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
provide an explanation for consciousness on a distinction between 'logical'
'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
consciousness cannot /logically/ supervene on the physical.
This kind of argument is very weak. "Logically" anything can be true that
entail "x and not-x", i.e. direct contradiction. When a philosopher slips in
logically conceive", it is the "conceive" that does all the work. No one
"logically conceive" of particles that were two places at once, or became
by future instead of past interactions - until quantum mechanics was
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
the arising of subjective experiences in any system, biological or
is a well-trodden path of argumentation that I'm sure we're all familiar
However, since it does appear that, empirically, consciousness supervenes on
physical processes, then this supervenience must be "natural" rather than
It must arise due to some natural law that demands it does. So far so
what we end up with in Chalmers' book - "property dualism" - hardly seems
nourishing meal a phenomenologically inclined philosopher might have hoped
Bruno's version of comp seems like more nourishing fare than the the watery
of property dualism, but Chalmers' formulation of logical supervenience got
thinking again about the grit in the ointment of comp that I've never quite
able to get comfortable with. This is only another way of formulating an
that I've raised before, but perhaps it encapsulates the issue neatly. We
really only say we've "explained" something when explicated the
between the higher order explanandum and some ontologically prior basis,
demonstrating how the latter necessarily entails the former. Alternatively
postulate some new "brute fact", some hitherto unknown principle, law or
which we accept because it does such a good job of uniting disparate,
Now the UDA does a good job of making the case that if we accept the
comp (supervenience on computational states), then materialism can be seen
dissolve into "machine psychology" as Bruno puts it, or to emerge from
But the problem here is that we can no more see mathematical functions as
necessarily entailing subjective experience as we can see physical entities
doing so. It is perfectly possible to imagine computations occurring in the
complete absence of consciousness, and in fact nearly everybody imagines
this. I would say that it is an undeniable fact that no mathematical
be said to/logically entail /some correlated conscious state. Rather, we
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
synonymous with, conscious experiences. In other words, we are still forced
a kind of natural supervenience. But the problem here is that, whereas with
we may be able to invoke some kind of ontological 'magic' that "puts the
the equations" to quote Hawking, with pure mathematics it is hard to see
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
consciousness. I speculate that it's because it's computation that is about
something. It's computation that is representing, reflecting on and
world. That world is perceived by our sensory systems and evolution built
representational system on top of the sensory system. So when we recall
we experience images of it. When we think about playing some music we
sounds. It has been my reservation about Bruno's step 8 that he considers
state in order to avoid the question of it's relation to the world, to
something. I think the world, which Bruno calls physics, is necessary as
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
claiming that it is hard to see any way to reconcile the language of
with the language of qualia, Bruno has invoked Gödel to claim that
more than mere formalism, that it embodies a transcendent Truth that is
which can be captured in any mathematical formulation. At least, that is
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
the gap between statements which the machine knows to be true and those
machine knows to be true and can prove to be so. It's a fascinating
it seems at the very least incomplete. The fact that a machine making
self-referentially correct statements will be able to assert some (true)
without being able to prove them does not compel me in any way to believe
a machine will have a conscious experience of some particular phenomenal
It may be true that correct statements about qualia are correct statements
can't be proven, but this does not mean that statements about qualia are
about unprovable mathematical propositions. I might claim that Chaitin's
is 0.994754987543925216... and it might just happen that I'm right, through
inspiration, but Chaitin's constant is not a quale of mine. Bruno can point
space in his formalism to say "that's where the qualia fit", but there is a
leap of faith involved to actually put them there as we make when
qualia to emergence from neurology.
Gödel's theorem might show that mathematics is more than mere formalism,
does not allow us to make the leap to mathematics being more than abstract
relationships between numbers. There will always be some true, unprovable
in any set of axioms, but this statement will still be about numbers, not
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
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
as me) is actually imported into comp with the initial assumption of qualia
supervening on computational states. That postulate is of course
mystifying and, when taken to its logical end as Bruno has done, mystical.
all is said and done, we're still left with it as a "brute fact", if
naked than it was at the beginning of the argument. More naked because it
less clear how we are going to get a natural law to bridge the gap between
putative ontological basis of consciousness and consciousness itself when
basis is pure mathematics.
That doesn't bother me as much. If you look back how we have explained
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,
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
solely and precisely that it is expected to work." That's why I think
"hard problem of consciousness" is hard because people think that when we
theory that works we still won't have an explanation - but we will, just as
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
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
the claim of a reduction to arithmetic starts to look at the very least
Arithmetic is just the sugar coating that gives the rationalist a better
swallowing the psychedelic pill.
Bruno seems to be able to make arithmetic pretty mystical - calling parts
angels and God. :-)
"The duty of abstract mathematics, as I see it, is precisely to
expand our capacity for hypothesizing possible ontologies."
--- Norm Levitt
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