2009/8/26 Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>:

> I don't see that.  I conjectured that with sufficient knowledge of the
> environment in which the alien functioned and input-outputs at the
> corresponding level, one could provide and account of the alien's
> experience.  I was my point that simply looking at the alien's brain,
> without the context of its function, would not suffice.

I can't tell what you mean by "provide an account".  Do you mean that
one could provide some account of all this in functional terms that
*we could interpret* in ways that made contextual sense *for us* -
standing in, as it were, for the alien?  If so, this is what I meant
when I said to Stathis that it really becomes equivalent to the
problem of other minds, in that if we can coax the data into making
sense for us, we can extrapolate this by implication to the alien.
But that would tend to make it a rather human alien, wouldn't it?

> The question is whether PM is sufficient to describe the system.
> Language is almost certainly inadequate to describing what it is like
> to 'be' the system - you cannot even fully describe what it is like to
> be you.

I'm questioning something more subtle here, I think.  First, one could
simply decide to be eliminativist about experience, and hold that the
extrinsic PM account is both exhaustive and singular.  In this case,
'being' anything is simply an extrinsic notion.  But if we're not in
this sort of denial, then the idea of 'being' the system subtly
encourages the intuition that there's some way to be that
simultaneously satisfies two criteria:

1) Point-for-point isomorphism - in some suitable sense - with the
extrinsic description.
2) An intrinsic nature that is incommunicable in terms of the
extrinsic description alone.

This intuition has a lot of work to do to stay monistic - i.e. to
claim to refer to a unique existent.  First it has to justify why
there's still a gap between the 'extrinsic' system-as-described and
the 'intrinsic' system-as-instantiated - i.e. the description can no
longer be considered exhaustive.  Then it has to explain the existence
of the former as some mode of the latter.   Finally, it has to
dispense with any implied referent of the former, except in the guise
of the latter - i.e. it has to dispense with any fundamental notion of
the extrinsic except as a metaphor or mode of the intrinsic.

Dispensing with the extrinsic in this way leaves us with 'being' as a
fundamentally intrinsic notion.  Not doing so is an implicit appeal to
dualism.

David

>
> David Nyman wrote:
>> 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.
>
> I don't see that.  I conjectured that with sufficient knowledge of the
> environment in which the alien functioned and input-outputs at the
> corresponding level, one could provide and account of the alien's
> experience.  I was my point that simply looking at the alien's brain,
> without the context of its function, would not suffice.
>
>>
>> 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?
>
> The question is whether PM is sufficient to describe the system.
> Language is almost certainly inadequate to describing what it is like
> to 'be' the system - you cannot even fully describe what it is like to
> be you.  That's why I think the "hard problem" of consciouness will
> not be "solved" it will just wither away.  Eventually we will
> understand brains sufficiently to create AI with specifically designed
> memories, emotions, and cogitation, as evidenced by their behavior and
> the similarity of their processes to human ones.  We won't *know* that
> they are conscious, but we'll believe they are.
>
> Brent
>
>>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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