On Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 7:49 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com>wrote:

> 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.

I agree with your distaste for strong emergence, but I think that you can
no more take the consciousness out of the brain, then you could take out
the chemical reactions.  Each is a fundamental part of what it is and does.

> >> 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.
Maybe they could know what we experience.  If they moved their minds to
alternate substrates they might have much greater neural plasticity and
this could allow them to alter their own minds and know what we experience.
 Perhaps with enough practice doing this with different creatures from all
over the galaxy they could develop some pretty accurate theories about
what processing patterns of information lead to what first person

> >> 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.

Zombies are logically impossible precisely because consciousness is not an

Dennett explains his position on epiphenomenalism here:

He is "flabbergasted that anyone takes this view seriously"


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