On Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:

> 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.

The higher level description is not an entity with *separate* causal
power. Was the stock market movement caused by physics, chemistry,
biochemistry or psychology? In a manner of speaking, it's correct to
say any of them; but we know that all the chemical, biochemical and
psychological properties are ultimately traceable to the physics, even
if it isn't practically useful to attempt stock market prediction by
analysing brain physics. What I object to is the idea of strong
emergence, that higher level properties are not merely surprising but
fundamentally unable to be deduced from lower level properties.

>> 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

We still can't observe the experience. Advanced aliens may be able to
read our thoughts very accurately in this way but still have no idea
what we actually experience or whether we are conscious at all.

>> 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.

The "merely" makes it an epiphenomenon. I think this is Daniel
Dennett's potion. Dennett argues that zombies are logically impossible
as consciousness is nothing but the sort of information processing
that goes on in brains.

Stathis Papaioannou

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