Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ben Schuldt replies to me on behalf of Carrier

Here. He also replies to Darek Barefoot here.

45 comments:

Zach said...

I was expecting it to be horrible, but it isn't bad. We do need to be careful of fallacy of composition, especially common among people on the street.

At the end he says "Reppert needs to...answer how the evidence would be any different if physicalism were true."

If physicalism were true we would already have a good theory of consciousness on offer, as good as our present scientific accounts of drosophila development or whale evolution. We would not expect a bunch of hand-waving and promises that science will figure it out.

Matt DeStefano said...

If physicalism were true we would already have a good theory of consciousness on offer, as good as our present scientific accounts of drosophila development or whale evolution. We would not expect a bunch of hand-waving and promises that science will figure it out.

This doesn't follow. Why should we expect a fully developed (or 'good theory' - whatever that means) account of consciousness given the relatively recent birth of neuroscience?


ingx24 said...

If physicalism were true we would expect brain scans to be able to reveal everything about a person's mental state without any need for translation or correlation. But instead the opposite is true.

Zach said...

Matt: we would expect at least the contours of a theory that could in principle work. They haven't even got that, not even a speculative account, just promises that the future will bring the rewards. Instead, the more we learn about brains, the greater the gap becomes, the stronger the case for dualism.

Zach said...

The naturalists expect consciousness to fit comfortably into the puzzle being assembled by the natural sciences. Unfortunately for them, the more we learn about nature, the more it becomes clear that consciousness is a piece of the puzzle that simply doesn't fit. This is not something that is improving over time as we learn more about brains. The lack of fit becomes even more clear. And ultimately, isn't that important to science? How well do our models fit the data? Well, here is one datum, consciousness, that sticks out like a disheveled whore at a Christening.

But I do like the original article by Ben Schuldt.

Victor Reppert said...

I wouldn't expect a theory of consciousness to be fully developed at this stage. But I would expect it to start closing the initially apparent gap between conscious and non-conscious reality. That, I don't see.

Physical facts seem to me to be the wrong type of facts to entail intentional facts. I remember getting into a discussion on Debunking Christianity where someone mentioned that the brain has trillions of connections. I said "why would even a billion connections entail anything about conscious states," and the person replied, that, no, there are trillions of them. But why does the number matter so much. It's like saying two wrongs don't make a right, but if you put enough of them together, they do make a right.

ozero91 said...

One thing I don't understand is why people point to computers and say "ha, problem solved." Computers and robots are brought up multiple times in the response. It's not that humans are special; it is genuine thought itself that is special, regardless of whether it comes from an animal, a robot, or a rock. So even if there is some freak accident in a computer lab and a self aware computer is created that has intrinsic intentionality, it would be question begging to claim that all aspects of thought a purely physical.

mattghg said...

If physicalism were true, reasoning would be impossible, and we (reasoners) wouldn't be around to know it. Isn't that what you think, Victor...

ozero91 said...

“Maybe Bill Gates can recognize Windows Vista in any abstract physical incarnation it takes, but most of the rest of us would be scratching our heads at how in the world all those zillions of lines of code miraculously translate into our desktop experience. It suffices to say that AfR advocates have all the wrong expectations of what physicalism should entail if they ever got their minds on it.”

Except that instance isn’t a miracle. OF COURSE a computer programmer would be able to “translate” the lines of code. The code was made by computer programmers in the first place, and thus already has derived intentionality. The only reason why “all those zillions of lines of code miraculously translate into our desktop experience” is because we (human programmers) say they do. We are the reason why a bunch of 0’s and 1’s translates to “display green pixels here.” Atoms aren’t a programming language. They could be, but only if we impart them with intentionality like we did with 0’s and 1’s.

“I'm assuming Vallicella is conceding that computer processing is at least thinking in some less than serious sense? Regardless, intentionality is goal-related processing and behavior and we have robots with limited goal-oriented behavior. A debate on "original intentionality" necessarily takes us into a creation and evolution debate.”

Intentionality is not merely “goal-directed behavior.” I don’t think it makes sense to say that “+” which has derived intentionality, is displaying “goal-directed behavior” towards “addition.”
As for the original intentionality debate, Feser has critiqued two of the more popular naturalist theories of intentionality/meaning.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/08/dretske-on-meaning.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/putnam-on-causation-intentionality-and.html

ozero91 said...

To clarify:

"The only reason why “all those zillions of lines of code miraculously translate into our desktop experience” is because we (human programmers) say they do."

By we, I mean "we as a species"

Matt DeStefano said...

Matt: we would expect at least the contours of a theory that could in principle work. They haven't even got that, not even a speculative account, just promises that the future will bring the rewards. Instead, the more we learn about brains, the greater the gap becomes, the stronger the case for dualism.

What would it mean for there to be "countours of a theory that could [in principle] work"? What do you want a theory of consciousness to tell us?

Matt DeStefano said...

I wouldn't expect a theory of consciousness to be fully developed at this stage. But I would expect it to start closing the initially apparent gap between conscious and non-conscious reality. That, I don't see.

What kind of answers would close this gap? I often find that those who press the "hard" problem don't have any sort of idea what type of answers could possibly answer the question.

I'm sympathetic to Dennett's response to this type of incredulity: "This imaginary vitalist just doesn't see how the solution to all the easy problems amounts to a solution to the imagined hard problem. Somehow this vitalist has got under the impression that being alive is something over and above all these subsidiary component phenomena. I don't know what we can do about such a person beyond just patiently saying: your exercise in imagination has misfired; you can't imagine what you say you can, and just saying you can doesn't cut any ice."




William said...

One issue with computer simulations of the brain such as the big ones getting funding this year is that they assume that human brain function can be simulated independently of human cellular function.

We don't even have a working complete simulation of even one cell of the human brain. What if brain function cannot be abstracted from cell function as much as the simulations assume?

Martin said...

Matt,

>I'm sympathetic to Dennett's response to this type of incredulity

I think Feser would probably say that it has nothing to do with incredulity, but rather with the lack of teleology in the mechanistic worldview. If there is no final causality, then there is no intentionality. If intentionality is derived, then whatever it is deriving it from must itself be a case of intentionality and you go to infinite regress. If the bottom layer doesn't have intentionality, then it can't pass intentionality forward (or up), and so nothing else will have intentionality either. If it can pass intentionality forward/up, then it is itself an example of goal-directedness.

Feser even summarizes this argument:

If materialism is true, then (given that it is committed to a mechanistic conception of the material world), there are no final causes, and thus nothing that inherently “points to” or is “directed at” anything beyond itself; and in that case, there can be no such thing as intentionality; but there is such a thing as intentionality; therefore materialism is not true.

ingx24 said...

I really have my doubts that an Aristotelian conception of nature can make qualia and intentionality "material". Being directed toward a certain goal (as in final causes) is not the same thing as being "about" something in the way that our thoughts are "about" things (i.e. having intrinsic content). I'm even more doubtful about the qualia problem - Feser makes it seem like qualia can be completely accounted for in Aristotelian material terms, but all an Aristotelian conception of nature can account for is the nature of our perceptual experience (since A-T sees colors, smells, etc. as intrinsic to the external world). An Aristotelian conception of nature still cannot account for the fact that we have any experiences at all, including the experience of our own thoughts and emotions. Aristotle seems to have just left it as a brute fact that certain form-matter composites are conscious.

I may be completely misunderstanding A-T theory here, but this is my impression of it.

ozero91 said...

It's not that "we can't imagine it so therefore it can't be true."

It more so has to do with reminding the materialist what their explanatory limits are.

ozero91 said...

Also, this is relevant:

"My main interest is negative: in showing that materialism doesn't work. Please don't respond by saying that some other theory (substance dualism, say) doesn't work either. For the issue is precisely: Does materialism work? If theory T1 is explanatorily inadequate, its deficiencies cannot be made good by pointing out that T2 is also inadequate. This is an invalid argument: "Every alternative to materialism is inadequate; therefore we should embrace materialism despite its inadequacies." Wouldn't it be more reasonable under those circumstances to embrace no theory?"

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/the-irreducibility-of-intentionality.html

Papalinton said...

Meanwhile, the science behind A.I. and robotics quietly goes about its business sorting out the functional aspects of thought processing, algorithmising it, and turning it into behaviour that is slowly changing the face of our understanding of what constitutes consciousness.

All done through the front door of physicalism and naturalism. The speed, the finesse, the accuracy and the delicacy [some of the signifiers of qualia, in anyone's language] of intelligent robotics has simply outstripped human performance, even at this most basic level. The brain is a purely derived product of the environment, as far as we can tell, an agglomeration of spare parts that improved its efficiency over time, still with heaps of imperfections, shortcomings and the like. Science has been able to take bits of brain activity and turn them into discrete functional devices, systems and structures, [calculators, computers, software, tools, machinery [robotics]] that simply have improved on the natural human abilities and capabilities.

What this has demonstrated so clearly is that if parts of brain function can be replicated in this modular fashion, it is clear that each element of the brain that these sequestered functions represent, are themselves modules that have been evolutionarily added to the brain mass in order to improve survivability of the organism. And when we look at the brain, it is indeed modular in structure, areas for fight and flight decisions, language, consciousness of self, sexuality; hearing, sight, and olfactory processing, people and face recognition, memory storage, etc etc; they are all geographically discrete in different modules in the brain, with single, or multiple areas working in conjunction/combination with each other to form and perform other brain and mind functions.

Aristotelian metaphysicians and Aquinas-bots need not apply. Attempting to shoehorn A-T philosophy into this equation simply beggars belief [pardon the pun]. Even as we speak, each time we comment we are requested to perform a little task to identify that we are not a bot. A hundred years ago, all this internetting and WWW stuff would have been unthinkable and unimaginable. Given what we have already achieved and where we currently are on the road to understanding consciousness, who of the Thomists here are assured that in another 100 years they will be able to distinguish imputed intelligence from natural intelligence, and that the emergent neuronal property of consciousness will not be a part of that intelligence? We have celebrated the sesquicentenary of Darwin's and Wallace's discoveries, before which the only narrative of the origin of humanity was Adam and Eve, which has been subsequently relegated to metaphor and allegory. Brain activity, the mind and consciousness is pretty much right now at a similar point in our transition from the A-T trope to neuroscientifically-informed philosophical understanding.

In many cases it is emblematic of the 'Rite de Passage' of humanity as we grow and mature as a species.


ingx24 said...

Martin: Wrong link?

Martin said...

Papalinton,

Sorry, wrong link.

See here.

Zach said...

Matt: a theory of consciousness should explain why a bit of neural tissue is conscious. The complete lack of even a crazy hare-brained such theory is very telling. Even when given a free pass to go beyond the data, to just use his imagination and speculate about how it might work, the naturalist greets us with silence.

It isn't a matter of naturalists needing to dot i's and cross t's: the problem is that they don't even have the right alphabet to work with. They are insisting on playing checkers when the problem in front of them is a chess problem. They aren't even in a commensurate ball park.

Note I never mentioned Chalmers or the hard problem. No need. Dennett is not the best ally, as he effectively denies C's existence from the outset, thereby proving my point.

Papalinton cute bluster, but explain to me how brains are conscious again? I think I missed that part of your leaky faucet.

Papalinton said...

Zach
"Papalinton cute bluster, but explain to me how brains are conscious again? I think I missed that part of your leaky faucet."

I know it is difficult to concentrate when one is in supernatural orbit but please try and remain attentive. I have drawn theists to the latest info on a number of occasions. Please see HERE

In part it reads, "In fact, major progress is being made both experimentally and theoretically in unraveling the mysteries of consciousness."

Have a read of some of the work of the researchers that are mentioned in the article, Zach. Read this very short piece from Damasio, a neuroscientist based at USC, LA.

Or listen to this short 13min podcast with Professor Koch of Pasadena. In part, the blurp reads,

"Computer design is moving ahead at enormous speed. Christof Koch suggests before too long, computers will be built that have a degree of consciousness. He says there is little difference between a neuron passing an electrical signal and a circuit firing on a chip. Computers can recognise faces, play chess and perform in television quiz shows such as Jeopardy. Koch says if enough resources are deployed, computers could even interpret poetry."

So before theists continue to prattle about the ineffability of consciousness, perhaps they ought to define what it is that they believe 'consciousness' entails.

Cale B.T. said...

Matt DeStefano, are you the same Matt DeStefano from the foreword to "Homework Helpers: Geometry"?

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>So before theists continue to prattle about the ineffability of consciousness, perhaps they ought to define what it is that they believe 'consciousness' entails.

I think you missed my link, above.

Papalinton said...

Yes Martin, I saw it. But in terms of philsophy 'aboutness' is largely synonymous with 'intentionality'. Read HERE

Intentionality is a perception concept, very much in the camp of teleology, or as the more assertive would characterize it, rampant agency detection, which is an element of our genetic survival mechanism.

There is little about 'aboutness' that translates into or is relevant to the notion of consciousness. Hutchins [See HERE] notes that the term 'aboutness' is " .. used to allow the indexer a differentiated approach to the complex task of analysis."

If anything, 'aboutness' is not some amorphous experience of some external 'other' worldliness, but rather simply a reflection of a state of consciousness. Occam's razor comes to mind [pardon the pun] here.

Papalinton said...

One of the most recent reviews into consciousness research is outlined HERE.

Well worth the read for all interested in learning.

Zach said...

So Papa you can cite others who give promises about the future, but cannot explain to us how a bit of neural tissue is conscious? You appeal to the authority of links. The new God of the naturalist--links to other naturalists. Where does the buck stop?

Explain it for us please: not just reassurances, platitudes, and links, but substantive evidence. How is it that a chunk of brain is conscious?

Daniel Anderson said...

I would be more curious to see an explanation for why consciousness would be expected from purely physical and Darwinian causes. This is a difficulty Thomas Nagel points out in his new book Mind and Cosmos.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

The problem with your "aboutness" argument, as I see it, is that there is a subtle equivocation involved.

The philosophical term "aboutness" is defined in non-material terms. By definition, it does not apply to material objects, but only as some kind of conceptual attribute of thoughts. So we can accept that physical things in general don't have this attribute of "aboutness".

But in your argument, you immediately start using the term "about", claiming that it can't apply to physical things. "About" is not the same as "aboutness". I previously described in a physical sense how information (which is physical) is in fact "about" something, but I did not refute that is has this "aboutness" attribute. What your argument does is equivocate between those terms, and then conclude that thoughts cannot be material.

A book can indeed be "about" something, even though it lacks this ethereal "aboutness" attribite. When I read a book, I must first go through the physical process of transferring information from the book to my brain, including what the book is about. Only then (if you insist) can I attach some sort of immaterial "aboutness" to the book.

It would seem reasonable to conclude, then, that aboutness, if it exists at all, is dependent on physical information.

ozero91 said...

"A book can indeed be "about" something, even though it lacks this ethereal "aboutness" attribite. When I read a book, I must first go through the physical process of transferring information from the book to my brain, including what the book is about. Only then (if you insist) can I attach some sort of immaterial "aboutness" to the book."

The aboutness of the information in the book is only derived or secondary. In other words, it has no REAL aboutness. Just like 1's and 0'2 have no real aboutness. Any sort of "aboutness" that they do have is only by virtue of minds who impart them with meaning.

I think Martin was referring to whether or not the material things are intrinsically meaningful.

ozero91 said...

Should be:

"Just like 1's and 0's have no real aboutness."

im-skeptical said...

ozero91

So you can say that thoughts have meaning as one of their attributes or properties. But it is still wrong to say that there is no physical information, and that information can't be about something, in a completely different sense than "aboutness". That's what I'm trying to get across.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>A book can indeed be "about" something, even though it lacks this ethereal "aboutness" attribite.

I address this in the Powerpoint. A book contains ink markings. Those ink markings are only about things because we say they are. Otherwise, they are not about anything.

ozero91 said...

Im-skeptical,

You are aware of the difference between derived intentionality and intrinsic intentionality, right?

Papalinton said...

Zach
'You appeal to the authority of links."

No. I'm pointing you to where you could be catching up on the latest data. It's called learning. Rather than spoon feed you I am encouraging you look beyond theo-philosophical obscurantism in search of answers to science investigation. Reading Nagel, or Feser does not constitute prime sources of evidence going back to first principles. Nor does such reading meet even the minimum standard for secondary sources of evidence. It is hear-say at best, open to a myriad of interpretations, as philosophers are want to do, particularly those that elect to remain scientifically uninformed. No better example can be offered than the long history of apologetical interpretative exegesis of christian mythicism, under which hearsay upon hearsay constitutes 'evidence' within theo-philosophical circles. {Remember, to this day, we do not know the sources of the Gospels, nor who their authors were, nor anything about them; nor for which communities they were written, nor their time, nor their region of origin.] What is defined as 'evidence' for the christian mythos is speculative hearsay at best, pretty much in keeping with its truth claims of substantive immateriality [pardon the irony]. Indeed the only conclusion we can come to on the veracity of the Gospels is their, "aboutness".

" ... not just reassurances, platitudes, and links, but substantive evidence."

No can do. Not because substantive evidence is lacking, but rather your definition of what constitutes 'substantive evidence' is contingent upon a supernatural form of immateriality, and predicated on the foundation of hearsay as outlined above, such that you are rendered oblivious to forms of evidence that are conventionally understood as prima facie.

As Robert Ingersoll so adroitly noted all those years ago:

"Every fact is an enemy of the church. Every fact is a heretic. Every demonstration is an infidel. Everything that ever really happened testifies against the supernatural'.

Come on, Zach. You must lift your face from the nose-bag of supernaturalism, and smell the roses. :o)

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

You keep making the assumption that rejection of materialism can only be motivated by Christianity. Why? I don't subscribe to religious belief, yet I am a dualist. And the reason is because materialism just flies in the face of everything that I experience every day. I have a direct awareness of my mental life as something different from, and more than, mindless electrical impulses and chemical reactions. And no amount of scientific "evidence" (read: biased materialistic interpretations of actual evidence) can convince me that all of my thoughts, emotions, memories, imaginings, etc. are all just random chemical reactions inside my skull. My awareness of my own mind and self is the most certain thing I know - I may be hallucinating the entire external world, and it may be nothing like what I see it as if it does exist, but I cannot be mistaken about the existence and contents of my own mind.

Materialism is a hopelessly incoherent, nihilistic, and dehumanizing philosophy. And if materialism is the only alternative to religion that most people see (which it shouldn't be - an atheist could easily be a Platonic dualist or a "naturalistic" property dualist like David Chalmers), then maybe we do still need religious belief for the masses - even if it turns out to be false.

Zach said...

Papa retreats to nothing. I ask for evidence, and he refuses to even engage. Took a page from the book of Loftus. Bark and bark, and then when someone engages, run away with tail between legs.

Note I haven't said one thing about Feser or God in this thread. Dualism isn't theism.

Papalinton said...

ingx24
"You keep making the assumption that rejection of materialism can only be motivated by Christianity. Why? I don't subscribe to religious belief, yet I am a dualist. And the reason is because materialism just flies in the face of everything that I experience every day. I have a direct awareness of my mental life as something different from, and more than, mindless electrical impulses and chemical reactions. And no amount of scientific "evidence" (read: biased materialistic interpretations of actual evidence) can convince me that all of my thoughts, emotions, memories, imaginings, etc. are all just random chemical reactions inside my skull."

That is called, the Argument from Personal Incredulity. It is determined by what Psychology 101 generally defines as ego-centrism, or in the more fashionable notion of being 'the centre of the world'. Can be read about HERE.

In part it notes:

"Egocentrism is characterized by preoccupation with one's own internal world. Egocentrics regard themselves and their own opinions or interests as being the most important or valid. Self-relevant information is seen to be more important in shaping one’s judgments than do thoughts about others and other-relevant information (Windschitl, Rose, Stalkfleet & Smith, 2008). Egocentric people are unable to fully understand or to cope with other people's opinions and the fact that reality can be different from what they are ready to accept."

You are not yet ready to accept that "everything that I [you] experience every day", may not indeed be the fact that reality is different from what you are ready to accept.
"Dualism has its written origins with Plato and Aristotle; however, it is central to most religious thought." Wiki.
Subscribing to a form of indeterminate dualism is a concession to a supernaturalism of sorts or some element of ineffability from which this aspect of immaterialism is by definition precluded from investigation or falsifiability. Such a proposition is as jejune as those that cling so resolutely to ancient theo-philosophical postulates. Clearly such proponents are not yet near enough intellectually ready for, let alone equipped to assimilate and acculturate scientific evidence as part of their informed worldview.

Therein lies the essence of the dysfunctional nature of the 'inner witness of the holey spirit' for the theists among you and the nature of cognitive dissonance that pervades the misplaced perception of dualism. Remember dualism is an ancient concept largely perpetuated in the works of philosophers that lived within the predominantly contained-world of christian theism, the only significant referent for thinkers of that period. You might want to read up on the history of 'dualism' HERE.



Papalinton said...

"Note I haven't said one thing about Feser or God in this thread. Dualism isn't theism."

Just the kind of response so common among god-botherers who are quicker than the speed of light to ditch their woo-meistering, knowing and understanding that holding such views are anathema to rational thought, and then proceeds to lie for jeebus, 'dualism isn't theism'.

Ignorance is truly a blessing for the blessed lame-brained. Read this little piece as a start to your eduction. It is peppered through and through with theology.

Zach said...

Papalinton--the evangalist of effusive evasive atheists everywhere. Come in with a breath of fire, but never, I repeat never, offer anything of substance. Never answer a question directly. Just cherry-pick links from the ever-reliable internet, because that is the best way to argue.

lol Duly noted that Papalinton is a useless pile of carbon. Maybe you do not have a mind, Papalinton, in which case your theories would apply to you alone. The evidence is mounting.

Papalinton said...

Zach
"lol Duly noted that Papalinton is a useless pile of carbon."

There you go again, going against all that you believe is fact. Your religion tells everyone I cannot be just a useless pile of carbon, because I have been made in the image of god AND I have been ensouled by the Big Man hisself since conception. So Zach, you just can't go around jumping the fence into naturalism whenever you feel like it, and use a materialist descriptor. You see, I know from evidence you are a useless pile of carbon but your religion tells you I am one of god's divine creatures that is just rebellious and refuses to acknowledge god; but that I am one of God's creatures with a sole and can never be just a 'useless pile of carbon. Such a reality-check description goes against the very central tenets of christian truth claims..

What this informs me with such clarity is that your christian worldview simply has no intellectual rigour or quantum of knowledge in its armoury that allows you to characterize me as you really and emotionally feel. That is why your only recourse is to resort to the truth of naturalism, 'useless pile of carbon'.

But then the veracity of your belief system is as real as the immateriality of your worldview.

ingx24 said...

There you go again, going against all that you believe is fact.

He's not going against it - he believes it for most people. He was saying (probably not 100% seriously) that maybe for YOU specifically, materialism is true (i.e. you specifically are just a useless pile of carbon without a real mind, while everyone else is not).

Zach said...

If Papa didn't get the joke, then he is truly without mentality.

Papalinton said...

"
If Papa didn't get the joke, ....."


Many a true word said in jest.

Actually, Zach, I feel quite some remorse for having responded to you in the manner I did. And in hindsight I wish I hadn't. It was off-the-handle spite. You are a good person as is ingx24. It contributed little to the conversation and I retract the personal slights unconditionally. I'm sorry about that.

We simply have a difference in how we make sense of the world. Not really earth-shattering in that respect. People have been at odds since time immemorial. I'm just happy we don't see a reason to kill each other for our different perspectives

Zach said...

I agree, and enjoy the give-and-take.