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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
The stone parallel is false. A living cell doesn’t ascribe to itself it’s jelly-like consistency. That’s not what I am saying so we can dump that comment
Similarly, unless an organism can detect and appreciate the concept of the "qualitative" property in question, it has no means by which it can ascribe it a "qualitative" property or value
nonsense. It does not ascribe a qualitative property as in “I have a concept of that thing to which I will thereby ascribe a qualitative property”. Rather there is a qualitative ascription to the physical evident in its responses to physical engagement.
I don’t think you have read that article about phytoplankton. Read it before you comment on it

What do you mean by “Qualitative properties are abstract ... Humans abstract the concept of the qualitative. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The difference is like, I can think about consciousness in the abstract—I can also be conscious
 
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Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
nonsense. It does not ascribe a qualitative property as in “I have a concept of that thing to which I will thereby ascribe a qualitative property”. Rather there is a qualitative ascription to the physical evident in its responses to physical engagement.
I don’t think you have read that article about phytoplankton. Read it before you comment on it
Yes I've read it, and the problem remains with the interpretation of "ascribe". We need to fix that, preferably with a more precise word or phrase.
The stone parallel is false. A living cell doesn’t ascribe to itself it’s jelly-like consistency. That’s not what I am saying so we can dump that comment
There is no evidence that a single living cell "ascribes" itself its jelly-like consistency any more than a stone "ascribes" itself its hardness. Rather, they are simply what they are. In other words they exist as collections of materials without any notion of what it's like to be what they are. It is us who "ascribes" these "qualitative" properties like "jellyness" or "hardness" to them.
@Randall. What do you mean by “Qualitative properties are abstract?"
The word "qualitative" refers to "qualities" or "properties" which are essentially the same as qualia, such as textures, colors, shapes, sounds, and other properties that have meaning for the experiencer of them. A non-conscious intelligent entity might be able to create a complex work of some kind without having the faintest clue what its "qualities" are.
Humans abstract the concept of the qualitative. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The difference is like, I can think about consciousness in the abstract—I can also be conscious
Yes, but we have no idea what the "qualitative" properties of something are unless we can consciously relate to what those "qualitative" properties are like, hence the idea that consciousness is the perception of quialia, or "what it's like" for something like a cell to be soft and jelly-like.

However there is no evidence that a single cell has any experience at all of "what it's like" to be a single cell, and therefore there is no evidence that it has any "qualitative" experience or reference from which to determine what it should or should not "ascribe". Rather, it seems to be the case that these sorts of entities simply react arbitrarily according to the rules of physics and biochemistry.
 
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Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
However there is no evidence that a single cell has any experience at all of "what it's like" to be a single cell, and therefore there is no evidence that it has any "qualitative" experience or reference from which to determine what it should or should not "ascribe". Rather, it seems to be the case that these sorts of entities simply react arbitrarily according to the rules of physics and biochemistry.
@Randall. You might at a stretch agree that a single cell warnowiid has an eye, that that eye can differentiate its environment spatially and temporally and that the cell can respond differentially to environmental cues. But you conclude that there is no evidence of qualitative experience. Well.. there’s never going to be ‘evidence’: is there ‘evidence’ that anyone, other than yourself, has QE!? No
The behavioral response of these cells is qualified by spatial and temporal particulars. How does the cell apply those differentials if in some sense differentials are not qualified... by some value attribution! (even if only inherited)?
I argue in my paper that the physiology of a plant demonstrates, through heliotropism, the attribution of value to sun light. Light is more than radiation and energy to such plants. There is a value to heliotropism. Such inherited value ascription (which entails ‘qualitative assimilation’ in my parlance) is foundational (ie necessary) to the evolution of QE capability.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
@Randall. You might at a stretch agree that a single cell warnowiid has an eye, that that eye can differentiate its environment spatially and temporally and that the cell can respond differentially to environmental cues. But you conclude that there is no evidence of qualitative experience. Well.. there’s never going to be ‘evidence’: is there ‘evidence’ that anyone, other than yourself, has QE!? No
Actually, there are two issues there. The first is that if your point about the absence of evidence for qualitative experiences ( QEs ) in humans other than ourselves is true ( which I will contend below that it's not ) then it would be a leap of faith to assume that other organisms ( including single cells ) have any "what it's like" type QEs. This means that by your own logic, your initial premise may be wrong, in which case the rest sort of falls apart. This leaves us with the question of determining how we can tell if anyone or anything is having a QE, which brings us to the second issue.

The second issue is that as mentioned above, it is not true that there is no evidence that others besides ourselves have QEs. There is lots of evidence. It is routinely provided by people communicating "what it's like" to have particular experiences. One might be tempted to argue that such information is not evidence, but that would only conform to a cherry-picked definition for the word "evidence" that is synonymous with "proof".

That then leaves us with the question of what constitutes proof. Proof is simply evidence that is sufficient to justify belief in a claim. Some people require more or less or different kinds of evidence than others before they consider a claim to be proven. So let's compare the evidence: In the case of human to human communication about QEs, the evidence is so overwhelming that only the most stubborn of skeptics would argue that they, and only they, are having QEs.

On the other hand, there is much less evidence for such communication in less complex organisms, and virtually none for single celled creatures. By the time we get down to the level of cells, their communication appears to be strictly mechanistic. In other words, there is no communication of any type of QE. Or if there is any communication of QE, then it cannot be distinguished from the rules of physics and biochemistry.
The behavioral response of these cells is qualified by spatial and temporal particulars. How does the cell apply those differentials if in some sense differentials are not qualified... by some value attribution! (even if only inherited)?
As stated above, at the cellular level, the "behavioral response" of cells appears to be purely mechanistic. There is no evidence for any QE. However I'm sure the panpsychists would take issue with that position.
I argue in my paper that the physiology of a plant demonstrates, through heliotropism, the attribution of value to sun light. Light is more than radiation and energy to such plants. There is a value to heliotropism. Such inherited value ascription (which entails ‘qualitative assimilation’ in my parlance) is foundational (ie necessary) to the evolution of QE capability.
Heliotropism appears to me to be an entirely mechanistic response that is of no consequential difference than the ability of a solar panel to orient itself toward the Sun. Again, one would have to make a leap of faith to assume that either a solar panel or a plant are having any sort of QE. However that doesn't necessarily mean that there is no value in making the assumption for the sake of argument ( exploration ), that one or the other or both of them are having some sort of QE.

Also, none of this means that you're not necessarily onto something. When we get down to the cellular level, and start looking at the chemistry, Stuart Hameroff has been putting a lot of effort into pinning consciousness in some way on microtubules within the structure of the brain. So it may be the case that these microstructures, which can be considered "chemical" are either directly responsible for, or in some way mediate the phenomenon of QE.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Randall, re this exchange:


Pharoah said:
"The stone parallel is false. A living cell doesn’t ascribe to itself it’s jelly-like consistency. That’s not what I am saying so we can dump that comment."
Your reply: "There is no evidence that a single living cell "ascribes" itself its jelly-like consistency any more than a stone "ascribes" itself its hardness. Rather, they are simply what they are. In other words they exist as collections of materials without any notion of what it's like to be what they are. It is us who "ascribes" these "qualitative" properties like "jellyness" or "hardness" to them."

Randall, you look at cells as at rocks as being 'what they are' as you describe them from your erroneous presupposition that objectively oriented materialist science is the single arbiter of how the nature of the world, life, and consciousness should be interpreted. Your own fundamental misunderstanding might be corrected if you read about Maturana and Varela's discovery of 'autopoeisis' in primordial single-celled organisms and thence onward in the evolution of species life on our planet.

This is a good place to insert this informative recent interview with Christof Koch:


ps, note especially in the last few minutes of the video Koch's concentration on the 'claustrum'. This wiki article is informative about the integrative role the claustrum plays in human and mammal brains:

Claustrum - Wikipedia


pps: in the evolution of life, living cells and subsequently evolving organisms do not take 'outside' perspectives upon themselves, ascribing to themselves their own individual physical qualities. Rather, they sense their qualitative relation to and within a surrounding environment to which they ascribe meaning in the interrelationship of their needs and the satisfaction of their needs through the affordances provided in their environments by a qualitative nature.
 
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Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
Actually, there are two issues there. The first is that if your point about the absence of evidence for qualitative experiences ( QEs ) in humans other than ourselves is true ( which I will contend below that it's not ) then it would be a leap of faith to assume that other organisms ( including single cells ) have any "what it's like" type QEs. This means that by your own logic, your initial premise may be wrong, in which case the rest sort of falls apart. This leaves us with the question of determining how we can tell if anyone or anything is having a QE, which brings us to the second issue.

The second issue is that as mentioned above, it is not true that there is no evidence that others besides ourselves have QEs. There is lots of evidence. It is routinely provided by people communicating "what it's like" to have particular experiences. One might be tempted to argue that such information is not evidence, but that would only conform to a cherry-picked definition for the word "evidence" that is synonymous with "proof".

That then leaves us with the question of what constitutes proof. Proof is simply evidence that is sufficient to justify belief in a claim. Some people require more or less or different kinds of evidence than others before they consider a claim to be proven. So let's compare the evidence: In the case of human to human communication about QEs, the evidence is so overwhelming that only the most stubborn of skeptics would argue that they, and only they, are having QEs.

On the other hand, there is much less evidence for such communication in less complex organisms, and virtually none for single celled creatures. By the time we get down to the level of cells, their communication appears to be strictly mechanistic. In other words, there is no communication of any type of QE. Or if there is any communication of QE, then it cannot be distinguished from the rules of physics and biochemistry.

As stated above, at the cellular level, the "behavioral response" of cells appears to be purely mechanistic. There is no evidence for any QE. However I'm sure the panpsychists would take issue with that position.

Heliotropism appears to me to be an entirely mechanistic response that is of no consequential difference than the ability of a solar panel to orient itself toward the Sun. Again, one would have to make a leap of faith to assume that either a solar panel or a plant are having any sort of QE. However that doesn't necessarily mean that there is no value in making the assumption for the sake of argument ( exploration ), that one or the other or both of them are having some sort of QE.

Also, none of this means that you're not necessarily onto something. When we get down to the cellular level, and start looking at the chemistry, Stuart Hameroff has been putting a lot of effort into pinning consciousness in some way on microtubules within the structure of the brain. So it may be the case that these microstructures, which can be considered "chemical" are either directly responsible for, or in some way mediate the phenomenon of QE.
So we can be pretty sure that humans other than ourselves have QE coz they talk, is what you are saying: That's evidence enough. So any other animal we can be fairly skeptical about... we can be increasingly skeptical the further down we go... because?.. what? They don't.... communicate?
Actually, you have missed my point: I was merely trying to illustrate to you how absurd your requirement of 'evidence' is on which to base your sense of approval or otherwise.
"there is much less evidence for such communication in less complex organisms," so communication is your 'proof for QE'.
"at the cellular level, the "behavioral response" of cells appears to be purely mechanistic" that is obviously false.
"Again, one would have to make a leap of faith to assume that either a solar panel or a plant are having any sort of QE." Yea your right. It would be a leap of faith but no one is making that leap so why mention it?
Hameroff... so that's where you like to hail from. Good luck with finding any evidence there. That's a lost cause.
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
@Constance:
"pps: in the evolution of life, living cells and subsequently evolving organisms do not take 'outside' perspectives upon themselves, ascribing to themselves their own individual physical qualities. Rather, they sense their qualitative relationto and within a surrounding environment to which they ascribe meaning in the interrelationship of their needs and the satisfaction of their needs through the affordances provided in their environments by a qualitative nature."

Exactly!
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
So we can be pretty sure that humans other than ourselves have QE coz they talk, is what you are saying:
Not simply because we talk, as if simply blathering incoherently counts. Rather we communicate in very precise ways that relays ideas and experiences in fairly detailed ways that give us a lot of reason to draw the conclusion that other humans also experience the world like we do. So let's not trivialize that by equating it with heliotropism.
Actually, you have missed my point: I was merely trying to illustrate to you how absurd your requirement of 'evidence' is on which to base your sense of approval or otherwise.
I don't see the absurdity. However I do see good reasons for why what I said appears to be true. So let's not start diminishing those reasons by attempting to trivialize them. Human communication is an extremely powerful relayer of information about what we experience.
"there is much less evidence for such communication in less complex organisms," so communication is your 'proof for QE'.
Let's not generalize too much. Sufficient communication between humans is proof enough for me and many others in medicine, psychology, and neuroscience, that other humans have QE. Once we move away from humans, the evidence becomes progressively weaker, and once we move into machines like computers, all bets are currently off, even if they can communicate.
"at the cellular level, the "behavioral response" of cells appears to be purely mechanistic" that is obviously false.
What are your Your reasons for claiming that the "behavioral response" of single celled organisms is not mechanistic? And to be clear, we're talking about behavior that is not influenced by external conscious processes e.g. a human stirs some plankton, therefore the plankton's behavior results from consciousness.
"Again, one would have to make a leap of faith to assume that either a solar panel or a plant are having any sort of QE." Yea your right. It would be a leap of faith but no one is making that leap so why mention it?
I mention the leap of faith because that appears to be what you're doing when you say things like single cells are "ascribing" rather than simply performing a mechanical function. As soon as you use the word "ascribe" you're inferring an intent where there is no evidence that such intent exists. If by "ascribe" you mean something else, then we just need to clarify that situation, and maybe another word would be a better choice.
Hameroff... so that's where you like to hail from. Good luck with finding any evidence there. That's a lost cause.
I don't hail from Hameroff. I was pointing out that his research into nanostructures might provide a "chemical" basis for QE, or at least a clue as to how a chemical ( molecule or nanostructured material ) could influence or moderate the phenomenon of consciousness.
 
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Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
@Randall
I think you probably have Nagel's bat turning in its grave: So a bat, through echo location changes course to catch a moth, and a single cell Warnowiid changes its course to hunt its prey before devouring it... We cannot say they have QE because they don't communicate (like us humans). For where's the evidence!? (that's the absurd question btw).
So two questions Randall:
1. Do these organisms have a way of differentiating their environment? That's a yes or no answer I think. It would be this differentiation that, mechanistically, means that they fortuitously collide into their food rather than into space.
2. What would you call this differentiation between empty space and space containing a nutritious nugget hanging in it? It isn't qualitative differentiation. What is it?
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
@Randall
I think you probably have Nagel's bat turning in its grave: So a bat, through echo location changes course to catch a moth, and a single cell Warnowiid changes its course to hunt its prey before devouring it... We cannot say they have QE because they don't communicate (like us humans). For where's the evidence!? (that's the absurd question btw).
We need to be careful here about how we're interpreting Nagel's "What it's like to be a bat" example, because that's all it is ( an illustrative example ). It's not saying that bats necessarily have any "what it's like" type experiences. It's aying that if they do, then that's what consciousness is like ( for bats ). Whether or not bat's actually have any "what it's like" type experiences is a whole other question, the answers for which we can only infer by extrapolation, and even then, they may not be true.
So two questions Randall:
1. Do these organisms have a way of differentiating their environment? That's a yes or no answer I think.
Let's not box ourselves into binary "Yes" or "No" type situations. And BTW, I'm discussing this with you as a fellow explorer, not as an adversary. So any argumentation is simply a reflection of the Socratic method, for the purpose of refinement or advancement of our understanding about the topic, not any sort of an attack. I assume ( hopefully correctly ) that we're both after the same thing ( truth ), as opposed to recognition, validation, ego gratification, etc.

To answer your question: I would say that causes of behavior stemming from QEs are entirely different from causes of behavior that are non-QE. Therefore neither a "Yes" or "No" answer provides any useful information.
It would be this differentiation that, mechanistically, means that they fortuitously collide into their food rather than into space.
1604530247346.pngA mechanism devoid of QE can conceivably behave in very complex ways that is far from random depending on the properties and arrangement of the materials it is made of. But to keep it simple, consider the radiometer. The little fins spin not because of any QE of light falling on it, but simply because of the physics involved in its design.

Or we might consider a simple bimetal thermostat. Panpsychist objections aside, there's no reason to suppose that it "differentiates" between too hot or too cold. It simply does what it does according to the laws of metallurgy and physics. These same sorts of principles apply to a lot of the biochemistry of life forms as well. That's why we can make compounds that have a predictable effect on the their growth and behavior. We need not assume that any QE is necessary for much of what goes on.

2. What would you call this differentiation between empty space and space containing a nutritious nugget hanging in it? It isn't qualitative differentiation. What is it?
If an organism's QE informs it that a particular sort of "nugget" is suitable food, then I would say that it has a capacity for differentiation by QE. If not, but it can still sort the good nuggets from the bad, then it would have a non-QE capacity for differentiation. A non-QE type of sorting might be some sort of a filter membrane that by its evolutionary development, separates out good nuggets from the rest.

An article you might like that is related to this discussion is here: How do jellyfish perceive the world?
Again, let's not think of ourselves as adversaries here. I think it is a very interesting discussion and am glad you want to share your perspectives.
 
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Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
@Randall "Let's not box ourselves into binary "Yes" or "No" type situations." On the contrary, do let us box ourselves in with binary QAs. This is how one identifies fudging. Back when I was 18, I came up with a methodology for creative thinking: it involved asking myself only yes/no questions and seeing where it took me: very revealing.
"A non-QE type of sorting might be some sort of a filter membrane that by its evolutionary development, separates out good nuggets from the rest."
I am afraid this is a slam dunk answer. You use the word "good": think about it. So, does the radiometer or a thermostat or a computer do its thing because it is good? You have 'ascribed value' in using the word good. Importantly, for something to do an act because to do otherwise would not be good for it isn't to say that it knows of good, but that somehow 'goodness' exists in its frame of acting (or in its frame of experiencing-in-the-world).
Two other thing:
1. I do not say that qualitative assimilation creates consciousness btw. I say it is necessary and foundational.
2. Also I use the term ascription 3 times in my paper on page 435. I was very careful in its use. The phrase "in the qualitative ascription to the physical" is not the same as 'in the qualitative ascription of the physical'. I know it seems small but the latter is more in the sense that you are taking it Randall.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
@Randall "Let's not box ourselves into binary "Yes" or "No" type situations." On the contrary, do let us box ourselves in with binary QAs. This is how one identifies fudging. Back when I was 18, I came up with a methodology for creative thinking: it involved asking myself only yes/no questions and seeing where it took me: very revealing.
"A non-QE type of sorting might be some sort of a filter membrane that by its evolutionary development, separates out good nuggets from the rest."
I am afraid this is a slam dunk answer. You use the word "good": think about it. So, does the radiometer or a thermostat or a computer do its thing because it is good?
In the example, it is we who are "ascribing" the value of "good", not the filter.
You have 'ascribed value' in using the word good. Importantly, for something to do an act because to do otherwise would not be good for it isn't to say that it knows of good, but that somehow 'goodness' exists in its frame of acting (or in its frame of experiencing-in-the-world).
Two other thing:
1. I do not say that qualitative assimilation creates consciousness btw. I say it is necessary and foundational.
2. Also I use the term ascription 3 times in my paper on page 435. I was very careful in its use. The phrase "in the qualitative ascription to the physical" is not the same as 'in the qualitative ascription of the physical'. I know it seems small but the latter is more in the sense that you are taking it Randall.
Take it however you want. All I'm trying to get across is that if you believe a "chemical" can "ascribe" then you are implying it has intent, and by extension some sort of awareness. If that's not what you're saying, then a word other than "ascribe" might be a better fit.

Either that, or it might be a good idea to make it clear that when you use the word "ascribe" that you are in no way inferring intent, or awareness, or that because of such "ascription" the foundation of consciousness is chemical. But then that would seem to contradict what you have said. If you're fine with these contradictions, and see no need to reconcile them, then that's your choice.

I would then simply argue that your view lacks coherence for the reasons stated, and that to reconcile the incoherency you would need to adequately address those issues rather than simply hand wave them or claim I don't get your position because I lack the capacity.

Lastly, if it's the case, that from your perspective, there is no contradiction, then it would be more clearly conveyed by writing it in such a way that the sort of contradiction I describe is absent altogether. Then there would be no misinterpretation.
 

Soupie

Paranormal Adept
Good discussion gentleman. I’ve always thought that what Pharoah was trying to do was ground the concept of value/quality in the natural world. A very worthy endeavor and one that he (and others) do well. Pharoah even provides a narrative of how individual organisms composed of billions of atoms chemicals and cells relate to their environments in ways that evoke the concepts of value and quality. We can see how something like value/quality could be grounded in the natural world.

The problem as always remains how an organism could have a subjective, phenomenal, qualitative experience.

The explanatory gap still remains when we take this path.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
A quibble: consciousness is the experience of qualia. Perception is the experience of qualia that are about external stimuli.

More than a quibble, @Soupie. Consciousness is the experience of more than 'qualia', as phenomenological approaches reveal. And perception is more than the experience of qualia that 'are about external stimuli'. Qualitative experience begins in prereflective, pre-thetic, consciousness, in our species and others, and guides the survival and development of species toward deeper awareness. With the gradual development of reflective consciousness, self-awareness moves, over eons of evolution, from a primitive organismic 'sense' of being-in-situation to increasing understanding of the situated nature of being and Being.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
Have to disagree. @Pharoah's work is part of a sea change in philosophical and scientific thinking that is closing the explanatory gap in our time and will ultimately solve the hard problem.
I am of the position that anyone who thinks they can "solve" the HPC, or even that it can be "solved", doesn't get the HPC, and no amount of hand waving, rhetoric, denial, or nasty name calling can change that.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
More than a quibble ...
Maybe we should call it a "squibble". When one needs a brief and easy way of relaying a point about conscious experience, one doesn't always need to go into every gory detail. In fact, it can be disadvantageous for a conversation to do so. So context is important, and in the case you are referring to, because the context was in that of sensory experience, the use of qualia as an example was perfectly fine. No expansive thesis was necessary or would have been of any use.
 

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