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Author: NailThatJello Big red star, 1000 posts Top Recommended Fools Ticker Guide Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 436716  
Subject: Mary, zombies and consciousness Date: 3/23/2013 2:17 AM
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With all the progress in biology its striking that there seems to be no scientific explanation of consciousness. Which leaves the issue still in the realm of philosophers.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/mary-and-the...

Mary, a leading neuroscientist who lives at a time in the future when the neuroscience of color is essentially complete, has been totally color-blind from birth. Finally, an operation restores her normal vision. When the bandages are removed and Mary sees a bouquet of red roses she for the first time experiences the color red. Before this she knew all the physical facts about color. Therefore, there is a fact about color that is not physical.

Second: in our world, the laws of nature require that certain objective physical structures be correlated with corresponding subjective experiences. But laws of nature are not logically necessary (if they were, we could discover them as we do laws of logic or mathematics, by pure thought, independent of empirical facts). So in an alternative universe, there could (logically) be a being physically identical to me but with no experiences: my zombie-twin. If a zombie-twin is logically possible, it follows that my experiences involve something beyond my physical makeup. For my zombie-twin shares my entire physical makeup, but does not share my experiences. This, however, means that physical science cannot express all the facts about my experiences.


Personally I don't find these arguments persuasive. Mary's experience of the color red has to 'register' in her brain somehow in order for her to respond to it. It didnt require an 'experience' that she is aware of, which is the phenomenon of consciousness. She could've just responded like a color sorting machine does. No consciousness required for perception and response. Being conscious of her experience is the real mystery.

And the zombie could have different experiences from me because his environment was different (even though he was identical). Again the real questions are left hanging: what is it about consciousness that gives an advantage (if it does) over an unaware, unconsious zombie response to a stimulus? And what's the biological basis of that consciousness?
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