#1 posted by inertia
on 2007/02/14 16:42:11
transplant stuff from GA -- I like all this serious discussion for once.
To Be Or Not To Be....
#2 posted by JPL
on 2007/02/14 17:36:25
... that is the question.... but be what ?
Brain And Consciousness And All That
#3 posted by bambuz
on 2007/02/14 17:46:27
I have a hunch that everybody wants to talk about this, and everyone has their own ideas and everybody thinks it's a mostly philosophical thing (that's why they think they can speak even though they have very little factual knowledge).
But I feel that science and observation and research and all that has a lot to give still in this regard and it can effect the "masturbatory" and "vacuous" philosophy that unfortunately gets so easily detached from the real world.
I don't want to stifle talking, but I encourage you people to read about how the brain works. Neurons and all that. Read also about artificial neural networks. I can say it has changed my approach to these questions.
Philosophy is of course needed. Science is built on it. And philosophy can try to show us if we in fact are asking the wrong questions with science, since progress doesn't seem very fast.
Sorry if I sounded cocky. I was. But it was the shortest way to demonstrate the point. :(
BlackDog (and Bambuz):
#4 posted by metlslime
on 2007/02/14 22:49:59
We are discussing some questions here which aren't outside the bounds of science at all - whether there is an energy cost to consciousness, whether it is an adaptation, whether it is computable/can be produced with Turing complete computing devices, etc. Imo answering those with a philosophical style where you can take whatever assumptions you like for the purpose of argument isn't quite kosher.
One of the essential activities in philosophy is defining terms, and in this case I think I was fairly clear that I was using the word to describe a nonphysical/nonmaterial phenomenon: the subjective experience of existing. I even contrasted that with a bunch of mental/brain phenomena which I claimed were governed by physical laws, such as thinking, memory, awareness, etc.
I think Thomas Nagel argues fairly well that this subjective experience is outside of the objective physical model science provides.
However, if you believe as I do that the physical world is real, and you're willing to make some assumptions like "other humans are definitely conscious" and "things that function in ways similar to humans are also similarly conscious," then there is still room for science to explore the nature of the boundaries of consciousness -- the boundaries in time (birth and death), the boundaries in quality (drunkeness, dreams, deep sleep,) and the boundaries in scope (the "subconscious", automatic brain functions, etc.)
We can certainly explore how the brain works using science, and by "we" I mean scientists, not you and me. But I don't think that somehow muscles philosophy out of defining terms and asking questions.
Philosophy And Science
#5 posted by bambuz
on 2007/02/14 23:41:33
I'm taking issue with calling consciousness a nonphysical /nonmaterial phenomenon... It just sounds too much like "and then magic ensues" / "everything happens on an astral plane". I know you probably don't mean it, but I'm bad with words here.
It's trying to circumvent the scientific approach completely, if I exaggerate, throwing out all hope that we could somehow reduce the phenomenon by science to something more handlable.
If a very simple feedforward neural network can take data and turn that into decisions, refining it layer by layer... (It was not discovered until the eighties as it was assumed everything would be linear.. but it turned out not to be so!)
If a person's consciousness can be shut on and off with anesthetics...
Science is edging in on these questions from both the bottom-up and the top-down directions!
It is fascinating to deal with little children, who are only learning to speak... it is interesting to try to set yourself in their position. How do they see the world? And what about even smaller babies?
What about chimpanzees? Dogs? Cats? How well are they "in"? How many of you have ever had a dog?
#6 posted by BlackDog
on 2007/02/15 01:33:03
Philosophy has it's place, but I don't agree that you should use it to determine the validity of a question that can be settled empirically. I see the question of whether consciousness and subjective experience are physical events as very much empirical, since one can (in theory) dip into whatever mechanics of thought are physical and discover what can be achieved physically.
I will look into Nagel. I suspect whatever his argument is, it could be trumped by an accurate physical theory of consciousness.
I'll Take Science Over Philosophy
#7 posted by Tronyn on 2007/02/15 03:06:41
but I think that there remain questions that science hasn't yet addressed. My view, is that it is most probable that eventually every question that can be asked meaningfully will be approached by science: neurology is obviously into territory once occupied exclusively by philosophy. Given science's history of finding phenomenon and explaining it, it seems reasonable to think that this will continue in the future and that the amount of things explained by science will continue to increase, and there will be nothing that science is incapable of addressing.
I'm vastly curious about things like copying the brain. I don't know if this is possible, there is an arguement that the mind will be unable to comprehend itself (comprehending the thing that is doing the comprehending). Personally, I think absolute determinism is the most fucked up thing ever, I mean the idea of it that consciousness is an illusion and that no choice has ever been made. This would seem to defeat all religious and even humanist-type ideas, because they all rely on the idea of choice. I do hope that free will exists, I find determinism simultaneously depressing and amazingly fucked up.
The article that started this discussion did have a few flaws. First of all the writer discounts the fact that educated people do believe in God. Sure society doesn't take religious moralizing very seriously anymore, but it's not as if the belief in God is actually dead. And furthermore this view is held not only by tons of dumbasses everywhere, but also by highly educated professionals (my example being Catholic professors and scholars). Secondly, the author clearly admires Nietzsche perhaps beyond what is credible. Personally I am a huge Nietzsche fan, but I never mistake what I like for what is true. I love Nietzsche's writing style, it's very vivid and entertaining, and many of his points show "penetrating psychological insight" (to abuse a cliche). But he is not quite so prophetic as the author claims.
I like Hume, he was awesome and did a lot to reinvigorate philosophy and move it forward. His skepticism, was so awesome. Kant, on the other hand, I can't stand. He's just the last and greatest of a long line of philosophers who take religion as a starting point and who use philosophy as a scaffolding to support their previously existing religious beliefs. I'm not against the idea of religion, but I don't like the idea of a core belief set which is unchallengable, which Christianity, Islam etc seem to take the form of rather too often.
#8 posted by distrans
on 2007/02/15 03:07:35
...exploration of the topic might in turn become relevant to game design, as we establish the ground for a thoughtful discussion of AI. Yay for inertia, for taking the burden of tolerance from GA peeps who don't want to be involved.
Re: Determinism And Free Will
#9 posted by inertia
on 2007/02/15 03:20:38
If absolute determinism is actually true, then I don't think we lack free will. We don't have it, either. The idea of will itself is flawed at that point.
I Guess The Problem...
#10 posted by metlslime
on 2007/02/15 07:57:38
is that I'm using a nonstandard meaning of "consciousness." I tried to explain what I mean in earlier posts, but I should probably just make up a new name for it. But read Nagel; I think he makes a pretty good case for the nature of subjective experience.
Now, on to the issue of whether philosophy is of any value, or science is totally where it's at.
It is true that historically, philosophy's reach was much larger, and included many things now under the domain of science. As science gets more sophisticated, it becomes possible to truly examine parts of the universe that we could only speculate about before. This includes things such as medicine, chemistry, the formation of planets and stars, the composition of matter, etc. BUT, first of all it is foolish to believe that all questions are accessible to scientific inquiry given the current level of scientific sophistication. And second of all, there are "meta" questions which i believe are categorically not accessible to scientific inquiry. For example, morality. For example, why is there something rather than nothing? For example, why do I exist as a conscious self rather than just as a fully functional human zombie?
I guess my attitude is a human zombie, a perfect zombie clone of me, could be sitting here typing this instead of me. He would think about it just like I do, and decide what to type just like I do, and be making the same arguments I am, and the only difference would be that *I* would not be here to feel it happening.
Re: I'll Take Science Over Philosophy
#11 posted by efdat
on 2007/02/15 09:02:26
"good" philosophy is a kind of sience!
i'd suggest all of you to have a look at the "naturalistic school" within modern philosophy. you'll find your questions discussed from a rational and science friendly perspective in every detail there. (i'm studying phil for 4 years now, so if you want titles or names, ask me.)
#12 posted by JPL
on 2007/02/15 09:08:38
..philosophy is art to have lot of opinions about nothing... and also knowing nothing about everything... As I was not really good in philosophy at school, I'm completely reluctant, and really close to the allergy, with philosophy. I'd rather prefer science and Cartesian approach... At least if you have a headache: it has a real explanation !
So I Vote..
#13 posted by JPL
on 2007/02/15 09:09:25
.. for mathematics, and physics !! Hurrah !
Jpl: What Philosophers Have You Read So Far?
#14 posted by efdat
on 2007/02/15 11:00:20
art to have lot of opinions about nothing... seems you are a (extremist) supporter of C.P. Snow's views.
please remember: cartesian = coming from
descartes (a philosopher/mathematician)
d.c.dennett (bio/phil) [read!]
etc. etc. etc.
would you still say that one can either do phil XOR science?
Metl, I Agree Absolutely
#15 posted by BlackDog
on 2007/02/15 11:12:16
That there are questions that the scientific method is not appropriate for, and that philosophers can bring insight to. However, it's not at all clear that the nature of consciousness is one of those questions.
Onto zombie arguments... sigh. These have always seemed deeply pernicious to me. The concept of a being which thinks every little thing exactly like I do but feels nothing *seems* to make sense at first blush, but I don't think it actually does.
Imagine a zombie BlackDog in a putative physicalist universe. Since everything is physical here there would have to be some physical process or condition responsible for consciousness occuring in me, which a zombie would have to lack in order to be a zombie. However, a zombie is supposed to be a perfect physical clone! Since it can't both lack and possess whatever attribute results in consciousness, the concept of a zombie makes zero sense in a physicalist universe.
That means that the zombie concept is built entirely on the assumption of a form of dualism to even make basic sense, and can't be used to bolster dualism for fear of circular argument.
That's my take, anyway. There are plenty of other arguments - I understand the zombie debate is ongoing. :)
PS I Ate Ur Mom's Brains Lol
#16 posted by BlackDog
on 2007/02/15 11:13:49
#17 posted by mwh
on 2007/02/15 12:05:59
(interesting thread -- what is it about a community mostly based around a 10+year old game that ends up with fairly civilized discussion about deep philosophy? I guess the fact that quake is so old means everyone here is a bit older too)
I basically agree with BlackDog's counter-zombie argument, and was going to try to make a similar argument (but probably in a much worse way). There is a potential counter counter argument: it certainly isn't possible with current science to build such a zombie machine, and it's possible that there are fundamental reasons from physics that it will never be possible, and further
it's possible that the Mystery Of Consciousness (tm) lies somewhere in this gap (this is approximately what Penrose says in The Emperor's New Mind, which didn't exactly take the world of the philosophy of consciousness by storm). To me though, this argument has always seemed a bit like wishful thinking from people who would like the universe to be more mysterious than there is actually evidence for it to be. But that's probably my ardent atheism showing through.
The other point I'd like to make is that I've tortured myself with enough mathematics to know that the most abstract ends of the subject end up being just as empty and vacuous and "masturbatory" as any part of philosophy (the same can be said of large parts of theoretical physics too: http://xkcd.com/c171.html
) and just because something attaches itself to the "science" brand doesn't make it worthy and useful.
#18 posted by JPL
on 2007/02/15 12:27:02
I'm not referring to Descartes, Einstein, etc..: I admit they are brilliant mens. I'm just pointing up that nowadays philosophy "specialist"... (like the french Bernard Henri Levy.. I guess he is the worst case...) have a lot of opinion on all subject: They have a real talent to make try to resolve problems you shouldn't have if you didn't listen them !
OTOH I don't say philosophy is useless.. I just say I don't see how it can be useful... the more with pseudo "specialist"
#19 posted by Shambler
on 2007/02/15 12:33:59
Worth having it up.
I've dabbled in philosophical musings a while ago....pretty damn interesting....but also a bit dry....so I don't think I'm going to try contributing!
I Like Stanislaw Lem's Approach
#20 posted by bambuz
on 2007/02/15 17:20:32
Well, I liked the man!
When humans constructed the first conscious machines, and talked with them, they asked, "what is this problem of consciousness you are talking about?". Ie they weren't much different from humans in that regard. :)
I don't like dualism. It sits strong with many people somehow intuitively, but isn't it just moving the problem behind the corner... if the soul resides on an astral plane, then what is it like over there? What is the astral plane? What happens when we fall to sleep, or die? Or when a baby grows up. Et cetera... this mystification only brings more questions and answers nothing.
I know some psychologists who are in pains as they think it's either 1) dualism or 2) if no dualism then the rest is rigorous proof there is no free will, everything is predetermined.
I don't share their point of view. To me it seems they look at the things extremely narrowly and do huge jumps of conclusion.
#21 posted by inertia
on 2007/02/15 17:48:18
I am a physicalist. Current knowledge in neurophysiology implies that cognition is an emergent phenomenon, arising from connections among the 100+ billion neurons in our brain. Included in these connections, I assume, is sensory input and motor output. Whether cognition can occur when cut off from all means of interaction with the "outside" world, is, I think, a critical question that must be included in any useful exploration of cognition.
I think that having a self-conception is important for any foreseeable sapient mind, but I don't think that we humans have a completely lucid self-conception. Have you ever been deluded as to what was occurring in your brain? Do you even know? Would that information be useful?
The questions I am asking in my research are:
1) What is cognition?
2) What is the most simple (and/or elegant) configuration of components needed for a cognizing phenomenon to emerge?
#22 posted by inertia
on 2007/02/15 17:52:16
another note, I think that we will soon be able to engineer systems capable of having cognition. Whether those things actually do become conscious, however, will depend on how they are "taught."
We might need to introduce a process of selection that mimics what mutation/natural selection did for us: namely, causing consciousness to arise.
Trial and error FTW.
Jpl: I Share Your Aversion To Blabber-Philosophy
#23 posted by efdat
on 2007/02/15 17:57:09
and so does quite a big part of academic philosophy. i personally would name foucault and derrida as philosophers of that same kind. BUT please don't judge on philosophy just with those folks in mind. analytic philosophy has been struggling for more than 100 years now not to be confused with that kind of phil (i tend to call blabber-philosophy simply 'literature' instead of 'philosophy').
again: if you think science is the best means for understanding the world (so do i), naturalistic philosophy will support your view!
#24 posted by megaman
on 2007/02/15 17:58:19
even if science could answer all your questions, why do you believe what you perceive is true?
i believe in consciousness solely because im thinking the thought. that other human beings have a consciousness on their own which i can compare to mine i am not sure of. they could easily just be a subset of my own consciousness.
also, if we take for granted that most human beings HAVE a consciousness, im quite convinced that each one is unique and different.
#25 posted by megaman
on 2007/02/15 18:00:50
this doesn't change anything at all about this discussion for anyone who argues to achieve results.