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Old 21st December 2012, 05:03 AM   #41
Frank Merton
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
If you are not able to explain qualia and you have to "get" it then maybe you should reconsider your hypothesis or definition. Frankly woo use the same reassonning for people which "don't get it"
Ah, you don't get it. I will try to do what you want. Qualia are usually classified in three groups. External stimuli generate one set of these (the internal experience of colors, odors, sounds, tastes, itches, skin pressure, temperature, etc. Internal stimuli generate another very similar set (aches and pains, nausea, hunger, the need to eliminate, etc. A very remarkable third set of qualia are often called emotions and sometimes called drives. They are harder to delineate, and harder to keep separate.

That we have words for these experiences in our languages demonstrate that we have a consistent notion of what each one is, but, short of using that word, we are at a loss to describe them. They must be experienced to be understood.

All this is perhaps easy enough. Where reductionists and mystics part company is whether one can explain such experiential things in terms of biological brain -- the firing of neurons and the exchange of chemicals and so on.

At this point the exercise seems hopeless, hence the black boxes of an early post. However, we must not worship the God of the gaps. We can only say that if something is unknown, then it is unknown.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:49 AM   #42
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We can, right now, apply an electric probe to specific areas of the brain and elicit specific memories, actions, and even sensory inputs. The tested individual will "smell" or "taste" something, recall a specific moment... Similar things.
This would seem rather strongly to indicate that consciousness is inextricably linked to the physical structure of the brain.
We may not have the ultimate handle on how the brain works yet, but we're getting there.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:52 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
We can, right now, apply an electric probe to specific areas of the brain and elicit specific memories, actions, and even sensory inputs. The tested individual will "smell" or "taste" something, recall a specific moment... Similar things.
This would seem rather strongly to indicate that consciousness is inextricably linked to the physical structure of the brain.
We may not have the ultimate handle on how the brain works yet, but we're getting there.
All this shows is that brain functions appear to be specialized to specific regions of the brain, but we have known that since we started collecting stroke data.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:01 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
Sounds remarkably like religious faith...

I'm pretty sure most of us know the phenomena that qualia are supposed to label, much as we know the phenomenon that the 'spark of life' or 'life essence' is supposed to label, it's just that some of us think that those labels are redundant.
No, I appreciate what Frank Merton is getting at.

Consider vision. Most people intuitively think the world looks exactly like what they see.
So for example, when talking about tetrachromatic species I've had friends "correct" me that while such species might see visible light they only detect UV light (or whatever additional frequency band the species can see).
And recently I was out with a group of people and it came into the conversation that some organisms can tell apart different polarizations of light. Several people were incredulous about this: how can they see that; one given colour of light is one colour, end of.

For most people there is a penny-drop moment when they realize that colour vision (and call it whatever you want: qualia, experience, sensation or even just the conviction "I have seen light of colour X) is a mental phenomenon triggered by EM radiation striking the retina, it's not the same thing as EM radiation.

In discussions like this on forums there's always a proportion of people that haven't had that penny drop moment, but I would not accuse all (or even most) of the anti-qualia guys of being in that position.

Last edited by Mijin; 21st December 2012 at 06:04 AM.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:20 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
Consider vision. Most people intuitively think the world looks exactly like what they see.
Yea -- the point I should have made from the very first: qualia are not about the external world (except there is an approximate association between what the sense organs are reporting and the sense qualia). They are entirely invented and maintained in our heads. They are our experiences.

Your example of insects that see in the infra-red is helpful here. We have no idea what "infra-red" "looks like" to the insect. Now I can see someone saying that insects do not experience qualia (they are not "sentient"). They could say that all they want, I wouldn't dare.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:20 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
All I can say is that one cannot explain or describe qualia; one must just know.
So the term has no meaning.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:23 AM   #47
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Of course, its karmic energy.
?

Quote:
It's not possible to define a modern "materialist" perspective.
There's this thing called science. You might want to look into it.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:23 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
So the term has no meaning.
Quite the opposite. They may be the only thing that in fact really has meaning.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:24 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
?


There's this thing called science. You might want to look into it.
You might want to look into the thing called "a sense of humor."
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:28 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Quite the opposite. They may be the only thing that in fact really has meaning.
Read what I said: The term has no meaning.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:36 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
Read what I said: The term has no meaning.
You might want to do some research: the literature is full of it. I understand, however, a certain mental box that a lot of people seem to be in, as I was in it too for a long time.

The thing is "experience," as a source of knowledge, not the traditional sources. Hume made it fairly clear when he showed that only sensory experience can really be where we learn anything.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:41 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
No, I appreciate what Frank Merton is getting at.
...
For most people there is a penny-drop moment when they realize that colour vision (and call it whatever you want: qualia, experience, sensation or even just the conviction "I have seen light of colour X) is a mental phenomenon triggered by EM radiation striking the retina, it's not the same thing as EM radiation.
Ah, OK. It is easy to forget that some people don't have even a basic understanding of these things, but I didn't think that was what Frank Merton was getting at, at all.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:42 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
You might want to do some research: the literature is full of it.
It certainly is.
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:29 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
On a more serious note, though, shouldn't the entire nervous system be seen as an extension of the brain?
Yes, in general it can be seen as an extension of the brain or CNS (though many parts have no direct neural connection to the brain), but the relevance of the peripheral nervous system depends on the context of the discussion. There are people who have no voluntary motor control or sensation from the neck down, yet are still fully conscious.
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:53 AM   #55
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
And apologies to Susan - it seems this thread will shortly go the way of every thread regarding the big C.
No apology necessary. It is always so interesting to read discussions such as these. I just wish some of those on GH would tell me that they'd taken the trouble to read this.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:54 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Quite the opposite. They may be the only thing that in fact really has meaning.
Just checking that I mean the same thing you mean. I mean that fact that there is something that it is like to be a conscious alive enitity. I don't mean that the internal model of the world is different to the actual world. I believe science has some kind of a handle on that.

From some of your other posts I think you have a somewhat stronger position on this than I do.

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Old 21st December 2012, 09:55 AM   #57
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
Read what I said: The term has no meaning.
Do you mean somethiing specific by "has no meaning"? I had been wondering whether you meant somethinig like "does no scientific work", like an invisible sky daddy that doesn't interfere.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:58 AM   #58
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
I'm pretty sure most of us know the phenomena that qualia are supposed to label, much as we know the phenomenon that the 'spark of life' or 'life essence' is supposed to label, it's just that some of us think that those labels are redundant.
Because we know why it is that we aren't philosophical zombies and actually have an experience that it is like to be us, or something else? I don't follow.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:59 AM   #59
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Originally Posted by tsig View Post
Yep, seems like a lot of people want there to be something special about human consciousness.
Why would this be specific to human consciousness? How would one ever know?
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Old 21st December 2012, 10:06 AM   #60
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
Read what I said: The term has no meaning.
Reposted for effect:

Quote:
Qualia are usually classified in three groups. External stimuli generate one set of these (the internal experience of colors, odors, sounds, tastes, itches, skin pressure, temperature, etc. Internal stimuli generate another very similar set (aches and pains, nausea, hunger, the need to eliminate, etc. A very remarkable third set of qualia are often called emotions and sometimes called drives. They are harder to delineate, and harder to keep separate.

That we have words for these experiences in our languages demonstrate that we have a consistent notion of what each one is, but, short of using that word, we are at a loss to describe them. They must be experienced to be understood.
Frank's right. Internal mental states are rich with meaning- the opposite of meaningless.

Pixy, most of your posts are interesting and informative, but this is the second time I've seen you play the "meaningless" card in a discussion. It's beneath you.
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Old 21st December 2012, 12:21 PM   #61
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I'm starting to doubt that I'm using the term qualia entirely appropriately. Are they the experience of experiencing something? The experience of looking out through your eyes as if at a cinema screen? Not that data processing, feedback loop behaviourist angle. Some of the definitions I've read today look kind of like data processing.

Another way to say it would be that presumably all the behaviourist stuff could by understood completely (in as much as anything ever is) if one knew enough physics and brain structure. I don't see from any of that that one could expect that there would actually be an experience that it is like to be alive. Knowing that there is and that it is bound to the brain/mind one could clearly say a lot about it, but I don't see that one could expect it or say anything about why it occures.

I take no position and make no claims about dualism. I have always assumed that this was what people meant when they said that science couldn't explain consciousness. I don't think it's meaningless if this is what was being said to be meaningless.
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Old 21st December 2012, 01:59 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
Yes, in general it can be seen as an extension of the brain or CNS (though many parts have no direct neural connection to the brain), but the relevance of the peripheral nervous system depends on the context of the discussion. There are people who have no voluntary motor control or sensation from the neck down, yet are still fully conscious.
Yes, they are conscious. Yet, the nervous system, at large, makes the whole body something of a data-sponge. The data gets filed in the brain, but the cns is picking it up. That aspect of consciousness, if it is one, is a mutual, almost intimate shared state with others. We feel the heat of fire.

Aren't we already is some type of group consciousness? The functioning of the whole group is so relevant, that our organism can't exist without it.
I'm not sure that a single surviving child, after some post-apocalyptic event, would be conscious if it survived.
I think we're like an ant colony, and consciousness is an emergent, co-generated phenomena. That's a less wooish way, I think, of describing a 'higher' meaning to consciousness.

Rather than being overly enamoured with the 'specialness' of human consciousness, I'd gladly allow that an ant colony is conscious.
A lone ant, not so much.



I apologize to PixyMisa for my vicious assault; which I believe has been removed. Pity is, PixyMisa's humorous retort was also removed, which is a pity, for those that think P.M. has no sense of humor.

I'm glad he/she is here. I'll try to play fair. Clobbering one over the head, I see now, is best done with solid scientific evidence.

Odd thing is, I meant the insult in a comical way. I was being Don Rickles in my own mind. At any rate, I apologize to Pixy, and all.
(didn't use any curse words, to my credit.)
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:33 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
Aren't we already is some type of group consciousness? The functioning of the whole group is so relevant, that our organism can't exist without it.
Do you mean that in the "there is a thing that it is like to be the group" sense, or some other sense?
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:52 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Do you mean somethiing specific by "has no meaning"? I had been wondering whether you meant somethinig like "does no scientific work", like an invisible sky daddy that doesn't interfere.
I mean that it has no meaning.
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Old 21st December 2012, 02:55 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Another way to say it would be that presumably all the behaviourist stuff could by understood completely (in as much as anything ever is) if one knew enough physics and brain structure. I don't see from any of that that one could expect that there would actually be an experience that it is like to be alive.
Reflection.
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Old 21st December 2012, 03:38 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Do you mean that in the "there is a thing that it is like to be the group" sense, or some other sense?
I meant it in the sense that self-reflection is dependent on other selves.

Before mirrors were common, people would get all dressed up for the party, using another person as the mirror and the feedback system of what you looked like. The Yananamo party. That sort of party. Major dressing up.
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Old 21st December 2012, 04:08 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
I can code. Reflection in code is behaviour and nothing but. Whether there is something that it is like to be a process is something different to whether or not an object can determine it's own class at runtime. You know this though, surely... the whole point of the p-zombie thing is that they are supposed to behave as if they actually experienced things, but in fact they don't. Their neurons fire and make all the same calculations that yours or mine might, but in fact there is no more a thing that it is like to be them than there is a thing that it is like to not exist.

If you want to say that in fact these p-zombies are impossible. No problem, I can understand the position. It depends on your assumptions. If you assume there is nothing going on but atoms and so forth, then p-zombies are of course impossible. One can still imagine them surely? If you claim that you can't even imagine a p-zombie then I am at a loss. People have written books about them. Unless it's all Emperors New Clothes, there must be a lot of people out there who think they can imagine p-zombies. What do you think they are imagining? I assure you that I am imagining a p-zombie as I type.
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Old 21st December 2012, 04:10 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I meant it in the sense that self-reflection is dependent on other selves.

Before mirrors were common, people would get all dressed up for the party, using another person as the mirror and the feedback system of what you looked like. The Yananamo party. That sort of party. Major dressing up.
We mean completely different things then, I think.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:15 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
I can code. Reflection in code is behaviour and nothing but.
Of course. So is everything.

Quote:
Whether there is something that it is like to be a process is something different to whether or not an object can determine it's own class at runtime.
What is the basis for this claim?

Quote:
You know this though, surely... the whole point of the p-zombie thing is that they are supposed to behave as if they actually experienced things, but in fact they don't.
Yeah. That doesn't mean anything.

Quote:
If you want to say that in fact these p-zombies are impossible. No problem, I can understand the position. It depends on your assumptions. If you assume there is nothing going on but atoms and so forth, then p-zombies are of course impossible. One can still imagine them surely?
Nope.

Quote:
If you claim that you can't even imagine a p-zombie then I am at a loss.
I'm saying that you can't imagine a P-zombie. No-one can. You can write the words, but you can't make them make any sense.

Quote:
People have written books about them. Unless it's all Emperors New Clothes, there must be a lot of people out there who think they can imagine p-zombies. What do you think they are imagining? I assure you that I am imagining a p-zombie as I type.
No you're not.

I can say I'm imagining an invisible pink unicorn. I can't do it.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:15 PM   #70
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Because we know why it is that we aren't philosophical zombies and actually have an experience that it is like to be us, or something else? I don't follow.
Because some of us feel that we are no different from the (strawman) philosophical zombies; that the sensations we experience are what happens when we are the 'philosophical zombie' in question.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:37 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
... Yet, the nervous system, at large, makes the whole body something of a data-sponge. The data gets filed in the brain, but the cns is picking it up. That aspect of consciousness, if it is one, is a mutual, almost intimate shared state with others. We feel the heat of fire.

Aren't we already is some type of group consciousness? The functioning of the whole group is so relevant, that our organism can't exist without it.
I'm not sure that a single surviving child, after some post-apocalyptic event, would be conscious if it survived.
I think we're like an ant colony, and consciousness is an emergent, co-generated phenomena. That's a less wooish way, I think, of describing a 'higher' meaning to consciousness.
No, I don't think so. It's an attractive and romantic notion, but I don't think it's realistic. It depends on the timescales you had in mind. A single surviving child might achieve consciousness, but might not survive without further support. Part of the burden of evolving high-level consciousness seems to be the requirement for a longer duration of infant support.

Quote:
Rather than being overly enamoured with the 'specialness' of human consciousness, I'd gladly allow that an ant colony is conscious.
A lone ant, not so much.
I'd accept that, for very broad definitions of consciousness. Certainly, it seems to me that human consciousness is only special in as much as it seems to have crossed a threshold of effectiveness in a very general sense.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:43 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
No, I don't think so. It's an attractive and romantic notion, but I don't think it's realistic. It depends on the timescales you had in mind. A single surviving child might achieve consciousness, but might not survive without further support. Part of the burden of evolving high-level consciousness seems to be the requirement for a longer duration of infant support.


I'd accept that, for very broad definitions of consciousness. Certainly, it seems to me that human consciousness is only special in as much as it seems to have crossed a threshold of effectiveness in a very general sense.
I think we're in agreement.
You may not think so.
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:44 PM   #73
dlorde
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
I'm saying that you can't imagine a P-zombie. No-one can. You can write the words, but you can't make them make any sense.
One can imagine it in as much as one can logically posit a p-zombie, but that doesn't mean it makes any sense metaphysically. For example, how can one distinguish a p-zombie from a normal person?
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Old 21st December 2012, 05:45 PM   #74
dlorde
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Originally Posted by quarky View Post
I think we're in agreement.
You may not think so.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:12 PM   #75
PixyMisa
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Originally Posted by dlorde View Post
One can imagine it in as much as one can logically posit a p-zombie, but that doesn't mean it makes any sense metaphysically. For example, how can one distinguish a p-zombie from a normal person?
True, it's not quite so obviously impossible as positing both A and not A, but the definition of a P-zombie is inconsistent under any consistent system of metaphysics. So P-zombies are either impossible to imagine, or require imagining something else that is impossible.
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Old 21st December 2012, 09:42 PM   #76
Frank Merton
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Originally Posted by shuttlt View Post
Just checking that I mean the same thing you mean. I mean that fact that there is something that it is like to be a conscious alive enitity.
The term I would use is "sentient being," which I suppose probably differs from "conscious being." Any creature that experiences its environment via qualia (rather than, say, just living in it and dealing with things via reflexes) would be sentient. Consciousness would be more limited to beings that have a mental awareness. The two are interconnected and no doubt evolved together, with no clear boundaries. However, consciousness is much more limited to, shall we say, higher mammals and in particular to human beings.

Quote:
I don't mean that the internal model of the world is different to the actual world. I believe science has some kind of a handle on that.
I don't understand you here.

Quote:
From some of your other posts I think you have a somewhat stronger position on this than I do.
My objective, although that is too strong a word, since all I'm doing is posting opinions in the hope of refining them, is to raise doubts about the prevailing, and, I think, rather arrogant, reductionism and physicalism. The irony may be that I'm describable that way too, as I can't see the possibility of alternatives.

Still, at the present time (and I can see no solution on the horizon), there is no way to physically explain the fact that we experience the world.
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Old 21st December 2012, 11:11 PM   #77
PixyMisa
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Still, at the present time (and I can see no solution on the horizon), there is no way to physically explain the fact that we experience the world.
Reflection.
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Old 22nd December 2012, 12:07 AM   #78
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
The term I would use is "sentient being," which I suppose probably differs from "conscious being." Any creature that experiences its environment via qualia (rather than, say, just living in it and dealing with things via reflexes) would be sentient. Consciousness would be more limited to beings that have a mental awareness. The two are interconnected and no doubt evolved together, with no clear boundaries. However, consciousness is much more limited to, shall we say, higher mammals and in particular to human beings.

I don't understand you here.

My objective, although that is too strong a word, since all I'm doing is posting opinions in the hope of refining them, is to raise doubts about the prevailing, and, I think, rather arrogant, reductionism and physicalism. The irony may be that I'm describable that way too, as I can't see the possibility of alternatives.

Still, at the present time (and I can see no solution on the horizon), there is no way to physically explain the fact that we experience the world.
Not if you refuse to look at the evidence and would rather believe in things beyond this world.
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Old 22nd December 2012, 12:14 AM   #79
Frank Merton
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Originally Posted by tsig View Post
Not if you refuse to look at the evidence and would rather believe in things beyond this world.
I resent what you say and the false assumptions behind it. Prove where I have done any such thing.
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Old 22nd December 2012, 12:40 AM   #80
shuttlt
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Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
Of course. So is everything.
It is quite hard to argue with you if you about whether everything is just behaviour if you have an axiom that it is.

Originally Posted by PixyMisa View Post
I'm saying that you can't imagine a P-zombie. No-one can. You can write the words, but you can't make them make any sense.
I disagree with you, but if you essentially answer all questions "no" I see no way forward. You've doubtless been in enough of these consciousness debates that I'm unlikely to convince you.
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