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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12


smcder

Paranormal Adept
You may very well be right about the Meta-Problem Research Program being used as a pitch for funding. I'm not sure about it being of no merit. That question seems more political than philosophical ( to me ).
That's a good question for Chalmers when he comes on the show.
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
The meta program is about getting finance for research. It’s not actually a program of real merit: There is a problem about whether there is a problem about the problem of conscious. But feel free to argue for it here
If Chalmers comes on, there should be a thread for questions and I think he should be asked about this. I assume there is public money involved? If so, we should all be concerned about such allegations. Have you contacted anyone on this?
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
If Chalmers comes on, there should be a thread for questions and I think he should be asked about this. I assume there is public money involved? If so, we should all be concerned about such allegations. Have you contacted anyone on this?
There is nothing wrong with pitching for money. Behaviourism, then cognitive science, then... “what do we want to discuss and finance for the next 20 years?” ... “How about whether the problem is a problem?” illusionism?! Wake me up when it’s all over
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
One of my favorites sources on stuff:


The definition of illusionism and the final sentence are worth the (inexpensive) price of admission.
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept

Constance

Paranormal Adept
NIcholas Humphrey (English neuro-scientist) on the meta-problem, a bit trickier:

Thanks for finding and linking this excellent paper, Steve.

Re differences of positions here re Chalmers's Meta-Problem of Consciousness (of course we differ), I think his proposal is sound -- that we need to study the range of our species' own grappling with problems of/related to consciousness far into the past in order to recognize the general developing sense of being conscious and resulting ontological questions to be answered in order to account for what kind of place one's consciousness occupies, within and slightly apart from the environing worlds we experience.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
There is nothing wrong with pitching for money. Behaviourism, then cognitive science, then... “what do we want to discuss and finance for the next 20 years?” ... “How about whether the problem is a problem?” illusionism?! Wake me up when it’s all over
Me too. I share your impatience with that and other devices piled into Consciousness Studies at a popular level by people unwilling or unable to recognize the reality of their own consciousnesses. I like this statement by Humphries in the paper Steve linked:

"When Fodor wrote ‘Nobody has the slightest idea what consciousness is,’ he probably believed, as many do, that consciousness could not be what he knew perfectly well it was, because something with such properties would not be theoretically permissible. But he misread the situation. As properties of how you feel about what’s happening to you, phenomenal properties are just as permissible as the mind will permit."
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Here's Chalmers' paper on the meta-problem:

Thanks also for providing this paper. I'm reading it now and already on the second page have an objection to raise in this paragraph:

"The hard problem of explaining phenomenal consciousness is one of the most puzzling in all of science and philosophy, and at the present time there are no solutions that command any sort of consensus. The hard problem contrasts with the easy problems of explaining various objective behavioural or cognitive functions such as learning, memory, perceptual integration, and verbal report."

As I see it, none of those four 'easy' problems are actually easy. I remember twice in the past linking here a paper by E.J. Lowe entitled "There are no easy problems of consciousness," which I'll link again here for further consideration:

https://antimatters2.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/2-1-73-80.pdf

In the present paper by Chalmers he continues:

". . . The easy problems are easy because we have a standard paradigm for explaining them. To explain a function, we just need to find an appropriate neural or computational mechanism that performs that function. We know how to do this at least in principle. In practice, the cognitive sciences have been making steady progress on the easy problems. On this analysis, the hard problem is hard because explaining consciousness requires more than explaining objective behavioural or cognitive functions. Even after we have explained all the objective functions that we like, there may still remain a further question: why is all this functioning accompanied by conscious experience? When a system is set up to perform those functions, from the objective point of view, why is there something it is like to be the system, from the subjective point of view? Because of this further question, the standard methods in the cognitive sciences have difficulty in gaining purchase on the hard problem."

Let's look again at the four problems Chalmers considers to be easy, leaning on what seems to be his inherent faith that "objective behavioral or cognitive functions" are fully penetrated by models of "appropriate neural or computations mechanism that perform these functions." The question is whether these models actually are deeply explanatory of what is learned and why; what is remembered and why; how and why we integrate our perceptions and our thoughts about them; and how and why we develop our languages to the extent we do in order to adequately 'report' on what we experience.

All of these questions, and others, need to be answered before we can feel confident that our understanding of consciousness is comprehensive, complete, and valid.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Agree with this from Chalmers's Meta-Problem paper:

"As a first approximation, I will work under the assumption that these intuitions are widely shared, or at least that they have a widely shared basis. This is an empirically defeasible assumption, and I would be delighted to see empirical research (including cross-cultural, developmental, and historical research) that tests it.10 Human intuitions and reports about the mind are plausibly produced by a combination of near-universal factors (e.g. mental states and introspective mechanisms that most humans share) and more variable factors (e.g. cultural, linguistic, and theoretical background, and other factors that vary with historical period and individual psychology). Variable factors will yield a great deal of variation in reports and intuitions, and may sometimes overwhelm the contribution of more universal factors. Still, my working assumption is that there are also near-universal factors that play a central underlying role in explaining problem intuitions where they are present.

Even if the assumption is false, the more limited task of explaining the intuitions in people who have them (presumably in terms of variable factors) will still be of considerable interest. For example, it will still be crucial for illusionists to explain those intuitions, in order to make the case that they are illusory. Solving the meta-problem will remain an important project either way.

1.2. What counts as an explanation?11 . . . ."
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
One of my favorites sources on stuff:


The definition of illusionism and the final sentence are worth the (inexpensive) price of admission.
Here's that final sentence, embedded in the last paragraph at consciousentities.com:

"I won’t attempt to summarise the whole of Chalmers’ discussion, which is detailed and illuminating; although I think he is doomed to disappointment, the project he proposes might well yield good new insights; it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."

That's true isn't it? And what an interesting discussion it might lead to here. What else could we expect to have taken place in the history of human philosophical speculation by members of our species? In itself, this history discloses two core aspects of consciousness: its open-endedness and our perennial existential condition as 'thrown' into the 'worlds' in which our species has found itself existing historically and also prehistorically. These differences in what has been thought, and indeed what could be thought, in different historical epochs call for an anthropological investigation. The most stunning recognition for me has been that ontological thinking began deep in our prehistory, as studies of symbols appearing in ancient rock art and cave art around the planet have revealed in our time, their significance supplemented by the long history of burial practices developed by our forebears. In our time, dominated by a reductive materialist/physicalist paradigm, we devise ontologies from imagination [another fundamental element of consciousness] applied within the sociological context of our currently dominant technological aptitudes and ambitions. One such thinker, with whom I engaged 15 years ago in a now-defunct forum, blew off the humans who engaged in prehistoric ontological thinking as "sheep-shaggers."
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
Here's that final sentence, embedded in the last paragraph at consciousentities.com:

"I won’t attempt to summarise the whole of Chalmers’ discussion, which is detailed and illuminating; although I think he is doomed to disappointment, the project he proposes might well yield good new insights; it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."

That's true isn't it? And what an interesting discussion it might lead to here. What else could we expect to have taken place in the history of human philosophical speculation by members of our species? In itself, this history discloses two core aspects of consciousness: its open-endedness and our perennial existential condition as 'thrown' into the 'worlds' in which our species has found itself existing historically and also prehistorically. These differences in what has been thought, and indeed what could be thought, in different historical epochs call for an anthropological investigation. The most stunning recognition for me has been that ontological thinking began deep in our prehistory, as studies of symbols appearing in ancient rock art and cave art around the planet have revealed in our time, their significance supplemented by the long history of burial practices developed by our forebears. In our time, dominated by a reductive materialist/physicalist paradigm, we devise ontologies from imagination [another fundamental element of consciousness] applied within the sociological context of our currently dominant technological aptitudes and ambitions. One such thinker, with whom I engaged 15 years ago in a now-defunt forum, blew off the humans who engaged in prehistoric ontological thinking as "sheep-shaggers."
Being from Arkansas...I can assure him that such practices aren't confined to prehistory ... :)
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
... it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."
While that may be the case ( maybe some examples would help ), once it is realized that a position cannot be true, would it not be better to upgrade the position and carry on? After all, a true position can be equally or more "fecund" as a false one, the only difference is that starting with a sound premise is more likely to yield more accurate results, while starting with a false premise is generally a bad idea. So I really doubt that "often been the case" can be reasonably substantiated with respect to the fecundity of false positions.

fe·cund: adjective

1. fertile: capable of producing much vegetation or many offspring (formal)
2. highly productive: capable of producing many different works or works that are highly imaginative

Encarta® World English Dictionary

Fertile vegetation or offspring can consist of weeds and pests, and being highly imaginative doesn't make something true. So if we don't mind the weeds, pests, and highly imaginative nonsense in our philosophical garden, then by all means, let's start with a highly imaginative nonsensical position: There is, at the bottom of the sea, an invisible octopus like creature, that is responsible for conjuring up all that exists. It's many arms stretch out into the universe, controlling each and every atom ...
🐙
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
While that may be the case ( maybe some examples would help ), once it is realized that a position cannot be true, would it not be better to upgrade the position and carry on? After all, a true position can also be equally or more "fecund" as a false one, the only difference is that starting with a sound premise is more likely to yield more accurate results, while starting with a false premise is generally a bad idea. So I really doubt that "often been the case" can be reasonably substantiated with respect to the fecundity of false positions.
I think the author might not be absolutely literal here ... I doubt he really thinks he could prove this, but as examples I thought of "squaring the circle" and other ideas of early geometry which were quasi-philosophical and religious but which drove the development of mathematics through an emphasis on symmetry and beauty.

To return to being literal:

"I won’t attempt to summarise the whole of Chalmers’ discussion, which is detailed and illuminating; although I think he is doomed to disappointment, the project he proposes might well yield good new insights; it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."

I didn't read the author to say that he knew Chalmers to be doomed to disappointment - so it wouldn't be the case here that "it is realized that a position cannot be true".

And

"After all, a true position can also be equally or more "fecund" as a false one" also seems to be an empirical question, perhaps there is an absolute truth whether true or false positions are more fecund ... but it also could be one which would be forever arguable as one could make various claims about what came from what idea. Again, I don't think the author expected to be taken literally.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I think the author might not be absolutely literal here ... I doubt he really thinks he could prove this, but as examples I thought of "squaring the circle" and other ideas of early geometry which were quasi-philosophical and religious but which drove the development of mathematics through an emphasis on symmetry and beauty.

To return to being literal:

"I won’t attempt to summarise the whole of Chalmers’ discussion, which is detailed and illuminating; although I think he is doomed to disappointment, the project he proposes might well yield good new insights; it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."

I didn't read the author to say that he knew Chalmers to be doomed to disappointment - so it wouldn't be the case here that "it is realized that a position cannot be true".

And

"After all, a true position can also be equally or more "fecund" as a false one" also seems to be an empirical question, perhaps there is an absolute truth whether true or false positions are more fecund ... but it also could be one which would be forever arguable as one could make various claims about what came from what idea. Again, I don't think the author expected to be taken literally.
I found it an interesting idea to ponder ( briefly ). I think we can get some value from it either as a literal or figurative statement. It reminds me of the idea that we tend to learn more by discovering we are wrong than by assuming we're always correct. Once we have established the truth about something, that's the end of it.

Discovering we are wrong opens up new possibilities to explore. I try to hold a fairly high bar in this regard, so it's the highlight of my day when someone proves me wrong. That's probably why I like to argue ( intellectually ) in a friendly way. It's also what seems to get me into trouble, because most people don't see being challenged or proven wrong as having done them any favor ( sadly ).
 
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smcder

Paranormal Adept
Here's that final sentence, embedded in the last paragraph at consciousentities.com:

"I won’t attempt to summarise the whole of Chalmers’ discussion, which is detailed and illuminating; although I think he is doomed to disappointment, the project he proposes might well yield good new insights; it’s often been the case that false philosophical positions were more fecund than true ones."

That's true isn't it? And what an interesting discussion it might lead to here. What else could we expect to have taken place in the history of human philosophical speculation by members of our species? In itself, this history discloses two core aspects of consciousness: its open-endedness and our perennial existential condition as 'thrown' into the 'worlds' in which our species has found itself existing historically and also prehistorically. These differences in what has been thought, and indeed what could be thought, in different historical epochs call for an anthropological investigation. The most stunning recognition for me has been that ontological thinking began deep in our prehistory, as studies of symbols appearing in ancient rock art and cave art around the planet have revealed in our time, their significance supplemented by the long history of burial practices developed by our forebears. In our time, dominated by a reductive materialist/physicalist paradigm, we devise ontologies from imagination [another fundamental element of consciousness] applied within the sociological context of our currently dominant technological aptitudes and ambitions. One such thinker, with whom I engaged 15 years ago in a now-defunt forum, blew off the humans who engaged in prehistoric ontological thinking as "sheep-shaggers."
Your post made me think of Ian McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary and the emotional qualities of the left hemisphere being primarily anger and an often unwarranted optimism - both to be modulated by the right hemisphere which he argues has lost control in modern history. I think of it as the assumption that progress has a direction instead of that progress is always progress for some.
 


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