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Posted by Aurino Souza on May 16, 2003 20:22:20 UTC

" Science concerns itself with more than the 'non-physical' phenomena. In fact, from a certain philosophical perspective everything is 'non-physical'. "

Hey, who's the anti-realist anyway? Sorry but I can't take this "everything is non-physical" seriously.

" We don't actually observe galaxies, we observe the light emitted from galaxies many thousands and somtimes millions and billions of years ago. We don't actually observe sub-atomic particles, we observe their statistical effects on measurable parameters. Similarly, with consciousness we are observing a phenomena, but we are looking at it in terms of measurable observables. "

Your analogy is just wrong. The concept "galaxies" is required to explain the radiation captured by our telescopes. The concept "sub-atomic particle" is required to explain the readings of instruments in particle accelerators. As a concept, "consciousness" is neither required nor applicable to explain anything.

" True, we must define consciousness at least to a degree where observables are possible, but there are some observables of or related to consciousness that are deemed an important aspect of it. For example, self-awareness, self-examination, self-control, ... "

Self, self, self... just exactly how do you observe a "self"?

" tool making "

Bees and termites are wonderful architects. Are you ready to claim they are conscious?

" etc are often considered a measurable attribute either related to or a component of consciousness. We measure the development of many of these attributes in children, in chimpanzies, even in crows. "

Are pre-linguistic children conscious? Alan says they are, do you agree with him?

" In fact, in order for a word to have meaning, it must express some referencable phenomena so that we can say "aha, I know what you mean by that word". "

Just exactly what phenomena do you reference when you use words like 'beautiful', 'elegant', 'joyful'? Exactly how do you think children figure out that the word 'thing' means 'any thing'? What is so common between elephants, birds, and earthworms that makes then all 'animals'?

You are so familiar with what words mean that you completely overlook that learning a first language is so impossibly difficult that only a young child can do it.

" If I saw behaviors that gave me the idea that you were not conscious (e.g., you had a severe case of autism), then I might conclude by the way we use the word that you had a low level of consciousness. "

Exactly how do you know that people with severe cases of autism are not conscious?

It's a common experience among musicians not to have any recollection of performing a difficult piece in front of an audience. Someone in deep sleep looks as unconscious as a stone, yet they are conscious enough to remember their dreams. There's no necessary connection between consciousness and physical activity, you can have either one without the other.

" The Chinese Room is not as directly related to the problem of consciousness as it is to the problem of understanding. "

In order to understand you need to be conscious. Just like consciousness, 'understanding' is a subjective feeling with no counterpart in physical phenomena. Unless you want to argue that my telephone "understands" that when I dial number, that means I want to talk to a certain person.

" This is a problem of reductionism. That is, we cannot currently reduce our understanding of a situation to anything less reduced than just reciting what we understand. For example, if asked to reduce my understanding of the phrase "what does it mean for Harv to say he is hungry", all I can do is say it means that I understand there is no food in my stomach, it means that I understand that the pain I feel in my stomach is because there is no food in my stomach, etc. These reductions are just the same as what I understand. "

If the reductions are the same as your understanding, then you don't really "understand" anything. This sounds like Dick and his argument that the meaning of words is given exclusively by their relationships with other words. In other words, language is an abstract representation of a whole lot of nothing.

" With the computer, this is not the case. If a computer is asked "what does it mean for Harv to say he is hungry", the computer can recite all the same phrases as I, but it does so by looking in a table to translate my question into machine language, and then doing whatever the program says to do when it encounters this particular code, and then execute that code (e.g., look in a table that has the instructions to say all the things I just said). "

What makes you think that someone looking at your brain might have a completely different impression?

" It might be the case that the Chinese Room shows that 'understanding' might be an unsolvable phenomena to program into a computer "

It's not unsolvable as much as it is completely irrelevant. From our perspective as observers, there's no difference whatsoever between a computer that is "really intelligent" from one that "appears to be really intelligent". To debate the issue is sophistry.

" For example, maybe our brains do not really understand something, but it fools us into thinking that we understand something by issuing a neurotransmitting chemical into our blood system that gives that 'feeling' of understanding "

Just exactly what is the difference between "a feeling of understanding" and "understanding"? Both Alan and Dick get a feeling that they understand their own stuff. If we got the same feeling they get, would we be "really understanding" them, or would we just be "thinking we're understanding"? What's the difference?

" If that's the case, we might find that neurotransmitter someday and show that if you prohibit this neurotransmitter from getting into the blood, that humans lose their sense of understanding. "

Just exactly how are you going to assert, in a scientific manner, that someone lost their sense of understanding? Asking them?

" If that's the case, we might build future machines that have a sense of understanding as long as we block from their perceptual awareness the reason why they feel like they understand something. All we've done, in effect, is create a feeling of understanding in a machine that sees no reason to question why they cannot reduce their understanding to something more basic (e.g., a flow of electrons forming certain circuits). "

I'm sorry but I can't make any sense of the above.

" maybe these advancements aren't too pathetic even though they are still eons away from any grand goal to understand consciousness. "

"Understanding consciousness" is a pipe dream, not unlike perpetual engines or free energy. When did people ceased to understand that somethings are just impossible?

It's nice to disagree for a change, things were getting too warm and fuzzy between us lately :-)

Cheers,

Aurino

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