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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13

smcder

Paranormal Adept
All I know is that if one attends any of the literally thousands of Husserlian lodges spread nearly ubiquitously across the world, one had better be prepared to properly identify oneself as a phenomenologist or else face an immediate and rigorous phenomenological reduction.

This video shows you what you need to know.

 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Are you a devotee of Husserl's phenomenology, or are you simply interested in it from an academic perspective? If it is the former, then you might understand it from your own perspective, but if so, cannot explain it to anyone else, because the phenomenological reduction required isn't something that can be imparted by explaining to someone else.

If it is the latter ( from an academic perspective ), then for the same reason as above, the academic perspective cannot impart any meaning for the student. The only alternative is to deny that phenomenological reduction is required to understand Husserl's phenomenology, in which case you'd be compromising the core principle of Husserl's phenomenology, thus making it no longer applicable to the question.

Husserl's phenomenology appears les and less to be philosophy and more and more to be theology. In fact you might find this quite interesting:
It seems to me you're just being silly now, Randall. But what concerns me more is the level of outrage and the degree of lather you can build up about a philosopher about whom you yet know nothing.

You asked why I'm posting links to Zahavi's clear expositions of the complexity of Husserl's forty or fifty years of philosophical reflection, analysis, and writing on the nature of consciousness. It's just because I have not yet done the work necessary to understanding Husserl, working instead with the philosophical developments that followed him in works by Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Scheler, and Levinas. In other words, I'm following my own curiosity in the hope that others might find this subject to be significant for Consciousness Studies.

If posting links to clarifications regarding Husserl's methodology (which has been studied at length by generations of students in both analytical and phenomenological philosophy of mind) is going to get this kind of response, perhaps you're telling me that I should find another forum in which to read and discuss Husserl and the scholarship on Husserl. Maybe that's what I should do. You get so exercised and angry lately that I'm afraid you might give yourself a stroke or have a heart attack, and I certainly don't want to provoke that kind of thing. I'll take a hiatus for the time being while looking for a forum that doesn't pose such risks to health. Take care and best wishes.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
It seems to me you're just being silly now, Randall. But what concerns me more is the level of outrage and the degree of lather you can build up about a philosopher about whom you yet know nothing ...
According to Husserl's phenomenological reduction I actually do know nothing, at least about Husserl's phenomenology, other than of course, I would have to "liberate" myself from "the case" in order to become informed. Funny though, I don't feel like I need liberating.
I'll take a hiatus for the time being while looking for a forum that doesn't pose such risks to health.
I wasn't aware that philosophical discussion could be a health hazard. Then again, it was Socrates who said, " The unexamined life is not worth living", and look what happened to him.
Take care and best wishes.
Always, and same to you.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
I've often quoted poems by Wallace Stevens in this thread in the interests of furthering our pursuit of an understanding of the relationship of consciousness/mind with 'reality'. I think I copied earlier here the entirety of Stevens's "The Idea of Order at Key West," and if so I'll post a link to it in our archives. The extract below is from a very good reading of the poem by a Belgian scholar, Bart Eeckhout, in his book Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing. In Eeckhout's reading/interpretation of the poem continuing at the link I think we find expressed very well our own sense of the enormous yet in some ways bridgeable gap that lies between our understanding of what-is in the physical world and our desire to know it fully.

"출처 1: Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing (Bart Eeckhout. University of Missouri Press, 2002). 구글도서

One of Stevens's most classic meditations on the delimiting quality of representation, specifically as it affects the production of art, is "The Idea of Order at Key West" (CP 128-30). ( ... ... )

( ... ... ) [Stevens] summarized this poem as "designed to show how man gives his own order to the world about him." This sounds almost trite in its generality, especially when compared with Harold Bloom's remarks on what he calls "the most powerful poem in what was to be the ^Ideas of Order^ volume but also surpassing any single poem in either edition of ^Harmonium^." ( ... ... ) Indeed who would be willing to deny there is already an aspect of "equivocation"--"desperate" or not--in the poem's opening stanza, with its accumulation of qualifications, its pendular swing and prismatic variations?

^She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.^ . . . ."

[발췌] about Wallace Stevens, Ideas of Order, ...
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
I havent finished this yet, but its a great exploration of what i refer to as the perspectival nature of the MBP.


1. The privacy constraint on consciousness

On a naturalistic view of ourselves, we are entirely physical beings who are also conscious, but thus far there is no consensus on the nature of consciousness. The central difficulty is that the defining feature of conscious experience – the subjective, qualitative ‘what it’s like’ or phenomenal character of tasting a mango, seeing a red rose, or dreaming about a blue lake – is not available to intersubjective observation or measurement (Gamez, 2014). If it were, there would be no problem of consciousness, nor of other minds, for instance whether fish feel pain. Pain would be out there in public, so we’d know that they either do or don’t suffer when hooked. But pain isn’t public, unlike whatever its neural or otherwise physical correlates might be, whether in fish, fowl, or us. We don’t and won’t see pain when peering into the brain, at whatever level of magnification. And so it is with all experiences: they are only available to, only exist for, individual conscious subjects. Unlike the subjects’ brains, they aren’t observables.

Despite its subjective nature, many approaches to explaining consciousness hypothesize that experience is an objective, physically-embodied phenomenon; optimistic physicalists suppose that consciousness will eventually find its place in the material world as described by science.

Theories aiming to objectify consciousness range from reductive identity theories that equate experiences with physically-realized states or functions; non-reductive, property dualist theories in which consciousness supervenes on material or functional states; panpsychist theories in which phenomenology is a fundamental property of matter; theories involving quantum or magnetic fields as instantiators of consciousness; and radically enactivist theories that identify conscious states with ordinary physical objects (Manzotti, 2011).

Although we can’t conclusively discount these possibilities, I’d suggest we not hold our collective breath. The existential privacy of an experience, its subjectivity, that it exists only for the mind undergoing it, isn’t likely going away. We can call this the privacy constraint on consciousness. We can then ask why conscious experience isn’t objectifiable even though as conscious creatures we are physically objective. The answer I propose has to do with what I’ll call the representational relation: the world is only known by cognitive systems, including ourselves, using content-bearing representations. Conscious experience is arguably a species of representational content – qualitative, phenomenal content – and the world appears to each of us as a conscious subject in terms of that content. The reason we don’t find conscious experience in the world, the reason we can’t objectify it, is because as a rule we don’t and won’t find representational content in the world as modeled by it. [ @Michael Allen ] We only find the physical objects and phenomena characterized in terms of such content, including the physically-instantiated content vehicles. Theories that suppose we can objectify consciousness, putting it in the public domain, are thus barking up the wrong tree. ...

2. The representational relation

It is a commonplace that as knowers we deploy various sorts of representations in negotiating our contact with the world. The world is represented by us conceptually and quantitatively in the ‘manifest image’ of ordinary human discourse and the ‘scientific image’ of physical theory (Sellars, 1962). That we are in a representational relation to reality seems an unavoidable condition of our being limited, situated creatures with particular perspectives on the world, whether individual or collective. This means that the world never appears to us undressed, so to speak, but always clothed in perspectivally conditioned models. Still, the models we humans deploy generally include a vague but plausible (and perhaps unavoidable) realist assumption: the world exists mind-independently and includes various mind-independent entities and processes, some of which appear to us as having spatio-temporal, physical properties as given in both science and everyday experience. Among those entities are composite, complex, and integrated systems that constitute minds – mind-systems – at least some of which, like ourselves, are conscious.

On the face of it, conscious experience seems to be a representational, informationally rich phenomenon that mediates our contact as individual subjects with the world. There’s usually a non-coincidental and behaviorally crucial correspondence between our waking experience and what’s the case in our immediate surroundings. This correspondence is underwritten by causal interaction with the environment via our information-gathering, behavior-guiding sensory modalities, the operation of which consciousness is closely associated. Most of the time we unreflectively take the world as given in experience to be the spatio-temporal manifold as it is in itself, directly presented to us. But we can infer, on the basis of dreams, hallucinations, and optical illusions that experience is a selective and fallible individual-level model of what’s outside the head.

This shouldn’t be construed as saying that we somehow see experience – the model – instead of the world; we shouldn’t suppose we observe consciousness (T. Clark, 2005). We can avert our gaze and otherwise perceptually distance ourselves from physical objects, but cannot divorce ourselves from the experience in terms of which objects appear and disappear for us since, as subjects, we consist of experience. To be conscious is for us to subjectively constitute an experiential world-model (Revonsuo, 2015) – what Thomas Metzinger (2009) calls an ‘ego- tunnel’ – that is modulated and constrained by our direct, physical contact with the world itself (including the body) via our sensory-perceptual systems.

We have developing theories of such contact, most recently and notably Bayesian predictive coding (Seth et al., 2011; A. Clark, 2013): impinging stimuli activate sensory channels that inform the brain’s current multi-modal world-model, helping to minimize mismatches between neural representations and the world in service to behavior control. The continually updated mappings and covariances between the world and brain – the neurally-realized representational
relation of sensory perception – allows for successful action and system maintenance, given the nature and needs of the organism (Kanwisher, 2001; Dehaene & Changeux, 2011; Sterling & Laughlin, 2015).

The information-bearing neural processes associated with conscious experience – call them conscious processes – can be identified by contrasting the neural networks active when performing tasks only possible when conscious (e.g., complex learning, planning, reporting) to those networks subserving behavior that can be handled unconsciously (e.g., habitual or automatized behaviors) (Baars, 1997; T. Clark, 2005, 52-55). Experience, since it closely correlates with conscious processes that carry information about the world, itself tracks the world, at least when we’re awake and in perceptual contact with our body and environment. Consciousness can thus carry representational content as inherited from its neural correlates, but couched in qualities available only to the subject (the privacy constraint).1
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
I havent finished this yet, but its a great exploration of what i refer to as the perspectival nature of the MBP.


1. The privacy constraint on consciousness

On a naturalistic view of ourselves, we are entirely physical beings who are also conscious, but thus far there is no consensus on the nature of consciousness. The central difficulty is that the defining feature of conscious experience – the subjective, qualitative ‘what it’s like’ or phenomenal character of tasting a mango, seeing a red rose, or dreaming about a blue lake – is not available to intersubjective observation or measurement (Gamez, 2014). If it were, there would be no problem of consciousness, nor of other minds, for instance whether fish feel pain. Pain would be out there in public, so we’d know that they either do or don’t suffer when hooked. But pain isn’t public, unlike whatever its neural or otherwise physical correlates might be, whether in fish, fowl, or us. We don’t and won’t see pain when peering into the brain, at whatever level of magnification. And so it is with all experiences: they are only available to, only exist for, individual conscious subjects. Unlike the subjects’ brains, they aren’t observables.

Despite its subjective nature, many approaches to explaining consciousness hypothesize that experience is an objective, physically-embodied phenomenon; optimistic physicalists suppose that consciousness will eventually find its place in the material world as described by science.

Theories aiming to objectify consciousness range from reductive identity theories that equate experiences with physically-realized states or functions; non-reductive, property dualist theories in which consciousness supervenes on material or functional states; panpsychist theories in which phenomenology is a fundamental property of matter; theories involving quantum or magnetic fields as instantiators of consciousness; and radically enactivist theories that identify conscious states with ordinary physical objects (Manzotti, 2011).

Although we can’t conclusively discount these possibilities, I’d suggest we not hold our collective breath. The existential privacy of an experience, its subjectivity, that it exists only for the mind undergoing it, isn’t likely going away. We can call this the privacy constraint on consciousness. We can then ask why conscious experience isn’t objectifiable even though as conscious creatures we are physically objective. The answer I propose has to do with what I’ll call the representational relation: the world is only known by cognitive systems, including ourselves, using content-bearing representations. Conscious experience is arguably a species of representational content – qualitative, phenomenal content – and the world appears to each of us as a conscious subject in terms of that content. The reason we don’t find conscious experience in the world, the reason we can’t objectify it, is because as a rule we don’t and won’t find representational content in the world as modeled by it. [ @Michael Allen ] We only find the physical objects and phenomena characterized in terms of such content, including the physically-instantiated content vehicles. Theories that suppose we can objectify consciousness, putting it in the public domain, are thus barking up the wrong tree. ...

2. The representational relation

It is a commonplace that as knowers we deploy various sorts of representations in negotiating our contact with the world. The world is represented by us conceptually and quantitatively in the ‘manifest image’ of ordinary human discourse and the ‘scientific image’ of physical theory (Sellars, 1962). That we are in a representational relation to reality seems an unavoidable condition of our being limited, situated creatures with particular perspectives on the world, whether individual or collective. This means that the world never appears to us undressed, so to speak, but always clothed in perspectivally conditioned models. Still, the models we humans deploy generally include a vague but plausible (and perhaps unavoidable) realist assumption: the world exists mind-independently and includes various mind-independent entities and processes, some of which appear to us as having spatio-temporal, physical properties as given in both science and everyday experience. Among those entities are composite, complex, and integrated systems that constitute minds – mind-systems – at least some of which, like ourselves, are conscious.

On the face of it, conscious experience seems to be a representational, informationally rich phenomenon that mediates our contact as individual subjects with the world. There’s usually a non-coincidental and behaviorally crucial correspondence between our waking experience and what’s the case in our immediate surroundings. This correspondence is underwritten by causal interaction with the environment via our information-gathering, behavior-guiding sensory modalities, the operation of which consciousness is closely associated. Most of the time we unreflectively take the world as given in experience to be the spatio-temporal manifold as it is in itself, directly presented to us. But we can infer, on the basis of dreams, hallucinations, and optical illusions that experience is a selective and fallible individual-level model of what’s outside the head.

This shouldn’t be construed as saying that we somehow see experience – the model – instead of the world; we shouldn’t suppose we observe consciousness (T. Clark, 2005). We can avert our gaze and otherwise perceptually distance ourselves from physical objects, but cannot divorce ourselves from the experience in terms of which objects appear and disappear for us since, as subjects, we consist of experience. To be conscious is for us to subjectively constitute an experiential world-model (Revonsuo, 2015) – what Thomas Metzinger (2009) calls an ‘ego- tunnel’ – that is modulated and constrained by our direct, physical contact with the world itself (including the body) via our sensory-perceptual systems.

We have developing theories of such contact, most recently and notably Bayesian predictive coding (Seth et al., 2011; A. Clark, 2013): impinging stimuli activate sensory channels that inform the brain’s current multi-modal world-model, helping to minimize mismatches between neural representations and the world in service to behavior control. The continually updated mappings and covariances between the world and brain – the neurally-realized representational
relation of sensory perception – allows for successful action and system maintenance, given the nature and needs of the organism (Kanwisher, 2001; Dehaene & Changeux, 2011; Sterling & Laughlin, 2015).

The information-bearing neural processes associated with conscious experience – call them conscious processes – can be identified by contrasting the neural networks active when performing tasks only possible when conscious (e.g., complex learning, planning, reporting) to those networks subserving behavior that can be handled unconsciously (e.g., habitual or automatized behaviors) (Baars, 1997; T. Clark, 2005, 52-55). Experience, since it closely correlates with conscious processes that carry information about the world, itself tracks the world, at least when we’re awake and in perceptual contact with our body and environment. Consciousness can thus carry representational content as inherited from its neural correlates, but couched in qualities available only to the subject (the privacy constraint).1
The extract you quote from the paper you link is intriguing. I'll read the paper today. In the meantime I could use some help decoding this sentence, which you have bolded:

"The reason we don’t find conscious experience in the world, the reason we can’t objectify it, is because as a rule we don’t and won’t find representational content in the world as modeled by it."
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
The extract you quote from the paper you link is intriguing. I'll read the paper today. In the meantime I could use some help decoding this sentence, which you have bolded:

"The reason we don’t find conscious experience in the world, the reason we can’t objectify it, is because as a rule we don’t and won’t find representational content in the world as modeled by it."
This sentence I've just read in the abstract might help in interpreting the sentence I asked for help with:

"Physicalists who are realists about consciousness generally assume its objectivity: experience is something identical with physical processes or properties, perhaps the intrinsic nature of the physical, or perhaps some micro-physical, neural, or emergent property. I argue that this assumption wrongly reifies consciousness; it expects to find qualitative representational content-qualia-in the physical world as characterized using such content. Instead, we should grant that conscious experience constitutes a mind-dependent, subjective, representational reality for cognitive systems such as ourselves, and that the physical world described by science is a represented objective reality."
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
This sentence I've just read in the abstract might help in interpreting the sentence I asked for help with ...
We seem to have focused on the same section as a starting point. See comments below.
I haven't finished this yet, but it's a great exploration of what i refer to as the perspectival nature of the MBP: Locating_Consciousness_Why_Experience_Cant_Be_Objectified
Attached here is the PDF so that it doesn't have to be downloaded via an outside account. I found it on a different website than Academia. In the future, if it is not breaking any of the author/publisher's rules to download and freely share a PDF, I suggest that papers be included as attachments so that it is simpler for everyone access.

Upon an initial perusal and the double-checking of some key points, the all too common weakness in this paper is the initial premise:

"Physicalists who are realists about consciousness generally assume its objectivity: experience is something identical with physical processes or properties, perhaps the intrinsic nature of the physical, or perhaps some micro-physical, neural, or emergent property. I argue that this assumption wrongly reifies consciousness ..."​

Note that I use the word "weakness" rather than "error". This is because the way Clark sets-up his argument makes it internally coherent. However internal coherency doesn't necessarily reflect the bigger picture, and I would suggest that the picture is bigger than Clark's analysis. If we can accept this, then we can find strength rather than weakness in the paper. Specifically, it shows us that if we are to make any progress, the premises upon which Clark builds his argument must be reworked, in particular our notions of what constitutes "physical" and "real".

In this regard, there is another approach to consciousness not mentioned by Clark which I briefly touch on in my Meaningful Questions post. It is the idea that brains aren't causing consciousness, but instead they are filtering it out of the environment, and only environments where this filtering can happen is where such brains can develop.

To my recollection, I have not seen this concept proposed anyplace else, nor have we talked about it here. It is not a classical materialist approach. It is not a panpsychist approach. Nor is it a phenomenological approach, or a type of emergence. It also isn't the same as those theories that propose consciousness to be a "non-localized" phenomenon ( like a signal transmitted into the brain which acts like a receiver ).

It is what I would call a neo-physicalist approach that for convenience sake I'll refer to it as the Neuro-Filtering Hypothesis ( NFH ). If somebody runs across an identical approach by someone else prior to this post, please let me know.
 

Attachments

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Soupie

Paranormal Adept
The extract you quote from the paper you link is intriguing. I'll read the paper today. In the meantime I could use some help decoding this sentence, which you have bolded:

"The reason we don’t find conscious experience in the world, the reason we can’t objectify it, is because as a rule we don’t and won’t find representational content in the world as modeled by it."
I agree it’s a clunky sentence but I think the idea it conveys is critical. I think it’s ( similar time ) the idea @Michael Allen has been trying to convey.

I’m not sure I can convey the idea any clearer than Clark as it’s the idea I’ve been trying to convey the past couple years as well.

I also don’t know that my approach ultimately lines up with Clark’s. Need to finish his paper.

The mind is the body’s perception/knowledge of itself and the world ( reality ). We shouldn’t be surprised that reality and our ( subjective ) models of it don’t match. This we should anticipate the mind body problem.

For example, any perceptual/knowing system modeling itself will have a mbp. The map will never match the territory.

I think @Michael Allen would take a stronger position and say a knowing/perceptual system can’t explain it’s ability to know/perceive using its “language” of knowing/perceiving.

One shouldn’t expect to find in the world the contents of the map by which they know the world.
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
In other words, the mbp is a natural consequence of our representational relation to reality.
I would refine that a little more to say: The MBP arises when holding the position that minds are a representation of some embodied reality. This may not be what Clark or you might be trying to convey. As already mentioned above, Clark's argument is internally coherent when his premise is interpreted the way he seems to intend it. But that doesn't seem to get us any farther than before.
 
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