I haven't been on the ball with this discussion, but it ties in
very neatly with the discussion we have been having here in Linz at
the Data Ecologies workshop. The aspect that seems to be needed is the
idea of an "intrinsic observer" - this idea seems to have been introduced
by Tom Toffoli and followed up on in many ways by Karl Svozil:
I hope I have something more to say about it later today...
On May 17, 2005, at 3:14 PM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Your post suggests to me a neat way to define what is special about first person experience: it is the gap in information between what can be known from a description of an object and what can be known from being the object itself. This is a personal thing, but I think it is at least a little surprising that there should be such a gap, and would never have guessed had I not been conscious myself. I don't think it is a good idea to simply ignore this gap, but on the other hand, I don't think there is any need to postulate mind/body dualism and try to explain how the two interact. Aside from this one difference I have focussed on, first person experience is just something that occurs in the normal course of events in the physical universe.
>Stathis: I agree with Lee's and Jonathan's comments, except that I > think there is something unusual about first person > experience/ qualia/ consciousness in that there is an aspect > that cannot be communicated unless you experience it (a blind > man cannot know what it is like to see, no matter how much he > learns about the process of vision). Let me use the analogy > of billiard balls and Newtonian mechanics. Everything that > billiard balls do by themselves and with each other can be > fully explained by the laws of physics. Moreover, it can all > be modelled by a computer program. But in addition, there is > the state of being-a-billiard-ball, which is something very > strange and cannot be communicated to non-billiard balls, > because it makes absolutely no difference to what is observed > about them. It is not clear if this aspect of billiard ball > "experience" is duplicated by the computer program, precisely > because it makes no observable difference: you have to be the > simulated billiard ball to know.
But is this "state of being a billiard ball" any different than simple
existence? What in particular is unusual about first person qualia? We might
simply say that a *description* of a billiard ball is not the same as *a
billiard ball* (a description of a billiard ball can not bruise me like a
real one can); in the same way, a description of a mind is not the same as a
mind; but what is unusual about that? It is not strange to differentiate
between a real object and a description of such, so I don't see that there
is anything any more unusual about first person experience. Is it any
stranger that a blind man can not see, than that a description of a billiard
ball's properties (weight, diameter, colour etc) can not bruise me?
> You don't need to postulate a special mechanism whereby mind > interacts with matter. The laws of physics explain the > workings of the brain, and conscious experience is just the > strange, irreducible effect of this as seen from the inside.
> > --Stathis Papaioannou
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