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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12


Michael Allen

Paranormal Adept
I also appreciate MAs postings but can’t make heads or tails of them.

I’d be curious @Michael Allen if there were a contemporary philosopher of mind who shares a similar approach to the mbp as you. You’ve reference the work of Metzinger a few times as well as Dennett. Do their approaches to the mbp parallel your own?

Or do you feel that your conception ofand/or approach to the mbp is novel and unique?

Sometimes sharing the work of established thinkers that parallels your own can be helpful.

Dennett for me helped "turn the entire study upside-down"--my favorite quote

"A scholar is a library's way of creating another library." -> i.e. expanding notions after kicking down the Cartesian theatre (or circus).

Metzinger's "Ego Tunnel" and "Being No-one" helped dispel other myths...I cannot enumerate them all here but I can say that I am intrigued with his method of study by examining where the phenomenal self-model breaks down.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
I also appreciate MAs postings but can’t make heads or tails of them.

I’d be curious @Michael Allen if there were a contemporary philosopher of mind who shares a similar approach to the mbp as you. You’ve reference the work of Metzinger a few times as well as Dennett. Do their approaches to the mbp parallel your own?

Or do you feel that your conception of and/or approach to the mbp is novel and unique?

Sometimes sharing the work of established thinkers that parallels your own can be helpful.
@Soupie, I think it's likely that you will appreciate Metzinger's approach. As you've seen, MA replied to your post as follows:

Dennett for me helped "turn the entire study upside-down"--my favorite quote

"A scholar is a library's way of creating another library." -> i.e. expanding notions after kicking down the Cartesian theatre (or circus).

Metzinger's "Ego Tunnel" and "Being No-one" helped dispel other myths...I cannot enumerate them all here but I can say that I am intrigued with his method of study by examining where the phenomenal self-model breaks down.

Today I sought summaries of Metzinger's theories in wikipedia but there's not a lot there. I did follow one of the links to his papers provided at wiki, to this one -- "Out-of-Body Experiences as the Origin of the Concept of a 'Soul'". The title of the paper is misleading, but the paper itself is interesting, for me since I've had a spontaneous OBE, and also, I think, for you since it exemplifies Metzinger's 'information-processing' and 'modular' concepts concerning 'consciousness'. Here's an extract -- but the whole paper should be read -- and the link follows.


". . . It is not at all inconceivable that there are physically or emotionally stressful situations, in which an information-processing system is forced to introduce a “representational division of labor” by distributing different representational functions into two or more distinct self-models (in what was previously called “multiple personality disorder”, see Metzinger 2003a, section 7.2.4). The OBE may be an instance of transient functional modularization, of a purposeful separation of levels of representational content in the PSM.

For instance, if cut off from somatosensory input, or if flooded with stressful signals and information threatening the overall integrity of the self-model as such, it may be advantageous to integrate the ongoing conscious representation of higher cognitive functions like attention, conceptual thought and volitional selection processes into a separate model of the self. This may allow for a high degree of integrated processing, that is, for “mental clarity,” by functionally encapsulating and thereby modularizing different functions like proprioception or attention and cognition in order to preserve at least some of these functions in a life-threatening situation. Almost all necessary system-related information is still globally available, and higher-order processes like attention and cognition can still operate on it as it is presented in an integrated manner. But its distribution across specific subregions in phenomenal space as a whole has now dramatically changed. Only one of the two self-models is truly “situated” in the overall scene, integrated into an internally simulated behavioral space. Only one of them is immediately embodied and virtually self-present in the sense described. As it is fully transparent, it is a full-blown phenomenal self instantiating the phenomenal property of selfhood for the system. Frequently, both self-models integrated within a single OBE are constituted by spatial as well as non-spatial mental content. . . ."

http://www.minmat.de/resources/pdf/metzinger.pdf
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
Interlude:

The starting point of the panpsychist is that physical science doesn’t actually tell us what matter is. That sounds like a bizarre claim at first; you read a physics textbook, you seem to learn all kinds of incredible things about the nature of space, time and matter. But what philosophers of science have realized is that physical science, for all its richness, is confined to telling us about the behavior of matter, what it does. Physics tells us, for example, that matter has mass and charge. These properties are completely defined in terms of behavior, things like attraction, repulsion, resistance to acceleration. Physics tells us absolutely nothing about what philosophers like to call the intrinsic nature of matter: what matter is, in and of itself.

So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole. Consciousness, for the panpsychist, is the intrinsic nature of matter. There’s just matter, on this view, nothing supernatural or spiritual. But matter can be described from two perspectives. Physical science describes matter “from the outside,” in terms of its behavior. But matter “from the inside”—i.e., in terms of its intrinsic nature—is constituted of forms of consciousness.

What this offers us is a beautifully simple, elegant way of integrating consciousness into our scientific worldview, of marrying what we know about ourselves from the inside and what science tells us about matter from the outside.”

❤
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
... So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole. Consciousness, for the panpsychist, is the intrinsic nature of matter ..
Everybody wants to put their pet concept at the center of all things. Churches put God at the center. Cosmologists put the Big Bang at the center. Pagans put nature itself at the center. I think I like their view best.

 
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Soupie

Paranormal Adept
Everybody wants to put their pet concept at the center of all things. Churches put God at the center. Cosmologists put the Big Bang at the center. Pagans put nature itself at the center. I think I like their view best.
What do you mean?

Goff is making the intrinsic nature argument which is the argument that has me so captivated. However it has been my understanding that this is slightly different than how panpsychism is typically conceived. See Strawson’s Real Materialism.

re intrinsic and extrinsic nature’s. This gets real tricky, real quick. I don’t think we can say the target substrate has actual intrinsic and extrinsic nature’s. It only seems so due to the nature of human perception, ie its inferential nature. I would love to discuss this in more depth. This relates to the notion of primary and secondary qualities I believe as well.

finally this certainly doesn’t answer all the questions re consciousness/mind. An election may have rudimentary experience, but it certainly doesn’t posses a world and self model in the way that humans and some other organisms do.

finally we are still faced with the combination problem.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
What do you mean?

Goff is making the intrinsic nature argument which is the argument that has me so captivated. However it has been my understanding that this is slightly different than how panpsychism is typically conceived. See Strawson’s Real Materialism.
Let's also look again at Chalmers's "Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism" paper:

http://amherstlecture.org/chalmers2013/chalmers2013_ALP.pdf


re intrinsic and extrinsic nature’s. This gets real tricky, real quick. I don’t think we can say the target substrate has actual intrinsic and extrinsic nature’s. It only seems so due to the nature of human perception, ie its inferential nature. I would love to discuss this in more depth.
I hope you will do so. And can you link a paper or two clarifying how your sources define 'intrinsic nature' and 'extrinsic nature'? Apologies if you already did this earlier and I missed it.

finally this certainly doesn’t answer all the questions re consciousness/mind. An election [electron?] may have rudimentary experience, but it certainly doesn’t posses a world and self model in the way that humans and some other organisms do. . . . finally we are still faced with the combination problem.
Agreed.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
What do you mean?
To clarify: You made the statement: "So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole." So the panpsychist proposes panpsychism. The church proposes God. The cosmologist proposes The Big Bang. But whatever the case, they're all hole fillers created by those within a particular paradigm who have a fascination for explaining existence.

This is fine, but none of those beliefs or theories can provide an explanation. At best they can only provide a description. As conscious beings we already have a pretty good description of consciousness, including descriptions about how new conscious beings like ourselves are formed. What we don't have is an explanation for the phenomena associated with the events described. Things just happen according to the rules of nature.

Perhaps I only see it this way because I have no particular paradigm that describes what is responsible for existence other than nature. Maybe some being floating in a chair in the clouds is responsible, or particles do have minds. But personally I don't buy into either of those ideas. They seem too limited. We still end-up asking forbidden questions that lead to an infinite regression ( turtles all the way down ). Why turtles? Anyone?
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
To clarify: You made the statement: "So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole." So the panpsychist proposes panpsychism. The church proposes God. The cosmologist proposes The Big Bang. But whatever the case, they're all hole fillers created by those within a particular paradigm who have a fascination for explaining existence.

This is fine, but none of those beliefs or theories can provide an explanation. At best they can only provide a description. As conscious beings we already have a pretty good description of consciousness, including descriptions about how new conscious beings like ourselves are formed. What we don't have is an explanation for the phenomena associated with the events described. Things just happen according to the rules of nature.

Perhaps I only see it this way because I have no particular paradigm that describes what is responsible for existence other than nature. Maybe some being floating in a chair in the clouds is responsible, or particles do have minds. But personally I don't buy into either of those ideas. They seem too limited. We still end-up asking forbidden questions that lead to an infinite regression ( turtles all the way down ). Why turtles? Anyone?
Actually, the text you refer to was a quote of Goff’s taken from the article @Michael Allen posted. Those were not my words. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. (However, since you “liked” @Michael Allen ’s post, I would have assumed you had read the article.)

Interestingly, whether one believes that the intrinsic nature of matter is indeed what we recognize as the phenomenal aspect of consciousness, we are still faced with the fact that we don’t anything about the intrinsic nature of matter. In other, we don’t know anything about matter outside of our human representations of it.
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
To clarify: You made the statement: "So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole." So the panpsychist proposes panpsychism. The church proposes God. The cosmologist proposes The Big Bang. But whatever the case, they're all hole fillers created by those within a particular paradigm who have a fascination for explaining existence.

This is fine, but none of those beliefs or theories can provide an explanation. At best they can only provide a description. As conscious beings we already have a pretty good description of consciousness, including descriptions about how new conscious beings like ourselves are formed. What we don't have is an explanation for the phenomena associated with the events described. Things just happen according to the rules of nature.

Perhaps I only see it this way because I have no particular paradigm that describes what is responsible for existence other than nature. Maybe some being floating in a chair in the clouds is responsible, or particles do have minds. But personally I don't buy into either of those ideas. They seem too limited. We still end-up asking forbidden questions that lead to an infinite regression ( turtles all the way down ). Why turtles? Anyone?
There is nothing about panpsychism that is “unnatural.” Indeed, as Goff notes, linking the intrinsic nature of matter with the phenomenal aspect of consciousness would unite physics, biology, and psychology elegantly and succinctly.
As @Michael Allen and many others have noted, that would require one to set aside their assumptions, intuitions, and biases re matter.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
To clarify: You made the statement: "So it turns out that there is a huge hole in our scientific story. The proposal of the panpsychist is to put consciousness in that hole." So the panpsychist proposes panpsychism. The church proposes God. The cosmologist proposes The Big Bang. But whatever the case, they're all hole fillers created by those within a particular paradigm who have a fascination for explaining existence.

This is fine, but none of those beliefs or theories can provide an explanation. At best they can only provide a description. As conscious beings we already have a pretty good description of consciousness, including descriptions about how new conscious beings like ourselves are formed. What we don't have is an explanation for the phenomena associated with the events described. Things just happen according to the rules of nature.

Perhaps I only see it this way because I have no particular paradigm that describes what is responsible for existence other than nature. Maybe some being floating in a chair in the clouds is responsible, or particles do have minds. But personally I don't buy into either of those ideas. They seem too limited. We still end-up asking forbidden questions that lead to an infinite regression ( turtles all the way down ). Why turtles? Anyone?
I think you'd like Antonio Damasio's latest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, which I'm just beginning to read now. It's a good antidote to beginning with abstractions, presuppositions, and theory-laden thinking in general. Generous samples from the text and twenty or so excellent reviews are available at this amazon page:

The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures: Antonio Damasio: 9780345807144: Amazon.com: Books

A sample of reviewer comments:

“A radical revision of how we understand mind, feeling, consciousness, and the construction of cultures…. Damasio draws a visionary link between biology and social science in a fascinating investigation of homeostasis—the delicate balance that underpins our physical existence, ensures our survival, and defines our flourishing. At the heart of his inquiry is his lifelong interest in the nature of human affect—why we feel what we feel, how we use emotions to construct selfhood, what makes our intentions and our feelings so frequently contradictory, how the body and the mind conspire in the inception of emotional reality. What emerges is not an arsenal of certitudes and answers but a celebration of curiosity and a reminder that intelligent, informed speculation is how we expand the territory of knowledge by moving the boundary of the knowable further into the unknown.” Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

“Almost a quarter century after Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio has done it again—created a grand exploration of the inextricable relationship between mind, body, and the source of human feelings. Along the way, Damasio takes the reader on an adventure that starts with the single-celled organisms that existed billions of years ago, proceeds through the development of nervous systems and brains, and culminates with the origin of consciousness and human cultures. Thought-provoking and highly original, this book can change the way you look at yourself, and your species.” —Leonard Mlodinow, author of Subliminal

The Strange Order of Things is a foundational book. It provides the concepts, the language, and the knowledge to explain in an integrated framework the interplay between Nature and Culture at the heart of the human condition. Damasio unveils the codes and protocols that make humans human. After a long period of fragmentation of science, he ushers in a paradigm that reunites scientific knowledge, beyond the diversity of its fields of inquiry, around the study of the networks of the mind in communication with the networks of its biological and social existence. This is the beginning of a new scientific revolution.” —Manuel Castells, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
Maybe some being floating in a chair in the clouds is responsible, or particles do have minds. But personally I don't buy into either of those ideas.
Nobody is suggesting that particles have minds. Again, did you read the article? Straw men arguments will hold no weight here.

Reject panpsychism based on intuition or preconceived notions of matter, but don’t suppose to dismiss it based on false claims.

Re particles having “minds.” Goff articulates it well methinks:

“Human beings have a very rich and complex experience; horses less so; mice less so again. As we move to simpler and simpler forms of life, we find simpler and simpler forms of experience. Perhaps, at some point, the light switches off, and consciousness disappears. But it’s at least coherent to suppose that this continuum of consciousness fading while never quite turning off carries on into inorganic matter, with fundamental particles having almost unimaginably simple forms of experience to reflect their incredibly simple nature. That’s what panpsychists believe.”
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Let's also look again at Chalmers's "Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism" paper: http://amherstlecture.org/chalmers2013/chalmers2013_ALP.pdf
I hope you will do so. And can you link a paper or two clarifying how your sources define 'intrinsic nature' and 'extrinsic nature'? Apologies if you already did this earlier and I missed it.
Thanks for the link to the PDF. I like Chalmers. However papers that analyze views through a narrow magnified lens tend to fall apart when their scope is widened. In this paper, I find the point of contention to be the initial premise, specifically the definition he uses for dualism. In the end, the problems there cause the rest of the argument to fall apart.

For example Dualism need not be strictly defined as mental versus physical. It can also be defined as subjective versus objective. Ultimately there's nothing preventing the existence of both mental and non-mental states within a physicalist model, just as there can be solids and non-solids. Who made it a requirement that there must be only one phenomena in nature?
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Nobody is suggesting that particles have minds. Again, did you read the article? Straw men arguments will hold no weight here.
Of course. I only said that to make the point that I could be wrong. No response to the turtle question?
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
There is nothing about panpsychism that is “unnatural.” Indeed, as Goff notes, linking the intrinsic nature of matter with the phenomenal aspect of consciousness would unite physics, biology, and psychology elegantly and succinctly.
As @Michael Allen and many others have noted, that would require one to set aside their assumptions, intuitions, and biases re matter.
Always critically important to set aside our assumptions, and it's important to realize that the failure to do so is particularly prominent in dominant 'physicalist' assumptions in neuroscience and 'philosophy' following those approaches, an antidote to which you can find in the most recent of Damasio's books, linked above, as well as in his previous books.

Still looking for a clarification of the terms 'intrinsic nature' and 'extrinsic nature' to inspire discussion.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Thanks for the link to the PDF. I like Chalmers. However papers that analyze views through a narrow magnified lens tend to fall apart when their scope is widened. In this paper, I find the point of contention to be the initial premise, specifically the definition he uses for dualism. In the end, the problems there cause the rest of the argument to fall apart.

For example Dualism need not be strictly defined as mental versus physical. It can also be defined as subjective versus objective. Ultimately there's nothing preventing the existence of both mental and non-mental states within a physicalist model, just as there can be solids and non-solids. Who made it a requirement that there must be only one phenomena in nature?
I wanted to bring that paper into discussions at the outset because of the usefulness and needfulness of C's concept of 'panprotopsychism'. Otherwise I see your points (except I am in need of a demonstration of "the existence of both mental and non-mental states within a physicalist model." Not saying that can't be demonstrated, only that I haven't seen it done persuasively so far.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I think you'd like Antonio Damasio's latest book, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, which I'm just beginning to read now. It's a good antidote to beginning with abstractions, presuppositions, and theory-laden thinking in general. Generous samples from the text and twenty or so excellent reviews are available at this amazon page:
The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures: Antonio Damasio: 9780345807144: Amazon.com: Books
Interesting. I'm guessing that the theory of mind or consciousness that comes out of it will be in the weak emergence category. Let us know how that pans out.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Nobody is suggesting that particles have minds. Again, did you read the article? Straw men arguments will hold no weight here.

Reject panpsychism based on intuition or preconceived notions of matter, but don’t suppose to dismiss it based on false claims.

Re particles having “minds.” Goff articulates it well methinks:

“Human beings have a very rich and complex experience; horses less so; mice less so again. As we move to simpler and simpler forms of life, we find simpler and simpler forms of experience. Perhaps, at some point, the light switches off, and consciousness disappears. But it’s at least coherent to suppose that this continuum of consciousness fading while never quite turning off carries on into inorganic matter, with fundamental particles having almost unimaginably simple forms of experience to reflect their incredibly simple nature. That’s what panpsychists believe.”
Re particles having “minds.” Goff articulates it well methinks:

“Human beings have a very rich and complex experience; horses less so; mice less so again. As we move to simpler and simpler forms of life, we find simpler and simpler forms of experience. Perhaps, at some point, the light switches off, and consciousness disappears. But it’s at least coherent to suppose that this continuum of consciousness fading while never quite turning off carries on into inorganic matter, with fundamental particles having almost unimaginably simple forms of experience to reflect their incredibly simple nature. That’s what panpsychists believe.”

One of Damasio's subtitles in the first chapter of his newest book is relevant: "Foreshadowing Minds and Feelings Is Not the Same as Generating Minds and Feelings."

{Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to find out why. :)}
 


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