I have been using the term 'aesthetic' a lot lately in specifying the
qualitative aspects of consciousness, and I feel like it clarifies one of
the core issues. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is confusing to people
whose mindset is innately compelled to define consciousness as a collection
of functions in the first place. It therefore comes out nonsensical when
philosophers like David Chalmers talk about questioning why there is such a
thing as 'what it is like' to have an experience, since for the
functionalist, 'what it is like' to perform a function is simply the
self-same set of events which comprise the function.
Maybe it helps to define 'what it is like' in more specific terms, which I
think would be scientifically described as *private sensory-motive
participation* but informally can be understood as aesthetic phenomena. The
key is to notice the asymmetric relation between aesthetics and function in
that function can improve aesthetics, but aesthetics can *never* improve
function. The Hard Problem then becomes a problem of how to explain
aesthetics (aka qualia) in a universe of functions which can neither
benefit by them nor physically generate them as far as we can tell (unless
there is a miniature kitchen near our olfactory bulbs baking microscopic
apple pies whenever we remember the smell of apple pie).
The fact that aesthetics are not possible to explain in terms of a
function, but that functions can be conceived of aesthetically is
unfamiliar and those who have that innately functional mindset will balk at
the notion of aesthetic supremacy, but this is the future of science -
letting go of the familiar, or in this case, rediscovering the literally
familiar (ordinary consciousness) in an unfamiliar way (as the fabric of
When we talk about consciousness then, what we really mean is the aesthetic
experience of being and doing, of perceiving and participating. This
experience is extended publicly as spatio-temporal form-functions (STFF),
but those phenomena are not capable of appreciating themselves. Just as a
puppet can be made to seem to walk and talk like a person, forms can be
made to interact by hijacking their natural low-level aesthetics to
represent our high-level expectations. The letters on this screen are just
such an example. I am using a lot of technology to generate contrasting
pixels on your video screen, which you will experience as letters, words,
Each level of description - as typeface, spellings, grammars, evoke
aesthetic micro-experiences. The closer these descriptions get to your
native scale - the personal scale, the more that your personal experience,
feelings, and understanding influences the aesthetics of all of the
sub-personal experiences within reading the language. What you see of the
letters is because of your experience of learning to read English, not
because of any special power that these words have to project meaning. By
themselves, these words and letters do nothing to each other. They are
figures for use in human communication - they have no functional aspect,
i.e. they are *only* aesthetic. This is why a computer has no use for human
languages, or even programming languages. Computation requires no figures
or forms of any kind, nor can it produce any forms or figures without
borrowing some kind of STFF (with u in the middle, heh) from the 'real
world'. Otherwise there is a only the anesthetic concept of pure function -
which is the exact opposite of representation by form, image, or quality,
but is non-presentation through quantity.
Computation, or 'Information Processing' is the unconscious number
crunching of automated, logical functionality. Information lacks aesthetic
presence by definition - it is a purely conceptual understanding of
instructed variables in motion. If there is a capacity for aesthetic
appreciation to begin with, then computation can extend it and improve it.
If there is no such capacity, then there is certainly no justification for
adding it into computation, as automatic function cannot benefit in any way
by appreciation of its own activity.
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