasizes the fact that sensory experiences (particularly vision) can be illusory.

“His argument seems to be: 'Because there can be no consciousness without content--if the content is illusory, then consciousness must itself be illusory.'

“Unfortunately, this overlooks the following:

“(1) There is no reason to believe that all perceptions are illusory.

“(2) In any event (as I already pointed out), no illusion can exist except as the object of a conscious mind.”

Similarly, it may properly be said that because no experience can exist except in a conscious mind, even an illusory experience is conscious.

However, some of the posts attempt to draw a distinction between experience and consciousness. It should be obvious that if one is unconscious he can have no experience of any kind.

To experience anything, whether true or false, real or illusory, one must know what he is experiencing. This does not mean that one is conscious of the fact that he is conscious, for this is meaningless repetition. It means only that one’s consciousness has a content or object that is known to him.

It is quite true that there are degrees of consciousness. For example, an earthworm is no more conscious than our intestines, even though they both react to stimuli. Clearly, the simplest life forms react autonomically to stimuli just as a thermostat reacts to temperature.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that my little dog, Chibi, has a degree of consciousness. For example, when he is outside on a beautiful day, he hates to come inside. He also wants to please me by doing what I ask. So that, when I call him to come inside on such a day, I can see that he looks back and forth at the back yard and me. He does this several times as if weighing the pros and cons of each alternative. Then he acts. I know that whatever he does is voluntary, because he does not always do the same thing under the same conditions. In other words, he does one thing when he has the power to do either. This state of affairs describes volition and indicates that Chibi possesses a degree of consciousness.

The degree to which any species may be called conscious is the degree to which it can act freely (non-autonomically]. Clearly, no animal can act freely if it is unaware of what it is doing.

Although we can be aware of actions of the body that are involuntary, we cannot be unaware of actions that are voluntary. Thus, the capacity for consciousness is the sine qua non for volition, and indeed makes volition possible.

My little dog can sometimes act freely, but most of the time he is subject to stimulus and response, whereas exactly the converse is the case with humans. Neither Chibi nor I are free all the time, but I am free to a much greater extent than he. Therefore, I am conscious to a far greater degree.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on March 29th, 2017, 10:36 pm 

Neri wrote:I noticed that many of the comments, with some notable exceptions, reveal an inability to fully appreciate the circular reasoning involved in the claim that consciousness is illusory.

Dennett offers the proposition, “Consciousness is an illusion.” This proposition is false, because the expression, “illusion” presumes the very thing he seeks to disprove.

Neri, aren’t you first pre-assuming the existence of consciousness to then dispel the illusion (non-existence) of consciousness? In other words, aren’t you begging-the-question here (by pre-assuming the conclusion)?

For instance -- can’t one just ‘experience’ an illusion? …or must “consciousness” first exist before one can experience this illusion?

I do not necessarily agree with Dennett, but I see no contradiction, nor “circular reasoning” in his claim/proposition that “consciousness is an illusion”.

The contradiction ("circular reasoning") only exists if one pre-assumes the conclusion (begs-the-question) that consciousness is required to experience. But what if we CAN experience without the need of this (seemingly mystical thing called) consciousness?

Neri wrote:…an illusion presumes that a conscious subject is experiencing it.
…for only a conscious subject has an imagination.

Why? Why is consciousness required? Why does the ability to experience require consciousness? Can't one (a subject) just experience mental images; imaginations/illusions? Why the need for this thing called "consciousness"?

...can non-conscious subjects/things (such as single cell amoeba and plants and worms) experience? ...or must cells, plants, and worms also possess consciousness to be able to experience??

Does a "non-conscious" worm experience pain when piercing his body onto a fishing hook? It certainly appears to experience something as it violently wiggles as its body is pierced!
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on March 30th, 2017, 8:48 am 

Neri wrote:To experience anything, whether true or false, real or illusory, one must know what he is experiencing.

"Know" is the key word. Could it be that this “knowing” IS our elusive consciousness?

Many entities can experience, but not many can “know” they experience. The ones that “know”, are the ones that are considered “conscious subjects”, …true? And if so, then this makes “consciousness” essentially equivalent to “memory” (the ability to "know").

To be more specific -- Consciousness is the experience-of-recognition, made possible by memory.

In other words, consciousness is knowing.

Agreed?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on March 30th, 2017, 12:59 pm 

OR,

I will try to make it even simpler.

Have you even been rendered completely unconscious for a surgical procedure? If you have, you will realize that it is a kind of “lights off--lights on” situation. The surgery could have taken hours, but to you it took no time at all. [I am not talking about sleep here, for one can experience dreams while asleep. That is why sleep is said to be a conscious state].

While you were under anesthesia, you could not see, hear, or smell. You could not feel the surgeon’s knife or anything else for that matter. You could not imagine unicorns or sprites. You could not experience any illusion. You could not be deceived. During the surgery, you knew nothing and remembered nothing.

In fact, you experienced absolutely nothing while unconscious. Indeed, that is the definition of unconsciousness—the inability to have any kind of experience. Accordingly, consciousness is the condition of having experiences.

To say that one who is under general anesthesia can have experiences is like saying that the dead can have experiences (the only difference being that the dead are permanently deprived of all experience while those under general anesthesia are only temporarily so deprived).

I do not know how to put it plainer. If you understand this little example, you should be able to understand my reasoning.

Regarding worms, because they may move in a way that we associate with pain does not necessarily mean that they actually experience pain. Such movements are more likely purely reflexive—that is, done without experiencing anything. Certainly, worms lack the neurology associated with experience. However, because we would have no access to the subjective states of worms even if they had such states, we cannot say that it is impossible that they experience pain. Only as a matter of abduction are we justified in believing that a worm can experience nothing.

Knowledge presumes consciousness, for one can know nothing unless one is conscious.

Consciousness is not equivalent to all memory. It is memory of a certain kind. I call it voluntary memory, the kind of memory that makes volition possible.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on March 30th, 2017, 4:36 pm 

Neri wrote:Have you even been rendered completely unconscious for a surgical procedure? If you have, you will realize that it is a kind of “lights off--lights on” situation. The surgery could have taken hours, but to you it took no time at all. [I am not talking about sleep here, for one can experience dreams while asleep. That is why sleep is said to be a conscious state].

While you were under anesthesia, you could not see, hear, or smell. You could not feel the surgeon’s knife or anything else for that matter. You could not imagine unicorns or sprites. You could not experience any illusion. You could not be deceived.

I certainly don't remember experiencing unicorns and sprites during my colonoscopy exam :-)

Neri wrote:During the surgery, you knew nothing and remembered nothing.

Yes, correct. But note the operative words: “knew” and “remembered”. Both require memory.

Neri wrote:In fact, you experienced absolutely nothing while unconscious.

Not so fast. This conclusion does not logically follow. It is not that I did/didn’t “experience nothing”, it is that I didn’t “remember anything”! (...maybe I did, and don't know it). These (“remembering” and “experiencing”) are two different things/meanings. You are trying to conflate one with the other.

Neri wrote:Accordingly, consciousness is the condition of having experiences.

1. Is consciousness the “knowing” of the experiencing, or is it the “experiencing” itself?

2. Is it possible to have experiences without knowing (being conscious of) it?

3. I know you don't think worms and plants can experience, but what about newborn babies? Are you also then saying that newborn babies don’t experience hunger (because they are not conscious of it)? I certainly don't remember experiencing anything at that age, but I am (somewhat) sure that I must have.

Again, I think you are mistaken by conflating "consciousness" with "experiencing", when it seems more reasonable to conflate "consciousness” with “knowing”.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Braininvat on March 30th, 2017, 5:07 pm 

I think this is a place for reviewing the Duhem-Quine thesis. If we are looking at the hypothesis "Consciousness is an illusion," then our testing cannot proceed in the absence of looking at a number of background assumptions that have been made about aspects of consciousness - its persistence over time, its ability to render an internal model (using memory) of a unitary Self, its unique perspective (no one can know what's in my mind except me), its responsiveness to external stimuli, etc. We are really talking about what Quine called "a bundle of hypotheses" which must be considered together before any meaningful statements can be made or any empirical tests can be performed. And the empirical tests will only take us so far - at some point, per Quine, we will rely on other considerations besides just evidence, such as the simplicity, elegance and conservatism (how they fit with our overall intuitions about reality and mind) of the theory of mind.

Simplicity is dependent on how well we define the core term, consciousness.

Consciousness is easily conflated with other terms when there is no agreement on what it is. What if we were to say that memory can be removed from a mind's capacities and there would still be consciousness? For sure, there would be no sense of a Self with some kind of past or future, but there would still be a phenomenal declaration of awareness that would be possible. Life might consist of moments in which the organism thinks "I am! Hooray!" Every few seconds there would be that phenomenal state of "I am! Hooray!" Quite limited, to be sure, but would anyone argue that consciousness is absent? Well, it depends on what assumptions have been bundled along with basic awareness....
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on March 30th, 2017, 11:15 pm 

BIV,

A few comments on the Duhem-Quine test:

(1) Consciousness is “persistent over time” because it is a kind of memory.

(2) Consciousness of a unified self [as opposed to consciousness per se] is indeed illusory, for the self cannot be an unchanging existent. It only seems so to us because memory provides a particular history of our interactions with whatever lies outside of us. Consciousness itself is a continuous process wherein past memories are suffused over current perceptions. This combination also contributes to the sense of a unique self. Of course, consciousness (having experiences) is a necessary precondition for the sense of self.

(3) Subjectivity [“no one can know what’s in my mind except me”], sometimes called the privacy of thought, is a consequence of the fact that consciousness is limited to the spatial extent of the head. This sense of privacy also contributes to the sense of self.

(4) Simplicity and elegance lie in the statement: Consciousness is voluntary memory.

Because consciousness is memory, it gives temporal extent to any experience. Indeed, consciousness cannot exist for only an “instant” (in the sense of a temporal point) for the latter has a temporal expanse of naught. To experience anything even for a few seconds requires memory. Indeed, without memory, I would have no experience of the beginning of this sentence by the time I got to the end. Absent memory, experience of any kind would be out of the question.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on March 30th, 2017, 11:45 pm 

OR,

Are you seriously contending that unconsciousness does not exist whether in a surgical setting or otherwise? I gave the surgical example because it is a clear case of unconsciousness. Are you denying that a person can be rendered unconscious, for example, by blunt impact to the Head? Do you deny that the dead are unconscious? [I might add that in general anesthesia a patient is brought to the very threshold of death without (hopefully) ever crossing it.] If you agree that unconsciousness exists, whatever the situation, the conclusion that there is an absence of experience necessarily follows.

On the other hand, if you accept my definition of consciousness as voluntary memory, then the absence of such memory would be equivalent to the absence of all experience.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on March 31st, 2017, 1:12 pm 

Braininvat wrote:Simplicity is dependent on how well we define the core term, consciousness.

Consciousness is easily conflated with other terms when there is no agreement on what it is.

Here is the “simple and elegant” assumption:

Consciousness is nothing more than the experience of recognition, made possible by memory. Consciousness gives us the ability to “know”. Simply put, consciousness is “knowing”, ...and nothing more!

Braininvat wrote:What if we were to say that memory can be removed from a mind's capacities and there would still be consciousness?

Not possible! Without memory, nothing exists; ...nothing exists in an empty mind!

Without memory, there is nothing to know. Without memory, there can be no recognition, as there is nothing to recognize; there is nothing to compare and match a current experience to a past stored experience (memory).

Braininvat wrote:For sure, there would be no sense of a Self with some kind of past or future,…

Agreed. Without memory, the thought/concept of self (or anything for that matter!) could not exist.

Braininvat wrote:…but there would still be a phenomenal declaration of awareness that would be possible. Life might consist of moments in which the organism thinks "I am! Hooray!" Every few seconds there would be that phenomenal state of "I am! Hooray!"

Yes. Without memory, phenomenal ‘experiences’ would still happen/exist! We would still ‘feel’ and auto-react accordingly, ...but we just wouldn’t “know” it.

Without memory, we would be purely 'reactive' (wild) animals/entities.


Neri wrote:Are you seriously contending that unconsciousness does not exist whether in a surgical setting or otherwise?

No, not at all. I agree with you that unconsciousness/non-consciousness does exist.

Neri wrote:Are you denying that a person can be rendered unconscious, for example, by blunt impact to the Head?

No, I do not deny this. I am in total agreement with you on this.

Neri wrote:Do you deny that the dead are unconscious?

Nope, I don’t deny this either. …and again, I am in total agreement with you here.

Neri wrote:If you agree that unconsciousness exists…,

Yes, I do agree.

Neri wrote:…the conclusion that there is an absence of experience necessarily follows.

Ah-ha! Here is where we (finally) disagree!! :-)

Consciousness is one thing, and experiences are another.

The lack of knowing of something does not mean that this something does not exist. If we are conscious of our experiences that is one thing, but if we are unconscious of our experiences, then it does not mean that these experiences do not exist. It only means that we are not conscious of them! That's all.

Neri, to be fair, I don’t think we necessarily disagree on this particular point. We just have different understandings of the word "consciousness". I equate consciousness with “knowing”, and you equate consciousness with a “whole bunch of other stuff”. It is our dissimilar understanding of this word that makes it appear that we disagree.

Neri wrote:On the other hand, if you accept my definition of consciousness as voluntary memory, then the absence of such memory would be equivalent to the absence of all experience.

Well, here, I can readily admit that we solidly disagree. “Voluntary memory” seems to be a self-contradicting concept. You are trying to evoke (add) an autonomous controlling element to one’s memory/knowledge/consciousness, but then fail to see that which controls the controller.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on March 31st, 2017, 1:41 pm 

Neri, I was with you all the way until you got to "voluntary" memory. Don't we have many memories that are not voluntarily held?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on March 31st, 2017, 7:24 pm 

Vivian,

I do not use the expression, “voluntary memory” to indicate that memories are “voluntarily held.” Rather, I intend the meaning that voluntary memory is the kind of memory that allows volition (the free exercise of the will). The existence of voluntary memory is meant to explain what consciousness is. To put it differently, my claim is that voluntary memory is equivalent to consciousness. On the topic, “Is Consciousness Memory,” started by me on November 18, 2015, I Go into this matter in some detail. I recommend that you read it.

For purposes of this post, I will give a brief explanation (at the risk of oversimplification) of my thoughts on this matter.

Memory is the general word I use to indicate the body’s capacity to preserve information over time. Consciousness is memory, because there can be no consciousness without an expense of time. For any conscious content (even a so-called current perception) to be actually experienced, it must be preserved over time, no matter how brief the temporal period necessary. No experience can have a duration of naught. The thing that allows any experience to extend over time is called memory. [Note, I do not say “conscious experience,” for all experience is conscious.]

But why is the type of memory that allows experiences voluntary? To put it simply, one cannot exercise her will unless she is aware of what she is doing. In other words, consciousness allows the exercise of the will. Indeed, without consciousness there can be no will.

I always point out that we experience our freedom (with its limitations) because it is something real. Indeed, consciousness alone would have no evolutionary value if it did not allow free will. Further, there is nothing in modern-day science that compels the notion that the universe is causally closed in every detail.

Now if there is voluntary memory (consciousness), there must also be involuntary memory. The latter causes actions of the body that are not under the control of the will. This would include such things as reflex actions and the functioning of the internal organs. But why do we say that memory has anything to do with such things? The reason is that the causal rules that determine such actions are preserved over time in the brain and central nervous system. Because these rules provide inevitable results, those results are properly said to be causally closed and not determined by the will.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby vivian maxine on April 1st, 2017, 5:27 am 

Thank you, Neri. That explains it. I had never heard of "voluntary memory" vs "involuntary memory". I was aware of the two different kinds but not with these terms. It seems to me that I know them by different terms but it's too early in the day to recall those. So, now I know this way. I appreciate the explanation.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Braininvat on April 1st, 2017, 10:05 am 

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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 2nd, 2017, 12:20 am 

BIV,

The analysis of Atkinson and Shiffrin, thoroughgoing though it may be, presents a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. They tell us when certain neuronal activity is or is not conscious without ever telling us exactly what consciousness itself may be. Yet, the answer stares them in the face.

They tell us that “short-term memory”, “long-term memory,” “declarative memory,” “episodic memory” and “semantic memory” are all conscious. They say that the last three are classes of “explicit memory” in that they involve memories of explicit facts, events, experiences and ideas. Apparently, long-term and short-term memories are conscious even though they are not always “explicit.” Thus, explicitness cannot be the hallmark of all consciousness.

They present another class called “implicit or procedural memory.” This involves learned skills such as riding a bicycle, which is, in a way, done unconsciously. There is another class that they call “sensory memory” which, though unconscious, is not called “implicit.” It involves the brain in milliseconds discarding perceptions of no immediate concern without the intervention of the will. Yet, volition plays no part in Atkinson/Shriffin analysis.

Indeed, they never ask the obvious question: If short-term, long-term, declarative, episodic and semantic memories are all conscious, what exactly is it that they have in common that makes them so? In other words, what exactly is this “consciousness” that they are talking about? The answer veritably springs to mind: All of these sorts of memories together make possible the exercise the will. Consciousness and will are inextricable!
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 2nd, 2017, 2:47 am 

Is illusion an illusion?

Same difference.

Of course, it is always worth arguing over selective definitions and the limitations of their uses.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 2nd, 2017, 10:55 am 

BJ,

An illusion is an anomaly of the senses, a delusion an anomaly of the mind. Both are experiences of a conscious subject. That is to say, one can act freely based upon either an illusion or a delusion. There are such things as good choices and bad ones.

A definition should pluck out the essence of whatever we experience. The definition of consciousness is no exception.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 2nd, 2017, 11:55 am 

BIV, -- I don’t necessarily disagree with these differing types of memories. But the one common feature is that ALL memories are of ‘past’ events, (...even if only by milliseconds). Memories are of things/events that have already happened. There is always a ‘time lag’ between the memory of an event and the event itself, ...the event always comes first!

Neri -- “voluntary memory” is self-contradictory because we can’t change the past! There is nothing that we can “voluntarily” (or “un-voluntarily”) do NOW that will change or control those events that have ALREADY HAPPENED. Everything that we are aware of 'doing' has already happened! Any cognition of 'doing' consists only of (memories of) 'past' events; of stuff that has already happened. We are living the present memories of past events.

In other words -- We can't DO something that has NOT already happened!
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 2nd, 2017, 4:57 pm 

OR,

The will always acts on the basis of past experiences but determines what will happen in the future.

A Very Simple Example:

A man knows that there is an insurance policy on the life of his wife with himself as beneficiary. He knows this, because he is the one who took out the policy. This knowledge is based on certain sensory experiences preserved as long-term voluntary memories.

He decides to kill his wife so that he can collect the insurance money. He can do this because these long-term memories present an occasion for the exercise of his will.

He takes certain steps to kill his wife and finally carries out the deed. The fact that the experience of each of these steps occurred milliseconds after he took them cannot change the intended outcome. Because he had the ability to change his mind at any time, he was conscious of what he was doing through all the steps.

Thus, he remembered all the previous steps at the time he took the final step that killed his wife. This is short-term voluntary memory.

Clearly, the fact that his experience of that final step occurred milliseconds after he took it cannot change the fact that his wife’s death was what he intended. In other words, an exceedingly brief lag time between the event and the experience is of no consequence where the will is concerned.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Old Rasputin on April 3rd, 2017, 2:35 pm 

Neri wrote:The will always acts on the basis of past experiences but determines what will happen in the future.

I don’t necessarily disagree, but even if this is exactly true, it has no relevance to our ‘conscious ability’ to control the will. In other words, even if the will (or actions of the will) control our bodily actions (based on past experiences, or whatever), we still have no conscious control over the will, and likewise, no conscious control over our bodily actions.


“Conscious control” (or “voluntary memory”) is a chronologically contradictory concept. You can’t control something that has already happened!

ALL conscious events consist of TWO parts;
1) the event itself, and
2) the conscious (mental recognition/memory) of the event.

These two parts are separated in time; the event always comes BEFORE the conscious recognition of the event (...always true, even if only by milliseconds!).

Therefore it is (chronologically) impossible to exhibit ‘present’ control over ‘past’ events; and hence the contradiction of “conscious control” and “voluntary memory”.



Neri wrote:A Very Simple Example:

A man knows that there is an insurance policy on the life of his wife with himself as beneficiary. He knows this, because he is the one who took out the policy. This knowledge is based on certain sensory experiences preserved as long-term voluntary memories.

He decides to kill his wife so that he can collect the insurance money. He can do this because these long-term memories present an occasion for the exercise of his will.

He takes certain steps to kill his wife and finally carries out the deed. The fact that the experience of each of these steps occurred milliseconds after he took them cannot change the intended outcome. Because he had the ability to change his mind at any time, he was conscious of what he was doing through all the steps.

Thus, he remembered all the previous steps at the time he took the final step that killed his wife. This is short-term voluntary memory.

Clearly, the fact that his experience of that final step occurred milliseconds after he took it cannot change the fact that his wife’s death was what he intended. In other words, an exceedingly brief lag time between the event and the experience is of no consequence where the will is concerned.

Neri, you are falsely assuming that this man has the power to consciously “exercise his will”, so as to “decide” to kill his wife. Although you recognized the two parts and relative time lag of the steps to kill his wife, you missed the “exercising his will” part.

You failed to recognize that the consciousness of any event can only occur AFTER the event itself. In other words, the conscious recognition of “exercising one’s will” can only occur AFTER the existence of this event itself has already happened. The man had no (conscious) control of his will, ...it was not even a chronological possibility!

We can’t change/control any event that has already happened. The past is the past. It is unchangeable!

The man did not consciously control the will, that decided to take the steps, that ultimately killed his wife. The man only consciously (knowingly) experienced all this (past) stuff, ...along for the experiential ride!

It was just bad luck for this poor guy (and wife) -- as he was just in the wrong universe at the wrong time. :-)
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 4th, 2017, 12:35 am 

OR,

Read my last post more carefully. I think you are badly confused. However, I do not think your post was entered without any conscious control by you, as you seem to suggest.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 4th, 2017, 1:33 am 

Neri » April 2nd, 2017, 10:55 pm wrote:BJ,

An illusion is an anomaly of the senses, a delusion an anomaly of the mind. Both are experiences of a conscious subject. That is to say, one can act freely based upon either an illusion or a delusion. There are such things as good choices and bad ones.

A definition should pluck out the essence of whatever we experience. The definition of consciousness is no exception.


Do I possess a delusion because of an illusion or an illusion because of a delusion?

Like I said, same difference.

If you insist on illusion being an anomaly of the senses, then I will of course ask what are these senses if not of the mind. My point was that we can chase around with words without seeing the words as being as big a part of the problem as they are useful.

A point that seems in need of discussion (for me at least) is the delineation between "illusion" and "delusion", the difference between "mind" and "sense", and generally the whole question of "sense datum."
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Positor on April 4th, 2017, 7:12 am 

Old Rasputin » April 3rd, 2017, 7:35 pm wrote:ALL conscious events consist of TWO parts;
1) the event itself, and
2) the conscious (mental recognition/memory) of the event.

These two parts are separated in time; the event always comes BEFORE the conscious recognition of the event (...always true, even if only by milliseconds!).

If I understand Neri correctly, he would apply the word "conscious" to (1) rather than (2). In other words, we would have:

1) the event itself, i.e. the exercise of the will, the memory of earlier events, and (by definition) the consciousness of the event, and
2) the experience of that event, milliseconds later.

The main point at issue seems to be: Does an exercise of the will require exactly simultaneous experience of that exercise?
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Neri on April 4th, 2017, 7:52 am 

BJ,

The important point, for purposes of this discussion, is that both an illusion and a delusion are objects of a conscious mind.

Of course, if you believe that the senses do not in any way correspond to whatever lies outside of us, there is no difference between the two.

However, if you believe as I do, there is a difference between one who believes he is a mathematical genius but cannot even do long division and another who has sound judgment but has a defect in his eyes that causes straight lines to appear crooked.
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby BadgerJelly on April 4th, 2017, 10:32 am 

Neri » April 4th, 2017, 7:52 pm wrote:BJ,

The important point, for purposes of this discussion, is that both an illusion and a delusion are objects of a conscious mind.

Of course, if you believe that the senses do not in any way correspond to whatever lies outside of us, there is no difference between the two.

However, if you believe as I do, there is a difference between one who believes he is a mathematical genius but cannot even do long division and another who has sound judgment but has a defect in his eyes that causes straight lines to appear crooked.


However ... what? I don't "believe" in the 'however" statement, I know of the differences by how they are defined in language.

Do I believe my eyes correspond to whatever lies 'outside'? It is the 'outside' and its meaning that I find to be where what we generally call "belief" to hold a particular meaning. There is, in my experience, the very puzzle of the "difference" between "belief" and "definition". No matter what we end up unable to linguistically reach some origin/essence and merely adumbrate it with language and through language frame an idea of "truth".

The term "experience" is another puzzler. We tend to define consciousness as some kind of "experience" and outlook the contrariness within the words we cloth "our" world, coming to call it "The" world.

If this bit of writing is of no use to you then ignore it :)
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Re: Is Consciousness an Illusion?

Postby Dave_C on April 4th, 2017, 9:34 pm 

Interesting article in BBC entitled "Is consciousness just an illusion":
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39482345

Seems like they're suggesting the term "illusion" shouldn't be taken literally. The article's author quotes Dennett regarding his definition of "illusion". The point is mostly that the current theory of mind posits neurons are essentially robots.

Our minds are made of molecular machines, otherwise known as brain cells. And if you find this depressing then you lack imagination, says Dennett.

"Do you know the power of a machine made of a trillion moving parts?", he asks.

"We're not just ... robots", he says. "We're robots, made of robots, made of robots".

Our brain cells are robots that respond to chemical signals. The motor proteins they create are robots. And so it goes on.

Like a phone screen

Consciousness is real. Of course it is. We experience it every day. But for Daniel Dennett, consciousness is no more real than the screen on your laptop or your phone.

The geeks who make electronic devices call what we see on our screens the "user illusion". It's a bit patronising, perhaps, but they've got a point.

Pressing icons on our phones makes us feel in control. We feel in charge of the hardware inside. But what we do with our fingers on our phones is a rather pathetic contribution to the sum total of phone activity. And, of course, it tells us absolutely nothing about how they work.

Human consciousness is the same, says Dennett. "It's the brain's 'user illusion' of itself," he says.

It feels real and important to us but it just isn't a very big deal.

"The brain doesn't have to understand how the brain works".


Dennett also suggests Rene Descartes should be blamed for “polluting our thinking about how we think about the human mind.”

I have to agree with Dennett that, given the current paradigm of mind, the logical conclusion we should make is that the emergent phenomenon of subjective experience is an illusion in the sense that it has neither an independent reality nor does it have any causal efficacy. It is ‘nothing more’ than the interaction of billions of unconscious robots.

The problem I have is that this paradigm of mind has too many holes in it to hold water (ie: epiphenomenalism and violations of classical mechanics in the form of counterfactual sensitivity). We’ve not come up with logical solutions to the current problems with the existing paradigm of mind.
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