I have the feeling that we are discussing words. Everybody tries how to
'make sense' of them, in a personal "taste".
Colin expressed it in his usual sophisticated ways, Ben more
comprehensively, in many more words. The fact is: we observe the observer
(ourselves) and want to describe it to others.
The American 'slang' comes to mind: Consciousness Smonciousness - do we get
anywhere with it? whether a device 'looks at' or we see if somebody
understands what he sees?
During the early 90s I gave up thinking ABOUT consciousness, it seemed a
futile task with everybody speaking about something else. Now I see a
reasonable topic behind it: "ourselves" - the object with which I struggle
lately to identify (for myself about myself, which is the crux of the
problem). I see no point to explain it to others: they will not get the
'real' image (only the interpreted (their) 1st person view of me).
We all (excuse me to use 1st pers form) are well educated smart people and
can say something upon everything. It is a rarity to read:
I was wrong you are right - period. (I cannot keep my mouse shut either).
----- Original Message -----
From: "Benjamin Udell" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Saturday, August 26, 2006 10:29 PM
Subject: Re: evidence blindness
Colin, Stathis, Brent,
1. I think we need to distinguish a cybernetic, self-adjusting system like a
sidewinder missile, from an inference-processing, self-_redesigning_ system
like an intelligent being (well, not redesigning itself biologically, at
least as of now).
Somehow we're code-unbound to some sufficient extent that, as a result, we
can test our representations, interpretations, our systems, habits, and
"codes" of representation and interpretation, rather than leaving that task
entirely to biological evolution which tends to punish bad "interpretations"
by removal of the interpreter from the gene pool.
There's something more than represented objects (sources), the
representations (encodings), and the interpretations (decodings). This
"something more" is the recipient, to whom falls any task of finding
redundancies and inconsistencies between the message (or message set) and
the rest of the world, such that the recipient -- I'm unsure how to put
this -- is the one, or stands as the one, who deals with the existential
consequences and for whom tests by subjection to existential consequences
are meaningful; the recipient is in a sense a figuration of existential
consequences as bearing upon the system's design. It's from a design-testing
viewpoint that one re-designs the communication system itself; the recipient
role in that sense is the role which includes the role of the
"evolutionator" (as CA's governor might call it). In other words, the
recipient is, in logical terms, the recognizer, the (dis-)verifier, the
(dis-)corroborator, etc., and verification (using "verification" as the
forest term for the various trees) is that "something more" than object,
representation, interpretation. Okay, so far I'm just trying to distinguish
an intelligence from a possibly quite vegetable-level information processs
with a pre-programmed menu of feedback-based responses and behavior
2. Verificatory bases are nearest us, while the entities & laws by appeal to
which we explain things, tend to be farther & farther from us. I mean, that
Colin has a point.
There's an explanatory order (or sequence) of being and a verificatory order
(sequence) of knowledge. Among the empirical, "special" sciences (physical,
material, biological, human/social), physics comes first in the order of
being, the order in which we explain things by appeal to entities, laws,
etc., "out there." But the order whereby we know things is the opposite;
there human/social studies come first, and physics comes last. That is not
the usual way in which we order those sciences, but it is the usual way in
which we order a lot of maths when we put logic (deductive theory of logic)
and structures of order (and conditions for applicability of mathematical
induction) before other fields -- that's the ordering according to the bases
on which we know things. The point is, that the "ultimate" explanatory
object tends to be what's furthest from us; the "ultimate" verificatory
basis tends to be what's nearest to us (at least within a given family of
research fields -- logic and order structures are studies of reason and
reason's crackups; extremization problems in analysis seem to be at an
opposite pole). Well, in the end, "nearest to us" means _us_, in our
personal experiences. Now, I'm not talking in general about deductively
certain knowledge or verification, but just about those bases on which we
gain sufficient assurance to act (not to mention believe reports coming from
one area in research while not putting too much stock in reports coming from
another). We are our own ultimate points of reference. Quine talks somewhere
about dispensing with proper names and using a coordinate system spread out
over the known universe. Which universe? The one we're in. As a practical
matter, the best answer to the question "which planet is Earth" is "the one
we're on." What's more, we do have experiences bearing upon our experiences.
We get into that sort of multi-layered reflexivity -- and I don't mean just
in an abstract intellectual way. Experiences vary in directness, firmness,
reliability, etc., among other things. In these senses and more, Colin is
right. One unmoors oneself from personal experience only at grave risk.
3. The problem is that it seems possible to distinguish verification,
verificatory experience, etc., from consciousness. We learn sometimes
unconsciously, we infer conclusively yet sometimes unconsciously, etc., we
test and verify sometimes unconsciously, non-deliberately, etc. "Reasoning"
is what we can call conscious inference. Testing doesn't have to be fully
conscious and deliberate any more than interpretation does. The point is, is
the system of a nature to learn from that which tests the system's
character, its design, structure, habits, etc.? Learn, revise itself, etc.,
consciously or unconsciously. Any time one enters a situation with
conjectures, expectations, understandings, memories, one is testing them and
even testing one's ways of "generating" them, testing oneself, aside from
one's having some overriding purpose of verification -- one may have some
very different purpose in the given situation. And it's really quite as if
we have experience unconscious as well as conscious. Maybe there's a
question of the definition of the word "experience" as including the idea of
consciousness, but the point is that, when we look at the things that make
for a genuinely intelligent process, we find in our own experience that
consciousness is associated with its working very intelligently in some
respects, but not associated in every case with its working. Indeed there
are persistent cases of intelligent, inferential processing going on
unconsciously. Even leaving aside the phenomenon of somewhat autistic
musical prodigies, and leaving aside the complex and not entirely conscious
dynamics of interpersonal relationships, I think most of us have heard of
Poincare's discussion of unconsciously working on a problem till, in a
moment of unexpected illumination, the solution came to him, as he stepped
onto a bus. Well, I don't really know what to make of this
distinguishability between consciousness and verificatory experience which
may be conscious or unconscious, as regards what Colin is saying, but it
does seem a real question.
Best, Ben Udell
(P.S. Also, there is perhaps more than one "flavor" of
less-than-consciousness -- there's a difference between slowly,
unconsciously working on a problem, and lightning-quick though sometimes
iffy insights which one has, one "knows not how." -- and while one can
suppose that the latter are simply the outcomes of the former, I think that
the latter can interact with each other in a darting and hard-to-follow way
that's like the extreme opposite of the former. End of digressive
----- Original Message -----
From: "Colin Hales" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Saturday, August 26, 2006 9:09 PM
Subject: RE: evidence blindness
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:everything-
> [EMAIL PROTECTED] On Behalf Of Brent Meeker
> Sent: Sunday, August 27, 2006 9:49 AM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: evidence blindness
> Colin Geoffrey Hales wrote:
> >>the fact that intelligent behaviour is third person observable but
consciousness is not.
> >>Stathis Papaioannou
> > OK. Let me get this straight. Scientist A stares at something, say X,
with consciousness. A sees X. Scientist A posits evidence of X from a third
person viewpoint. Scientist A confers with Scientist B. Scientist B then
goes and stares at X and agrees. Both of these people use consciousness to
come to this conclusion.
> > Explicit Conclusion : "Yep, theres an X!"
> > Yet there's no evidence of consciousness?.... that which literally
enabled the entire process? There is an assumption at work....
> > "SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE"
> > and
> > "CONTENTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS"
> > Are NOT identities.
> > When you 'stare' at anything at all you have evidence of consciousness.
> A SIDWINDER missile 'stares' at the exhaust of a jet aircraft. Does that
make it conscious?
This is a mind-blowingly irrelevant diversion into the usual weeds that
fails to comprehend the most basic proposition about ourselves by an
assumption which is plain wrong. You presume that the missile stares and
then attribute it to humans as equivalent. Forget the bloody missile. I am
talking about YOU. The evidence you have about YOU within YOU.
Take a look at your hand. That presentation of your hand is one piece of
content in a visual field (scene). Mind is literally and only a collection
of (rather spectacular) phenomenal scenes.
Something (within your brain material) generates the visual field in which
there is a hand. You could cognise the existence of a hand _without_ that
scene (this is what blindsight patients can do - very very badly, but they
can do it). But you don't. No, nature goes to a hell of a lot of trouble to
create that fantastic image.
You have the scene. Take note of it. It gives you ALL your scientific
evidence. This is an intrinsically private scene and you can't be objective
without it! You would have nothing to be objective about.
Close your eyes and tell me you can be more scientific about your hand than
you could with them open. This is so obvious.
To say consciousness is not observable is completely absolutely wrong. We
observe consciousness permanently. It's all we ever do! It's just not within
the phenomenal fields, it IS the phenomenal fields.
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