Somebody Has To Pay The Consciousness Bill
The first problem that I dealt with concerning emergentism was the problem of how unconscious matter becomes conscious. I have previously argued against the idea that subjective awareness can arise from unconscious material. The idea is absurd since it implies that something can arise from nothing. That thought can arise from things that do not have it. The only way the emergentist can get around the problem is to say that matter has a rather quasi-supernatural ability to create consciousness out of nothing, which is a very extraordinary claim.
After all, suppose a person were able to go to any unconscious material and make it become conscious at will. That would be like going up to a scarecrow in a field or to a zombie of Chalmers’ description (if one were to exist) and making these things suddenly become subjectively aware. This then would be an ability to create something out of nothing. It would be automatically creating the extra phenomena of consciousness in addition to the immediately pre-existing matter in motion within the environment.
In a similar way, if unconscious matter when assembled in a certain way automatically produces consciousness, then it would have to produce the mental phenomena out of nothing. Otherwise, if the matter just remains as originally assembled, in the form of the brain and/or other organs for example, without anything mental arising from it, then no thought and perception processes would take place.
People don’t have the ability to make insentient things conscious at will. So why would unconscious matter have this ability to produce consciousness straight out of its absence? It seems impossible to overcome that difficulty. Now I am going to focus on another related problem in emergentism that is rarely addressed in discussions. This problem will also reveal just how ambiguous, vague and difficult it is to hold the materialist view that the brain is the conscious perceiver and thinker.
First of all, most philosophers of mind, including emergentists, want to say that in addition to mental states, such as sight, hearing, tastes, thoughts, emotions, memories etc., that there is an underlying bearer of these mental activities. It makes sense that if we have mental states that we also have something that has those mental states; or that there is a conscious subject or self that possesses our conscious states. If one has mental states then there is a conscious perceiver and thinker behind that subjective experience.
Secondly, both materialist and non-materialist approaches in the philosophy of mind agree that perception, awareness and thought depend on the brain and body being healthy and functional. There are, of course, different parts of the brain as modern neurology has illuminated that enable the different faculties of mind to operate well. The visual cortex of the brain, for instance, enables a person to have vision. The temporal lobe of the brain enables a person to hear and process language. The limbic system of the brain enables one to experience memories and emotions. It’s evident that the mind depends on the brain in order to carry out its mental activities and to carry them out very well. So the question for the philosopher is this; is the brain the conscious subject? Or, is the brain only the instrument of the conscious subject?
The emergentist evidently wants to say that it’s the brain that is the conscious subject. Now let us suppose this is true and that somehow the materialist can override the problem of getting consciousness out of unconscious material. Well, the materialist has, once again, another think coming [ed: sic, and funny]. If the conscious thinker and perceiver is something material like the brain then this problem immediately arises: how do the conscious states relate to the whole brain (or good portion of the brain) and to the various smaller parts of the brain? For instance, the emergentist wants to say that my brain perceives red, or thinks about Christmas. Does that mean there are electrons inside my brain perceiving red or thinking about Christmas?
Since the materialist identifies the conscious subject with a physical object and since physical objects are divisible and can (at least) almost always be divided and broken down into smaller and smaller parts, the question of how conscious states relate to the smaller elements of the brain becomes a big problem. For convenience, I will refer to this difficulty as the “divisible parts problem” in materialism. This problem was hinted by Leibniz. How does subjective experience relate to the smaller components of the brain if the brain is the conscious subject?
There are at least two possible answers the materialist can give to this problem: one, the emergentist can say that at a certain level, there is no consciousness and thought going on with the smaller parts of the brain like the subatomic particles that compose it as such. Strictly speaking with this alternative, while it may be correct to say that my brain perceives red or remembers an event, or thinks about Christmas, none of the miniscule parts like the subatomic particles are thinking, remembering or perceiving anything.
The other alternative for the materialist is to advocate a kind of panpsychist position and say that no matter how much one breaks down the brain into smaller and smaller parts, each conceivable part of the brain is subjectively aware at least at some level. Given this position, even the electrons, protons and neutrons inside the brain would be conscious and have a piece of my consciousness. Both of these possible answers have serious difficulties.
An Emergent Panpsychist
Now before examining both positions, let’s be clear about one thing: consciousness is not the same thing as behaviors. While behaviors like talking, writing, facial expressions and bodily movements naturally manifest to us that a person is conscious, the subjective acts of awareness themselves (like seeing, hearing, touching, thinking, willing, remembering or imagining) are not the same things as talking, writing, moving limbs and making facial expressions. So the problem here is not whether we can have a material object that can act or behave intelligently like constructing a robot or computer that can project language and behavior well. Rather, it’s whether a material object can effectively have subjective awareness and thought. Of course, we have robots nowadays that are programmed to behave in an intelligent manner but none of these machines have consciousness. So there’s a big difference between the two.
Let’s take the first possible answer that it is sensible to say that my brain bears my thoughts but not any of the miniscule components bear consciousness. This position may be explained by an analogy. Just as the Lego blocks may not each be cubed shaped, but the whole composition of them put together however may form a roughly cubed object, so it is the same with the brain having consciousness while none of its miniature parts have that trait. What is true of the parts is not always and necessarily true of the whole. Hence, we have to avoid the so-called fallacy of composition or always thinking that what is true of the whole is necessarily true of the parts. In this case, what is true of the parts, like the subatomic elements lacking consciousness is not true of the whole since the brain as a whole (or good macroscopic portion of it) is conscious. With this theory, consciousness simply emerges as an overarching property or phenomena from the brain as a whole. This is analogous to the saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
This position is very problematic for several reasons. One, there is an epistemological problem with asserting the whole brain is conscious while all its miniscule parts lack it. How can we know from the simple proposition, that the brain is the conscious subject and that subjective experience has to have this type of relation to the brain and its parts? (This is something always to remember by the way, that the general idea that the brain produces consciousness is an ambiguous proposition open to different interpretations and that this idea is often promoted in an ambiguous manner by materialists!)
Is it possible that no matter how one breaks down the brain into smaller parts, one will always have a tiny conscious perceiver? It does no good to merely assert that the microscopic parts of the brain aren’t conscious and then rebut all skepticism of it as a “fallacy of composition” particularly when it may be indiscernible what the relation would be between mental states and the miniscule parts of the brain. Besides not all reasoning from parts to wholes is a fallacy of composition. If each part of a chair were composed of iron then we would automatically know that the whole chair would also be composed of iron. It’s that simple. The fallacy of composition only applies to scenarios where what is true of the parts is not true of the whole like assuming that since each brick is 3 inches by 5 inches wide that the whole wall of bricks is going to be 3 by 5 inches wide.
Secondly, if none of the miniscule parts of the brain are conscious then how is the whole brain or good portion of it going to achieve consciousness? It seems that if none of the parts of the brain are subjectively aware of anything then neither is the brain going to be aware of anything as well. We know that each Lego block lacks consciousness within a Lego castle. And we know that a Lego castle as a whole doesn’t have consciousness either. What’s true of the parts is also true of the whole in considering the Lego castle. So why would the brain be any different from an unconscious Lego castle? Why would it be the case that unconscious components create a conscious material thing while in other cases unconscious components don’t create a conscious thing? Where is the explanation? If the living brain were to lack consciousness then naturally that would imply that none of brain’s components have that trait either. So how can the brain be said to be “conscious” if none of its smaller parts have that feature?
Besides, if one starts with nothing but unconscious components then it seems one must end up with only an unconscious composite object, no matter how complex the assembled thing is as such [ed. see this on the abacus-as-brain]. No matter how one connects the unconscious Lego blocks, one is only going to get an unconscious object altogether whether it’s a Lego castle or a Lego spaceship. In a similar way, if subatomic elements are unconscious, and are incapable of experiencing subjective awareness, then consciousness would never arise from the subatomic particles even when organized to form a brain. To get consciousness from parts that are incapable of having consciousness seems tantamount to getting something from nothing.
How is it possible to get consciousness out of bits of matter and energy that are incapable of having that attribute themselves? It’s understandable how a set of Lego blocks can be used to form roughly a big cube even if not all the Lego blocks are cubed shaped. Each of the Lego blocks put together would contribute the overall cubed shape of the Lego configuration.
It’s also understandable how other properties besides shape may arise with more complex material structures like “wetness” being felt with water. None of the water molecules taken individually have “wetness” since nobody can have a sensation of wetness from one water molecule. But several water molecules put together to form a drop of water can produce a sensation of wetness in our minds. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to make sense how a collection of microscopic materials incapable of awareness and thought can somehow be put together and create something that’s conscious. If none of the parts of the conscious self are aware of anything then how can the self be said to be conscious? I don’t know what it would mean to say that the whole brain or a good portion of it is conscious but none of its microscopic parts are conscious any more than I wouldn’t know the meaning of a Lego castle perceiving red colors while none of the Lego blocks perceive the red. No one has a clear idea of how such a relationship could work.
Perhaps the emergentist, for the all reasons mentioned above, may discard the position that the whole brain is conscious but none of its smaller parts are conscious and embrace the other alternative. The emergentist then can take the other position that no matter how one breaks down the parts of the brain there’s always an individual conscious perceiver. If the emergentist takes this position, then her position seems to lead to panpsychism (the theory that all matter is conscious). After all, if electrons, protons and neutrons are capable of being aware of things at a certain level then why not say that all matter is conscious? So with this position, even the electrons are conscious and perceive something.
Can’t We All Work Together?
But this position has problems as well. How would all these conscious, perceiving parts of the brain interact to produce unified conscious states? How would the subjective states of subatomic particles, for example, just “glue together” and form my unified conscious experience of several colors, sounds, dimensions etc.? Two persons have their separate brains in their separate spaces and their conscious experiences do not connect and form a greater level of thought and awareness. So why should microscopic bits of matter form greater levels of perception and thought by merely being put together in a certain way? This seems to be quite fantastic, if not impossible.
This problem can also apply to the former position mentioned above. The emergentist could say that while subatomic parts of the brain aren’t conscious, that other larger units of the brain are conscious like brain cells. In which case how would these divisible units of the brain, whatever they may be, somehow connect and form greater levels of unified consciousness? This particular issue is sometimes called the “combination problem” and historically William James used it as an objection against panpsychism.
Regardless, how the materialist answers these problems, whether he accepts the idea that a whole object can be conscious while its parts aren’t conscious, or the more panpsychist position that the whole and all conceivable parts are conscious, things even get more complicated when one seriously considers everyday acts of understanding and memory.
Memory and understanding are a serious puzzle regardless of how the materialist accounts for consciousness. For instance, one understands the truth that “2+2=4”. If my brain is the conscious subject and if it’s really my brain that understands “2+2=4” to be true then does that mean that there are subatomic particles in my brain that are each subjectively understanding “2+2=4”? If not, then how would my brain as a collection of subatomic particles be able to understand “2+2=4”? Or, if subatomic particles can understand simple mathematical truths then why would one need a brain to think and understand these same mathematical propositions? And the same can be said of memory, if one remembers a certain past event and if the individual atoms in the brain cannot remember anything by themselves, then how is the brain as a whole going to remember any event?
Moreover, because the materialist identifies the conscious self with a material object we couldn’t even know what would constitute an “individual” conscious perceiver since material objects can (at least) almost always be cut down into smaller and smaller components. Do we have as many conscious perceivers as left and right hemispheres of the brain? As many conscious perceivers as there are brain cells? Do we have as many conscious perceivers as quarks in our brain? Regardless of how the materialist answers this issue, he would seem to be needlessly duplicating many conscious bits of matter just to explain our everyday experience and this isn’t desirable if one tries to follow Ockham’s Razor. And why do we need to hold that the conscious self is really divisible, in some form or another, into several conscious selves composed of matter?
The emergentist or property dualist view that the brain is the conscious subject, as one can see with careful reflection, is saddled with several difficulties. The problem is, in summary, if the conscious self is material then how would the conscious states relate to the whole and its parts? Would the whole brain or a good chunk of it be the only thing that’s conscious? Or do we have a conscious subject no matter how much we break down the brain into smaller parts? Do we have good reason to believe that if none of the subatomic particles of the brain are capable of remembering and understanding concepts that the brain altogether will produce a person with memory and understanding? These questions are difficult to answer for the materialist. In my opinion, these problems reveal the fact that materialism undermines the notion of a bearer of consciousness altogether.
Say It With Soul
One serious advantage behind the idea that persons have a “soul” or an immaterial conscious self is that this notion avoids all these problems within emergentism. Because souls are not composite objects that can always be divided into smaller and smaller parts, and are not things that gain or lose parts throughout time, one doesn’t have to face all these troublesome paradoxes that are within the standard materialist model.
So when one perceives a red apple, or understands “2+2=4” with the aid of the body, no one needs to worry about whether a tiny “particle” of the soul perceives the red apple, or understands the math, because it is senseless to say that the soul is a construct of smaller parts that are connected together and that can be gained or lost in time. An immaterial self cannot have “parts” like the way the brain or any material object does as such. When one perceives a color, or understands simple arithmetic it is simply the soul or mind that perceives the color, or understands the mathematical proposition, and it doesn’t get complicated beyond that. With the notion of the soul, the mind would be a single unified, non-composite and indivisible bearer of consciousness that is not vulnerable to the “divisible parts problem” in materialism.
Of course, people can always raise objections to any idea including the idea of the soul or mental substance. But between the emergentist notion that the brain or body is the conscious subject versus the idea that the conscious subject is immaterial, I’d much rather endorse the notion of an immaterial conscious self and not have to deal with the mess of how can consciousness relate to a divisible, physical object as its bearer. Overall, one can see why I share in Leibniz’s skepticism of the idea that a material object can be a bearer of consciousness.
I can see why the professor is cranky……
Some night when I have insomnia, I’ll pull this up. Philosophy like this always made more sense at 2 AM since sleep deprivation always helped philosophy look better.
“Overall, one can see why I share in Leibniz’s skepticism of the idea that a material object can be a bearer of consciousness.” Actually,no. There are shorter, more succinct ways of getting there. Philosophy is just soooooo wordy.
Is A Material Bearer of Consciousness Intelligible?
Yes, its’s called a brain.
The first problem that I dealt with concerning emergentism was the problem of how unconscious matter becomes conscious. I have previously argued against the idea that subjective awareness can arise from unconscious material. The idea is absurd since it implies that something can arise from nothing.
Nonsense. It’s the configuration plus the application of power. A television in the off state is not really a television — just a potential one. Likewise, a CPU in the off state is not a computer. Turn it on and the computer suddenly appears — from nowhere in your view.
Are zygotes conscious? If not, when do they become so?
One serious advantage behind the idea that persons have a “soul” or an immaterial conscious self is that this notion avoids all these problems within emergentism.
So somehow the living brain is the only thing in the world which can interact with this soul? And only one in particular apparently. Why is that? It’s the only thing which can interact with the immaterial? What’s so special about it? Seems you have bigger problems to address other than emergentism.
In your television analogy, would not consciousness be the television show. The TV cannot create the show, and the show (airwaves or cable impulses) exists separate from the TV.
Yes, PK, exactly. Besides, DAV, where does this ‘power’ come from you speak of in your Television analogy? And who supplies it? And where does it go when we die?
But let’s get to the Perfesser’s real point- at what level of divisible matter does this consciousness emerge? Macro? Micro? If it emerges (from where?), then there has to be a point when/where it happens. When will the materialists be able to tell us?
Material objects are generally considered inert. Nonetheless, sometimes we speak of objects as ‘movable’ or ‘immovable’, e.g. a pebble and a mountain are both material objects. Yet a pebble is ‘movable’ whereas a mountain is ‘immovable’. The notion of movability in the case of a pebble arises from its amenability size-wise to having motion imparted to it by us rather than out of any qualitative aspect of the pebble absent in a mountain. Therefore, when we impart motion to a pebble, although it is qualitatively the same motion as ours, that motion is non-causal because the pebble is not the source of the causality or intentionality of its motion. Rather, the causality and intentionality stems from ourselves, who have imparted our own intrinsic quality of motion to the pebble. Thus, motion, although an intrinsic quality of any cognitive system, can also be present non-causally in a system, i.e. in and of itself, possessing motion does not confer causality to a ‘moving’ system.
Similarly, we can account for the conception of causal and non-causal intelligence by postulating that, like motion, intelligence is also a necessary but not a sufficient condition for causal cognition, i.e. a truly cognitive system will certainly be intelligent but an ‘intelligent’ system need not necessarily be cognitive. As Briggs has implied, behaviour should not be confused with causality. The brain might appear to think but this is no different from the idea that a computer ‘thinks’. The actual thinking belongs solely to the causal agent, the immaterial conscious self.
the Tv cannot create the show
No. It isn’t complicated enough to be conscious. Computers don’t generate software either. They are simple examples of something appearing from configuration and application of power.
We know of nothing as complex as a brain. That doesn’t mean consciousness isn’t the result of complexity of configuration and power. If simple things can exhibit different properties with configuration and power, it’s reasonable to assume more complex things can as well.
The argument based upon uniqueness (the brain’s complexity) is a double-edged sword. This argument seeks to show that internal states subject to privileged access are brain states and, therefore, are physical states. It also claims that brain states are subject to privileged access in spite of being physical states because these brain states have something that no other physical states have, namely, a certain kind of complexity. While this is logically possible, the very structure of this argument is suspicious.
Whether or not brain states possess a certain complexity no other states have may be settled by science. However, if we suppose this to be true, how does this show that this makes them suitable candidates for privileged access? Due to the very nature of the case, this claim cannot be independently verified. As nothing else has this complexity nor privileged access, we are unable to verify by examining anything else whether this complexity has anything to do with being eligible for privileged access. One may make this claim but is it justified or merely an assumption? What if such complexity merely helps the brain states to be among the necessary conditions for some non-physical internal states that are subject to privileged access? So far as I know, no physicalist has produced any evidence to rule this out.
Whether or not brain states possess a certain complexity no other states have may be settled by science.
The states aren’t complex. The brain is.
What is this “privileged access” you speak of?
I suppose a voodoo ineraction with an immaterial soul (which can only ineract with one particular living brain) is more satisfying to you.
“Whether or not the brain possesses a certain complexity no other material object has may be settled by science.”
Is that better? The physicalist/materialist identifies states of consciousness with the body, specifically, the brain. If one inserts the term ‘brain’ in the place of ‘brain states’, the point remains the same.
‘Privileged access’ means ‘private cognitive states’, i.e. the content of a cognition is known only to the cognizer and not to others. It can be argued that physical qualia can be perceived by oneself and others, whereas conscious states cannot (privileged access), therefore, conscious states are not physical qualia. There are, of course, counter-arguments but this would become too wordy at the present time.
One can conceive consciousness as a non-material energy to which the class of operators that effect changes in states of matter can belong. Consciousness and matter can be understood as two different energies. Energy by definition, is ‘the capacity to perform work’. Matter is a form of energy, but is also seen to be inert. Therefore, we can define matter to be an energy which cannot actualise its capacity for work unless acted upon by an external cause. When we conceive consciousness as an energy form different from matter, we immediately see what can be the difference between them: since consciousness by nature has to be sentient, as an energy, it will not only have the capacity to perform work but also to actualise such work on its own and, naturally, it will also be able to cause matter to perform work.
Some concepts of causality can be presented to bolster the argument but, again, would take up too much space presently.
If you look at a running computer at a too low a level, you do not see the program changing states either. You see electrons zipping about, or gates switching between voltages. And as there is no way an electron or a voltage can compute, or even just add or compare, a computer cannot compute, or show a blog post like this, either.
So, by using the logic of this post, the post cannot possibly have been written, or read.
‘Privileged access’ means ‘private cognitive states’, i.e. the content of a cognition is known only to the cognizer and not to others.
A CPU has states inaccessible to outsiders and it’s much simpler. So what?
“Whether or not the brain possesses a certain complexity no other material object has may be settled by science.”
Is that better?
It’s already been shown to be more complex with lots of interconnected, much simpler neurons. Just like a CPU is largely a set of interconnected, simpler NAND gates. Better? I don’t know. Just is.
It’s the interconnections which transfer information. Consciousness is nothing more than self recognition. The brain is replete with recognizers. One or more which recognize self aren’t difficult to imagine.
I don’t believe that any recognizers in the brain have ever been isolated. Instead, their existence is postulated due to our reifying the brain as computer model. Hand waving arguments abound, but the consciousness recognizer hasn’t been proven any more than voodoo you cite.
Ah, the brain. The magical organ that uses the organism. If English had an instrumental case, we would not confuse an instrument with an agent. After all, a paintbrush does not paint a wall no matter how long or complex the handle is.
There also seems some confusion between consciousnes, intelligence and other cognitive processes.
There also seems some confusion involving Descartes res cogitans and the hoary old “interaction” problem. Chastek writes: “It’s odd that people view this as an objection. I look at the same facts and view it as a proof. Of course you can’t imagine the interaction. That’s the whole point! Did you think we were kidding when we said “immaterial”? If I could imagine the interaction, then I’d be wrong! Don’t you see that I’m insisting that you can’t imagine any interaction?” Elsewhere, he says: “Soul on the old account of it was the source of self-motion, i.e. a motion where the self was responsible for the action. But responsibility shows us a way in which spiritual beings might act on the body without interacting with it. Interactions are reversible: if a bat hits a ball with X Newtons, then the ball hits the bat with X Newtons. But if the soul chooses to move the hand, it will move, but if I come up to you and shove your hand around it does not force you to choose it. Therefore we can make sense of spirits acting on matter without interacting with them.”
Do animals recognize food? Wouldn’t that require a recognizer?
Clearly you favor the fantastic voodoo explanation over the likely more reasonable More of the Same. So please answer
1) Do zygotes have consciousness? If not, when do they achieve it?
2) Why does this immaterial soul only interact with one particular brain?
3)Why is it only the living brain can interact with this immaterial soul? What makes it unique to this task?
Are animals conscious? They have sensitive soul and a soul is just a principle and not a material thing. Even a vegetative soul that plants have is immaterial.
Generally speaking, all forms are immaterial. So, what is special about the rational soul?
The soul does not interact with brain or anything else. The soul is, in Thomism, just the form of a an animal. Thus a dog has a dog soul, a cat has cat soul and a human has a human soul.
A form is what makes a thing the thing it is. A human is a human because he has a human soul or form. A form or soul is not a thing super-added to the material body.
Now, by this scheme, all humans have a soul or form-the human soul or form. But the question of individual soul, so important in religion, I have not been able to make sense of from this scheme.
“But if the soul chooses to move the hand, it will move”
Aren’t you equivocating on the word “soul”.
Does “soul” move the hand or does “mind”?
I mean, it is not the usual way of speaking. We move our hands or our minds direct the hands.
But it is never spoken that “souls move the hand”.
“Every human being has an immortal soul” says the Catholic Church (CCC 366).
But if by Thomism, a soul is just the form of a body, either individually or species-wise, and a form is just the principle of life, then ALL FORMS are equally immortal. Or rather, the word “immortal” does not apply to forms at all.
Thus, the Church must be using the word “soul” in some other sense–not in the sense of “form of a body”.
From today’s post:
One serious advantage behind the idea that persons have a “soul” or an immaterial conscious self
YOS didn’t object so I stuck with it.
Materialists are necessarily irrational because the entire ideology is founded on the irrational assumption that everything that exists is caused by, or comes from, something that doesn’t, or didn’t, exist.
No, Sheri, it’s not philosophy that is wordy and convoluted; it’s the philosophists trying to make an “argument” out of a nonsense. Real philosophy is “the search for knowledge and understanding of reality using the scientific instrument that we call logic”. It cannot be explained according to Materialistic/”empirical” precepts; logic, reason, cognition… are all metaphysical.
Ordinary commonsense observation makes it obvious to just about everyone (except those ensconced in their academic ivory towers which are fortifications designed to prevent the ingress of commonsense) that the difference between a live organism and a dead one is some immaterial (metaphysical) thing or stuff that makes physics and chemistry do what it never ever can, or ever does, do outside of a living organism.
As far as sentient material beings are concerned I have, and will, contend that the brain is only the physical organ that connects the physical world of sense and motor to the metaphysical mind. Any Materialist can take as many brains as he likes and mix them up however he likes but without the metaphysical “stuff” that is “life” it will turn into a putrid mess of chemicals returning to their natural inorganic state.
“Life” does not spontaneously erupt out of any combination of chemicals. It always (no exceptions) comes from a pre-existing life that can order material processes according to the design of that creature.
Dav: “A CPU has states inaccessible to outsiders and it’s much simpler. So what?”
akinchana: ‘Privileged access’ means ‘private cognitive states’. Your example is inappropriate
because a CPU has no cognitive states, what to speak of private cognitive states.
Dav: “It’s already been shown to be more complex with lots of interconnected, much simpler neurons. Just like a CPU is largely a set of interconnected, simpler NAND gates. Better? I don’t know. Just is.”
“It’s the interconnections which transfer information. Consciousness is nothing more than self recognition. The brain is replete with recognizers. One or more which recognize self aren’t difficult to imagine.”
akinchana: The complexity of the brain could just as easily be a reason why it could not produce consciousness. As previously stated, the brain’s uniqueness negates the examination of any other thing to prove whether it is or is not capable of producing consciousness. Therefore, this sort of argument rests on a shaky foundation.
Self-recognition is only one aspect of consciousness. Consciousness is at least a mixture of knowledge/data, intelligence/reasoning power, and self-volition. Matter is none of those things and the brain is made of matter.
The brain is an instrument of the conscious self just as much as any other part of the body, regardless of its apparent complexity. Put another way, physical objects exist within a room because I have a use for them. This is more evident than the idea that I exist in a room because the objects have a use for me!
Well done, akinchana, I hope that the foot you shot yourself in bears you a long lasting memory of the absurdity of relativism.
Mactoul: “Are animals conscious? They have sensitive soul and a soul is just a principle and not a material thing. Even a vegetative soul that plants have is immaterial.
Generally speaking, all forms are immaterial. So, what is special about the rational soul?”
akinchana: Not only animals but plants also, are conscious. According to the blossoming of their awareness, some can move and some cannot. To move requires awareness of a destination, some sort of incentive, and if the consciousness is very dim then no movement is required. The various bodily forms that we see are aggregates of matter that are appropriate to the immaterial soul’s desire to exploit the different elements of matter (solids, liquids, fire, air) for the purpose of enjoyment (even though the inevitable result is suffering). We see that to interact with water, we need to use SCUBA equipment, whereas naturally occurring aquatic creatures already have the necessary equipment (body) to adapt to a watery environment.
The human form of life is the only material form that allows philosophical inquiry: “Who am I?” “What is my place in relation to the world?” “Does God exist?” The function of the human body compared to animal/plant bodies, is to ask and strive to answer these questions, otherwise it is wasted and one essentially leads the life of a sophisticated animal—sleeping, eating, mating and defending.
Humans sleep on soft beds, eat using fancy cutlery, mate in comfortable surroundings and defend by using their advanced brainpower to create horrific weapons of destruction and mass destruction. These are simply refinements of animal behaviour. If one wastes this precious gift of the human body in the pursuit of animal activities rather than spiritual inquiry then, unfortunately, one’s life is for nought.
Oldavid: “Well done, akinchana, I hope that the foot you shot yourself in bears you a long lasting memory of the absurdity of relativism.”
akinchana: Perhaps you could explain yourself a little better.
So, I assume that you agree with the assumption that something that does not exist can cause itself to exist?
I’m more than 60 years old. I’m tired of idiots.
Come up with a reasonable explanation of how something that does not exist can cause something to exist and I might be amused to argue with you.
“Cognitive states” vs “ordinary states”
You haven’t explained the significant difference. They are “cognitive” in the brain because that’s what brains do. Again, so what?
complexity of the brain could just as easily be a reason why it could not produce consciousness
The corollary is that less complexity might. Conscious CPU’s and TV’s and all that.
akinchana to Olddavid: Perhaps you could explain yourself a little better
You seem to be dong that all ny yourself.
Dav: “Cognitive states” vs “ordinary states”
You haven’t explained the significant difference. They are “cognitive” in the brain because that’s what brains do. Again, so what?
akinchana: Can conscious/mental states be reduced to electro-mechanical changes (brain states) in an aggregate of matter such as a brain? Here’s a simplified example that barely touches the tip of the iceberg of the degree of difficulty encountered when trying to identify mental processes with material brain states:
Being aware of a rose as red is a determinate cognition. Here, the rose is the qualificand, the red colour is the qualifier and the latter is cognised as being inherent in the former. However, the qualificand/qualifier distinction is relative and may vary depending on the nature of the cognition. If instead of the cognition that the rose is red, what is cognised is that the red colour is in the rose, the red colour becomes the qualificand and the rose, or belonging to the rose, becomes the qualifier. A situation may be described and cognised in a number of different ways and the distinction between the qualificand and the qualifier will vary accordingly. Such fluidity of distinction is the main reason for the privacy of cognitive states. Only the cogniser knows the content of the cognition, i.e. what the qualificand is and what the qualifier is. Neuroscience has singularly failed to identify what precisely is the distinction between the qualificand and the qualifier of a particular cognition of a particular person at a particular time. Furthermore, the latest research, rather than clarifying the situation, widens the gap in understanding, unlike what happens in most other topics of research.
Also, if the qualificand and qualifier arrangements are material brain states, then one should be able to say that the qualificand (space-wise) is to the right, left, above or below the qualifier or vice-versa, but one cannot, as to do so would be nonsensical when speaking of cognition. The same problem arises if one says that the qualificand (time-wise) is before, simultaneous with or after the qualifier. Obviously, cognitions cannot be described in the same context of time and space as material brain activity can.
Perhaps one should try to resist the tendency to oversimplify the obstacles encountered when attempting to demonstrate that conscious/mental states are nothing more than a by-product of an aggregate of matter. It is not unreasonable to infer that a very complex arrangement of matter might be required to act as an interface between a conscious self and the world of matter, but that is far different from assigning causality to something inert, i.e. dead.
An afterthought: “Is heat a property of water?” Is this an unreasonable question? If not, then to question whether or not cognition/thought is a property of matter or an external substance, is also a reasonable inquiry.
The whole cosmos is an emergent property of consciousness. Looking for consciusness within or separate to things is an upside-down and inside-out view of reality.
“It makes sense that if we have mental states that we also have something that has those mental states;”
Yes, the brain.
“If one has mental states then there is a conscious perceiver and thinker behind that subjective experience.”
Is there? I’m not aware of anything other than my sense impressions, my memories, and my thoughts about them. They aren’t something *I* am conscious off, they *are* my consciousness.
“Of course, we have robots nowadays that are programmed to behave in an intelligent manner but none of these machines have consciousness.”
How do you know that?
“How can we know from the simple proposition, that the brain is the conscious subject and that subjective experience has to have this type of relation to the brain and its parts?”
Try removing your brain and seeing if you’re still conscious. I can predict the outcome of this experiment with a high level of confidence.
“Do we have good reason to believe that if none of the subatomic particles of the brain are capable of remembering and understanding concepts that the brain altogether will produce a person with memory and understanding? These questions are difficult to answer for the materialist.”
I don’t see why these are difficult questions. Can the individual components of a car work as a car? No. Can these same components when assembled into a car work as a car? Yes. We already know that specific mental abilities are located to specific areas of the brain and we can lose those abilities if these specific areas are damaged.
“I’d much rather endorse the notion of an immaterial conscious self and not have to deal with the mess of how can consciousness relate to a divisible, physical object as its bearer.”
As a scientist, shouldn’t you be more concerned with finding the truth, however messy, rather than just confirming your religious bias by picking an off-the-peg answer which really solves nothing anyway?
Perhaps you could suggest what experiment would disprove the existence of the soul?
I can easily suggest an experiment to disprove the existence of the soul.
Take any dead body, or any number of dead bodies, and put them anywhere you like and see if the, even ready present, concert of very complex proteins will turn itself into a wonderful new life form. If not it would be reasonable to claim that the complex organics in a live organism are the result of “life” and not the cause of it.
Materialists are necessarily irrational.
“I can easily suggest an experiment to disprove the existence of the soul. Take any dead body [etc]”
Your experiment wouldn’t disprove the existence of the soul. Reading between the lines, it looks like a hopelessly confused attempt to disprove evolution and/or abiogenesis, but it wouldn’t even disprove either of those.
I’m new here, so forgive my naivete.
Can anyone tell me how the concept of “physical” has any value whatsoever?
What is given in experience is forms in awareness. The so-called “brain” is also a form. Allegedly, it is produced by the brain, but clearly, that is circular reasoning. From neuroscience, we supposed know about an unknown stimulations stimulus (we call it “light” or “sound” but we don’t really know in essence “what” it is) triggers a complex set of operations in the “brain,” which ends up – mysteriously – producing conscious experience.
But that is all abstract supposition. All we know is an unknown stimulus triggers the mind to construct an image, and that entire process – stimulus, mind, image – all takes place in awareness.
Even to say “in” awareness is wrong – it’s not spatial, as awareness encompasses the totality, so in a way, stimulus, mind and image are all also “made of” or “nothing but” awareness.
There is not one single scientific experiment conducted in the last several centuries that conflicts with this. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be that this awareness (non human, non local, non quantifiable) “encompasses” the whole universe (again, “encompass” is not correct as it implies something spatial, whereas an unbounded Field of Awareness would be non local, non temporal, non spatial).
What’s the proof?
Direct report from thousands of contemplatives over the centuries.
But this comment is not meant as a logical proof. I’m offering a purely agnostic view.
If you choose the two – a physicalist or “awareness” (NOT idealist!!) view – there is ample evidence – experiential and logical, for it, whereas the physicalist view is utterly irrational and incoherent. Or so it seems to me. It is virtually impossible to find even one scintilla of evidence for it, or even a coherent definition.
Go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy or spend 8 years talking to philosophers and scientists on the “Journal of Consciousness Studies” group, or read JCS for 10 years or more, and you’ll only find one actual definition of “physicalism:”
We have absolutely no idea what “physical” really means but we sure know one thing for certain – the foundation of the universe is NOT conscious, NOT intelligent, NOT sentient, and NOT alive.”
That is not philosophy. It hardly even merits the name of religion. It is pure fundamentalist superstition. Fundamaterialism!
Does anybody have a coherent definition of “physicalism”?
A reply to Don:
According to the Indian Vaishnava tradition, there is the potent, i.e. Bhagavan/God, along with His infinite potency, or energy (shakti), which manifests in innumerable ways, similar to how there is the sun globe co-existing with its energy manifesting as heat, light, etc. The sentient energy is known as jiva-shakti, or ‘living’ energy and the inert non-sentient or material energy is known as maya-shakti. Shri Bhagavan/God does not impose His will upon a particular aspect of His energy, hence the existence of self-volitional, conscious entities (jivatmas), but matter (jada or prakriti) is that aspect of His energy upon which He has imposed His will, hence it is inert and requires external causation in order to manifest its capacity to act. Therefore, according to this view, ‘physical’, ‘material’, etc. are simply terms describing the perception of the sentient energy regarding the non-sentient, non self-volitional manifestation of energy. Ultimately, there exists only God and His potencies or energies, but those energies manifest and behave in different ways. For example, electricity and magnetism were found to be two aspects of the same thing and are now conceived as electro-magnetism. If, for the sake of argument, the preceding explanation should be true, then, despite not knowing the exact details, interaction between two aspects of the same thing, i.e. the conscious and the non-conscious, would be expected and hardly surprising.
Yes, the Indian Dwaita tradition; wonderful, Divine Love.
Your comment is marvelous, and I’m sorry you took the time without me making it clear what I meant by “matter.”
Pre-modern age, to the best of my knowledge (even including the so-called atheists of ancient India, Carvakas, who were practically religious fundamentalists compared to the insanity of a Dawkins or Dennett) there were no materialists in the modern sense – the sense that “matter” is something utterly stupid, dead, unconscious, etc (sorry, I usually use the more polite words non intelligent, non living, etc but you know, well, after awhile….:>)
So yes, “matter” was the Mother, and an integral aspect of the Brahman (or Bhagavan, if you prefer the Personalist approach). But that “matter” doesn’t exist for the modern materialists. Once “matter” was dissolved by the 20th century physicists, they simply retreated into “physicalism.” One might just as easily speak of mxyzptlk-ism and it would make as much (or more??) sense as “physicalism.”
I looked over Mr. Briggs’ past posts having just arrived here for the first time yesterday. I see he belongs to that strange group of posters who are brilliant when it comes to theology and metaphysics and WAY down the rabbit hole of insanity when it comes to global affairs (almost makes Qanon sound sane by comparison!).
Interesting he wrote 3 positive posts on David Bentley Hart but doesn’t seem to share Hart’s enthusiasm for Christian socialism: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/three-cheers-socialism
DAV wrote: “We know of nothing as complex as a brain. That doesn’t mean consciousness isn’t the result of complexity of configuration and power. If simple things can exhibit different properties with configuration and power, it’s reasonable to assume more complex things can as well.”
First to examine: “to assume more complex things can exhibit different properties with configuration and power.” Completely missing is a definition of “more complex” and what would constitute “different properties.” As it stands, the assertion is both vague and circular.
Second: “Complexity of configuration” means nothing by itself. The phrase is undefined and could apply to any number of things far afield of brains and computers. The phrase is no conceptual magic wand.
Third: The suggestion is that “complexity” (still undefined) of the brain could give rise to “consciousness.” Read “The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will” (2018), by Kenneth R. Miller. In 300 pages, Miller does not even inch toward any plausible explanation of how “complexity,” such as the billions of interconnected neurons of the brain, gives rise to any intellectual activity, let alone consciousness. The book dedicated to the subject says nothing to solve the actual problem.
Fourth: “Complexity of configuration plus power” has no necessary, no intrinsic, and no automatic features. The dedicated materialists who claim to base everything upon observation and reason ironically assert that undirected forces acting upon inert materials will someday, somehow explain consciousness. If they are going to claim complexity plus power generates some feature, then they have to show the physical steps of the processes that start with no such feature, and then show how the feature appears by virtue of the assembly of the components.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I’m glad to meet someone on this forum familiar with Indian philosophy. Yes, you are correct, Charvaka Muni’s followers were not at all like contemporary materialists such as Dawkins and Dennett. Kindly allow me to share a story with you (it does not answer your question directly but might be of interest to you so far as mind/body dualism goes):
There was a person in Kolkata who was fond of proclaiming that he did not believe in the existence of anything not perceivable by his bodily senses. If he could not see something with his ‘physical’ eyes, hear something with his ears, etc. then it simply did not exist. Obviously, this is an attitude shared by many, including so-called intellectual giants. It so happened that he had a lot of personal problems and stress in his life and, perhaps as a last resort, he went to a sannyasi, or monk to discuss his situation and get advice. After telling the renunciate the woes weighing on his mind, he received an odd reply. The monk said, “You must be deceiving me by telling me these things.” He was taken aback by this answer and the repetition of this answer when he asked for guidance, as the monk was known for his compassionate nature. However, seeing that the questioner was becoming frustrated, the monk said, “Actually, you have answered your own queries, as you have said many times that you cannot believe in anything that your physical/material senses cannot grasp. Have you seen your mind? Is it black or white? Have you tasted your mind? Is it sweet or sour? Have you touched it? Is it soft or hard?” And so on. To this, the the questioner could only answer “No”. Then the monk said, “So, according to you, your material senses cannot grasp the mind, therefore you have no worries because your mind doesn’t exist!” The questioner then exclaimed, “Of course I have a mind!” “How do you know this?” “Because I can feel the train of thoughts running through it.”
So, similarly, we can understand the presence of the non-material self because of the desire for eternal existence, the desire for knowledge and the desire for happiness—all quite distinct from the needs of the material body, i.e. food, clothing and shelter. That which is non-eternal cannot, logically seek eternal existence; that which is devoid of knowledge cannot seek knowledge, and that which is not constituted of happiness cannot seek happiness—sach-chid-ananda. Therefore, trying to reduce everything to ‘physicalism’ utterly ignores obvious needs that cannot be satisfied by any conglomeration of matter. So-called materialism or physicalism is completely illogical and is born of a sense of false egoism, the misconception of seeing one’s self as the the centre of attention even though one is of finite intellect, strength, beauty, wealth, fame and is unable to resist the temptation of impermanent objects of sense perception.
Agreed Don. Defining what a physical entity is as such is a big problem among many problems for the physicalist, particularly when the physicalist tries to lump “space” into its list of “physical entities.” Many scientists and philosophers of the past and of some today would, for example, say that space is strictly something “immaterial” and not physical. There seems to be differences between space and material objects or things composed of “stuff.” I’d say it’s very difficult to be able to clearly categorize everything in the world as something “physical” or “material” without loss of concise meaning of the term.
Unfortunately, a lot of people that buy into this so-called physicalist worldview are very willing to assert that “everything is physical” without ever bothering to define what they mean by “physical” and why all existents must fall under the category of a physical object. From my experience, I hardly ever hear any criteria given on how one would distinguish something that’s physical and something that would be considered non-physical from internet materialists whether the physical/non-physical distinction is based on Leibniz’s Principle of Indiscernibility or the similar McTaggart’s principle on distinctions, or some philosopher’s insights or whatever else.
Similarly, you’ll often hear from materialists that the “brain produces consciousness” or the “brain is the mind” without any specifics on how exactly the brain is supposed to wholly produce consciousness and how this is supposed to be interpreted. As you know, the article above illustrates just how the general statement “the brain produces consciousness” is ambiguous and open to several different interpretations. Unfortunately, the view that the brain is the bearer of thought is usually left ambiguous by defenders of materialism. Whether, for example, if brain produces my consciousness does that mean that there are protons inside my head that each have a piece of my awareness (or not)? Or, if it’s my brain that literally remembers things then does that entail protons have a little memory too?
Yeah, there’s a lot of problems with materialism
Anyway, if you like, you can also read an article where I directly talk about physicalism.
By the way, welcome Don and Rick! And nice to hear from you as well Akinchana! I’m not as familiar with Eastern thought as you are, but it’s enjoyable to me to read your comments and see your unique perspective on things.