On Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 9:24 PM, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com>wrote:

> On Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 3:34 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > If it has no causal efficacy, what causes someone to talk about the pain
> > they are experiencing?  Is it all coincidental?
> There is a sequence of physical events from the application of the
> painful stimulus to the subject saying "that hurts", and this
> completely explains the observable behaviour.

But can you separate the consciousness from that sequence of physical
events or not?  There are multiple levels involved here and you may be
missing the forest for the trees by focusing only on the atoms.  Saying the
consciousness is irrelevant in the processes of the brain may be like
saying human psychology is irrelevant in the price moves of the stock
market.  Of course, you might explain the price moves in terms of atomic
interactions, but you are missing the effects of higher-level phenomenon,
which are real and do make a difference.

> We can't observe the
> experience itself.

I'm not convinced of this.  While today, we have difficulty in even
defining the term, in the future, with better tools and understanding of
minds and consciousness, we may indeed be able to tell if a certain process
implements the right combination of processes to have what we would call a
mind.  By tracing the flows of information in its mind, we might even know
what it is and isn't aware of.

Albeit at a low resolution, scientists have already extracted from brain
scans what people are seeing:

> If the experience had separate causal powers we
> would be able to observe its effects: we would see that neurons were
> miraculously firing contrary to physical law, and explain this as the
> immaterial soul affecting the physical world.

It sounds like you are saying either epiphenomenalism is true or
interactionism is true (
 Both of these are forms of dualism, and I think both are false.

Violations of physics are not required for consciousness to have effects.
 After all, no violations of physics are required for human psychology to
have effects on stock prices.

> > I find the entire concept of epiphenominalism to be self-defeating: if it
> > were true, there is no reason to expect anyone to ever have proposed it.
>  If
> > consciousness were truly an epiphenomenon then the experience of it and
> the
> > resulting wonder about it would necessarily be private and non-shareable.
> > In other words, whoever is experiencing the consciousness with all its
> > intrigue can in no way effect changes in the physical world.  So then
> who is
> > it that proposes the theory of epiphenominalism to explain the mystery of
> > conscious experience?  It can't be the causally inefficacious
> experiencer.
> > The only consistent answer epiphenominalism can offer is that the theory
> of
> > epiphenominalism comes from a causally efficacious entity which in no
> way is
> > effected by experiences.  It might as well be a considered a
> > non-experiencer, for it would behave the same regardless of whether it
> > experienced something or if it were a zombie.
> The experiencer would behave the same if he were a zombie, since that
> is the definition of a zombie.

Dualist theories, including epiphenominalism, lead to the notion that
zombies are logically consistent.  I don't think zombies make any sense.
 Do you?

> I know I'm not a zombie and I believe
> that other people aren't zombies either, but I can't be sure.

If you were a zombie, you would still know that you were not a zombie, and
still believe other people are not zombies either, but you could not be

This follows because the notion of knowing, which I define as possessing
information, applies equally to zombie and non-zombie brains.  Both brains
have identical information content, so they both know exactly the same
things.  They both know what red is like, they both know what pain is like.
  It's just there is some magical notion of there being a difference
between them which is completely illogical.  Zombies don't make sense, and
therefore neither do dualist theories such as epihenominalism.

> > Epiphenominalism is forced to defend the absurd notion that
> epiphenominalism
> > (and all other theories of consciousness) are proposed by things that
> have
> > never experienced consciousness.  Perhaps instead, its core assumption is
> > wrong.  The reason for all these books and discussion threads about
> > consciousness is that experiences and consciousness are causally
> > efficacious.  If they weren't then why is anyone talking about them?
> The people talking about them could be zombies. There is nothing in
> any observation of peoples' behaviour that *proves* they are
> conscious,

Consciousness is defined on dictionary.com as "awareness of sensations,
thoughts, surrounds, etc."  Awareness is defined as "having knowledge".  So
we can say consciousness is merely having knowledge of sensations,
thoughts, surroundings, etc.

It then becomes a straightforward problem of information theory and
computer science to know if a certain system possesses knowledge of those
things or not.

This isn't startling.  Doctors today declare people brain dead and take
them off life support using the same assumptions.  If we had no principles
for determining if something is conscious or not, would we still do this?
 Do you worry about stepping on rocks because it might hurt them?  We have
good reasons not to worry about those things because we assume there are
certain necessary levels of complexity and information processing ability
needed to be conscious.  So perhaps if we can tell with reasonable
certainty something is not conscious, we might also be reasonably certain
that a certain other thing IS conscious.

Proof, is another matter, and likely one we will never get.  Your entire
life could be a big delusion and everything you might think you know could
be wrong.  We can never really prove anything.

> because consciousness is not causally efficacious.

I disagree with this.

> It is
> emergent, at a higher level of description, supervenient

Right, it could be emergent / supervenient, but that does not mean it is
causally inefficacious.

You need to look at the counterfactual to say whether or not it is casually
important.  Ask "If this thing were not conscious would it still behave in
the same way?"  If not, then how can we say that consciousness is casually

> or
> epiphenomenal - but not separately causally efficacious, or the
> problem of other minds and zombies would not exist.
There is no problem of zombies if you can show the idea to be inconsistent.


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
For more options, visit this group at 

Reply via email to