On 9/26/2012 11:29 PM, Jason Resch wrote:

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

    On Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 3:34 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com
    <mailto: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: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16267-mindreading-software-could-record-your-dreams.html

    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 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind)#Dualist_views_of_mental_causation <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_%28philosophy_of_mind%29#Dualist_views_of_mental_causation> ). Both of these are forms of dualism, and I think both are false.

Because they assume a substantive and thus separable substrate, the y 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.

    Demonstrating that minds are not epiphenomena!

    > 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
    > 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
    > 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?

These dualisms consider mind and body to be separable, this is where they fail. If Mind and body are merely distinct aspect of the same basic primitive then we get a prediction that zombies are not possible. Every mind must have an embodiment and every body must have (some kind of) a mind.

    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 sure.

How does this follow the definition of a zombie? They have no qualia thus no ability to reason about qualia!

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.

    Then what makes a zombie a zombie???

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.

No, the reports that are uttered by a zombie, if we are consistent are not reports of knowledge any more than the output of my calculator is knowledge!

    > Epiphenominalism is forced to defend the absurd notion that
    > (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

Consciousness is defined on dictionary.com <http://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.

    Right, and it is this that zombies lack.

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.

Knowledge, at least tacitly, implies the ability to act upon the data, not just be guided by it.

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.

Rubbish! You are making perfection the enemy of the possible. We are fallible and thus can only reason within boundaries and error bars, so. Does this knock proofs down? NO!

    because consciousness is not causally efficacious.

I disagree with this.

    I agree with your disagreement!

    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 inefficacious?

    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.


    Nice debate!




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