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Author Topic: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?  (Read 307175 times)

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #325 on: 25/09/2013 20:25:31 »
"Mind and Cosmos : Why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false : Chapter 4 : Cognition " By Thomas Nagel :
The following is of course in English, folks, as you can see ,not in ...Arabic or in Chinese :
If Mohammed cannot go to the mountain, the mountain will have to come to Mohammed ,i see :


Chapter 4
Cognition
1
I now want to take up a different type of antireductionist argument and its consequences.
Consciousness presents a problem for evolutionary reductionism because of its irreducibly subjective
character. This is true even of the most primitive forms of sensory consciousness, such as those
presumably found in all animals. The problem that I want to take up now concerns mental functions
such as thought, reasoning, and evaluation that are limited to humans, though their beginnings may be
found in a few other species. These are the functions that have enabled us to transcend the perspective
of the immediate life-world given to us by our senses and instincts, and to explore the larger objective
reality of nature and value.
I shall assume that the attribution of knowledge to a computer is a metaphor, and that the higherlevel
cognitive capacities can be possessed only by a being that also has consciousness (setting aside
the question whether their exercise can sometimes be unconscious). That already implies that those
capacities cannot be understood through physical science alone, and that their existence cannot be
explained by a version of evolutionary theory that is physically reductive. But the problem I now want
to discuss goes beyond this. It has to do with the nature of these capacities and the relation they put us
in to the world. What we take ourselves to be doing when we think about what is the case or how we
should act is something that cannot be reconciled with a reductive naturalism, for reasons distinct
from those that entail the irreducibility of consciousness. It is not merely the subjectivity of thought
but its capacity to transcend subjectivity and to discover what is objectively the case that presents a
problem.
Thought and reasoning are correct or incorrect in virtue of something independent of the thinker’s
beliefs, and even independent of the community of thinkers to which he belongs. We take ourselves to
have the capacity to form true beliefs about the world around us, about the timeless domains of logic
and mathematics, and about the right thing to do. We don’t take these capacities to be infallible, but
we think they are often reliable, in an objective sense, and that they can give us knowledge. The
natural internal stance of human life assumes that there is a real world, that many questions, both
factual and practical, have correct answers, and that there are norms of thought which, if we follow
them, will tend to lead us toward the correct answers to those questions. It assumes that to follow
those norms is to respond correctly to values or reasons that we apprehend. Mathematics, science, and
ethics are built on such norms.
It is difficult to make sense of all this in traditional naturalistic terms. Unless we are prepared to
regard most of it as an illusion, this points to a further expansion of our conception of the natural
order to include not only the source of phenomenological consciousness—sensation, perception, and
emotion
« Last Edit: 25/09/2013 20:31:36 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #326 on: 25/09/2013 20:38:03 »
 tell us,
the ability of creatures like us to arrive at such truth, or even to think about it, requires explanation.
An important aspect of this explanation will be that we have acquired language and the possibilities of
interpersonal communication, justification, and criticism that language makes possible. But the
explanation of our ability to acquire and use language in these ways presents problems of the same
order, for language is one of the most important normatively governed faculties. To acquire a
language is in part to acquire a system of concepts that enables us to understand reality.
I am going to set aside at this point all the problems mentioned earlier about the probability of the
origin of life and the sufficiency of random mutation and natural selection to account for the actual
evolutionary history of life on earth. The question I want to raise remains even if those problems can
be solved for the evolution of plants and lower animals. I will also suppose for the sake of argument
that evolutionary theory can be recast in a way that is consistent with antireductionism, so as to make
it capable of explaining the appearance of consciousness. The question I now want to pose is whether
our cognitive capacities can be placed in the framework of an evolutionary theory that is in this way
no longer exclusively materialist, but that retains the Darwinian structure. It is a hypothetical
question, since there may not be such a theory. But I will talk as if there were.
The problem has two aspects. The first concerns the likelihood that the process of natural selection
should have generated creatures with the capacity to discover by reason the truth about a reality that
extends vastly beyond the initial appearances—as we take ourselves to have done and to continue to
do collectively in science, logic, and ethics. Is it credible that selection for fitness in the prehistoric
past should have fixed capacities that are effective in theoretical pursuits that were unimaginable at
the time? The second problem is the difficulty of understanding naturalistically the faculty of reason
that is the essence of these activities. I will begin by considering a possible response to the first
problem, before going on to the second, which is particularly intractable.
2
The first problem arises only if one presupposes realism about the subject matter of our thought. We
want to know how likely it is, for example, that evolution should have given some human beings the
capacity to discover, and other human beings the capacity to understand, the laws of physics and
chemistry. If there is no real, judgment-independent physical world, no judgment-independent truths
of mathematics, and no judgment-independent truths of ethics and practical reason, then there is no
problem of explaining how we are able to learn about them. On an antirealist view, scientific or moral
truth depends on our systematic cognitive or conative responses rather than being something
independent to which our responses may or may not conform. The “worlds” in question are all just
human constructions. In that case an explanation of how those responses—including our scientific
theories—were formed will not have to explain their objective correctness in order to be acceptable
(although it will have to explain their internal coherence).
Antirealism of this kind is a more serious option for the moral than for the scientific case. One can
intelligibly hold that moral realism is implausible because evolutionary theory is the best current
explanation of our faculties, and an evolutionary account cannot be given of how we would be able to
discover judgment-independent moral truth, if there were such a thing.1 But it would be awkward to
abandon scientific realism for analogous reasons, because one would then have to become an
antirealist about evolutionary theory as well. This would mean that evolutionary theory is inconsistent
with scientific realism and cannot be understood realistically, which seems an excessively strong
result. There would be something strange to the point of incoherence about taking scientific
naturalism as the ground for antirealism about natural science.
If we leave the assumption of realism in place, the best hope for a naturalistic response to the first
problem would be that evolutionary theory, and in particular evolutionary psychology, is in fact
capable of giving a credible account of the success of our cognitive capacities. For factual knowledge,
this is the aim of naturalized epistemology. The goal would be to explain how innate mental
capacities that were selected for their immediate adaptive value are also capable of generating,
through extended cultural evolutionary history, true theories about a law-governed natural order that
there was no adaptive need to understand earlier. The evolutionary explanation would have to be
indirect, since scientific knowledge had no role in the selection of the capacities that generated it.
The just-so story would go roughly like this. Even in the wild, it isn’t just perception and operant
conditioning that have survival value. The capacity to generalize from experience and to allow those
generalizations, or general expectations, to be confirmed or disconfirmed by subsequent experience is
also adaptive. So is a basic disposition to maintain logical consistency in belief, by modifying beliefs
when inconsistencies arise. A further, very important step would be the capacity to correct individual
appearances not only by reference to other conflicting appearances of one’s own but also by reference
to how things appear to other perceivers. That requires recognition of other minds, an ability with
obvious adaptive potential. The reach of these capacities can be greatly extended and deliberately
exercised with the help of language, which also permits knowledge to be collectively created,
accumulated, and transmitted. With language we can hold in our minds and share with others
alternative possibilities, and decide among them on the basis of their consistency or inconsistency
with further observations. Complex scientific theories that entail empirical predictions are therefore
extensions of the highly adaptive capacity to learn from experience—our own and that of others.
This story depends heavily on the supposition of a biological origin of the capacity for
nonperceptual representation through language, resulting in the ability to grasp logically complex
abstract structures. It is not easy to say how one might decide whether this could be a manifestation of
abilities that have survival value in prehistoric everyday life. In view of the mathematical
sophistication of modern physical theories, it seems highly unlikely; but perhaps the claim could be
defended.
It is even possible to tell a parallel just-so story about the compatibility between evolutionary
theory and moral realism. I am not thinking of the familiar appeal to sociobiology, with its essentially
nepotistic interpretation of innate altruistic dispositions. I am not even thinking of the explanation
through group selection of dispositions to cooperation in social creatures.2 Rather, I have in mind the
discovery of general principles of value by rational means analogous to those used elsewhere. Starting
from an understanding of innate desires and aversions as immediate impressions of value—of what is
good or bad for ourselves or our kin—the discovery of a larger, principle-governed normative domain,
or domain of practical reason, in which these immediately apparent values are situated, can again
proceed through the capacity to generalize and the disposition to avoid inconsistency.
Generalization would lead to the recognition of value in possible future experiences, in the means
to them, and in the lives of creatures other than ourselves. These values are not extra properties of
goodness and badness, but just truths such as the following: If something I do will cause another
creature to suffer, that counts against doing it. I can come to see that this is true by generalizing from
the evident disvalue of my own suffering, and once I recognize the more general truth, my motives
will be altered. If there are objective general norms of conduct, this kind of thinking would allow us to
discover them even if they are no more innate than the laws of physics. As with science, the process of
discovery would be impossible without language, interpersonal communication, and cultural memory.
In both cases, although the basic capacities employed are adaptive in their simple form, they would
permit us to transcend our starting points to discover large domains of truth quite independently of
whether such knowledge enhances fitness.
All this is very far-fetched, but no more so than much evolutionary speculation. It requires that
mutations and whatever else may be the sources of genotypic variation should generate not only
physical structures but phenomenology, desire and aversion, awareness of other minds, symbolic
representations, and logical consistency, all having essential roles in the production of behavior.
Provided we can assume some global solution to the mind-body problem that allows all this, the rest
of the story suggests that knowledge of objective scientific and moral truth, should there be such
things, could result from the exercise of capacities that, in more mundane applications, are at least not
inimical to survival. There may not be an insuperable problem of improbability, provided we accept
the evolutionary framework itself as probable.
3
However, even if we suppose for the sake of argument that some evolutionary explanation of this kind
is true, there is a further problem about thinking of our basic reasoning capacities in this way. It
emerges if we contrast the attitude we can reasonably take toward our perceptual and appetitive
systems with the attitude we can take toward our reasoning. This will lead to the second problem
identified above—the difficulty of understanding reason naturalistically.
If we suppose that there is some way to include consciousness in the evolutionary story, then we
can understand our visual system, like the visual systems of other species, to have been shaped by
natural selection. The specifics of human vision respond to aspects of the world that have been
important in the lives of our ancestors. That allows us to continue to rely on the prima facie evidence
of our senses, while recognizing that the evidence will sometimes be misleading, selective, or
distorted, and that it bears the marks of our particular biological ancestry.
Something similar is possible in our attitudes toward our intuitive judgments of probability, or
toward some of our intuitive value judgments (the desire for revenge, for example). We may come to
understand those intuitions as rough but useful unreflective responses shaped by natural selection to a
fitness-enhancing form in the circumstances in which our forebears lived and died. At the same time,
we can recognize that they may need correction or inhibition. Evolutionary self-awareness of this kind
is a common feature of our reflective attitudes toward our natural dispositions of hunger, fear, lust,
anger, and so forth.
But whenever we take such a reasonable detached attitude toward our innate dispositions, we are
implicitly engaged in a form of thought to which we do not at the same time take that detached
attitude. When we rely on systems of measurement to correct perception, or probability calculations
to correct intuitive expectations, or moral or prudential reasoning to correct instinctive impulses, we
take ourselves to be responding to systematic reasons which in themselves justify our conclusions,
and which do not get their authority from their biological origins.3 They could not be backed up in
that way. They don’t get their authority from their cultural origins, either; on the contrary, the cultural
history that has yielded their development is validated as an instance of progress only by the fact that
it has led to these methods for increasing the accuracy of our judgments.
Relying on one’s vision and relying on one’s reason are similar in one respect: in both cases, the
reliance is immediate. When I see a tree, I do not infer its existence from my experience any more
than I infer the correctness of a logical inference from the fact that I can’t help believing the
conclusion. However, there is a crucial difference: in the perceptual case I can recognize that I might
be mistaken, but on reflection, even if I think of myself as the product of Darwinian natural selection,
I am nevertheless justified in believing the evidence of my senses for the most part, because this is
consistent with the hypothesis that an accurate representation of the world around me results from
senses shaped by evolution to serve that function. That is not a refutation of radical skepticism, since
evolutionary theory, like all of science, depends on the evidence of the senses. But it does provide a
coherent picture of my place in the world that is consistent with the general reliability of such
evidence.
By contrast, in a case of reasoning, if it is basic enough, the only thing to think is that I have
grasped the truth directly. I cannot pull back from a logical inference and reconfirm it with the
reflection that the reliability of my logical thought processes is consistent with the hypothesis that
evolution has selected them for accuracy. That would drastically weaken the logical claim.
Furthermore, in the formulation of that explanation, as in the parallel explanation of the reliability of
the senses, logical judgments of consistency and inconsistency have to occur without these
qualifications, as direct apprehensions of the truth. It is not possible to think, “Reliance on my reason,
including my reliance on this very judgment, is reasonable because it is consistent with its having an
evolutionary explanation.” Therefore any evolutionary account of the place of reason presupposes
reason’s validity and cannot confirm it without circularity.
Eventually the attempt to understand oneself in evolutionary, naturalistic terms must bottom out
in something that is grasped as valid in itself—something without which the evolutionary
understanding would not be possible. Thought moves us beyond appearance to something that we
cannot regard merely as a biologically based disposition, whose reliability we can determine on other
grounds. It is not enough to be able to think that if there are logical truths, natural selection might
very well have given me the capacity to recognize them. That cannot be my ground for trusting my
reason, because even that thought implicitly relies on reason in a prior way.
We can suppose that the capacities which enable us to travel far beyond our innate dispositions in
representing and responding to the world have appeared in an ancestor and then been preserved in
subsequent generations. The appearance of these capacities has to be integrated with the evolutionary
process in that they are at least not inimical to fitness, so that they are not extinguished by natural
selection. That much seems plausible. But if I am right to think that we can’t regard them merely as
further instinctive dispositions, some other explanation is needed of what these capacities are.
Just as consciousness cannot be explained as a mere extension or complication of physical
evolution, so reason cannot be explained as a mere extension or complication of consciousness. To
explain our rationality will require something in addition to what is needed to explain our
consciousness and its evidently adaptive forms, something at a different level. Reason can take us
beyond the appearances because it has completely general validity, rather than merely local utility. If
we have it, we recognize that it can be neither confirmed nor undermined by a theory of its
evolutionary origins, nor by any other external view of itself. We cannot distance ourselves from it.
That was Descartes’ insight.
If such a thing appeared on the evolutionary menu, it could have proven its adaptive value locally.
Then, with the help of cultural deployment and development, it might have risen to its current
position of critical authority, correcting and often overruling the older promptings of perception,
instinct, and intuition, and not subject to correction by anything else. Its entrenchment and eventual
sovereignty over older instincts is comprehensible—but only if we can understand how such a thing
can exist at all.
4
This is the second problem: What is the faculty that enables us to escape from the world of
appearance presented by our prereflective innate dispositions, into the world of objective reality? And
what, besides consciousness, do we have to add to the biological story to make sense of such a
faculty?
The distinctive thing about reason is that it connects us with the truth directly. Perception connects
us with the truth only indirectly. When I see a tree, I see it because it is there, but not just because it is
there. Perception is not a form of insight: I do not grasp the presence of the tree immediately, even
though it may seem so prior to reflection. Rather I am aware of it because the tree causes a mental
effect in me in virtue of the character of my visual system, which we may suppose has been shaped by
natural selection to react in this way to light reflected from physical objects. Having such a system,
together with other perceptual and motivational dispositions, enables me to survive in the world. So it
is only in a complicated and indirect sense that when I see a tree, I see it because it is there.
But suppose I observe a contradiction among my beliefs and “see” that I must give up at least one
of them. (I am driving south in the early morning, and the sun rises on my right.) In that case, I see
that the contradictory beliefs cannot all be true, and I see it simply because it is the case. I grasp it
directly. It is not adequate to say that, faced with a contradiction, I feel the urgent need to alter my
beliefs to escape it, which is explained by the fact that avoiding contradictions, like avoiding snakes
and precipices, was fitness-enhancing for my ancestors. That would be an indirect explanation of how
the impossibility of the contradiction explains my belief that it cannot be true. But even if some of our
ancestors were prey to mere logical phobias and instincts, we have gone beyond that: We reject a
contradiction just because we see that it is impossible, and we accept a logical entailment just because
we see that it is necessarily true.
In ordinary perception, we are like mechanisms governed by a (roughly) truth-preserving
algorithm. But when we reason, we are like a mechanism that can see that the algorithm it follows is
truth-preserving. Something has happened that has gotten our minds into immediate contact with the
rational order of the world, or at least with the basic elements of that order, which can in turn be used
to reach a great deal more. That enables us to possess concepts that display the compatibility or
incompatibility of particular beliefs with general hypotheses. We have to start by regarding our
prereflective impressions as a partial and perspectival view of the world, but we are then able to use
reason and imagination to construct candidates for a larger conception that can contain and account
for that part. This applies in the domain of value as well as of fact. The process is highly fallible, but
it could not even be attempted without this hard core of self-evidence, on which all less certain
reasoning depends. In the criticism and correction of reasoning, the final court of appeal is always
reason itself.
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #327 on: 25/09/2013 20:53:39 »
I did not say that God is relevant to science ,did i ?
I thought so; 'Not irrelevant', says 'relevant' to me. If this isn't what you meant, you only had to say so.

Quote
why didn't you quote the whole sentense  ?
What, "God is irrelevant to reductionism in science"? It appeared to confirm my interpretation - by implying that God might somehow be relevant to non-reductionist science (whatever that might be). The rest of it was fluff.

Quote
Quote
And while you're at it, can you explain the methods by which science will make progress when all reductionist approaches have been expunged as you advocate?
Science has its own effective unparalleled method thanks to and through which science has been able to achieve all those "miracles " :<...blah...>
If you mean the scientific method, that's the framework within which an approach (e.g. reductionism) is used. As I'm sure you're aware.

Quote
Both questions were  previously  answered : your own failure to see just that is your problem, not mine .
Ah; such subtle answers they just appeared to be ignoring the questions altogether...

OK; I suppose that's that then.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #328 on: 25/09/2013 20:55:08 »
What this means is that if we hope to include the human mind in the natural order, we have to
explain not only consciousness as it enters into perception, emotion, desire, and aversion but also the
conscious control of belief and conduct in response to the awareness of reasons—the avoidance of
inconsistency, the subsumption of particular cases under general principles, the confirmation or
disconfirmation of general principles by particular observations, and so forth. This is what it is to
allow oneself to be guided by the objective truth, rather than just by one’s impressions. It is a kind of
freedom—the freedom that reflective consciousness gives us from the rule of innate perceptual and
motivational dispositions together with conditioning. Rational creatures can step back from these
influences and try to make up their own minds. I set aside the question whether this kind of freedom is
compatible or incompatible with causal determinism, but it does seem to be something that cannot be
given a purely physical analysis and therefore, like the more passive forms of consciousness, cannot
be given a purely physical explanation either.
If I decide, when the sun rises on my right, that I must be driving north instead of south, it is
because I recognize that my belief that I am driving south is inconsistent with that observation,
together with what I know about the direction of rotation of the earth. I abandon the belief because I
recognize that it couldn’t be true. If I put money into a retirement account because the future income
it generates will be more valuable to me then than what I could spend it on now, I act because I see
that this makes it a good thing to do. If I oppose the abolition of the inheritance tax, it is because I
recognize that the design of property rights should be sensitive not only to autonomy but also to
fairness. As the saying goes, I operate in the space of reasons.
The appearance of reason and language in the course of biological history seems, from the point of
view of available forms of explanation, something radically emergent—if, as I assume, it cannot be
understood behavioristically. Like consciousness, it presents problems of both constitutive and
historical explanation. It appeared long after the emergence of conscious creatures, yet it also seems
to be essentially a development of consciousness and ought to be understandable as part of that
history. Like consciousness, reason is inseparable from the physical life of organisms that have it,
since it acts on the material provided by perception and natural desire and controls action, both
directly and indirectly. Any understanding of it will transform our understanding of physical
organisms and their development as well.
The great cognitive shift is an expansion of consciousness from the perspectival form contained in
the lives of particular creatures to an objective, world-encompassing form that exists both
individually and intersubjectively. It was originally a biological evolutionary process, and in our
species it has become a collective cultural process as well. Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy
process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself.
5
This, then, is what a theory of everything has to explain: not only the emergence from a lifeless
universe of reproducing organisms and their development by evolution to greater and greater
functional complexity; not only the consciousness of some of those organisms and its central role in
their lives; but also the development of consciousness into an instrument of transcendence that can
grasp objective reality and objective value.
Certain things can be assumed, if there is such a thing as reason. First, there are objective, mindindependent
truths of different kinds: factual truths about the natural world, including scientific laws;
eternal and necessary truths of logic and mathematics; and evaluative and moral truths. Second, by
starting from the way things initially appear to us, we can use reason collectively to achieve justified
beliefs about some of those objective truths—though some of those beliefs will probably be mistaken.
Third, those beliefs in combination can directly influence what we do. Fourth, these processes of
discovery and motivation, while mental, are inseparable from physical processes in the organism.
It is trivially true that if there are organisms capable of reason, the possibility of such organisms
must have been there from the beginning. But if we believe in a natural order, then something about
the world that eventually gave rise to rational beings must explain this possibility. Moreover, to
explain not merely the possibility but the actuality of rational beings, the world must have properties
that make their appearance not a complete accident: in some way the likelihood must have been latent
in the nature of things. So we stand in need of both a constitutive explanation of what rationality
might consist in, and a historical explanation of how it arose; and both explanations must be
consistent with our being, among other things, physical organisms. The understanding of biological
organisms and their evolutionary history would have to expand to accommodate this additional
explanatory burden, as I have argued it must expand beyond materialism to accommodate the
explanation of consciousness.
Such an explanation would complete the pursuit of intelligibility by showing how the natural order
is disposed to generate beings capable of comprehending it. But the obstacles seem enormous. In light
of the remarkable character of reason, it is hard to imagine what a naturalistic explanation of it, either
constitutive or historical, could look like.
In the previous chapter I explored the possibility of a reductive account of consciousness, based on
some form of universal monism or panpsychism. This is modeled on the physical reductionism
encouraged by molecular biology, but with an expanded metaphysical basis, in which the physical and
the mental are ontologically inseparable. Although it would be a radical departure from the reigning
materialist view of nature, the monism required for a reductive but not physically reductionist account
of consciousness seems at least conceivable. In answer to the constitutive question, the idea that a
complex subject of consciousness might be built up out of minimal protomental elements that are
somehow unified simultaneously into an organism and a self has enough potential to merit
consideration. Considered as an alternative to an equally speculative emergence of consciousness at
high levels of physical organization, it seems relatively credible, in spite of serious problems about
the mental part-whole relationship.
However, a reductive account of reason, entirely in terms of the properties of the elementary
constituents of which organisms are made, is even more difficult to imagine than a reductive account
of consciousness. Rationality, even more than consciousness, seems necessarily a feature of the
functioning of the whole conscious subject, and cannot be conceived of, even speculatively, as
composed of countless atoms of miniature rationality. The metaphor of the mind as a computer built
out of a huge number of transistorlike homunculi will not serve the purpose, because it omits the
understanding of the content and grounds of thought and action essential to reason. It could account
for behavioral output, but not for understanding. For these reasons, a holistic or emergent answer to
the constitutive question comes to seem increasingly more likely than a reductive one as we move up
from physical organisms, to consciousness, to reason. This would mean that reason is an irreducible
faculty of the kind of fully formed conscious mind that exists in higher animals, and that it cannot be
analyzed into the activity of the mind’s protomental parts, in the way that sensation perhaps can be.
But the historical question remains. Even if something entirely new begins to happen when the
conscious brain reaches a certain size and level of complexity, an explanation of the existence of that
complexity will be adequate only if it also explains the existence of reason as such. (This parallels the
demands on an explanation of consciousness as such, discussed in the last chapter.) Suppose we have
reason because our brains have reached a level of complexity at which reason emerges. If this is to be
an explanation that renders the appearance of reason not a complete accident, it must in some way
account not just for the physical complexity itself but for the appearance of just the kind of
complexity that is a condition of the emergence of reason. This would not be necessary if one were
willing to regard reason as a fluke—a pure side effect of other brain developments. But if that is not
acceptable, then an explanation of reason would have to explain the likelihood of the appearance of its
biological conditions qua conditions of reason, i.e., under that description. The possibilities at this
point are too abstractly described to permit any speculation as to whether a reductive causal
explanation could do this, but if emergence is the correct answer to the constitutive question about
reason, it may be that the historical question will require either a teleological or an intentional
solution.
6
I have raised the possibility of teleological principles as part of the natural order in the previous
chapter. Teleological explanation may have serious problems, but in this case they are no more
serious than those of the alternatives, so the possibility should not be disregarded. The evolution of
mind is part of a single long process of evolutionary descent. It is the latest stage in the evolution of
physical organisms, some of which are now governed largely by thought. If we are skeptical about an
intentional (theistic) explanation of the existence of reason, and can’t make sense of a causal
reductionist one, it is natural to speculate that some tendencies in this direction have been at work all
along. If physics alone or even a nonmaterialist monism can’t account for the later stages of our
evolutionary history, we shouldn’t assume that it can account for the earlier stages. Indeed, when we
go back far enough, to the origin of life—of self-replicating systems capable of supporting evolution
by natural selection—those actually engaged in research in the subject recognize that they are very far
from even formulating a viable explanatory hypothesis of the traditional materialist kind. Yet they
assume that there must be such an explanation, since life cannot have arisen purely by chance.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #329 on: 25/09/2013 20:57:38 »
4
In fact, that assumption may be based on a confusion. In an important paper, Roger White has
argued that the search for an explanation of the origin of life in terms of the nonpurposive principles
of physics and chemistry—an explanation that will reveal that the origin of life is not merely a matter
of chance but something to be expected, or at least not surprising—is probably motivated by the sense
that life can’t be a matter of chance because it looks so much as though it is the product of intentional
design. But the hypothesis of intentional design is ruled out as unscientific. So it seems natural to
conclude that the only way left for life not to be a matter of chance is for it somehow to be made
likely by physical law. But as White points out, this inference is illegitimate. Here is what he says:
The line of reasoning … is something like the following. That molecular replicating systems
appear to be designed by an agent is sufficient to convince us that they didn’t arise by
chance. But in scientific reasoning, non-intentional explanations are to be preferred, if
possible (some would say at all costs), to intentional ones—hence the motivation to find a
non-intentional explanation of life.
It should be clear however, that even granting the appropriateness of a preference for nonintentional
explanations, this line of reasoning is confused. In general, if BI [the hypothesis
that the process that led to S was intentionally biased] raises the likelihood of S, then S
confirms BI to at least some degree, and may thereby disconfirm C [the chance hypothesis].
But it does not follow that S confirms BN [the hypothesis that the process was nonintentionally
biased] one iota. S confirms BN only if BN raises the likelihood of S. If the
reason we doubt the Chance Hypothesis is that we suspect that life is due in part to
intelligent agency, this by itself gives us no reason to expect there to be a non-intentional
explanation for life. If on reflection we do not find the hypothesis of intentional biasing
acceptable, then we are left with no reason at all to doubt that life arose by chance.5
Much of White’s paper is taken up with arguing that life is no more to be expected on the assumption
of BN—the hypothesis of nonintentional bias—than on the assumption of chance. That is because
even if there is nonintentional bias toward certain outcomes resulting from purposeless physical law,
it could be a bias toward any type of outcome whatever, so it cannot make the appearance of life more
likely than anything else. As White says,
What makes certain molecular configurations stand out from the multitude of possibilities
seems to be that they are capable of developing into something that strikes us as rather
marvelous, namely a world of living creatures. But there is no conceivable reason that blind
forces of nature or physical attributes should be biased toward the marvelous.6
By contrast, intentional bias is limited as a hypothesis by some rough assumptions about the motives
that give rise to intentions. (Thus one cannot claim about just any outcome S, however random or
arbitrary, that it gives evidence that the process that led to it was intentionally biased, simply on the
ground that it is rendered likely by the hypothesis that it was produced by a being who wanted
precisely S to occur. Any argument from design depends on more restrictive general assumptions
about what kinds of things a designer might want to produce.)
I am drawn to a fourth alternative, natural teleology, or teleological bias, as an account of the
existence of the biological possibilities on which natural selection can operate. I believe that teleology
is a naturalistic alternative that is distinct from all three of the other candidate explanations: chance,
creationism, and directionless physical law. To avoid the mistake that White finds in the hypothesis of
nonintentional bias, teleology would have to be restrictive in what it makes likely, but without
depending on intentions or motives. This would probably have to involve some conception of an
increase in value through the expanded possibilities provided by the higher forms of organization
toward which nature tends: not just any outcome could qualify as a telos. That would make value an
explanatory end, but not one that is realized through the purposes or intentions of an agent. Teleology
means that in addition to physical law of the familiar kind, there are other laws of nature that are
“biased toward the marvelous.”
The idea of teleology as part of the natural order flies in the teeth of the authoritative form of
explanation that has defined science since the revolution of the seventeenth century. Teleology would
mean that some natural laws, unlike all the basic scientific laws discovered so far, are temporally
historical in their operation. The laws of physics are all equations specifying universal relations that
hold at every time and place among mathematically specifiable quantities like force, mass, charge,
distance, and velocity. In a nonteleological system the explanation of any temporally extended
process has to consist in the explanation, by reference to those laws, of how each state of the universe
evolved from its immediate predecessor. Teleology, by contrast, would admit irreducible principles
governing temporally extended development.
The teleology I want to consider would be an explanation not only of the appearance of physical
organisms but of the development of consciousness and ultimately of reason in those organisms. But
its form can be described even if we stay at the physical level. Natural teleology would require two
things. First, that the nonteleological and timeless laws of physics—those governing the ultimate
elements of the physical universe, whatever they are—are not fully deterministic. Given the physical
state of the universe at any moment, the laws of physics would have to leave open a range of
alternative successor states, presumably with a probability distribution over them.
Second, among those possible futures there will be some that are more eligible than others as
possible steps on the way to the formation of more complex systems, and ultimately of the kinds of
replicating systems characteristic of life. The existence of teleology requires that successor states in
this subset have a significantly higher probability than is entailed by the laws of physics alone—
simply because they are on the path toward a certain outcome. Teleological laws would assign higher
probability to steps on paths in state space that have a higher “velocity” toward certain outcomes.7
They would be laws of the self-organization of matter, essentially—or of whatever is more basic than
matter.
This is a frankly teleological hypothesis because the preferred transitions do not have a higher
probability in virtue of their intrinsic immediate characteristics, but only in virtue of temporally
extended developments of which they form a potential part. In other words, some laws of nature
would apply directly to the relation between the present and the future, rather than specifying
instantaneous functions that hold at all times. A naturalistic teleology would mean that organizational
and developmental principles of this kind are an irreducible part of the natural order, and not the
result of intentional or purposive influence by anyone. I am not confident that this Aristotelian idea of
teleology without intention makes sense, but I do not at the moment see why it doesn’t.
7
What are the alternatives? Any alternative must include the constitutive possibility, in the character of
the elements of which the world is composed, of their combination into living organisms with the
properties of consciousness, action, and cognition which we know they have. But given this
possibility, the historical question of why such organisms arose could in principle receive two very
different nonteleological answers. First, there is the hypothesis that the initial appearance of a codegoverned
replicating system that started the evolutionary process was a cosmic accident, and that
subsequent accidental mutations provided the set of successive candidates on which natural selection
operated to generate the history of life. This hypothesis makes the outcome too accidental to count as
a genuine explanation of the existence of conscious, thinking beings as such.
Second, for theists there is the intentional alternative: divine intervention to create life out of the
basic material of the world, and perhaps also to guide the process of evolution by natural selection,
through the intentional production and preservation of some of the mutations on which natural
selection operates along the way.8 This could be combined with either a reductive or an emergent
answer to the constitutive question. A creationist explanation of the existence of life is the biological
analogue of dualism in the philosophy of mind. It pushes teleology outside of the natural order, into
the intentions of the creator—working with completely directionless materials whose properties
nevertheless underlie both the mental and the physical. If God at some point in the past constructed
DNA or one of its predecessors out of its elements, that dispenses with the need for any explanation of
the capacity of the elements to organize themselves in this apparently purposive way.
That would require only that the existence of DNA be a physical possibility—in chemical space,
so to speak. And if we extend the case to consciousness and reason, it would require that conscious
and rational subjects supported by brains of the right kind be mental possibilities. But in the
creationist picture, the natural order accounts for the physical possibility of DNA in the same way that
it accounts for the physical possibility of an airplane or a telephone or a computer. Those possibilities
are all explained by physics alone: it is only their actualization that involves a designer, and
something analogous would be true for animal consciousness—a surprising way in which the
protopsychic elements of the world can be combined. So biological and mental organization are no
more part of the natural order in the creationist view than airplanes or telephones are. The laws of
nature entail their possibility, but they do not explain their actuality.
My preference for an immanent, natural explanation is congruent with my atheism. But even a
theist who believes God is ultimately responsible for the appearance of conscious life could maintain
that this happens as part of a natural order that is created by God, but that it does not require further
divine intervention. A theist not committed to dualism in the philosophy of mind could suppose that
the natural possibility of conscious organisms resides already in the character of the elements out of
which those organisms are composed, perhaps supplemented by laws of psychophysical emergence.
To make the possibility of conscious life a consequence of the natural order created by God while
ascribing its actuality to subsequent divine intervention would then seem an arbitrary complication.
Some form of teleological naturalism should for these reasons seem no less credible than an
interventionist explanation, even to those who believe that God is ultimately responsible for
everything.9
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #330 on: 25/09/2013 20:59:34 »
<... tl;dr ...>
The normal way to discuss on forums is to post your own thoughts about what you've read, not copy-paste reams of someone else's work.
 

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #331 on: 25/09/2013 21:04:31 »
It's an unreliable indicator of the reliability of an unreliable system, which is actually less unreliable than the indicator.
OIC - yes; sorry, I'm a bit slow today...

Quote
I think DonQ is actually female. When accused of talking improbable nonsense my mum used to say "I just know". 
It's a lovely thought!  (not) :)
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #332 on: 25/09/2013 21:10:08 »
I did not say that God is relevant to science ,did i ?
I thought so; 'Not irrelevant', says 'relevant' to me. If this isn't what you meant, you only had to say so.

You would have noticed just that , if you read carefully what i said .
God is ,once again, neither irrelevent nor relevant to science , i said ; can't you read ? : ...God ...
What might not  be  irrelevant to something might  also be not relevant to it as well,and at the same time  .

Quote
Quote
why didn't you quote the whole sentense  ?
What, "God is irrelevant to reductionism in science"? It appeared to confirm my interpretation - by implying that God might somehow be relevant to non-reductionist science (whatever that might be). The rest of it was fluff.

Read Nagel above .
You're really exasperating and extremely irritating : the word here is "naturalism " for natural science :
If God is irrelevant to reductionist naturalism, then is God  logically also so regarding non-reductionist naturalism ...

Quote
Quote
Quote
And while you're at it, can you explain the methods by which science will make progress when all reductionist approaches have been expunged as you advocate?
Science has its own effective unparalleled method thanks to and through which science has been able to achieve all those "miracles " :<...blah...>
If you mean the scientific method, that's the framework within which an approach (e.g. reductionism) is used. As I'm sure you're aware.

Reductionism is just a conception , or rather misconception of nature in science ,via its reductionist meta-paradigm mainly in science ...
Do not try to integrate reductionism in that sense within the frame work of the scientific method , as you put it at least,it has nthing to do with : reductionism  was/is  just crippling science in its capability to explain nature ,the universe , man , life , consciousness ... .

Quote
Quote
Both questions were  previously  answered : your own failure to see just that is your problem, not mine .
Ah; such subtle answers they just appeared to be ignoring the questions altogether...

OK; I suppose that's that then
.

What had you in mind then ?
« Last Edit: 25/09/2013 21:59:47 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #333 on: 25/09/2013 21:26:26 »
<... tl;dr ...>
The normal way to discuss on forums is to post your own thoughts about what you've read, not copy-paste reams of someone else's work.

It did obviously not help to post my own thoughts about what i have read : what do you think i was doing then ?,So, i resorted to posting what the guy had to say on the subject , partly .
You remind me of an experience i had  when i was in Amsterdam , i was making love to a lovely  English girl : during that , she could not stop shouting " f...me, f...me, f...me " : i shouted back : " f...what do you think i am doing ? , missing her cultural  point that she was just trying to arose me some more , and herself in the process ...due to the passion and heat of the live love making "debate" ...
Are you doing just that ,or something Freudian similar , your own different way ?, even though Freud's psychology was  largely refuted and discredited for and as having been largely ...unscientific ...



« Last Edit: 25/09/2013 22:19:46 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #334 on: 25/09/2013 21:31:53 »
"Mind and Cosmos : Why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false " By Thomas Nagel ,Chapter 3 : Consciousness .

Chapter 3
Consciousness
1
Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the
resources of physical science. The existence of consciousness seems to imply that the physical
description of the universe, in spite of its richness and explanatory power, is only part of the truth, and
that the natural order is far less austere than it would be if physics and chemistry accounted for
everything. If we take this problem seriously, and follow out its implications, it threatens to unravel
the entire naturalistic world picture. Yet it is very difficult to imagine viable alternatives.
Let me begin with a brief history of what has brought us to our present predicament. The modern
mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result
of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the
crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically
precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description
limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the
relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand—how this physical world appears to
human perception—were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and
smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses,
to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract
subjective appearances and the human mind—as well as human intentions and purposes—from the
physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective
physical reality to develop.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #335 on: 25/09/2013 21:33:09 »

However, the exclusion of everything mental from the scope of modern physical science was
bound to be challenged eventually. We humans are parts of the world, and the desire for a unified
world picture is irrepressible. It seems natural to pursue that unity by extending the reach of physics
and chemistry, in light of their great successes in explaining so much of the natural order. These
successes have so far taken the form of reduction followed by reconstruction: discovering the basic
elements of which everything is composed and showing how they combine to yield the complexity we
observe.
It has become clear that our bodies and central nervous systems are parts of the physical world,
composed of the same elements as everything else and completely describable in terms of the modern
versions of the primary qualities—more sophisticated but still mathematically and spatiotemporally
defined. Molecular biology keeps increasing our knowledge of our own physical composition,
operation, and development. Finally, so far as we can tell, our mental lives, including our subjective
experiences, and those of other creatures are strongly connected with and probably strictly dependent
on physical events in our brains and on the physical interaction of our bodies with the rest of the
physical world.
Perhaps it is these developments in neurophysiology and molecular biology that have encouraged
the hope of including the mind in a single physical conception of the world; at any rate, the consensus
in that direction is recent. Descartes thought it couldn’t be done—that mind and matter are both fully
real and irreducibly distinct, though they interact. In the dualist view, physical science is defined by
the exclusion of the mental from its subject matter. There has always been resistance to dualism, but
for several centuries after Descartes, it expressed itself primarily through idealism, the view that mind
is the ultimate reality and the physical world is in some way reducible to it. This attempt to overcome
the division from the direction of the mental extends from Berkeley—who rejected the primarysecondary
quality distinction and held that physical things are ideas in the mind of God—to the
logical positivists, who analyzed the physical world as a construction out of sense data. Then, in a
rapid historical shift whose causes are somewhat obscure, idealism was largely displaced in later
twentieth-century analytic philosophy by attempts at unification in the opposite direction,
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #336 on: 25/09/2013 21:34:20 »
 starting
from the physical.
Materialism is the view that only the physical world is irreducibly real, and that a place must be
found in it for mind, if there is such a thing. This would continue the onward march of physical
science, through molecular biology, to full closure by swallowing up the mind in the objective
physical reality from which it was initially excluded. The assumption is that physics is
philosophically unproblematic, and the main target of opposition is Descartes’ dualist picture of the
ghost in the machine. The task is to come up with an alternative, and here begins a series of failures.
One strategy for putting the mental into the physical world picture is conceptual behaviorism,
offered as an analysis of the real nature of mental concepts. This was tried in several versions. Mental
phenomena were identified variously with behavior, behavioral dispositions, or forms of behavioral
organization. In another version, associated with Ryle and inspired by Wittgenstein,1 mental
phenomena were not identified with anything, either physical or nonphysical; the names of mental
states and processes were said not to be referring expressions. Instead, mental concepts were
explained in terms of their observable behavioral conditions of application—behavioral criteria or
assertability conditions rather than behavioral truth conditions.
All these strategies are essentially verificationist, i.e., they assume that all that needs to be said
about the content of a mental statement is what would verify or confirm it, or warrant its assertion,
from the point of view of an observer. In one way or another, they reduce mental attributions to the
externally observable conditions on the basis of which we attribute mental states to others. If
successful, this would obviously place the mind comfortably in the physical world.
It is certainly true that mental phenomena have behavioral manifestations, which supply our main
evidence for them in other creatures. Yet all these theories seem insufficient as analyses of the mental
because they leave out something essential that lies beyond the externally observable grounds for
attributing mental states to others, namely, the aspect of mental phenomena that is evident from the
first-person, inner point of view of the conscious subject: for example, the way sugar tastes to you or
the way red looks or anger feels, each of which seems to be something more than the behavioral
responses and discriminatory capacities that these experiences explain. Behaviorism leaves out the
inner mental state itself.
In the 1950s an alternative, nonanalytic route to materialism was proposed, one that in a sense
acknowledged that the mental is something inside us, of which outwardly observable behavior is
merely a manifestation. This was the psycho-physical identity theory, offered by U. T. Place and J. J.
C. Smart2 not as conceptual analysis but as a scientific hypothesis. It held that mental events are
physical events in the brain: ? = F (where ? is a mental event like pain or a taste sensation and F is
the corresponding physical event in the central nervous system). Since this is not a conceptual truth, it
cannot be known a priori; it is supposed to be a theoretical identity, like “Water = H2O,” and can be
confirmed only by the future development of science.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #337 on: 25/09/2013 21:35:35 »

The trouble is that this nonanalytic identity raises a further question: What is it about F that
makes it also ?? It must be some property conceptually distinct from the physical properties that
define F. That is required for the identity to be a scientific and not a conceptual truth.3 Clearly
materialists won’t want to give a dualist answer—i.e., that F is ? because it has a nonphysical
property in addition to its physiological ones (e.g., a nonphysical experiential quality). But they have
to give some answer, and it has to be an answer that is consistent with materialism. So defenders of
the identity theory, in spite of their wish to avoid relying on conceptual analysis, tended to be pulled
back into different kinds of analytical behaviorism, in order to analyze the mental character of brain
processes in a way that avoided dualism. What makes the brain process a mental process, they
proposed, is not an additional intrinsic property but a relational one—a relation to physical behavior.
A causal element was now added to the analysis: “the inner state that typically causes certain
behavior and is caused by certain stimuli.” This was prompted by the need to explain the two distinct
nonsynonymous references to the same thing that occur in a non-conceptual identity statement.
Materialists had to explain how “pain” and “brain state” can refer to the same thing even though their
meaning is not the same, and to explain this without appealing to anything nonphysical in accounting
for the reference of “pain.”4
These strategies have taken increasingly sophisticated form, under the headings of causal
behaviorism, functionalism, and other theories of how mental concepts could refer to states of the
brain in virtue of the causal role of those states in controlling the interaction between the organism
and its environment. But all such strategies are unsatisfactory for the same old reason: even with the
brain added to the picture, they clearly leave out something essential, without which there would be
no mind. And what they leave out is just what was deliberately left out of the physical world by
Descartes and Galileo in order to form the modern concept of the physical, namely, subjective
appearances.
Another problem was subsequently noticed by Saul Kripke. Identity theorists took as their model
for ? = F other theoretical identities like “Water = H2O” or “Heat = Molecular Motion.” But Kripke
argued that those identities are necessary truths (though not conceptual and not a priori), whereas the
?/F relation appears to be contingent.5 This was the basis of Descartes’ argument for dualism.
Descartes said that since we can clearly conceive of the mind existing without the physical body, and
vice versa, they can’t be one thing.6
Consider “Water = H2O,” a typical scientifically discovered theoretical identity. It means that
water is nothing but H2O. You can’t have H2O without water, and you don’t need anything more than
H2O for water. It’s water even if there’s no one around to see, feel, or taste it. We ordinarily identify
water by its perceptible qualities, but our perceptual experiences aren’t part of the water; they are just
effects it has on our senses. The intrinsic properties of water, its density, electrical conductivity, index
of refraction, liquidity between 0 and 100 degrees centigrade, etc., are all fully explained by H2O and
its properties. The physical properties of H2O are by themselves sufficient for water.
So if ? really is F in this sense, and nothing else, then F by itself, once its physical properties are
understood, should likewise be sufficient for the taste of sugar, the feeling of pain, or whatever it is
supposed to be identical with. But it doesn’t seem to be. It seems conceivable, for any F, that there
should be F without any experience at all. Experience of taste seems to be something extra,
contingently related to the brain state—something produced rather than constituted by the brain state.
So it cannot be identical to the brain state in the way that water is identical to H2O.
I have given only a brief sketch of the territory. A voluminous and intricate literature has grown
up around these problems, but it serves mainly to confirm how intractable they are. The multiple dead
ends in the forward march of materialism suggest that the ?/F dualism introduced at the birth of
modern science may be harder to get out of than many people have imagined. It has even led some
philosophers to eliminative materialism—the suggestion that mental events, like ghosts and Santa
Claus, don’t exist at all.7 But if we don’t regard that as an option and still want to pursue a unified
world picture, I believe we will have to leave materialism behind. Conscious subjects and their mental
lives are inescapable components of reality not describable by the physical sciences.
I suspect that the appearance of contingency in the relation between mind and brain is probably an
illusion, and that it is in fact a necessary but nonconceptual connection, concealed from us by the
inadequacy of our present concepts.8 Major scientific advances often require the creation of new
concepts, postulating unobservable elements of reality that are needed to explain how natural
regularities that initially appear accidental are in fact necessary. The evidence for the existence of
such things is precisely that if they existed, they would explain what is otherwise incomprehensible.
Certainly the mind-body problem is difficult enough that we should be suspicious of attempts to
solve it with the concepts and methods developed to account for very different kinds of things.
Instead, we should expect theoretical progress in this area to require a major conceptual revolution at
least as radical as relativity theory, the introduction of electromagnetic fields into physics—or the
original scientific revolution itself, which, because of its built-in restrictions, can’t result in a “theory
of everything,” but must be seen as a stage on the way to a more general form of understanding. We
ourselves are large-scale, complex instances of something both objectively physical from outside and
subjectively mental from inside. Perhaps the basis for this identity pervades the world.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #338 on: 25/09/2013 21:36:58 »

2
So far I have argued that the physical sciences will not enable us to understand the irreducibly
subjective centers of consciousness that are such a conspicuous part of the world. But the failure of
reductionism in the philosophy of mind has implications that extend beyond the mind-body problem.
Psychophysical reductionism is an essential component of a broader naturalistic program, which
cannot survive without it. This naturalistic program is both metaphysical and scientific. It holds both
that everything in the world is physical and that everything that happens in the world has its most
basic explanation, whether we can come to know it or not, in physical law, as applied to physical
things and events and their constituents.
Many—perhaps most—philosophers of mind are still committed to the reductionist project; they
think of the difficulties I have described merely as problems that need to be solved in carrying it out
successfully. Whoever shares that point of view can regard the argument that follows as a
hypothetical one. Its aim is to show that if psychophysical reductionism is ruled out, this infects our
entire naturalistic understanding of the universe, not only our understanding of consciousness.
Beginning with biology, and seeping down to our conception of the basic constituents of reality, it
makes the currently standard materialist form of naturalism untenable, even as an account of the
physical world, simply because we are parts of that world. I assume this hypothetical conclusion will
be welcome to reductionists, since it shows just how extravagant and costly a position
antireductionism in the philosophy of mind is.
Reductionists believe the way has been cleared for the completeness of the materialist conception
of the world by some form of functional or causal role analysis of the mental, including all the
contents of consciousness. A biological—evolutionary—account of the nature and origin of those
behavioral capacities and functions by reference to which consciousness can be analyzed then
provides the final link with more basic physical science. All this involves a great deal of speculation
and evolutionary guesswork, but the general idea of how consciousness is to be included as part of the
physical world is clear enough. It is included in virtue of the existence of physical organisms capable
of certain kinds of behavioral interaction with the world, which is in turn explained by genetic
variation and natural selection. If there is a problem about how materialism can account for the
coming into existence of such organisms, it has nothing in particular to do with consciousness but is
just the general problem of whether evolutionary theory really does provide the basis for a reduction
of biology to chemistry and physics.
But if the program of analyzing consciousness in terms of behavior and its physical causes is not
viable, another problem arises. Even if consciousness is something that cannot be analyzed in terms of
the purely physical properties of organisms, its appearance still needs to be explained, as part of the
larger project of making sense of the world. Further, any such explanation must account for the fact
that the appearance of consciousness on earth and the different forms it takes are closely dependent on
the evolutionary development of those physical forms of life that have consciousness. We do not
know precisely which forms of life these are, but we can be reasonably sure that they extend far
beyond our species. The evolution of life must be at least part of the explanation of the development
and forms of consciousness.
The problem, then, is this: What kind of explanation of the development of these organisms, even
one that includes evolutionary theory, could account for the appearance of organisms that are not only
physically adapted to the environment but also conscious subjects? In brief, I believe it cannot be a
purely physical explanation. What has to be explained is not just the lacing of organic life with a
tincture of qualia but the coming into existence of subjective individual points of view—a type of
existence logically distinct from anything describable by the physical sciences alone. If evolutionary
theory is a purely physical theory, then it might in principle provide the framework for a physical
explanation of the appearance of behaviorally complex animal organisms with central nervous
systems. But subjective consciousness, if it is not reducible to something physical, would not be part
of this story; it would be left completely unexplained by physical evolution—even if the physical
evolution of such organisms is in fact a causally necessary and sufficient condition for consciousness.
The bare assertion of such a connection is not an acceptable stopping point. It is not an
explanation to say just that the physical process of evolution has resulted in creatures with eyes, ears,
central nervous systems, and so forth, and that it is simply a brute fact of nature that such creatures
are conscious in the familiar ways. Merely to identify a cause is not to provide a significant
explanation, without some understanding of why the cause produces the effect. The claim I want to
defend is that, since the conscious character of these organisms is one of their most important
features, the explanation of the coming into existence of such creatures must include an explanation
of the appearance of consciousness. That cannot be a separate question. An account of their biological
evolution must explain the appearance of conscious organisms as such.
Since a purely materialist explanation cannot do this, the materialist version of evolutionary
theory cannot be the whole truth. Organisms such as ourselves do not just happen to be conscious;
therefore no explanation even of the physical character of those organisms can be adequate which is
not also an explanation of their mental character. In other words, materialism is incomplete even as a
theory of the physical world, since the physical world includes conscious organisms among its most
striking occupants.
This problem depends only on the assumption that even though reductionism is false, mind is a
biological phenomenon. So long as the mental is irreducible to the physical, the appearance of
conscious physical organisms is left unexplained by a naturalistic account of the familiar type. On a
purely materialist understanding of biology, consciousness would have to be regarded as a tremendous
and inexplicable extra brute fact about the world. If it is to be explained in any sense naturalistically,
through the understanding of organic life, something fundamental must be changed in our conception
of the natural order that gave rise to life.
What kind of unified conception of the natural world would allow the explanation of the
development of living organisms also to explain the development of consciousness? Antireductionism
allows us to pose the question, but to answer it requires something more positive. And it cannot
consist (merely!) in a revision of the basic concepts of physics, however radical—as happened with
the introduction of electromagnetic fields or relativistic space-time. If we continue to assume that we
are parts of the physical world and that the evolutionary process that brought us into existence is part
of its history, then something must be added to the physical conception of the natural order that
allows us to explain how it can give rise to organisms that are more than physical. The resources of
physical science are not adequate for this purpose, because those resources were developed to account
for data of a completely different kind.
The appearance of animal consciousness is evidently the result of biological evolution, but this
well-supported empirical fact is not yet an explanation—it does not provide understanding, or enable
us to see why the result was to be expected or how it came about. In this case, unlike that of the
appearance of the physical adaptations characteristic of life, an explanation by natural selection based
on physical fitness to survive is not sufficient. Selection for physical reproductive fitness may have
resulted in the appearance of organisms that are in fact conscious, and that have the observable variety
of different specific kinds of consciousness, but there is no physical explanation of why this is so—
nor any other kind of explanation that we know of.
To make facts of this kind intelligible, a postmaterialist theory would have to offer a unified
explanation of how the physical and the mental characteristics of organisms developed together, and it
would have to do so not just by adding a clause to the effect that the mental comes along with the
physical as a bonus. The need for an illuminating explanation of the mental outcome pushes back to
impose itself on the understanding of the entire process that led to that outcome.
3
I am putting a great deal of weight on the idea of explanation, and the goal of intelligibility at which it
aims—a goal that assumes the fundamental intelligibility of the universe, as discussed in the previous
chapter. Not everything has an explanation in this sense. Some things that seem to call for
explanation, like the deaths in near succession of several close relatives, may just be coincidences,
whose components have unrelated explanations. But systematic features of the natural world are not
coincidences, and I do not believe that we can regard them as brute facts not requiring explanation.
Regularities, patterns, and functional organization call out for explanation—the more so the more
frequent they are. When we become aware of such facts, we conclude that there is something we do
not know—something which, if we did know it, would render the facts intelligible. And I take it for
granted that knowing the immediate cause of some effect does not always make it intelligible—the
causation of consciousness by brain activity being a prime example.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #339 on: 25/09/2013 21:38:08 »

Explanation, unlike causation, is not just of an event, but of an event under a description. An
explanation must show why it was likely that an event of that type occurred. We may know the causes
of the deaths of several members of a family in near succession, but that will not explain why several
members of that family died, as such, unless there is some relation among the causes of the individual
deaths that makes it antecedently likely that they would strike the group—such as a vendetta or a
genetic disease.
Another example: There is a physical explanation of why, when I tap “3,” “+,” “5,” and “ = ” into
my pocket calculator, the figure “8” appears on the display screen. But this causal explanation of the
shape on the screen is not an explanation of why the device produced the right answer. To explain the
result under that description, we must refer to the algorithm governing the calculator, and the
intention of the designer to give it a physical realization.
A naturalistic expansion of evolutionary theory to account for consciousness would not refer to the
intentions of a designer. But if it aspires to explain the appearance of consciousness as such, it would
have to offer some account of why the appearance of conscious organisms, and not merely of
behaviorally complex organisms, was likely.
The explanation by standard evolutionary theory of the purely physical characteristics of
organisms is hard enough even if one disregards consciousness. As I have said earlier, the physical
and functional complexity of the results imposes very demanding conditions on a reductionist
historical explanation. The theory of natural selection, if it is to rely only on the operation of physical
law, has to postulate that there is a purely physical explanation of why it is not unlikely that
accidental mutations in the genetic material have generated the range of variation in viable
phenotypes needed to permit natural selection to produce the evolutionary history that has actually
occurred on earth over the past three billion years.9 Like any historical explanation, it will embody a
great deal of contingency, so the particular history of life will not be explained by evolutionary theory
alone. But the contingencies and their effects have to be consistent with the physical character of the
theory. And to complete the link with physics, the explanation has to suppose that there is a
nonnegligible probability that some sequence of steps, starting from nonliving matter and depending
on purely physical mechanisms, could eventually have resulted in a replicating molecule capable of
all this, embodying a precise code billions of characters long, together with the ribosomes that
translate that code into proteins.10 It is not enough to say, “Something had to happen, so why not
this?” I find the confidence among the scientific establishment that the whole scenario will yield to a
purely chemical explanation hard to understand, except as a manifestation of an axiomatic
commitment to reductive materialism.11
But to explain consciousness, as well as biological complexity, as a consequence of the natural
order adds a whole new dimension of difficulty. I am setting aside outright dualism, which would
abandon the hope for an integrated explanation. Indeed, substance dualism would imply that biology
has no responsibility at all for the existence of minds.12 What interests me is the alternative
hypothesis that biological evolution is responsible for the existence of conscious mental phenomena,
but that since those phenomena are not physically explainable, the usual view of evolution must be
revised. It is not just a physical process.
If that is so, how much would have to be added to the physical story to produce a genuine
explanation of consciousness—one that made the appearance of consciousness, as such, intelligible,
as opposed to merely explaining the appearance of certain physical organisms that, as a matter of fact,
are conscious? It is not enough simply to add to the physical account of evolution the further
observation that different types of animal organisms, depending on their physical constitution, have
different forms of conscious life. That would present the consciousness of animals as a mysterious
side effect of the physical history of evolution, which explains only the physical and functional
character of organisms.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #340 on: 25/09/2013 21:39:16 »

Elliott Sober once suggested to me in that spirit that consciousness might be like the redness of
blood—a side effect of functional biological features that has no function in itself, and no direct
explanation by natural selection. In that case consciousness would be like a giant spandrel, in the
sense of Gould and Lewontin13 (and a very lucky one for us). But clearly this bare identification of a
cause would not be a satisfactory explanation. Without more, it would explain neither why particular
organisms are conscious nor why conscious organisms have come to exist at all.
For a satisfactory explanation of consciousness as such, a general psychophysical theory of
consciousness would have to be woven into the evolutionary story, one which makes intelligible both
(1) why specific organisms have the conscious life they have, and (2) why conscious organisms arose
in the history of life on earth. At this point such a theory is a complete fantasy, but it is still possible
to pose some questions about what it would have to accomplish—in particular about the relation
between parts (1) and (2) of the explanatory task.
Suppose there were a general psychophysical theory that, if we could discover it, would allow us
to understand, for any type of physical organism, why it did or did not have conscious life, and if it
did, why it had the specific type of conscious life that it had. This could be called a nonhistorical
theory of consciousness. It would accomplish task (1). But I believe that even if such a powerful nonhistorical
theory were conjoined with a purely physical theory of how those organisms arose through
evolution, the result would not be an explanation of the appearance of consciousness as such. It would
not accomplish task (2); it would still leave the appearance of consciousness as an accidental and
therefore unexplained concomitant of something else—the genuinely intelligible physical history.
Let me call a conjunctive explanation one in which A explains B and B has as a consequence C.
Sometimes such a conjunction will not amount to an explanation of C as such. Suppose C is “the death
of several members of the same family,” as discussed above. If A gives the independent cause of each
of four deaths, B is the sum of those deaths, and they are in fact members of the same family, then C
is a consequence of B but it is not explained, as such, by A. We can explain why four people died who
are in fact members of the same family without explaining why four members of the same family
died.
Or consider the different conjunctive explanation in the case of the pocket calculator. A is the
physical explanation of what happens when I tap in “3 + 5 =,” which causes B, the display on the
screen of the figure “8.” It is a further fact that this figure is the symbol for the number 8, and the
figures I tapped in are the symbols for a certain sum, so we have the consequence C that the device
produced the right answer for the sum entered. But without more, this is merely an assertion, and not
yet an explanation of why the calculator gave that answer, or the right answer. Without the further fact
that the calculator was designed to embody an arithmetic algorithm and to display its results in Arabic
numerals, the physical explanation alone would leave the arithmetical result completely mysterious. It
would give the cause of the figure that appeared on the screen, but would not explain the number as
such.
The moral seems to be that a conjunctive explanation, going from A to B and B to C, can explain
C only if there is some further, internal relation between the way A explains B and the way B explains
C. In the case of the family, this would be satisfied if the same rare hereditary disease killed all four
people: each of them developed the disease partly because they were members of the same family. In
the case of the calculator, the condition is satisfied since the device has the physical structure and
function it has precisely in order to embody the arithmetic algorithm.
It isn’t enough that C should be the consequence, even the necessary consequence, of B, which is
explained by A. There must be something about A itself that makes C a likely consequence. I believe
that if A is the evolutionary history, B is the appearance of certain organisms, and C is their
consciousness, this means that some kind of psychophysical theory must apply not only
nonhistorically, at the end of the process, but also to the evolutionary process itself. That process
would have to be not only the physical history of the appearance and development of physical
organisms but also a mental history of the appearance and development of conscious beings. And
somehow it would have to be one process, making both aspects of the result intelligible.
If, for example, the explanation of nonreducible conscious life were to preserve the basic structure
of evolutionary theory, it would probably involve the following: (1) At least in later stages,
consciousness per se plays an essential causal role in the survival and reproduction of organisms. (2)
The features of consciousness that play this role are somehow genetically transmitted. (3) The genetic
variation among individuals which supplies the candidates for natural selection, at least after a certain
point, is simultaneously mental and physical variation. (4) Further, and most significant, it seems
unavoidable that these mechanisms should be preceded by others in the earlier stages of evolution that
create the conditions for their possibility.
This would mean abandoning the standard assumption that evolution is driven by exclusively
physical causes. Indeed, it suggests that the explanation may have to be something more than physical
all the way down. The rejection of psychophysical reductionism leaves us with a mystery of the most
basic kind about the natural order—a mystery whose avoidance is one of the primary motives of
reductionism. It is a double mystery: first, about the relation between the physical and the mental in
each individual instance, and second, about how the evolutionary explanation of the development of
physical organisms can be transformed into a psychophysical explanation of how consciousness
developed.
The existence of consciousness is both one of the most familiar and one of the most astounding
things about the world. No conception of the natural order that does not reveal it as something to be
expected can aspire even to the outline of completeness. And if physical science, whatever it may
have to say about the origin of life, leaves us necessarily in the dark about consciousness, that shows
that it cannot provide the basic form of intelligibility for this world. There must be a very different
way in which things as they are make sense, and that includes the way the physical world is, since the
problem cannot be quarantined in the mind.
4
Given this vacancy in our understanding, what kind of explanation does it make sense to imagine? So
far I have considered the possibility of additions or modifications to a standard evolutionary
explanation, but now I want to consider a broader range of options. All one can do is to describe
abstract possibilities, but to begin with, it is clear that any explanation will have two elements: an
ahistorical constitutive account of how certain complex physical systems are also mental, and a
historical account of how such systems arose in the universe from its beginnings. Evidently the
historical account will depend partly on the correct constitutive account, since the latter describes the
outcome that the former has to explain. Let me first discuss the constitutive possibilities.
The constitutive account will be either reductive or emergent. A reductive account will explain the
mental character of complex organisms entirely in terms of the properties of their elementary
constituents, and if we stay with the assumption that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical, this
will mean that the elementary constituents of which we are composed are not merely physical.14 Since
we are composed of the same elements as the rest of the universe, this will have extensive and radical
consequences, to which I will return below.
An emergent account, by contrast, will explain the mental character of complex organisms by
principles specifically linking mental states and processes to the complex physical functioning of
those organisms—to their central nervous systems in particular, in the case of humans and creatures
somewhat like them. The difference from a reductive account is that, while the principles do not
reduce the mental to the physical, the connections they specify between the mental and the physical
are all higher-order. They concern only complex organisms, and do not require any change in the
exclusively physical conception of the elements of which those organisms are composed. An
emergent account of the mental is compatible with a physically reductionist account of the biological
system in which mind emerges.
To qualify as a genuine explanation of the mental, an emergent account must be in some way
systematic. It cannot just say that each mental event or state supervenes on the complex physical state
of the organism in which it occurs. That would be the kind of brute fact that does not constitute an
explanation but rather calls for explanation. But I think we can imagine a higher-order psychophysical
theory that would make the connection cease to seem like a gigantic set of inexplicable correlations
and would instead make it begin to seem intelligible. Physiological psychologists are only beginning
to uncover the systematic dependence of visual experience on events in the visual cortex, for example,
but we can imagine that such explorations will lead to a general theory.
Still, this kind of higher-level theory, however empirically accurate, seems unsatisfactory as a
final answer to the constitutive question. If emergence is the whole truth, it implies that mental states
are present in the organism as a whole, or in its central nervous system, without any grounding in the
elements that constitute the organism, except for the physical character of those elements that permits
them to be arranged in the complex form that, according to the higher-level theory, connects the
physical with the mental. That such purely physical elements, when combined in a certain way, should
necessarily produce a state of the whole that is not constituted out of the properties and relations of
the physical parts still seems like magic even if the higher-order psychophysical dependencies are
quite systematic.
This dissatisfaction with an explanatory stopping place that relates complex structures to complex
structures is what underlies the constant push toward reduction in modern science. It is hard to give up
the assumption that whatever is true of the complex must be explained by what is true of the elements.
That does not mean that new phenomena cannot emerge at higher levels, but the hope is that they can
be analyzed through the character and interactions of their more elementary components. Such
harmless emergence is standardly illustrated by the example of liquidity, which depends on the
interactions of the molecules that compose the liquid. But the emergence of the mental at certain
levels of biological complexity is not like this. According to the emergent position now being
considered, consciousness is something completely new.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #341 on: 25/09/2013 21:40:26 »

Because such emergence, even if systematic, remains fundamentally inexplicable, the ideal of
intelligibility demands that we take seriously the alternative of a reductive answer to the constitutive
question—an answer that accounts for the relation between mind and brain in terms of something
more basic about the natural order. If such an account were possible, it would explain the appearance
of mental life at complex levels of biological organization by means of a general monism according
to which the constituents of the universe have properties that explain not only its physical but its
mental character. Tom Sorell states the point clearly:
Even if the mechanisms that produced biological life, including consciousness, are, at some
level, the same as those that operate in the evolution of the physical universe, it does not
follow that those mechanisms are physical just because physical evolution preceded
biological evolution. Perhaps some transphysical and transmental concept is required to
capture both mechanisms. This conjecture stakes out a territory for something sometimes
called “neutral monism” in addition to dualist, materialist, and idealist positions.15
Sorell is here using “neutral monism” to designate not just a metaphysical position but a type of
systematic explanatory theory distinct from traditional materialism. Considered just metaphysically,
as an answer to the mind-body problem, monism holds that certain physical states of the central
nervous system are also necessarily states of consciousness—their physical description being only a
partial description of them, from the outside, so to speak. Consciousness is in that case not, as in the
emergent account, an effect of the brain processes that are its physical conditions; rather, those brain
processes are in themselves more than physical, and the incompleteness of the physical description of
the world is exemplified by the incompleteness of their purely physical description.
But since conscious organisms are not composed of a special kind of stuff, but can be constructed,
apparently, from any of the matter in the universe, suitably arranged, it follows that this monism will
be universal. Everything, living or not, is constituted from elements having a nature that is both
physical and nonphysical—that is, capable of combining into mental wholes. So this reductive
account can also be described as a form of panpsychism: all the elements of the physical world are
also mental.16 However, the sense in which they are mental is so far exhausted by the claim that they
are such as to provide a reductive account of how their appropriate combinations necessarily
constitute conscious organisms of the kind we are familiar with. Any further consequences of their
more-than-physical character at the microlevel remain unspecified by this abstract proposal.
5
Having described the difference between the two types of answers, emergent and reductive, to the
constitutive question, let me now turn to the historical question, again on the assumption that
psychophysical reductionism is false. The prevailing naturalistic answer to the historical question is
the materialist version of evolutionary theory, supplemented by a speculative chemical account of the
origin of life. The question is: What alternatives to this picture open up if psychophysical
reductionism is rejected?
The historical account of how conscious organisms arose in the universe can take one of three
forms: it will be either causal (appealing only to law-governed efficient causation), or teleological, or
intentional. (1) A causal historical account will hold that the origin of life and its evolution to the
level of conscious organisms has its ultimate explanation in the properties of the elementary
constituents of the universe, which are also the constituents of conscious organisms, together with any
further properties that may emerge as a result of their combination. (If the constitutive account of
consciousness is not emergent but reductive, then the causal historical account will also be fully
reductive.) (2) A teleological account will hold that in addition to the laws governing the behavior of
the elements in every circumstance, there are also principles of self-organization or of the
development of complexity over time that are not explained by those elemental laws. (3) An
intentional account will hold that although the natural order provides the constitutive conditions for
the possibility of conscious organisms, as it provides the conditions for the possibility of jet aircraft,
the realization of this possibility was due to intervention by a being (presumably God) who put the
constitutive elements together in the right way—perhaps by assembling the genetic material that
would result eventually in the evolution of conscious life. Since either a reductive or an emergent
constitutive account could be combined with any of the three types of historical account—causal,
teleological, or intentional—there are six options. Let me say something about causal accounts before
turning to the other possibilities, which depart much more radically from the usual form of scientific
explanation.
A causal historical account could be combined with either an emergent or a reductive constitutive
account. In the first alternative, the historical account would be restricted to purely physical
explanations of the origin and evolution of life until the point at which organisms reached the kind of
complexity that is associated with consciousness. After that, the history would be both a physical and
a mental one, and if the emergent mental element played an independent causal role, and was not
merely epiphenomenal, the causal process would cease to be strictly reductive. But I am interested in
the hypothesis of a physically reductive causal history leading at least to a point at which
psychophysical emergence occurs—perhaps in creatures with a nervous system, perhaps sooner. This
hypothesis would preserve the standard version of physical evolution without change up to the
emergence of consciousness.
Earlier I discussed the question whether a physical account of evolutionary history conjoined with
a nonhistorical psychophysical theory could really explain the appearance of consciousness, and I
concluded that unless there were some further link between the physical history and the
psychophysical theory, this would not render the result intelligible, even if it were causally accurate.
It would present consciousness as a mysterious side effect of biological evolution—inevitable,
perhaps, but inexplicable as such. To explain consciousness, a physical evolutionary history would
have to show why it was likely that organisms of the kind that have consciousness would arise.
That would be possible if the psychophysical theory governing the emergence of consciousness
revealed it to be inseparable from just the kind of physical organization and functioning of animal life
whose development a physical evolutionary history purports to explain through natural selection.17
That would go a long way toward making evolutionary theory an explanation of why conscious life
exists. It would imply that conscious organisms have developed through natural selection precisely in
virtue of the kinds of physical characteristics that systematically give rise to consciousness, according
to the psychophysical theory of emergence. This, then, is one serious option. It has the disadvantage
of postulating the brute fact of emergence, not explainable in terms of anything more basic, and
therefore essentially mysterious. And it relies on the large assumption that a reductive physical theory
could confer sufficient likelihood on the appearance in geological time of the right kind of physical
organisms to trigger that emergence. But it might be regarded as the historical account requiring the
smallest alteration to the prevailing physical form of naturalism, while nevertheless acknowledging
the irreducibility of the mental to the physical.
However, the other type of causal historical account, based on a reductive rather than an emergent
constitutive theory, would in principle explain more. In a different way, it might even be said that the
least radical departure from materialist reductionism would be a monistic reductive conception that is
both constitutive and historical, as physical theory aims to be with respect to the physical world. The
question is whether it makes sense.
A comprehensively reductive conception is favored by the belief that the propensity for the
development of organisms with a subjective point of view must have been there from the beginning,
just as the propensity for the formation of atoms, molecules, galaxies, and organic compounds must
have been there from the beginning, in consequence of the already existing properties of the
fundamental particles. If we imagine an explanation taking the form of an enlarged version of the
natural order, with complex local phenomena formed by composition from universally available basic
elements, it will depend on some kind of monism or panpsychism, rather than laws of psychophysical
emergence that come into operation only late in the game.
However, it is not clear that this kind of reductive explanation could really render the result
intelligible in the way that particle physics or something comparable ostensibly renders the character
and cosmological history of the nonliving material world intelligible. The protopsychic properties of
all matter, on such a view, are postulated solely because they are needed to explain the appearance of
consciousness at high levels of organic complexity. Apart from that nothing is known about them:
they are completely indescribable and have no predictable local effects, in contrast to the physical
properties of electrons and protons, which allow them to be detected individually. So we have no idea
how such a compositional explanation would work. Without something unimaginably more
systematic in the way of a reduction, panpsychism does not provide a new, more basic resting place in
the search for intelligibility—a set of basic principles from which more complex results can be seen
to follow. It offers only the form of an explanation without any content, and therefore doesn’t seem to
be much of an advance on the emergent alternative.
Yet the proposal is not empty. In its schematic, pre-Socratic way, this sort of monism attempts to
recognize the mental as a physically irreducible part of reality while still clinging to the basic form of
understanding that has proved so successful in physical theory. This is not just intellectual imitation;
it is encouraged by the close connection between minds and bodies. Organisms are physical
complexes whose existence and operation seem to call for reductive explanation, and their existence
and operation seem largely or wholly responsible for the existence of consciousness. It therefore
seems natural to try to fold the explanation of consciousness into the same reductive structure.
On the other hand, the idea of reducing the mind to elementary mental events or particles seems
unnatural in a way that physical atomism doesn’t. The space-time framework of the physical world
makes the physical part-whole relation immediately graspable, geometrically, but we have no
comparably clear idea of a part-whole relation for mental reality—no idea how mental states at the
level of organisms could be composed out of the properties of microelements, whether those
properties are similar in type to our experiential states or different. Yet a mentalistic reductionism
would presumably have to find the protomental parts in a monist counterpart of the physical parts of
the organism, and would have to include a theory of how they combine into conscious wholes.
It is even more obscure how properties that would explain how conscious beings are constituted
out of universal elements could also help to explain how conscious beings have arisen, historically, in
virtue of the laws or principles governing the behavior of those elements. If the theory is to be not
only constitutively but historically reductive, then the protomental character of the elements would
have to play a part in the explanation of how life began and evolved even before the appearance of
animal organisms
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #342 on: 25/09/2013 21:41:51 »
.
It is already a natural part of the monist conception that the protomental features of the basic
constituents are not merely passive but are necessarily also active, since this is needed to explain the
inseparability of active and passive in the consciousness of ordinary animals. Just as phenomenology
and behavior are internally connected in the mental life of organisms, something analogous must be
true at the micro level, if monism is correct. So the protomental will have behavioral implications.
Furthermore, if a universal monism is correct, it would mean that these psychophysical connections
are unbreakable: one cannot have the mental without the physical aspect, or vice versa.18
But this doesn’t help us to imagine a monist alternative to the materialist history of the origin and
evolution of life, prior to the appearance of conscious organisms. Once conscious organisms appear
on the scene, we can see how it would go. For example, a reductive monism would imply that certain
structures necessarily have visual experience, in a sense that inextricably combines phenomenology
and capacities for discrimination in the control of action, and that there are no possible structures
capable of the same control without the phenomenology. If such structures appeared on the
evolutionary menu, they would presumably enhance the fitness of the resulting organisms. In that way
the protomental would play a truly explanatory, and not merely epiphenomenal, role in biological
evolution.
But that would not explain why such structures formed in the first place. Even if the possibility of
a visual system is somehow already implied by the properties of the basic elements, how can a
nonmaterialist monism help to explain its appearance in actuality, over geological time? How could
the same active principles that account for action and perception in a fully formed organism also
account for the original formation of organisms and the generation of viable mutations over
evolutionary history? These questions are analogous to those that can be posed with respect to a
purely materialistic reductive evolutionary theory, and they seem just as hard for a nonmaterialist
theory.
There will be the same problems about explaining the origin of life and the availability of a
sufficient supply of viable mutations for natural selection to work on—sufficient to account for the
appearance of (now conscious) life as we know it. The kind of monism or panpsychism that would be
needed to provide a non-emergent solution to the constitutive problem will not make these historical
questions any easier. Chemistry is assumed to play this double role in the standard materialist
explanation of both the living operation and the evolutionary history of physical organisms, including
the origin of life. That is already highly speculative, but a hypothetical monism that has expanded to
encompass the mind is far more speculative, since it says only that there is more to the basic
substance of the world than can be captured by physics and chemistry. The object is to recast the
explanation of the evolution of animal organisms so that it explains not only their physical character
but also their consciousness and its character and functioning. But even if we conclude that the basis
of mind must be present in every part of the universe, that offers no hint of how the monistic
properties that underlie consciousness in living organisms lead first to the origin of life and
eventually to the appearance of conscious systems on the menu of mutations available for natural
selection.
Our beliefs about the properties of the physical elements and their constituents are based on what
is needed to account for their contemporary observable behavior and interaction and the results of
their combination into molecules and larger structures. The materialist form of naturalism assumes
that the history of the universe since the big bang, including the origin and evolution of life, can be
explained by those same properties. This is a very large assumption, and an analogous assumption
would have to underlie the historical hypothesis of a reductive monism, if it too is based on properties
of the elements needed to answer the constitutive question in a way that includes consciousness as a
physically irreducible feature of certain organisms. Why should those properties make the appearance
of such organisms, starting from inorganic matter, at all likely?
The idea of a reductive answer to both the constitutive and the historical questions remains very
dark indeed. It seeks a deeper and more cosmically unified explanation of consciousness than an
emergent theory, but at the cost of greater obscurity, and it offers no evident advantage with respect to
the historical problem of likelihood.
6
Let me comment more briefly on the intentional and teleological alternatives, whose attractions are
enhanced by the difficulties facing a causal account. Either answer to the constitutive question can be
combined with an intentional answer to the historical question. Suppose, for example, the constitutive
truth is reductive. Then if theistic explanations are possible at all, God might have carried out his
purpose of creating conscious beings either by assembling them out of elements with protopsychic
properties or by creating a universe with the appropriate highly specific initial conditions to give rise
to conscious beings through chemical and then biological evolution, entirely by nonteleological laws
of interaction among the elements. Purpose would in that case serve only as the outer frame for a
reductive system of efficient causation. For theists, this remains an option.
But if we are trying to imagine a secular theory, according to which the historical development of
conscious life is fully explained not by intervention but as part of the natural order, there seem to be
only two alternatives: either this development itself depends entirely on efficient causation, operating
in its later stages through the mechanisms of biological evolution, or there are natural teleological
laws governing the development of organization over time, in addition to laws of the familiar kind
governing the behavior of the elements.
This is a throwback to the Aristotelian conception of nature, banished from the scene at the birth
of modern science.19 But I have been persuaded that the idea of teleological laws is coherent, and
quite different from the idea of explanation by the intentions of a purposive being who produces the
means to his ends by choice. In spite of the exclusion of teleology from contemporary science, it
certainly shouldn’t be ruled out a priori. Formally, the possibility of principles of change over time
tending toward certain types of outcomes is coherent, in a world in which the nonteleological laws are
not fully deterministic.20 But it is essential, if teleology is to form part of a revised natural order, that
its laws should be genuinely universal and not just the description of a single goal-seeking process.
Since we are acquainted with only one instance of the appearance and evolution of life, we lack a
basis for bringing it under universal teleological laws, unless teleological principles can be found
operating consistently at much lower levels. But there would have to be such laws for teleology to
genuinely explain anything.
Admittedly, the idea of teleological explanation is often associated with the further idea that the
outcomes have value, so that it is not arbitrary that those particular teleological principles hold. That
in turn poses the question whether an explanation that appeals to value can be understood apart from
the purposes of some being who aims at it. Nonpurposive teleology would either have to be value-free
or would have to say that the value of certain outcomes can itself explain why the laws hold.21 In
either case, natural teleology would mean that the universe is rationally governed in more than one
way—not only through the universal quantitative laws of physics that underlie efficient causation but
also through principles which imply that things happen because they are on a path that leads toward
certain outcomes—notably, the existence of living, and ultimately of conscious, organisms.
The teleological option is in many ways obscure. I will have more to say about it later. The
reductive causal alternative is equally obscure, but if it made sense, it would have the attraction of
greater unity than the teleological, for it would mean not only that the elements of which the natural
world consists have properties that result in conscious organisms when suitably combined, but that
those same properties render it not unlikely that such combinations would actually form by some
gradual process in the course of cosmological history, given the time available. The constitutive and
the historical questions would then be answered by reference to a common set of principles.
7
So far I have posed the problem by emphasizing the irreducibility of conscious experience to the
physical. But I have alluded to the fact that human consciousness is not merely passive but is
permeated, both in action and in cognition, with intentionality, the capacity of the mind to represent
the world and its own aims. It may be more controversial to claim that intentionality cannot be
realized in a purely physical universe than that consciousness cannot be. However, if, as I believe,
intentionality, thought, and action resist psychophysical reduction and can exist only in the lives of
beings that are also capable of consciousness, then they too form part of what a larger explanation of
the mental must account for. This subject will be taken up in the following chapters. I believe that the
role of consciousness in the survival of organisms is inseparable from intentionality: inseparable from
perception, belief, desire, and action, and finally from reason. The generation of the entire mental
structure would have to be explained by basic principles, if it is recognized as part of the natural
order.
Philosophy cannot generate such explanations; it can only point out the gaping lack of them, and
the obstacles to constructing them out of presently available materials. But in contrast to classical
dualism, I suggest that we should not renounce the aim of finding an integrated naturalistic
explanation of a new kind. Such a theory cannot be approached directly. It would require many stages,
over a long period of time, beginning with greatly expanded empirical information about regularities
in the relation between conscious states and brain states in ourselves and closely related organisms.
Only later could reductive hypotheses be formulated on this evidential base. But I believe that it
makes sense to pursue not only neurophysiological but evolutionary research with a certain utopian
long-term goal in mind. We should seek a form of understanding that enables us to see ourselves and
other conscious organisms as specific expressions simultaneously of the physical and the mental
character of the universe. One might object that life is hard enough to understand considered purely as
a physical phenomenon, and that the mind can wait. But adding the requirement that any theory of life
also has to explain the development of consciousness may not make the problem worse. Perhaps, on
the contrary, the added features of the natural order needed to account for mind will in the end
contribute to the explanation of life as well. The more a theory has to explain, the more powerful it
has to be.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #343 on: 25/09/2013 22:04:55 »
It's an unreliable indicator of the reliability of an unreliable system, which is actually less unreliable than the indicator.
OIC - yes; sorry, I'm a bit slow today...

Quote
I think DonQ is actually female. When accused of talking improbable nonsense my mum used to say "I just know". 
It's a lovely thought!  (not) :)

That was , by the way ,a disgusting sexist statement  uttered by that guy .
I am no female though , even though i do have a feminine side to me as  well...
We all have male and female sides,both the "Martians and the Venitians " have  , including the women "Venitians " thus
« Last Edit: 25/09/2013 22:06:38 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #344 on: 25/09/2013 22:29:16 »
[/thread]
Cause of death - suffocation...
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #345 on: 25/09/2013 22:53:08 »
[/thread]
Cause of death - suffocation...

Are you hallucinating ? This thread is still alive and kicking ,it just needed some fresh air to make you ,folks, see  your silly denials, reductionist brainwash ...lack of understanding of what science proper is that cannot be confused with reductionism .... see some replies of mine to yours above as well .
Can't you handle all that ?
Need some more fresh air ?

« Last Edit: 25/09/2013 23:03:55 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline Skyli

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #346 on: 26/09/2013 01:34:27 »
As far as Nagel himself is concerned, people who throw spears at things they don't understand worry me, whether they admit their ignorance or not. As far as his idea is concerned, his admission was certainly honest.

A process that caused a photo-tropic behaviour in a bacteria would, with a bit of trial and error and some recording, become a photo-receptor on a worm some time later. Simple statistics. Recordings get changed – DNA gets corrupted – and useful changes survive. From there to an eye and, with an eye, a centralisation of nerves to handle additional sensory info. From there to a brain requires no more than chemistry and statistics. Bigger, more powerful brains become a survival factor. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that one of the many species of “brainy” animals would live in groups, possess opposable thumbs, well developed sensory apparatus and a sophisticated social structure to handle all that brain power – still just statistics. In a social order of brainy apes, where order is pretty much dictated by the biggest chap and his cronies – it is logical that a sense of “knowing your place” would develop; without it you'd be quickly dead or exiled. That leads, statistically, to personal identity. If a process is good enough to go from a photo-tropic bug to an eye and the optic centre behind it, then it can certainly go from “knowing your place” to what you call consciousness.  If it isn't broke don't fix it.

Having had so much thrust upon me I'll give him credit for a reasonable style of writing, but this “science can't explain” argument smacks of aliens in Peru – and that was a better read.

God is irrelevant to science. God is not relevant to science. If you insist on a distinction, then both statements are true; God has no place in science. Science must explain “where we live” and it must do that by itself – “on the evidence of its own eyes”. If there is no evidence of a phenomenon then science must ignore it; that is what science is.

Other disciplines consider other aspects of our existence rather than “where we live”– Theology, Psychology, Art – but these are not within the realm of science. I have no idea what the future holds.

Everything you've said indicates that you object to the idea that God has no place in science although you are trying to portray this as a blunt “science is wrong!” argument. Your dedication to this blunt argument is very telling; you refuse to accept the evidence of your own eyes - the "explaining" that science has already done. I thought you were merely having difficulty distinguishing between a method and an ideology, now I see it runs deeper; you seem to think science is all there is or, worse, you seem to think that scientists think that science is all there is. I am certainly not the only member of this discussion who disproves that! Do you find the basis of science somehow “blasphemous”? The idea that God has no place in science?

I'm quite happy to replace science with reductionism anywhere in this post; the meaning would be the same, considering your arguments.
« Last Edit: 26/09/2013 01:40:19 by Skyli »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #347 on: 26/09/2013 01:53:16 »
As far as Nagel himself is concerned, people who throw spears at things they don't understand worry me, whether they admit their ignorance or not. As far as his idea is concerned, his admission was certainly honest.

A process that caused a photo-tropic behaviour in a bacteria would, with a bit of trial and error and some recording, become a photo-receptor on a worm some time later. Simple statistics. Recordings get changed – DNA gets corrupted – and useful changes survive. From there to an eye and, with an eye, a centralisation of nerves to handle additional sensory info. From there to a brain requires no more than chemistry and statistics. Bigger, more powerful brains become a survival factor. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that one of the many species of “brainy” animals would live in groups, possess opposable thumbs, well developed sensory apparatus and a sophisticated social structure to handle all that brain power – still just statistics. In a social order of brainy apes, where order is pretty much dictated by the biggest chap and his cronies – it is logical that a sense of “knowing your place” would develop; without it you'd be quickly dead or exiled. That leads, statistically, to personal identity. If a process is good enough to go from a photo-tropic bug to an eye and the optic centre behind it, then it can certainly go from “knowing your place” to what you call consciousness.  If it isn't broke don't fix it.

Having had so much thrust upon me I'll give him credit for a reasonable style of writing, but this “science can't explain” argument smacks of aliens in Peru – and that was a better read.

God is irrelevant to science. God is not relevant to science. If you insist on a distinction, then both statements are true; God has no place in science. Science must explain “where we live” and it must do that by itself – “on the evidence of its own eyes”. If there is no evidence of a phenomenon then science must ignore it; that is what science is.

Other disciplines consider other aspects of our existence rather than “where we live”– Theology, Psychology, Art – but these are not within the realm of science. I have no idea what the future holds.

Everything you've said indicates that you object to the idea that God has no place in science although you are trying to portray this as a blunt “science is wrong!” argument. Your dedication to this blunt argument is very telling; you refuse to accept the evidence of your own eyes - the "explaining" that science has already done. I thought you were merely having difficulty distinguishing between a method and an ideology, now I see it runs deeper; you seem to think science is all there is or, worse, you seem to think that scientists think that science is all there is. I am certainly not the only member of this discussion who disproves that! Do you find the basis of science somehow “blasphemous”? The idea that God has no place in science?

I'm quite happy to replace science with reductionism anywhere in this post; the meaning would be the same, considering your arguments.


What , on earth , are you talking about ?
Amazing ........No further comment .
 

Offline Skyli

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #348 on: 26/09/2013 02:11:39 »
Yes, I should have said very blunt argument.

I assume the brevity of your answer indicates that you have realised this.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #349 on: 26/09/2013 02:19:21 »
Yes, I should have said very blunt argument.

I assume the brevity of your answer indicates that you have realised this.

Realised what exactly ?
Seriously : what are you talking about ?
 

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #349 on: 26/09/2013 02:19:21 »

 

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