On Nov 25, 2008, at 2:55 AM, Bruno Marchal wrote:
> So you agree that MGA 1 does show that Lucky Alice is conscious
> (logically).

I think I have a less rigorous view of the argument than you do. You  
want the argument to have the rigor of a mathematical proof. You say  
"Let's start with the mechanist-materialist assumption that Fully- 
Functional Alice is conscious. We can replace her neurons one-by-one  
with random neurons that just happen to do what the fully-functional  
ones were going to do. By definition none of her exterior or interior  
behavior changes. Therefore, the resulting Lucky Alice must be exactly  
as conscious as Fully-Functional Alice."

To me, this argument doesn't have the full rigor of a mathematical  
proof, because it's not entirely clear what the mechanist-materialists  
really mean when they say that Fully-Functional Alice is conscious,  
and it's not clear whether or not they would agree that "none of her  
exterior or interior behavior changes (in any way that's relevant)".  
There *is* an objective physical difference between Fully-Functional  
Alice and Lucky Alice - it's precisely the (discoverable, physical)  
fact that her neurons are all being stimulated by cosmic rays rather  
than by each other. I don't see why the mechanist-materialists are  
logically disallowed from incorporating that kind of physical  
difference into their notion of consciousness.

Of course, in practice, Lucky Alice presents a conundrum for such  
mechanist-materialists. But it's not obvious to me that the conundrum  
is unanswerable for them, because the whole notion of "consciousness"  
in this context seems so vague. Bostrom's views about fractional  
"quantities" of experience are a case in point. He clearly takes a  
mechanist-materialist view of consciousness, and he believes that a  
grid of randomly-flipping bits cannot be conscious, no matter what it  
does. He would argue that, during Fully-Functional Alice's slide into  
Lucky Alice, her subjective quality of consciousness doesn't change,  
but her "quantity" of consciousness gradually reduces until it becomes  
zero. That seems weird to me, but I don't see how to "logically prove"  
that it's wrong. All I have are messy philosophical arguments and  
thought experiments - what Dennett calls "intuition pumps".

That being said, I'm happy to proceed as if our hypothetical mechanist- 
materialists have accepted the force of your argument as a logical  
proof. Yes, they claim, given the assumptions of our mechanism- 
materialism, if Fully-Functional Alice is conscious, Lucky Alice must  
*necessarily* also be conscious. If the laser-graph is conscious, then  
the movie of it must *necessarily* be conscious. What's the problem  
(they ask)? On to MGA 3.

-- Kory


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