2009/8/26 Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com>:

> With the example of the light, you alter the photoreceptors in the
> retina so that they respond the same way when to a blue light that
> they would have when exposed to a red light.

Ah, so the alien has photoreceptors and retinas?  That's an assumption
worth knowing!  This is why I said "a successful theory wouldn't be
very distant from the belief that the alien was, in effect, human, or
alternatively that you were,  in effect, alien".

> I think what I have proposed is consistent with functionalism, which
> may or may not be true. A functionally identical system produces the
> same outputs for the same inputs, and functionalism says that
> therefore it will also have the same experiences, such as they may be.
> But what those experiences are like cannot be known unless you are the
> system, or perhaps understand it so well that you can effectively run
> it in your head.

Well, it's precisely the conjunction of functionalism with a
primitively material assumption that prompted this part of the thread.
 Peter asked me if I thought a brain scan at some putatively
fundamental physical level would be an exhaustive account of all the
information that was available experientially, and I was attempting to
respond specifically to that.  Given what you say above, I would again
say - for all the reasons I've argued up to this point - that a purely
functional account on the assumption of PM gives me no reason to
attribute experience of any kind to the system in question.

The way you phrase it rightly emphasises the focus on invariance of
inputs and outputs as definitive of invariance of experience, rather
than the variability of the actual PM process that performs the
transformation.  As Brent has commented, this seems a somewhat
arbitrary assumption, with the implied rider of "what else could it
be?"  Well, whatever else could provide an account of experience, this
particular conjecture happens to fly directly in the face of the
simultaneous assumption of primitively physical causation.

There's something trickier here, too.  When you say "unless you are
the system", this masks an implicit - and dualistic - assumption in
addition to PM monism.  It is axiomatic that any properly monistic
materialist account must hold all properties of a system to be
extrinsic, and hence capable of *exhaustive* extrinsic formulation.
IOW if it's not extrinsically describable, it doesn't exist in terms
of PM.  So what possible difference could it make, under this
restriction, to 'be' the system?  If the reply is that it makes just
the somewhat epoch-making difference of conjuring up an otherwise
unknowable world of qualitative experience, can we still lay claim to
a monistic ontology, in any sense that doesn't beggar the term?

David

>
> 2009/8/26 David Nyman <david.ny...@gmail.com>:
>>
>> On 25 Aug, 14:32, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>>> Let's say the alien brain in its initial environment produced a
>>> certain output when it was presented with a certain input, such as a
>>> red light. The reconstructed brain is in a different environment and
>>> is presented with a blue light instead of a red light. To deal with
>>> this, you alter the brain's configuration so that it produces the same
>>> output with the blue light that it would have produced with the red
>>> light.
>>
>> In terms of our discussion on the indispensability of an
>> interpretative context for assigning meaning to 'raw data', I'm not
>> sure exactly how much you're presupposing when you say that "you alter
>> the brain's configuration".  You have a bunch of relational data
>> purporting to correspond to the existing configuration of the alien's
>> brain and its relation to its environment.  This is available to you
>> solely in terms of your interpretation, on the basis of which you
>> attempt to come up with a theory that correlates the observed 'inputs'
>> and 'outputs' (assuming these can be unambiguously isolated).  But how
>> would you know that you had arrived at a successful theory of the
>> alien's experience?  Even if you somehow succeeded in observing
>> consistent correlations between inputs and outputs, how could you ever
>> be sure what this 'means' for the alien brain?
>
> With the example of the light, you alter the photoreceptors in the
> retina so that they respond the same way when to a blue light that
> they would have when exposed to a red light. Photoreceptors are
> neurons and synapse with other neurons, further up the pathway of
> visual perception. The alien will compare his perception of the blue
> sky of Earth with his memory of the red sky of his home planet and
> declare it looks the same. Now it is possible that it doesn't look the
> same and he only thinks it looks the same, but the same could be said
> of ordinary life: perhaps yesterday the sky looked green, and today
> that it looks blue we only think it looks the same because we are
> deluded.
>
>> I would say that in effect what you have posed here is 'the problem of
>> other minds', and that consequently a 'successful' theory wouldn't be
>> very distant from the belief that the alien was, in effect, human, or
>> alternatively that you were,  in effect, alien.  And, mutatis
>> mutandis, I guess this would apply to rocks too.
>
> I think what I have proposed is consistent with functionalism, which
> may or may not be true. A functionally identical system produces the
> same outputs for the same inputs, and functionalism says that
> therefore it will also have the same experiences, such as they may be.
> But what those experiences are like cannot be known unless you are the
> system, or perhaps understand it so well that you can effectively run
> it in your head.
>
>
> --
> Stathis Papaioannou
>
> >
>

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