Thursday, January 19, 2012

374: Cosciousness and Qualitativity

Consciousness has three aspects that make it different from other biological phenomena, and indeed different from other phenomena in the natural world.

These three aspects are qualitativeness, subjectivity, and unity. These three essential features of consciousness are logically interrelated.

Qualitativeness - 'it feels like …'- implies Subjectivity - the quality of being MY experience- which implies Unity - consciousness not experiences as a big bag of individual experiences -

We all know that there is a qualitative difference - the how it feels… - between tasting something delicious, or listening to a beautiful piece of music. These experiences don't feel the same.

There is a funny linguistic phenomenon related to this feature of consciousness. Sometimes we describe experiences with the qualities of other experiences.

A sunrise that feels like a concerto of Vivaldi or a whisky in which you smell the robustness of the oak barrels it was kept in for decades. The rest I leave to the poets…..

When you listen to Searle you immediately feel, that we hit a sensitive nerve in the contemporary debate on consciousness.

Searle says: "Some philosophers describe this feature of consciousness with the word qualia, and they say there is a special problem of quaila."

It has to do with the materialist view and the limits of science. In fact the line of thought here is exciting. The basic problem is perfectly formulated by C.D Broad (1925).

A mathematical and chemical genius endowed with unlimited mathematical skills and gifted with the further power of perceiving the microscopic structure of atoms can not predict one specific feature of ammonia, namely its smell:

"He would know exactly what the microscopic structure of ammonia must be; but he would be totally unable to predict that a substance with this structure must smell as ammonia does when it gets into the human nose.

The utmost that he could predict on this subject would be that certain changes would take place in the mucous membrane, the olfactory nerves and so on.

But he could not possibly know that theses changes would be accompanied by the appearance of a smell in general or of the peculiar smell of ammonia in particular, unless someone told him so or he had smelled it for himself."

This issue was repeated by Thomas Nagel in 1974 in his famous article in Philosophical Review “What is it like to be a bat?”
He argues that some facts can only be captured ‘from a subjective perspective’.
He uses his famous example of bats to illustrate the point: Even if we knew everything there is to know ‘from an objective perspective’ about a bat's sonar system,
certain factual questions concerning bats would remain unanswered. We still would not know ‘what it is like’ to perceive a given object with a bat's sonar system.
When your dog or cat looks at you, while you talk to the animal, did you never had that desire to know what your pet actually sees.
Never had that wish to be a bird and see the world through birds eyes. However, we only know how eyes work and how sensory circuits in the brain respond to the input.
Thus the big philosophical question is: what is the ontological status of these quail. Searle is quite clear about this:
"I am reluctant to adopt this usage, because it seems to imply that there are two separate problems, the problem of consciousness and the problem of qualia.
But as I understand these terms, "qualia" is just a plural name for conscious states. Because "consciousness" and "qualia" are coextensive, there seems no point in introducing a special term."
Last word for the other party. The quote of D.C. Board has led to an ongoing debate know as "the knowledge argument", which means, that a scientist may know a lot but not everything and for a specific reason.
The knowledge argument aims to establish that conscious experience involves NON-PHYSICAL properties.

It rests on the idea that someone who has complete physical knowledge about another conscious being might yet lack knowledge about how it feels to have the experiences of that being.

Do you see the implication? Dualism is back on the stage fighting materialism or as it it also called physicalism.

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: thank you...
[13:25] herman Bergson: The floor is yours
[13:25] Lizzy Pleides: brilliant Herman!
[13:25] Sybyle Perdide: that was famous
[13:25] Farv Hallison: Thank you, herman.
[13:25] herman Bergson: thank you Lizzy ^_^
[13:25] Agnos (agnos): Thank you
[13:26] Mick Nerido: no two people see the world exactly the same because their senses are different so their awarness is different
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Mick…
[13:26] herman Bergson: Let me say is in common language, what philosophers seems to get upset about so much
[13:27] Farv Hallison: yes, I am keenly aware of Beertje's gown from the inside, but I don't know how she feels about here gown.
[13:27] herman Bergson: waits for other responses
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: and if we could catch these differences, Mick spoke about, we would not be able to "feel" them.. onl to describe
[13:27] Lizzy Pleides: we can alway see only a part and never the whole
[13:28] Mick Nerido: we can agree a color is red or green but what the color looks like to me may be differnent for each of us
[13:28] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i feel very good about my gown Farv..i made it this day and i'm proud of it
[13:28] herman Bergson: very true Mick....
[13:28] Sybyle Perdide: that means, we will stay caught in our own cognition
[13:28] herman Bergson: the philosophical issue here is the "I"
[13:29] herman Bergson: not what Farv sees under Beertjes skirt
[13:29] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i wish i could see sometimes through eyes of someone else
[13:29] herman Bergson: `YES Beertje that's the whole point...!
[13:29] Lizzy Pleides: behave you Farv!
[13:29] Mistyowl Warrhol: LOL I have really tried to avoid the topic of Farv and the gown :-)
[13:29] Mick Nerido: consciouness is a subject point of view taken to an extreme
[13:30] herman Bergson: Very good Misty...
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: but, if you do so, you would have to be yourself on the other hand, to recognize the differences
[13:30] herman Bergson: Leave it to the
[13:30] herman Bergson: Ahh Sybyle...yes ...
[13:31] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i see my world in would be exiting to see it in 3D
[13:31] herman Bergson: But just to know what your whatever sees....
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: could it be possible.. if I got someones point of view to differ from my own completely?
[13:32] herman Bergson: even if we technologically succeeded in implanting all kinds of electrodes in the brain of my cat...
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: to be able to see what is mine and what is not?
[13:32] Mick Nerido: when you read a good novel one can come close to being inside anothers conciousness
[13:32] herman Bergson: and i would see on a monitor what it sees...
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: and would it be enough to have her view? wouldn't it be necessary to have her feelings and so on too?
[13:33] herman Bergson: I only see what my technology has created to see...not what my cat sees
[13:33] Mistyowl Warrhol: Events can change how we view the world. A lady who was blind all her life got sight.. She didn't understand perspective, so had to relearn her world so not to run into things. So while what we perceive today, can be different tomorrow.
[13:33] herman Bergson: maybe it is the same maybe not...I'll never know
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes Misty...
[13:34] herman Bergson: it isn't such a blessing to make the blind see or the deaf hear....
[13:35] Farv Hallison: I was blind to Beertje's underwear, but now thanks to a wardrobe malfunction, I see the world from a whole new perspective.
[13:36] Mick Nerido: that's called insight, Farv
[13:36] herman Bergson:
[13:36] Mistyowl Warrhol: "duct taping" Farv hands before I get into trouble.. So how someone perceives something can effect our points of view :)
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well...
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): blushes..
[13:37] herman Bergson: If there arent any questions or remark...
[13:37] Mistyowl Warrhol: I was thinking what a lovely gown it is and wondering if it were new...and now...
[13:37] herman Bergson: unless about Beertjes underwear perhaps???
[13:37] Richard (richard.fonda) is Offline
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: what a funny lesson today:))
[13:38] herman Bergson: Ok...we have left the realm of philosophy here...
[13:38] Mistyowl Warrhol: I think Beertjes gets the A in class today for being such a good sport !!!
[13:38] herman Bergson: thank you all for your participation...
[13:38] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): yay!!!my first A in years..
[13:38] herman Bergson: Class dismissed....
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