Bruno Marchal wrote:

Le 20-mai-05, à 02:59, Stathis Papaioannou a écrit :

OK then, we agree! It's just that what I (and many others) refer to as qualia, you refer to as the difference between a description of a thing and being the thing. I hate the word "dualism" as much as you do (because of the implication that we may end up philosophically in the 16th century if we yield to it), but haven't you just defined a very fundamental kind of dualism, in aknowledging this difference between a thing and its description? It seems to me, in retrospect, that our whole argument has been one over semantics. Dennett (whom I greatly respect) goes to great lengths to avoid having impure thoughts about something being beyond empirical science or logic. David Chalmers ("The Conscious Mind", 1996) accepts that it is actually simpler to admit that consciousness is just an irreducible part of physical existence. We accept that quarks, or bitstrings, or whatever are irreducible, so why is it any different to accept consciousness or what-it-is-like-to-be-something-as-distinct-from-a-description-of- something (which is more of a mouthful) on the same basis?

Yes but then why not take everything for granted. I do think Chalmers just abandons rationalism, unlike Dennett in Brainstorms (but then a little bit too in "Consciousness explained" ... explained away as he realises himself at the end of the book (at last).

Frankly Stathis, is that is your last move, I prefer the short answer by Norman Samish's wife: "because".



People certainly seem to take their consciousness seriously on this list! I've now managed to alienate both the "consciousness doesn't really exist" and the "it exists and we can explain it" factions. I did not mean that there is no explanation possible for consciousness. It is likely that in the course of time the neuronal mechanisms behind the phenomenon will be worked out and it will be possible to build intelligent, conscious machines. Imagine that advanced aliens have already achieved this through surreptitious study of humans over a number of decades. Their models of human brain function are so good that by running an emulation of one or more humans and their environment they can predict their behaviour better than the humans can themselves. Now, I think you will agree (although Jonathan Colvin may not) that despite this excellent understanding of the processes giving rise to human conscious experience, the aliens may still have absolutely no idea what the experience is actually like. For example, if they lack any sense of vision, they cannot possibly know what it is like to see red. This is the difference between 1st person and 3rd person experience. At this point, Bruno, you may go further and say that the 1st/3rd person difference is not irreducible or inexplicable, but can be shown to be a theorem in mathematical logic. This is a spectacular result, and it is at a deeper explanatory level than the description of the neural or computational basis of 1st person experience. However, does it help our blind aliens understand what it is like for a human to see red? It is that aspect of 1st person experience which cannot possibly be understood or communicated in any way other than through oneself *being* the system that has the experience which Chalmers calls the "hard problem" of consciousness.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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