On Nov 13, 2008, at 9:38 AM, Bruno Marchal wrote:
> Be careful with the term. The MGA is subtle and to explain it we will
> have to be more precise. For example here it is better to remember
> that only *person* are conscious. Computations are not conscious (be
> it soft or hard wired).
Good point. What's the most concise way to say it? "I believe that
persons represented by unimplemented computations are conscious"?
> Not at all. But many in this list said it was obvious that the UD does
> not need to be run, and I remember that I thought that explaining MGA
> was not really necessary. Even you, right now, seem to agree that
> computation does not need to be implemented. This does not motivate me
> too much. The MGA is far more subtle than UDA, and it is a bit
> frustrating to explain it to people who says in advance that they
> already agree with the conclusion.
You're right. I do already accept the conclusion. But it's my
impression that almost no one else in the world does. I suspect that
there are others on this list who do, but even then, I'm not sure they
represent a majority. (Should I start an informal poll? How many
people on this list believe that persons represented by unimplemented
computations are conscious?)
My impression is that you're more interested in exploring the
consequences of that conclusion after you accept it. Obviously,
there's nothing wrong with focusing on the issues that interest you
most. But for the world-at-large, the primary issue is *why* we should
accept in the first place that persons represented by unimplemented
computations are conscious. As I said earlier, I've never seen it laid
out convincingly. (At least, not in the one language I can read. :)
I'm aware that exploring the consequences of the conclusion can lend
support to the conclusion itself. For instance, if you can show that
something like quantum physics emerges from the idea that persons
represented by unimplemented computations are conscious, that counts
as evidence. But that's a hard road to go. Arguments involving Godel,
Loebian machines, etc., go over my head, and will go over most other
people's heads as well.
> Dennett, like many "naturalist" is not aware that the notion of matter
> is not obvious at all.
For what it's worth, Dennett made some interesting comments about this
somewhere. (Maybe in "Dennett and His Critics", but I can't remember
for sure.) He basically said that, in his capacity as a professional
philosopher, he's chosen to focus on the issue of how persons
represented by implemented computations can be conscious. (He didn't
put it that way, but I think that's a good way of saying it.) When it
comes to ontology, he's essentially a layperson. He's willing to
accept the standard naturalist ontology (and the standard view of
"impelmentation") so that he can focus on his philosophical specialty.
He even indicated that he has some private opinions about ontology,
but he doesn't feel qualified enough to air those opinions in public.
For all we know, he *is* aware that the notion of matter is not
obvious at all. It's just not the issue he's chosen to focus on.
My point is that one can read Dennett as if he were entirely agnostic
about the question of whether persons represented by unimplemented
computations are conscious. Almost everything he says about
consciousness still makes sense without the assumption of "matter",
even if he himself does assume it.
> Now I feel guilty. There is just no presentations of the MGA in
> English. The MGA appears the first time in my 1988 paper, written in
> In this list, I have always suggest people to read the Maudlin"s paper
> 1989, which develops a similar argument.
I don't know French, and I've never tracked down Maudlin's paper. I've
only read previous threads on this list, like this one:
I don't really grasp the argument presented in that thread, so
(therefore) I don't find it very convincing.
> Perhaps the time has come I explain the MGA on the list? Would you be
> interested? It seems that both you and Stathis already accept the
> conclusion. So ...
No need to do it just on my account, but yes, I'm interested.
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