The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

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

Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby RJG on January 29th, 2018, 3:07 pm 

Braininvat wrote:You have entirely missed the point of James, Chalmers, et al. If, as you assert,

RJG: "Survival is determined by how one's body reacts to a given stimuli, not to one's consciousness of said bodily reaction."

Then why are we all conscious?

Braininvat wrote:You have completely ducked the question.

Not so. I gave one 'logically possible' answer for the existence of consciousness. Please re-read what I wrote. -- The catch is, that you have to read what I wrote, to know what I said.

Since consciousness cannot 'cause' anything, ...
RJG wrote:To clarify, "mind" (or "consciousness") is just a convenient label/name that represents the "recognition of bodily experiences/reactions", and not anything more. But 'recognition' is not logically possible without 'memory'. Memory is evolutionarily necessary to advance the human species.

...it appears that - Consciousness is just the inadvertent 'side-effect' of memory.

...and if consciousness ever were to become a problem to survivability, (which it can't, since it is 'hermetically isolated' from bodily actions) then I'm sure evolution will deal with it accordingly.


By the way, where is your 'logically possible' answer? I don't see it, ...or is it 'you' that is ducking this question?
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby Dave_C on January 29th, 2018, 7:42 pm 

RJG, let's ask, what are you referring to when you talk about "bodily experiences"?

RJG » January 29th, 2018, 11:31 am wrote:To clarify, "mind" (or "consciousness") is just a convenient label/name that represents the "recognition of bodily experiences/reactions", ...


I think you're saying that 'bodily experiences' are epiphenomenal which means they can't influence anything. Yet here we are talking about them. How can we talk about them if they don't cause anything to happen?
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby Asparagus on January 29th, 2018, 8:13 pm 

Plus most of us can generate a sympathetic nervous response by imagining something fearful. It only seems magical because we don't yet know how it works. But the science of consciousness is in its infancy.
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby RJG on January 30th, 2018, 1:03 am 

Dave_C wrote:RJG, let's ask, what are you referring to when you talk about "bodily experiences"?

RJG wrote:To clarify, "mind" (or "consciousness") is just a convenient label/name that represents the "recognition of bodily experiences/reactions", …

When I say "bodily experiences/reactions", I am referring to the literal/actual 'unconscious' physical bodily reactions. There are many bodily reactions, only some of which we are conscious of (have recognition of).

There are experiences and then there are 'conscious' experiences.

There is X, and then there is the consciousness-of-X


Dave_C wrote:I think you're saying that 'bodily experiences' are epiphenomenal which means they can't influence anything.

No. When I say "bodily experiences" I am referring to the actual (unconscious) physical bodily reactions.

If we are conscious of these bodily experiences, then we are consciously experiencing them.

Note: we can only be consious of experiences (bodily reactions). Without bodily experiences/reactions, there can be no consciousness.


Dave_C wrote:Yet here we are talking about them. How can we talk about them if they don't cause anything to happen?

It is the 'consciousness' (the consciously experiencing) of X that is non-causal, not the X (the bodily experience/reaction) itself.
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby Dave_C on January 30th, 2018, 9:22 pm 

Hi RJG. There are standard definitions of terms such as phenomenal consciousness and experience that you don't seem to be using. I'd suggest checking this thread for some standard definitions and concepts to help flesh out your thoughts. If you can use standard definitions properly, it would be easier to discuss things. I'm afraid I can't make out what you're thinking at this point.
viewtopic.php?f=51&t=28417
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby RJG on January 31st, 2018, 12:42 am 

Dave_C wrote:There are standard definitions of terms such as phenomenal consciousness and experience that you don't seem to be using.

Yes, I don't use these "standard terms/definitions" because they are misleading, filled with logical contradictions, and also over-complicate/convolute relatively simple relationships.

If you noticed my words, I really just use TWO terms; bodily reactions [X; experiences] and the recognition of these bodily reactions [Consciousness-of-X; consciousness; consciously experiencing].

Certainly you understand these two terms, ...right?

So along with these two terms, I also point out the logical conditions and relationships surrounding them.

No need to over-complicate that which is simple and straightforward, ...right?
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby Neri on January 31st, 2018, 10:23 am 

Mitch, BIV, Dave, Asparagus, Positor and Wolfhnd,

While a general explication of consciousness and the will may not be germane to the particular issue at hand, it may serve to inform an analysis of that issue. I therefore present the following.


(A) The Ontology of Consciousness and the Will

One may properly say that consciousness can only exist in a particular human or animal brain. However, this does not necessarily mean that all animals are conscious. Rather, only some are so.

Consciousness is not a perfection. It has degrees. Thus, for example, a slug may not be conscious but a dog almost certainly is.

To say that a particular animal is always unconscious necessarily means that it has no will and can react only reflexively to external stimuli.

The degree to which an animal is conscious is the degree to which it can act independently of what are called “objective causal rules”—that is, the degree to which it has a will.

The will cannot exist independently of consciousness, for no one can act freely if he is unaware of what he is doing.

Indeed, consciousness has been naturally selected over millions of years because it makes the will possible. The obvious advantages of the will in the struggle to survive need hardly be elaborated.

The above observations point to the fact that although consciousness has a subjective aspect, it is part of the natural world.

This does not mean that consciousness is material, for the natural world consists of more than just mass.

The reasons why consciousness is part of the natural world, the only world, are as follows:

(1) To exist, consciousness depends on the production of heat in the body by means of the oxidation of food. In the brain, heat is somehow transferred into consciousness, which itself must be some sort of energy.

(2) If the brain is deprived of either sufficient oxygen or food, one is rendered unconscious either temporarily or permanently depending on the severity of the deprivation.

(3) Thinking does not violate the theorem of the conservation of energy, because thinking is not possible without an expense of energy. The same may be said of the will.

(4) The amount of energy needed for the production of consciousness and will in the brain is measurable even though it may not thus far have actually been measured.

(5) Movements of the body originate in parts of the brain that are both conscious and unconscious. Disease or injury to the brain can cause unconsciousness and paralysis, as can the infusion or certain substances into the body.

(6) Thought is produced in the brain and remains there, for when one walks about, he does not leave his thoughts behind.

Consciousness is subjective in the sense that its content is private--that is, out of the direct reach of others. The reason for this is that all conscious experiences are spatially restricted to the head.

Consciousness can exist only to the extent that it has content. Put crudely, one cannot think unless he is thinking about something, and one cannot feel unless he is feeling something.


(B) The Epistemology of Consciousness and the Will

Consciousness cannot be fully known by any objective description, for it also requires an understanding of what it feels like to be conscious. However, any such description takes for granted that it could only be communicated to one who is already conscious.

Objective descriptions of any sort cannot exist outside of human minds, for objectivity consists in general agreements among such minds, and to agree is an act of the will.

The will presumes consciousness and objective knowledge presumes both.

However, none of this means that objective knowledge in science does not in any way correspond to external reality. It means only that knowledge of this sort is gained through ideal models that have the power to predict future events yet are subject to falsification.

This acknowledges the efficacy of both the senses and the scientific method. Yet it is clear that even if science can some day give an objective account of consciousness, it must take into consideration the mind of the scientist, for his theories cannot but have some subjective aspects.

On the other hand, no ideal model can predict with certainty what anyone will do in the future. The will as a cause can only be appreciated retrospectively and not prospectively. This describes the freedom that is essential to the will.

None of this means that there can be no objective account of how, for example, the frontal cortex of the brain (the seat of consciousness) causes motion in the various parts of the body. In fact, such an account to some extent already exists.

It is well understood that higher level neuronal activity in the conscious regions of the brain cause lower level (unconscious) neuronal activity in the spinal chord and the various nerves that connect to the muscles of the body whose contractions give motion.

What is not presently known is how a conscious intention to move formed in the frontal cortex actually starts the course of lower level neuronal activity that results in movements of the body. Yet, we know it happens.

It is likely that an objective understanding of how consciousness causes bodily action will be established before there is an objective understanding of consciousness itself.

But, sooner or later, neuroscience will give us objective knowledge of consciousness.

In one respect, it has made a good start. Neuroscience may soon reach the stage where consciousness is demystified, much as life was in the last century. Today, there is hardly a mention of élan vital. The idea of the soul may soon suffer the same fate.
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Re: The Folly of Epiphenomenalism

Postby RJG on February 1st, 2018, 9:09 am 

Neri wrote:Consciousness can exist only to the extent that it has content. Put crudely, one cannot think unless he is thinking about something, and one cannot feel unless he is feeling something

Agreed. But doesn't this imply a 'temporal' relationship between the 'consciousness-of-something' and the 'something' itself?

...or is consciousness an "instantaneous" process?
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