On 3/16/2010 6:03 AM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
On 16 March 2010 20:29, russell standish<li...@hpcoders.com.au> wrote:
I've been following the thread on Jack's partial brains paper,
although I've been too busy to comment. I did get a moment to read the
paper this evening, and I was abruptly stopped by a comment on page 2:
"On the second hypothesis [Sudden Disappearing Qualia], the
replacement of a single neuron could be responsible for the vanishing
of an entire field of conscious experience. This seems antecedently
implausible, if not entirely bizarre."
Why? Why isn't it like the straw that broke the camel's back? When
pulling apart a network, link by link, there will be a link removed
that causes the network to go from being almost fully connected to
being disconnected. It need not be the same link each time, it will
depend on the order in which the links are removed.
I made a similar criticism against David Parfitt's Napoleon thought
experiment a couple of years ago on this list - I understand that
fading qualia is a popular intuition, but it just seems wrong to
me. Can anyone give me a convincing reason why the suddenly
disappearing qualia notion is absurd?
Fading qualia would result in a partial zombie, and that concept is
self-contradictory. It means I could be a partial zombie now,
completely blind since waking up this morning, but behaving normally
and unaware that anything unusual had happened. The implications of
this is that zombie vision is just as good as normal vision in every
objective and subjective way, so we may as well say that it is the
same as normal vision. In other words, the qualia can't fade and leave
the behaviour of the brain unchanged.
I think this is a dubious argument based on our lack of understanding of
qualia. Presumably one has many thoughts that do not result in any
overt action. So if I lost a few neurons (which I do continuously) it
might mean that there are some thoughts I don't have or some
associations I don't make, so eventually I may "fade" to the level of
consciousness of my dog. Is my dog a "partial zombie"?
I think the question of whether there could be a philosophical zombie is
ill posed because we don't know what is responsible for qualia. I
speculate that they are tags of importance or value that get attached to
perceptions so that they are stored in short term memory. Then, because
evolution cannot redesign things, the same tags are used for internal
thoughts that seem important enough to put in memory. If this is the
case then it might be possible to design a robot which used a different
method of evaluating experience for storage and it would not have qualia
like humans - but would it have some other kind of qualia? Since we
don't know what qualia are in a third person sense there seems to be no
way to answer that.
Chalmers thinks partial zombies are absurd but does not believe that
full zombies are prima facie absurd. Accepting this, it would seem to
be possible that one could suddenly transition from fully conscious to
fully zombified without going through an intermediate stage. For
example, this could happen with the swapping of one neuron. However,
it wouldn't be the neuron that causes the change, it would be an
infinitesimally small part of the neuron. This is because the neuron
itself, like the brain, could be replaced with functionally identical
components. For the same reason that qualia can't fade for the whole
brain, qualia can't fade for the neuron. So the qualia would have to
suddenly disappear with the swapping of one single indivisible
component of the neuron. Are you prepared to say that it is possible
there is a single subatomic particle in your brain which makes the
difference between consciousness and zombiehood?
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