On 8/18/2014 4:38 AM, Pierz wrote:


On Saturday, August 9, 2014 2:48:48 PM UTC+10, Brent wrote:

    On 8/8/2014 8:34 PM, Pierz wrote:
    In "The Conscious Mind", Chalmers bases his claim that materialism has 
failed to
    provide an explanation for consciousness on a distinction between 'logical' 
and
    'natural' supervenience, where logical supervenience simply means that if A
    supervenes on B, then B logically and necessarily entails A.
    Because we can logically conceive of a (philosophical) zombie, then it 
seems that
    consciousness cannot /logically/ supervene on the physical.

    This kind of argument is very weak.  "Logically" anything can be true that 
doesn't
    entail "x and not-x", i.e. direct contradiction.  When a philosopher slips in 
"can
    logically conceive", it is the "conceive" that does all the work. No one 
could
    "logically conceive" of particles that were two places at once, or became 
correlated
    by future instead of past interactions - until quantum mechanics was 
invented. It's
    at base an argument from incredulity.


I agree - partially. The devil is in the detail. Chalmers asks whether one can "logically conceive" of a universe in which mathematicians disprove (something like) the fact that there are infinite primes. He claims such a world is not logically conceivable, but only one in which mathematicians are wrong. But this illustrates the problem. The more complex a scenario becomes, the more difficult it is to say whether it is logically possible. For example, I can conceive of a people living in a world with four extended spatial dimensions, but it may well be that such a scenario is logically impossible, due to the fact that no self-consistent set of physical laws can describe it. But who can be sure? Perhaps everything logically conceivable happens. Some physicists such as Tegmark would seem to believe so. However I'm not sure that your objection has it the right way round. Usually it's the philosophers arguing for the logical possibility of something against objectors who finds it inconceivable for mistaken reasons such as "common sense". So the argument from incredulity usually goes in the reverse direction to what you're suggesting. With respect to the problem of zombies though, he's pointing out that */within the definitions given/* of what matter is, within the current understanding of matter's properties, the philosophical zombie is extremely conceivable, and in fact is exactly what the model could be said to predict. It's just that we happen to know first-hand that prediction to be wrong.


    There is simply nothing in the physical description that entails or even 
/suggests/
    the arising of subjective experiences in any system, biological or 
otherwise. This
    is a well-trodden path of argumentation that I'm sure we're all familiar 
with.
    However, since it does appear that, empirically, consciousness supervenes on
    physical processes, then this supervenience must be "natural" rather than 
logical.

    I agree.

    It must arise due to some natural law that demands it does.  So far so 
good, though
    what we end up with in Chalmers' book - "property dualism" - hardly seems 
like the
    nourishing meal a phenomenologically inclined philosopher might have hoped 
for.
    Bruno's version of comp seems like more nourishing fare than the the watery 
gruel
    of property dualism, but Chalmers' formulation of logical supervenience got 
me
    thinking again about the grit in the ointment of comp that I've never quite 
been
    able to get comfortable with. This is only another way of formulating an 
objection
    that I've raised before, but perhaps it encapsulates the issue neatly. We 
can
    really only say we've "explained" something when explicated the 
relationships
    between the higher order explanandum and some ontologically prior basis,
    demonstrating how the latter necessarily entails the former. Alternatively 
we might
    postulate some new "brute fact", some hitherto unknown principle, law or 
entity
    which we accept because it does such a good job of uniting disparate, 
previously
    unexplained observations.

    Now the UDA does a good job of making the case that if we accept the 
premise of
    comp (supervenience on computational states), then materialism can be seen 
to
    dissolve into "machine psychology" as Bruno puts it, or to emerge from 
arithmetic.
    But the problem here is that we can no more see mathematical functions as
    necessarily entailing subjective experience as we can see physical entities 
as
    doing so. It is perfectly possible to imagine computations occurring in the
    complete absence of consciousness, and in fact nearly everybody imagines 
precisely
    this. I would say that it is an undeniable fact that no mathematical 
function can
    be said to/logically entail /some correlated conscious state. Rather, we 
must
    postulate some kind of law or principle which claims that it is just so that
    mathematical functions, or certain classes thereof, co-occur with or are 
somehow
    synonymous with, conscious experiences. In other words, we are still forced 
back on
    a kind of natural supervenience. But the problem here is that, whereas with 
matter
    we may be able to invoke some kind of ontological 'magic' that "puts the 
fire into
    the equations" to quote Hawking, with pure mathematics it is hard to see 
how there
    can be any such natural law that is distinct from pure logic itself.

    I think the way to look at it, is to ask how and why evolution invented
    consciousness.  It's pretty clear that not *all* computation produces
    consciousness.  So what is it about the computation in human brains that 
produces
    consciousness.  I speculate that it's because it's computation that is about
    something.  It's computation that is representing, reflecting on and 
predicting the
    world. That world is perceived by our sensory systems and evolution built 
this
    representational system on top of the sensory system.  So when we recall 
something
    we experience images of it.  When we think about playing some music we 
experience
    sounds.  It has been my reservation about Bruno's step 8 that he considers 
a dream
    state in order to avoid the question of it's relation to the world, to 
being about
    something.  I think the world, which Bruno calls physics, is necessary as 
the object
    of consciousness.


Yeah and I don't get that and I don't think it's tenable. A computer being fed data from a camera and responding to it doesn't "know" the data is "about" anything. If it were being fed data from a mathematical function being run on another machine would it become unconscious again? "Man, stop feeding me that mathematical data, it makes me black out something shocking!" Data is data. If it's real world data it will tend to manifest certain complex regularities reflecting the mathematical structure of the world, but it's all just patterns.

It's only data if it's about something. The above argument is like saying you retina doesn't know what it's seeing, you're optic nerve doesn't know what the nerve impulses are about, etc., therefore you can't be seeing anything. My view is that for a computation to instantiate consciousness it has to be about something; and by that I mean it has to have causal connection to what it is about and it has to have the potential to act or make decisions. We don't believe in philosophical zombies because to act like a conscious person in almost all situations implies consciousness.

If you're going to stick with this argument you need to be more rigorous about it and not just lazily rely on your intuition. How specifically does the computer distinguish computation about something from computation about ... what? nothing? Why does processing data that is correlated with the physical world make a computer conscious? How could the machine distinguish between simulator data and real data? And if simulator data is OK, what exactly is data that is not OK? Please convince me, but right now I see no reason to take the idea seriously at all.

You're trying to isolate the consciousness from it's context so that it's "just" data and patterns and 1s and 0s and neuron pulses. I'm saying consciousness requires a context, in fact I think it requires a physics.




    Now when I've put this objection to Bruno in the past in slightly different 
words,
    claiming that it is hard to see any way to reconcile the language of 
mathematics
    with the language of qualia, Bruno has invoked Gödel to claim that 
mathematics is
    more than mere formalism, that it embodies a transcendent Truth that is 
beyond that
    which can be captured in any mathematical formulation. At least, that is 
the best
    summary I can make of my understanding of his reply. He also claims to have
    discovered the 'placeholder' for qualia within the mathematics of Löbian 
machines:
    the gap between statements which the machine knows to be true and those 
which the
    machine knows to be true and can prove to be so. It's a fascinating 
argument, but
    it seems at the very least incomplete. The fact that a machine making
    self-referentially correct statements will be able to assert some (true) 
things
    without being able to prove them does not compel me in any way to believe 
that such
    a machine will have a conscious experience of some particular phenomenal 
quality.
    It may be true that correct statements about qualia are correct statements 
which
    can't be proven, but this does not mean that statements about qualia are 
statements
    about unprovable mathematical propositions. I might claim that Chaitin's 
constant
    is 0.994754987543925216... and it might just happen that I'm right, through 
divine
    inspiration, but Chaitin's constant is not a quale of mine. Bruno can point 
to this
    space in his formalism to say "that's where the qualia fit", but there is a 
similar
    leap of faith involved to actually put them there as we make when 
attributing
    qualia to emergence from neurology.

    Gödel's theorem might show that mathematics is more than mere formalism, 
but it
    does not allow us to make the leap to mathematics being more than abstract
    relationships between numbers. There will always be some true, unprovable 
statement
    in any set of axioms, but this statement will still be about numbers, not 
about
    feelings. If we start to say mathematics is more than that, we are making a
    metaphysical, and indeed mystical claim, and I believe we have also expanded
    mathematics to become something else, something that we can no longer truly 
claim
    to be maths as that is usually understood.

    Now of course the "gap" between the maths and the qualia (I don't like the
    obfuscating and often confused language of Craig's posts, but I think 
"Gödel of the
    gaps" is a pretty good turn of phrase, if indeed he is pointing to the same 
thing
    as me) is actually imported into comp with the initial assumption of qualia
    supervening on computational states. That postulate is of course 
unexplained,
    mystifying and, when taken to its logical end as Bruno has done, mystical. 
But when
    all is said and done, we're still left with it as a "brute fact", if 
anything more
    naked than it was at the beginning of the argument. More naked because it 
is even
    less clear how we are going to get a natural law to bridge the gap between 
the
    putative ontological basis of consciousness and consciousness itself when 
that
    basis is pure mathematics.

    That doesn't bother me as much.  If you look back how we have explained 
gravity,
    electromagnetism, atoms, thermodynamics,all that hard science that is held 
up as the
    paradigm of explanation, you see that at bottom is just precise, predictive
    description.  John von Neumann said, "The sciences do not try to explain, 
they
hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations,
    describes observed phenomena. The justification of  such a mathematical 
construct is
    solely and precisely that it is  expected to work."  That's why I think 
that the
    "hard problem of consciousness" is hard because people think that when we 
have a
    theory that works we still won't have an explanation - but we will, just as 
good and
    bad explanation as we have for gravity and electromagnetism.

Deutsch would heartily disagree with von Neumann. He says that explain is exactly what the sciences try to do.

Yeah, I read his book. But he doesn't say what makes a good explanation beyond one that works and is consilient with other theories that work.

But sure, the explanation may at first sound preposterous and there's always something left unexplained by it (the incompletion). Maybe the problem is purely the habitual way we've thought of maths as being in the mind and distinct from nature,

Since Plato, most mathematicians, when not philosophizing, think of maths as existing in the immaterial realm of platonia. As my mathematician friend Ed Clark once said, "We're platonist Monday thru Saturday. On Sunday we're formalists."

so adding what seems to be a kind of natural law to it, the idea that it also has an interior with qualities, seems, well, unnatural. I find this whole area in the category of "hard to think about".


    After all, what is mathematics? If it includes all consciousness, is 
inseparable
    from it, if it encompasses love, pain, the smell of rain, and everything 
else it is
    possible to experience, then we are really talking about the mind as a 
whole, and
    the claim of a reduction to arithmetic starts to look at the very least 
misleading.
    Arithmetic is just the sugar coating that gives the rationalist a better 
chance of
    swallowing the psychedelic pill.


    Bruno seems to be able to make arithmetic pretty mystical - calling parts 
of it
    angels and God.  :-)

    Brent
    "The duty of abstract mathematics, as I see it, is precisely to
    expand our capacity for hypothesizing possible ontologies."
             --- Norm Levitt

Brent

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