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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 25021  
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 3:34 PM
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I would very much like to understand what you are talking about. I am sincere in my attempt and hope you can answer some questions. Please don't think I am being a smart aleck or anything ...

Ok, but remember, this is slippery stuff, so don't look to me to be an expert: I have to work it through every time I think about it.

Conciousness is not a thing, but a function of the brain, in the same way that the circulation of blood is not a thing, but a property of the vasculature and heart.

OK. Consciousness is a function: "the proper work, normal action or use, purpose". I would guess 'normal action' to be the best choice.

I am confused by saying the circulation of the blood is a property of the heart, although calling it 'the proper work' seems pretty good. 'Funtion' to me suggests process, while property has a more static connotation.


Well, fair enough. But I'm trying to avoid inadvertant teleology at each stage. I'm not saying it isn't a function, I'm just saying that its something that it does.

It is thus neither an object, nor a non-material entity, but a property which an object posesses.

OK, more like a property. So consciousness does not have a real, separate existence. It is "a quality or power" belonging to something.

I can't see why it is 'a normal action' any more. And calling circulation "a quality or power" doesn't seem right.


Ummmmm it (conciousness) has a real existance, but not a separate one. Subjective states are real, and can be causative, but they are not separate from the thing that is experiencing them. It is a normal action, because it is a normal state: its just a unique one. Bolld circulates in the cvasculature: therefore the circulation of blood is a property of blood in the vascularlature. Blood circulates: its a real phenomenon, that is neither the blood, nor the vasculature.

In this view point, the "problem" of qualia is not an insurmountable puzzle for conciousness, but simply a description of part of the concious state.

First 'conscious state'. Is that different from 'consciousness'? I would guess that a 'conscious state' refers to a situation where an object possess the property of consciousness. But this can't be right because a situation can't have parts. But I am not sure that a property ("a quality or power can have parts either.


Would a better word than "part" be "aspect"?

And this description. A description is an "account that gives a picture in words." I don't understand how a qualia could be a description. And to what is it a description. To the consciousness which possesses the qualia? A description of a part to the whole?

OK. The sate of having qualia is simply a state of conciousness. Its merely a restatement of the phenomenon of conciousness, in my opinion. It isn't a "problem" in and of itself, but a reflection of the semantic difficulty.

The major difference between conciousness and all other visceral functions is that we view (erroneously) a combination of language and entirely subjective states to discuss the visceral function, forgetting that language and subjective states are the visceral function.

We are viewing a combination of language (the qualia?) and entirely subjective states to discuss a visceral function. How does one combine language (speech?) and subjective states? And when we view this combination we are making a mistake. Is it a mistake to view it, or is it OK to view it, but we view it incorrectly? Or is the mistake that we have forgotten something while we are engaged in the viewing. Or is it the visceral function that has forgotten something as it views itself? (This last seems to be something that almost makes sense to me.)


The last point is the one I'm driving at: we are using a higher order process (language and introspection) to describe the lower order phenomenon which gives rise to the higher order process: of course the description will be inadequate because the information is encoded entirely differently in the higher order process. It cannot describe simply the lower order processes.

Imagine listening to a choir of people singing harmonies in counterpoint, and then trying to describe, using only harmonies in counterpoint, simple melody. Then show, using only harmonies in counterpoint, how such simple melodies are put together to construct harmonies in simple counterpoint. I'm not saying its impossible, just awkward and difficult.

It is a cognitive trap that is subtle and elusive.

What is the 'it' here?

see above


In brief, the only sensible neurobiological approach to conciousness is NOT that it is a manifestation of an event or a thing: it is first and foremost a subjective state.

Consciousness in not a manifestion, OK, we know it is either a function or a property. But now it is a state (of what, the brain). A subjective state of the functioning brain. State here means "a particular condition"? If the brain is in another state, is it not conscious (sure, when we are asleep!) But it is a subjective state. But subjective means "existing in the mind". No, subjective means relative to an awareness. Awareness is not the same as conciousness. .So, I guess it is not a state of the brain, but a state of the mind. Frankly, I think we are going to have to describe consciousness without recourse to the notion of subjective it we are going to make progress. See above. A brain can be aware without being concious.

But that is a surprisingly subtle and tricky point: it is a subjective state in an organ that appears to have as its function the generation of particular subjective states, in the same way that blood circulation is a phenomenon in an organ whose function seems to be the maintenance of a particular pattern of circulation.

A subjective state in an organ. A state existing in the mind of an organ? Moreover the function of this organ (is this function consciousness) is to generate subjective states. Consiousness generates states in the mind? Didn't you say consciousness was a state existing in the mind. See below

Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition).

OK. Consciousness is a state of mind of a brain. Got it. Here is the problem I'm having. Where does this 'mind' come from? I think we are going to have to pin this down before we can talk about any particular state of mind.


Above: the difference between conciousness and awareness. Conciousness is a subjective state that a brain is aware of. Does that help? I avoid the word "mind" like a plague: it just screws everything up.

The brain is set up (say of a Drosophila) to receive and integrate stimuli, process them (awareness), make decisions and produce an output. At some point, the activities of the brain become the stimulus that the brain recieves. Consciousness is the result of the brain being aware of its own higher order activities.


And in any case if you define consciousness as something which requires a material brain then your conclusions follow trivially.

Of course they follow trivially, but only if you can demonstrate first that the only way to conceptualise conciousness in empirical terms is to demonstrate that it is a subjective state, and thus something has to experience it. It is a trivial point looked at that way, but people have this idea that it can exist as a disembodied entity, precisely because the mind-body "problem" seems intractable.

Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

In that case, what is ID scientific evidence for? Aliens?


That's the only thing I can come up with too. If it is ID, then we are left with "Time Travel" and "Aliens" as hypotheses. The first seems endlessly circular, and the latter, well, weird.

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