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Another really stupid argument from William Lane Craig

Craig is not one of the clever ones. He’s one of the glib, superficial ones, and he impresses a lot of superficial people. Here’s one of his latest, the Argument for God from Intentionality.

God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness in the world. Philosophers are puzzled by states of intentionality. Intentionality is the property of being about something or of something. It’s signifies the object directedness of our thoughts.

For example, I can think about my summer vacation or I can think of my wife. No physical object has this sort of intentionality. A chair or a stone or a glob of tissue like the one like the brain is not about or of something else. Only mental states or states of consciousness are about other things. As a materialist, Dr. Rosenberg [the interlocutor] recognizes that and so concludes that on atheism there really are no intentional states.

Dr. Rosenberg boldly claims that we never really think about anything. But this seems incredible. Obviously I am thinking about Dr. Rosenberg’s argument. This seems to me to be a reductio ad absurdum of atheism. By contrast, on theism because God is a mind it’s hardly surprising that there should be finite minds. Thus intentional states fit comfortably into a theistic worldview.

So we may argue:

1. If God did not exist, [then] intentional states of consciousness would not exist.

2. But intentional states of consciousness do exist!

3. Therefore, God exists.

The link is to a philosopher’s debunking, pointing out the obvious fallacies and some of the more subtle arguments against it from serious, non-superficial philosophers. It doesn’t bring up the first counter-argument that came to my mind, though.

We know what the physical nature of intentional states are; they are patterns of electrical activity in a network of cells with specific physical properties. We don’t know how to read that pattern precisely, but we can measure and observe them: stick someone in an MRI and ask them to think about different things or engage in different cognitive tasks, and presto, blood flows shift in the brain and different areas light up with different levels of activity. These are properties not seen in chairs or stones, which lack the neuronal substrates that generate these patterns.

Intentional states are ultimately entirely physical states; they are dependent on organized brain matter burning energy actively and responsively in different patterns. There is no evidence that they require supernatural input, so Craig’s first premise that these could not exist without supernatural input is not demonstrated.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    There’s another problem with the argument: In what way, precisely, does God help to explain intentionality?

    I’ll grant that it intuitively “feels like” intentionality is difficult to explain. Although all the evidence points to it being the result of physical processes, there’s a part of me that is always saying, “Yeah, but how can that happen?” I get it, it feels like it shouldn’t actually work that way, like we should all be P-zombies. And while I don’t know about the rest of you, I know I experience qualia, and that seems… weird.

    But how exactly does “God” or “the soul” help the picture? Okay, so there’s this magic thing called the soul… How does that give rise to intentionality or qualia or any of those things? The only thing that invoking God buys you is that now everything is really ill-defined, so people tend to get so confused they forget what the question is. But the question still remains: Why do we actually experience intentionality, rather than just being unfeeling automata who merely give the illusion of feeling?

    (The answer is that the question is ultimately meaningless: It’s like asking why internal combustion engines really burn fuel to create torque, rather than just providing a perfect simulation of it. But the question doesn’t really “feel” meaningless, and in any case, my point is that if you seriously entertain the question in opposition to materialism, you have to seriously entertain it in opposition to the soul as well — and the soul, even if we grant its existence a priori, buys us nothing in this regard)

  2. tsig says

    I think therefore god is?

    Pointing out humans as evidence for god seems to be begging the question.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    The vaguest possible definition of anything is “the property of being about something or of something.”

  4. tsig says

    “Intentional consciousness” seems to be another way of saying ‘soul’.

    It’s just another HD phrase that can mean whatever the user needs it to mean to win whatever argument they’re in at the time.

  5. paulburnett says

    Simpletons who say “The wind blows, therefore god exists” or “Sunsets are pretty, therefore god exists” cannot prove >which< god they are talking about – it is the deists' god, not the theists' god, and definitely not necessarily the Christian/Jewish/Islamic god.

  6. tsig says

    ” Pierce R. Butler

    3 February 2013 at 8:09 am (UTC -6)

    The vaguest possible definition of anything is “the property of being about something or of something.””

    Keeping things vague is the whole point of somefisticated theology.

  7. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Sigh, why does it always have to be a presuppositional argument? /rhetorical

  8. says

    Intentionality is like free will. There may be ways to create versions of the concept that are compatible with naturalism but there are also many versions of the concept that are magical thinking. The magic kind doesn’t exist.

  9. says

    For the avoidance of doubt: Craig is a consummate wanker; nonetheless this post reeks of the usual specious hand-waving on PZ’s part. His contention that consciousness emerges from physical phenomena is just as half-arsed as that of creationists who, recognizing that there is, as yet, no satisfactory explanation for the origin of life from abiotic matter, simply posit that “god did it”. Well, the argument that “brains did it” is similarly unsupported by any coherent chain of evidence: it’s remarkable that this hopeful guess has lately been so elevated beyond its competence.

    And the guess is false: consciousness is primary. “You”, “me”, “brains”, “galaxies”, all the rest is derivative. Anyone who is genuinely committed to empirical enquiry can observe this directly.

  10. Cuttlefish says

    Cool. I disagree with both Craig and PZ.

    The reason people like Craig jump to a magic explanation is that a “pattern of electrical activity in a network of cells” explanation falls short. And the reason it falls short is that the mechanistic framework, with its focus on a proximal cause of conscious behavior, translates our extended interactions with a changing environment into a reified “stored experience” and places that in our brains.

    The trick is that consciousness is inferred from interactions with our environment (including social environment) that are necessarily longer termed than the alleged “cause” a mechanistic explanation demands. To see that someone is “conscious of X”, in real life we keep watching…if they attend to X, speak of it, point to it, then yes, they are conscious of it. They don’t behave this way because they are conscious, but rather we label that behavior conscious. Same with Craig’s “intentions”; we see them easily and trivially in longer observation. The fact that we cannot observe them in a momentary glimpse of a person does not mean we need to infer their internal existence (of a rather magical sort, leading to all sorts of bad inferences of gods), but rather that our frame was too narrow in time and space.

    Life is lived with a wide-angle lens–both in space and in time. Given a molar view, we can see intention, we can see planning, we can see the back-and-forth with the environmental factors that cause and shape our behavior; there is no magic needed. When we artificially close our frame; when we forget that life is lived not in moments but in days, weeks, months, years and decades, we confine ourselves to looking for explanations that fall outside our blinkered field. So we put them into our minds if we are dualists, or into our brains if we are de facto dualists. There is no need for either. Certainly the brain is a necessary part of the process, but it is not sufficient.

    (Consider “fitness”–the term is undefined without considering environment, and cannot be determined by examining a specimen at a given point in time; “fitness” can only be seen in an extended view, across time, environment, and population. What we are doing with “intentional states” would be the equivalent of locating “fitness” somewhere in the frontal lobe, or in God’s mind, depending on whether you were PZ or Craig. It took a revolution of theory to re-think “fitness” as a selection mechanism across generational time-space rather than as, well, intentional creation. We have not–at least in the mainstream–had that revolution in terms of consciousness.)

    As so often, when the answer has to be magic, people are asking the wrong question.

  11. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    His contention that consciousness emerges from physical phenomena is just as half-arsed

    Show otherwise with solid and conclusive physical evidence. Or, shut the fuck up. Welcome to science, not mental wanking 101.

  12. says

    @Nerd etc
    You are as religious as the “pope” in your support for unevidenced bullshit.How doe the chain of evidence convert objective into subjective reality? Why are you so insistent on your own non-existence?

  13. clastum3 says

    But turning to a philosopher to help you really is trying to quell a blaze with a bucket of petrol. “Intentionality” is one of those pseudo-concepts philosophers dream up from time-to-time to save themselves from the dole queue.
    The is no way of distinguishing it from consciousness, so you might just as soon debate whether that is god-given. I find the easiest way to deal with it is to ask whether my dog has consciousness (or intentionality, if that’s flavour of the month) and leave them to deal with it.

  14. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Well, the argument that “brains did it” [consciousness] is similarly unsupported by any coherent chain of evidence – vijen

    A straightforward lie. There is abundant evidence that consciousness depends crucially on having a brain, and in detail on the state of that brain (although I agree with Cuttlefish that understanding consciousness and intentionality requires attention to how that brain interacts with the rest of the body and the external (physical) world): we can correlate certain types of consciousness with neural activity in different parts of the brain; and we can alter or temporarily abolish consciousness by a wide range of physical manipulations of the brain; and a wide range of pathologies demonstrate that consciousness is not the all-or-nothing, present-or-absent magic lightbulb that dualism and idealism both require, but a complex set of interacting processes. There is not a shred of evidence for any supposed non-physical entity, stuff or activity involved in consciousness.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You are as religious as the “pope” in your support for unevidenced bullshit.

    Did you not see the evidence presented by PZ in the OP? You either supply evidence for your claim or shut the fuck up about the stupornatural. You are the one with unsupported presuppositions, not me. When will you acknowledge that fact?

  16. says

    @Nick Gotts
    TV reception depends crucially on having a TV, and in detail on the state of that TV. We can correlate certain types of TV reception with electrical activity in different parts of the TV.

    Why do you descend to calling me a liar? Wake up!

  17. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why do you descend to calling me a liar? Wake up!

    Because the TV is total explained by science. Whereas your stupornatural has no basis in reality, and you can’t show that it does. All you have is blather.

  18. jaytheostrich says

    Do these kinds of blood-flow etc occur in the man-grown lattices of neurons that Science has made, for example on certain robotic control systems etc? Could we detect them? Has anyone tried? That would be interesting.
    I probably haven’t made myself clear.. i’m not a scientist and i’m too tired to look this stuff up.

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    TVs don’t cause TV broadcasts.

    TV Broadcasts are explained by EMF theory. As anybody with a modicum of intelligence knows. What is your excuse for not acknowledging you have evidence, and need to shut the fuck up?

  20. Ogvorbis says

    TVs don’t cause TV broadcasts. No more do brains cause consciousness!

    It is possible to have TV broadcasts without any television to receive those broadcasts. Can you cite an example of consciousness existing without a brain in which to reside?

  21. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Do these kinds of blood-flow etc occur in the man-grown lattices of neurons that Science has made, for example on certain robotic control systems etc?

    Jay, look here for a summary.

  22. ragarth says

    Oh fuck. I’m in the middle of writing a paper about Brentano’s Thesis and intentionality right now.

    *cries* Why, PZ, Why must you taunt me so! You’re supposed to my escapism from the work I must do!

  23. Erista (aka Eris) says

    For example, I can think about my summer vacation or I can think of my wife. No physical object has this sort of intentionality.

    . . . Human beings aren’t physical objects? So what are we? Non-physical objects? Physical non-objects? Non-physical non-objects?

  24. Sastra says

    The value of Craig’s argument is that it puts its finger on exactly where our belief in God and the supernatural begins: in the prescientific view that the human mind is essentially magic, and exists above and apart from its physical instantiation. Things like intention, consciousness, emotion, and value turn into skyhooks, coming from nowhere and having no history of development. Take mind/body dualism and all its variations out of the concept of God and there’s no God left.

    Forget the omnis and mystification: “God” is supposed to be a bodiless mind which communicates through ESP and creates and controls through PK. Craig has it right, then, in that THIS particular stupid argument is the argument beneath all of them. It feels intuitively right, this emphasis placed on the gap between the objective and the subjective.

    So why think that mind comes from matter instead of the other way around? Philosopher Michael Tooley uses this list:

    1. When an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience.
    2. Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all.
    3. Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.
    4. When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.
    5. Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

    The hypothesis that ‘mind is what the brain does’ accounts for these observations. The counter-hypothesis that no, mind is some sort of original and fundamental component of reality can’t actually account for any of them: proponents just shrug and incorporate them awkwardly into the intuition, making lame analogies between radios and radio waves which don’t hold up. Dualism isn’t falsifiable — and that’s bad for a hypothesis. Really bad.

    Craig posits that we get intentionality from a Great Big Giant Intentionality which “impresses” or “grants” the ability/property into the physical world through some sort of unknowable non-process. This isn’t science. It isn’t an “explanation.” It’s the refusal to give one, gussied up as if it’s profound. Like Comes From Like.

    The entire basis of the supernatural starts with the idea of Pure Mind, and its explanatory power and scope comes down to an empty-headed regurgitation of the sloppy intuition of Like Comes from Like. Whoa. Color me unimpressed.

  25. says

    @Cuttlefish
    Who is inferring all this?
    Relinquish your pedestal for a moment, and you will see that, even if the entire content of your consciousness is false, you cannot deny the fact of your own consciousness. Take hold of this and follow it wherever it leads – nothing more is necessary.

  26. tbp1 says

    Somehow the theists seldom, if ever, make an argument for the existence of God that doesn’t essentially assume the conclusion, like this one does.

  27. Sastra says

    Vijen #18 wrote:

    TV reception depends crucially on having a TV, and in detail on the state of that TV. We can correlate certain types of TV reception with electrical activity in different parts of the TV.

    One of the many problems with your analogy is this: when the TV is damaged, the program does not radically change what it’s about, it only becomes harder to see. When certain parts of the brain are damaged, the personality changes. Oprah becomes Dexter.

    Cuttlefish is right when he points out that the brain is not a closed box. It interacts with the rest of the body and its environment, and has to. Another problem for the analogy. No ghost in the machine = no ghost in the universe.

  28. Erista (aka Eris) says

    TVs don’t cause TV broadcasts. No more do brains cause consciousness!

    Am I able to change the fundamental nature of TV broadcasts with my TV? Because we know that alterations to the brain can cause personality changes, cognitive changes, emotional changes, sensory changes, and other changes that can basically the fundamental nature of a person. So unless I can alter at TV broadcast of Friends into a TV broadcast of Spiderman, the analogy doesn’t make any sense. And if I could alter a TV broadcast using only my TV, then in what way is it meaningful to talk about the TV broadcast at all? After all, you have no inherent access to the TV broadcast and the TV flips from one broadcast to another (from one soul to another?) so one can’t expect to be able to learn about Spiderman from any given TV, and one is as likely to learn about Spiderman from one TV as from any other. If the body cannot be counted on to say anything about a soul (not that the soul is easy-going, not that the soul is empathetic, not that the soul is charismatic, not that the soul is musically creative, not that the soul is intellectually inclined, not that the soul remembers anything, not that the soul is stubborn), then in what way are they connected? What exactly is the soul if it isn’t related to any of these things?

  29. says

    @Sastra

    the human mind … exists above and apart from its physical instantiation

    First I should disabuse you from the casual and ignorant conflation of “mind” and “consciousness”: the former is a limited and derivative phenomenon which is being used now to respond to your remarks, and the latter is the single undivided source of all phenomena – without exception. “Mind” and “its physical instantiation”, the brain, are not fundamentally differentiated, both are equally mechanical. Second, “above and apart from” is nonsense: consciousness informs and animates even the most subtly twisted misunderstandings of its true nature, such as your own.

  30. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Sastra beat me to it! O_O Noooooo, I need a time machine. Or I need to be able to access the TV broadcasts so I can change the TV program that Sastra is showing to a different one. *makes shifty eyes*

  31. Sastra says

    Vijen #10 wrote:

    consciousness is primary.

    Okay, how would you test this? I mean, can you come up with a prediction or observation which would prove it wrong?

    I can imagine ways to falsify mind/brain dependency. Strong and convincing cumulative evidence for so-called paranormal phenomenon (ESP, PK, OBE, NDE) would do it — or at least be a strong beginning.

    But if all you have is something like “mystics can feel as if their consciousness expands beyond the body” you’re going to have to come up with a way to rule out the plausible view that they only ‘feel as if’ before you assume they have not only a special way of knowing, but a special way of not being mistaken in interpretation.

    (And I strongly suggest you do not advise Cuttlefish to “relinquish his pedestal.” Heh.)

  32. Ogvorbis says

    . . . the latter [consciousness] is the single undivided source of all phenomena – without exception.

    All phenomena? How is consciousness the source of radioactive decay? How is consciousness the source of meiosis and mitosis? How is consciousness the source of gravity? or oxidation? or tides?

  33. ragarth says

    Something William and PZ Myers don’t make clear is that Intentionality has nothing to do with intent. Its related to the concept of representation. I can, for instance, designate a cow as representing the empire state building. This representation does not have intentionality, however, because even though the cow represents the empire state building, this representation is not integral to the cow. This differs from mental states because the representation that a mental state has is inherent to that mental state.

    The idea of intentionality was a dead, medieval topic deposed to the wastebin of mental masturbation until Brentano spurted it back into life with his Thesis, “All and only mental states possess intentionality.”

    William’s article can essentially be summed (better) as: If the mind has intentional states, and no known physicalist substance (as opposed to materialist, which I’ve found dualists seem to equate with ‘matter not energy’) has intentional states, then the mind cannot be of or the product of physicalist substances.

    Problem is this ignores the possibility that the mind might be the product of a single type of physicalist substance, the brain, and that the brain is the only type of physical substance exhibiting this phenomena. For example, only singularities exhibit the property of gravitic attraction strong enough to capture light. The fact that nothing else exhibits this property does not preclude singularities from having it.

  34. says

    That’s so stupid, because clearly intentional states are due to QUANTUM.

    For a very good reason, too. I have said that quantum explains it, just like WLC says that God explains it. And I’m already ahead of him, because quantum physics actually does exist.

    Glen Davidson

  35. Sastra says

    Vijen #34 wrote:

    First I should disabuse you from the casual and ignorant conflation of “mind” and “consciousness”: the former is a limited and derivative phenomenon which is being used now to respond to your remarks, and the latter is the single undivided source of all phenomena – without exception.

    Could you define what you mean by “consciousness?” And please do NOT do so by calling it “the single undivided source of all phenomena — without exception.” Be explicit. WHAT are you talking about?

    It’s usually supposed to mean ” subjectivity, awareness, sentience, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.” And this seems to be included in what we mean by “mind.”

  36. ragarth says

    @Glen

    I’d disagree. The brain functions at a scale so large that quantum effects are negated. Yes, neurons will fire spontaneously, this spontaneous firing is even part of the integral functioning of the brain (its one of the qualities that marks the brain above base neural networks since it allows for more complex signalling dealing with frequency events as opposed to binary events). The smallest part of this spontaneous firing that could suffer quantum interference is, however, the vacuole, and they’re too large to exhibit quantum phenomena themselves.

    I personally believe that determinism is sufficient to explain the brain’s behavior, and that there’s no need to resort to non-deterministic explanations such as quantum mechanics and supernaturalism.

  37. johnmarley says

    What is the limit on links in a comment? I tried to make one with two links, and before I try to repost it, I’d like to know if it’s just caught up in moderation. I can’t find any mention in the commenting rules.

  38. says

    @Sastra #36, #40
    This continues our earlier discourse, so you won’t be surprised when I suggest that if you really wish to know what is (rather than simply to acquaint your mind with a partial description thereof), you need to devote at least as much time to an empirical subjective enquiry as you clearly already have done to empirical objective enquiry (science, philosophy, blah blah). So there’s your plan for the next decade or so. Get back to me when you start to doubt, we can share a joke together. As to defining consciousness, the whole is beyond definition: it’s essential character is non-dual (advaita), but ultimately life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

  39. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    vijen,

    TV reception depends crucially on having a TV, and in detail on the state of that TV. We can correlate certain types of TV reception with electrical activity in different parts of the TV.

    No, we can’t, in anything remotely like the way we can correlate different types of conscious mental activity (counting, reading, imagining physical activity, feeling specific emotions…) with activity in different parts of the brain. As others have already said: changes to the brain bring about content-specific changes to consciousness in a way that changes to the TV do not to the content of the programmes received. Your analogy fails miserably.

    Why do you descend to calling me a liar?

    Because you are one. It is simply a lie to claim, as you did, that there is no evidence “brains did it”. If you stop lying, I’ll stop calling you a liar. Deal?

  40. Ogvorbis says

    As to defining consciousness, the whole is beyond definition: it’s essential character is non-dual (advaita), but ultimately life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

    That puts consciousness in the same category of god(s) — right up there with nailing Jell-O to a tree.

  41. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    As to defining consciousness, the whole is beyond definition: it’s essential character is non-dual (advaita), but ultimately life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

    Talk about meaningless mental wanking. Typical.

  42. says

    For a moment there I thought that I intended to comment on the OP. But, being an atheist, and therefore incapable of intention, I conclude that I did not intend to comment.

    I recommend Sastra’s comments at 28, 32 and 34 to all and sundry. In doing so I have no intention to educate anyone. None whatsoever.

  43. Sastra says

    Vijen #46 wrote:

    This continues our earlier discourse, so you won’t be surprised when I suggest that if you really wish to know what is (rather than simply to acquaint your mind with a partial description thereof), you need to devote at least as much time to an empirical subjective enquiry as you clearly already have done to empirical objective enquiry (science, philosophy, blah blah).

    No, I did not ask “what is consciousness,” I asked what YOU mean by it. Surely your lifetime of study allows you to give a brief (if not exhaustive) definition.

    You say it’s “essential character is non-dual.” This is just re-stating your belief that it is “the single undivided source of all phenomena — without exception” and I asked you not to do that, and even said ‘please.’ You won’t be surprised then that I am therefore disappointed.

    So I’ll run that list by you again: ” subjectivity, awareness, sentience, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.” I know it is hard to express the inexpressible, but maybe you could just verbally point to the term up there that comes closest (i.e. “the … third …. one.”)

    And again — how would you TEST your belief in “nonduality?” Can you only assert it — and not even that very well, since you’re incoherent? If so, I wonder at your confidence. Sure of yourself? Are you usually so certain?

  44. Ogvorbis says

    Vijen:

    Did you really claim that consciousness is undefinable and then, in very same comment, tell Sastra to spend a decade studying consciousness and when Sastra no longer has a definition, then your willing to discuss this? So you are only willing to discuss this with anyone who already agrees with you that consciousness is undefinable (yet causes all phenomena)?

  45. Erista (aka Eris) says

    This continues our earlier discourse, so you won’t be surprised when I suggest that if you really wish to know what is (rather than simply to acquaint your mind with a partial description thereof), you need to devote at least as much time to an empirical subjective enquiry as you clearly already have done to empirical objective enquiry (science, philosophy, blah blah).

    . . . Are you for real? Someone asks you to define your terms, to explain what you mean and what you are talking about, and this is what you come up with? It this supposed to be code for, “I don’t actually have a definition, I don’t know what I mean, and I’m not talking about anything”? Because when you’re in a philosophical debate, you don’t just refuse to do those things unless you’re just throwing words around without any deeper meaning or motivation. Especially when it comes to things like consciousness, where people often have very different ideas of what the word means. People write freaking treatises on what they think things like “consciousness” are. If you want to have this conversation, then you need to either a) define your terms b) declare that consciousness is not something that can be explained through words. Those are your options. Pick one. Don’t refuse to explain what you are talking about and then act like the fault is in the person who can’t read your mind (ha ha, pun).

  46. Anri says

    As to defining consciousness, the whole is beyond definition: it’s essential character is non-dual (advaita), but ultimately life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

    Translation from Wankish to English:

    “I got nuthun’. But goddamn, I don’t wanna say so out loud.”

    But ok, I’ll play Vijen’s silly little game.
    Given that we’ve got a pretty decent understanding of the physical aspect of neurons, what part of that system does your ‘consciousness’ alter, and with what force?
    What would be the best way to observe this change, or measure this force?

    Also, what would you say is the minimum size of a neural network to allow for effect by ‘consciousness’ – ie, are all creatures with (functioning) brains conscious?
    Are frogs and fish conscious, for example?
    Certain specific types of fish?
    Insects?

  47. Anri says

    Prediction: Vijen will run off without even attempting to give concrete answers to anything asked.

  48. neutrinosarecool says

    @Cuttlefish #11: “Certainly the brain is a necessary part of the process, but it is not sufficient.”

    Yes, the brain must be supported by the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and there’s also the extended nervous system. So you need the whole cellular system to maintain a conscious brain. This is not specific to humans, just as intelligence and communication are not specific to humans – for example, animals and plants also communicate with each other, as do microbes.

    As far as conscious vs. unconscious, consider that a bacteria that moves away from toxic substances and towards nutritional substances (chemotaxis) can be said to be making a unconscious choice, based on biochemical interactions between external signals, chemoreceptor proteins, signaling proteins, and the flagellar motive apparatus.

    What then defines a conscious choice? I’d say being able to refer to one’s memories as well as responding to external stimuli is what defines consciousness. Without memories of past events to refer to, consciousness is not possible.

    Clearly mammalian brains create memories, and then make choices based on external signals as well as internal memories (one discovers that hot objects are painful through experience, and then avoids grabbing burning sticks based on memory). Humans, elephants, dolphins and chimps are typically cited as leading examples of this kind of neural complexity, but mice, dogs and cats also display ‘conscious intent’ in their actions and responses.

    There is no need to posit anything outside of the biochemical organism to explain ‘conscious intent’ – although pointing out that human beings are not different in kind from animals, only in degree of neural complexity, is sure to enrage a good section of the population, including most religious fundamentalists and some secular humanists.

  49. Anri says

    Prediction: Vijen will accuse Anri (and the rest of us) of dualism.

    I dunno, I’m of two minds about this prediction.

    OH NOOO!

  50. Sastra says

    neutrinosarecool #61 wrote:

    pointing out that human beings are not different in kind from animals, only in degree of neural complexity, is sure to enrage a good section of the population, including most religious fundamentalists and some secular humanists.

    OT, but the number of modern secular humanists who would be enraged by including humanity in the category of “animal” must be small indeed, and probably roughly equivalent to the number of confused atheists who believe in God. I’ll grant you some religious humanists might be upset, though, and self-identifying just as “humanists.”

  51. Erista (aka Eris) says

    Actually, upon reading Vijen’s post again, it seems that Vijen doesn’t know what philosophy is. I mean, come on. Philosophy is “empirical objective enquiry*” as opposed to “empirical subjective enquiry*?” Bah. Picking up a bunch of words that you don’t understand because they sound fancy and that enables you to pretend that what you’re saying is meaningful while sidestepping demands that you explain yourself is beyond irritating. I mean, it’s not like “empirical” “objective” “subjective” and “inquiry” don’t have actual meanings. Philosophy is “empirical objective enquiry*” rather than “empirical subjective enquiry*”? It hurts to read.

    *It’s inquiry, not enquiry.

  52. raven says

    Craig is an idiot and a sociopath.

    The fundie death cult xians have never produced a thinker of note.

    The closest they’ve come is Rushdooney, the founder of xian Dominionism and highly influential.

    His plan to make the USA a theocracy involves killing 297 million Americans, mass murder on an astonishing scale. There are a lot of reasons why fundies are called death cultists.

  53. raven says

    1. If God did not exist, [then] intentional states of consciousness would not exist.

    This is simply an assertion without data or evidence. It’s also wrong.

    If the Invisible Pink Unicorn did not exist, then intentional states of consciousness would not exist.

    I’ve just proved the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    What Craig has done is rework the First Cause and Kalam Cosmology non-arguments and embedded his conclusion in his premise. They aren’t even fallacies, just cuckoo word games.

  54. Cuttlefish says

    Vijen @#10: “Consciousness is primary”… Of course, by the time you are old enough to make this statement, your report has been contaminated and absolutely cannot be trusted. The verbal community that taught you what labels to put on what conscious states, of course, had no access to them. You yourself had far more access to their comments than to what was going on in your brain (where you have no sensory nerves–you cannot feel yourself think). In a very real sense, public behavior is what is “primary” about consciousness.

    Vijen @#29: “even if the entire content of your consciousness is false, you cannot deny the fact of your own consciousness”. Explaining something differently is not denying that thing’s existence. Sunsets are every bit as beautiful in a heliocentric system as in the geocentric system that gave us the term “sunset”. Our prescientific vocabulary of consciousness shapes our assumptions (and shapes what our verbal community will label as conscious and as consciousness), but an explanation need not take that traditional vocabulary at face value.

  55. Sastra says

    Erista #66 wrote:

    Philosophy is “empirical objective enquiry*” rather than “empirical subjective enquiry*”? It hurts to read.

    The translation I suspect is “don’t think — experience!”

    Idealists often believe they have no problem explaining how ‘consciousness’ acts on or interfaces with matter. That’s because they are not “dualists.” There is no such thing as physical matter. The material world is an illusion which has its origin in Consciousness and is nothing but one of its manifestations. Problem gone.

    It’s the scientists with their dualism who have the problem. Anri’s questions aren’t even wrong. We soooo don’t get it.

    Easy. Peasy.

  56. raven says

    devote at least as much time to an empirical subjective enquiry = making stuff up. Or taking halucinogenic drugs, I suppose.

    The amount of stuff people have made up without any proof or data is vast. Most of us have better things to do with our lives.

    You can worry about the Space Reptiles, Gray UFO Aliens, demons, fairies, and UN agenda 21, if you want.

  57. Cuttlefish says

    neutrinosarecool @#61: you are leaving out the role of the environment, including the social environment. The equivalent is the view of genes as blueprints, with all the information in the gene. It is not; genes and environment are constantly interacting during the development and life of the organism. Consciousness requires things to be conscious of. It is only in our extended interactions with our environments that we can see, and define, what consciousness is. It is only when we insist that this extended interaction be reified and stored in the individual that we run into these intractable problems.

  58. Holms says

    Alternatively:

    1. If God did not exist, [then] intentional states of consciousness would not exist.

    2. But intentional states of consciousness do exist!

    3. Therefore:
    3.a. The premise is invalid.
    3.b. The argument is invalid.
    3.c. Both are invalid.
    3.d. God exists.

    Take your pick, William!

  59. Holms says

    Also, Vijen 46:

    This continues our earlier discourse, so you won’t be surprised when I suggest that if you really wish to know what is (rather than simply to acquaint your mind with a partial description thereof), you need to devote at least as much time to an empirical subjective enquiry as you clearly already have done to empirical objective enquiry (science, philosophy, blah blah). So there’s your plan for the next decade or so.

    I read this to mean something like “you need to be *this* heavily invested in bullshit before you will be capable of swallowing it. May I refer you to the following jesusandmo:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2012/07/18/read/

  60. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @Sastra/70

    I absolutely agree with you, and honestly, that is very much the problem. There are vast swaths of philosophy that basically boils down to “don’t think — experience!” If one looks at Buddhist and/or Eastern philosophy at all, it’s difficult to not trip over it. I’ve taken philosophy classes where we spent a significant portion of our time talking about and dealing with philosophy that boiled down to just that. If one is trying to talk about what philosophy is without knowing this, then one has a problem. I mean . . . it’s just . . . I can’t–come on! One of the most modern popularizations of philosophy is the freaking Matrix. The Matrix, the modern version of Descartes’s “evil demon” problem! One doesn’t even have to have undertaken a serious study of historical philosophy to have run across this. And just look at the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, quite possibly the most popular form of Buddhism that I’ve ever encountered in the West among people who didn’t grow up in a culture with Buddhist background (to a degree that it’s become a cliche)! And somehow philosophy “empirical objective enquiry” rather than “empirical subjective enquiry”? There are entire schools of philosophy that conclude that we can’t have objective inquiry at all and that all we have is subjective inquiry! For the love of–!

    *takes a deep breath*

    No one should feel ashamed just because they don’t know about or understand the examples that I just mentioned, and as such I loathe it when people start tossing out philosophy solely as a way to intimidate others into not speaking. So it irritates me to no end when people who don’t understand the basics start tossing around elaborate phrases like “empirical objective enquiry” and “empirical subjective enquiry,” as a way of making people shut up out of the fear of looking stupid. What kind of idiocy does it take to initiate the “Oh ho ho! I just asserted X and you want me to back up X? Well, I’m just going to make vague comments about your stupidity and ignorance without actually explaining myself or referring you to something that could explain what I mean. Just come back and dispute what I’m saying when I’m not around for you to refute” game?

  61. says

    I think it is a mistake to put too much importance as Cuttlefish does on your environment. Yes your brain uses your environment including your social environment to assist it in its work, but most of the actual processing occurs in your brain itself. Its also true that your brain probably can’t do the processing required to create the feeling of conciousness and intentionality without language. But there is a lot of information processing going on to make it all work and most of that processing happens in your head. Once it gets started and you have learned a language you could go off and live your life as a hermit never interacting with other people ever again and you wouldn’t loose your consciousness. You could also go lie down and just think about the world without interacting with it at all and still have the ability to think about things.
    Where Craig goes wrong is that he is a dishonest scum bag who has never contributed anything at all to our understanding of anything. He doesn’t care whether god exists or how consciousness works. I am reminded of the Michael Martin’s philosophical fallacy: The idea that your have to solve all the problems of philosophy before you can reject the idea that God exists.

  62. Rodney Nelson says

    Holms #74

    I thought of the very same Jesus & Mo cartoon when I read Vijen’s post #46.

  63. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Cuttlefish,

    In a very real sense, public behavior is what is “primary” about consciousness. –

    I agree, but:

    Consciousness requires things to be conscious of. It is only in our extended interactions with our environments that we can see, and define, what consciousness is. It is only when we insist that this extended interaction be reified and stored in the individual that we run into these intractable problems.

    Dreams, and particularly lucid dreams, indicate that these “things” can be generated within the brain itself; although my hunch is that this does not happen without prior experience of the external world.

  64. Cuttlefish says

    CraigMcGillivary–

    I would argue that you are taking much too short a view, looking at what you are doing right now (well, a relatively small slice of time; I won’t cram you into too short an instant), and at the influence of the environment only during that slice of time. The behaviors of our consciousness, our personality, our self, are patterns that may span years or decades, and the environment is ever-present in its influence. In your comment, you specify “once it gets started”, but that is precisely a measure of the importance of taking the extended view (it also underestimates the profound influence of social isolation; this would be an emaciated consciousness, starved of what sustains yours or mine).

  65. Scientismist says

    Once again, into the swamp of discussion of “intention” (and “will”, or even “free will”…)

    Two brief lessons from Dan Dennett’s Freedom Evolves:

    1) An Italian interviewer, who finally “got it,” and summarized Dennet’s position on will as: “Si, abiamo un anima, Ma é fatta di tanti piccoli robot.” Yes, we have a soul, but it is made of lots of tiny robots. Lesson: If you want to look for the source of intention, look small.

    2) A warning he gives about looking only small: “If we make ourselves small enough, we can externalize everything.” Those robots are tiny, but there are lots and lots of them. Lesson: if you want to see the whole of intention, look big, look at the long haul.

    Its like Cuttlefish (#11) says: “.. we can see intention.. when we forget that life is lived not in moments but in days, weeks, months, years and decades…” But even that is making yourself too small — life is lived over billions of years (and so is intention). Life (and intention) is made up of the momentary breath, a heartbeat, and even a quantum shift in a DNA base that leads to a mutation. It is, as PZ says (and so many want to deny) purely physical.

    I like to look at it with a medium-scale example, between the molecular and the human — a bacterium. Some motile bacteria have what I see as a simple form of will and intention that is clearly an evolved molecular mechanism. Their cilia move them in one direction for a while, then they spin around a bit, then they again move in a single direction for a while. The length of time between spinning sessions is affected by how much nutrients have been detected (by purely biochemical and physical means), and whether the concentration has gone up or down. If it goes down, spin sooner. If it is going up, don’t spin so soon. The net result is that in the long run the bacterium moves toward a nutrient source.

    So, is that intentional? Is the bacterium thinking (or at least acting) “about” its nutrient supply? Religious believers like William Lane Craig might call it the intention of God that the bacterium do this in order to better serve God’s will in, let us say, digesting a compost heap, in the service of mankind, so that mankind can continue to praise and worship God. But as a biologist (and scientific naturalist) I would say that it is one of those tanti piccoli robot that works the will of a process that has been going on for billions of years, and “whose” goal is that of Leslie Orgel’s CITROENS: Complex Information-Transducing Objects Evolving through Natural Selection — that is, it is the goal of life. It is the intention built of and by tiny mechanisms, resulting from tiny mutations, gathered over long periods of evolutionary experience, operating here and now on the more medium-scale experience of the bacteria’s environment, and through the more immediate action of a random spin at a not-so-random time. Intention is little things with large experience.

    But I’m just a biological and environmental scientist. More philosophical folks like Vijen (#10), would claim that both “god did it” and “brains did it” are equally incoherent, that “consciousness is primary”, and that “Anyone who is genuinely committed to empirical enquiry can observe this directly.” If that’s the case, I want to see those direct observations he’s done of any information-transducing systems that are not either evolved (life), or created by humans or other evolved beings (computers and robots).

    I say that “god did it” is a cop-out, a decision to never try to understand our world and ourselves; “brains did it”, while correct in the instance, is still too narrow and parochial, unless seen as the product of the tiny mechanisms and the vast time and experience that is evolution; and that “consciousness is primary” is just a sophisticated version of the religionist’s cop-out: Let’s just not even try to understand what’s going on.

  66. Cuttlefish says

    Nick Gotts, I would argue that such dreams are in fact a continuation of that interaction with, and processing of, the world. Our dreams are absolutely influenced by our waking experiences, and (most easily seen in recurring dreams) are themselves processes that are extended in time well beyond the confines of one given instance of dreaming.

  67. Cuttlefish says

    Scientismis–

    Is “Freedom Evolves” where Dennett speaks of “free-floating rationales”? (in which we, as observers, can see the “intention” in, say, a cuckoo chick’s killing off of its nest-mates, but there is no need for the cuckoo chick to be consciously aware of this intention–rather, it is a fixed-action pattern.)

    And I take your criticism of not taking the extremely-long view; I did not explicitly say, but of course see the billion-year view; the substrates are different there (genes vs synapses, to simplify), but the interactive dance with the environment is there on both scales.

  68. Amphiox says

    Just another God of the Gaps argument dressed up in fancy words. Gap arguments are always the final refuge of a failing, intellectually bankrupt worldview.

    Meanwhile, we already have evidence that the physical changes in the brain substrate that underpin intentional states begin to firm before conscious awareness of intent. The Gap is already half closed.

  69. unclefrogy says

    at one time I remember getting very tangled up in this consciousness imagery for that is what I learned it really boiled down to. Imagery used to try and explain what “this” is, what existence is.
    First thing is all things are conscious but what is not spelled out simply is a “rock” is only conscious of what a rock is conscious of (chemistry and physics) going up in complexity achieving greater depth on awareness all the way to man. Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism and the like eastern thought are full of this stuff. The idea is through their particular practice to be able to see that we are all part of this one consciousness it is the experience they are after.
    that experience can be much easier had with drugs or the application of a 5 lb. hammer.
    because what they do not say in words because they do not understand it is we are one of the many effects of the “big bang” and are just those different levels of awareness nothing more there is no supper natural soul or cosmic conscious outside of what we can learn from scientific inquiry. These wankers are confused and trapped by the imagery of their religion and mistake it for a description of reality which it is but only a highly ornamented poetical one.
    While a poetical description of a foundation might be beautiful I prefer one made of concrete and re-bar to build my “house” on
    uncle frogy

  70. golkarian says

    “Craig is not one of the clever ones.”
    I agree he’s not bright and a bit nuts. But who do you think the clever one’s are? And what makes them clever? Or were you referring not to apologists but to philosophers?

  71. consciousness razor says

    Its also true that your brain probably can’t do the processing required to create the feeling of conciousness and intentionality without language.

    Nah. You could be aware of something without language.

    For example, I have (now very foggy) memories of when I was a child in preschool (and my first house, etc.). I was aware of all sorts of things: what the places looked like, what the people were like, things that happened, etc. I didn’t need words for every one of those things, yet I was aware of all of them. Granted, I’m certain my memories aren’t accurate — I already know the examples I picked are in vague little bits and pieces — but it was definitely something, and somewhat like my memories (unless maybe I’ve been tricked by an evil demon….).

    Anyway, language is of course one way to represent things, but it’s not as if we don’t also represent non-linguistic sounds, colors, shapes, smells, textures… the list goes on.

  72. throwaway says

    Ah, I see. God in the premise is just a placeholder for the words which come later, words which he can’t use immediately, because only then it would be too obvious a tautology. Sophistimicated Theontology. *moose-antler hands, tongue protruding*

  73. Scientismist says

    Cuttlefish (#82) —

    Yes, “free-floating rationale” is one of Dennett’s recurring phrases and ideas in Freedom Evolves. He mentions it with regard to the several evolutionary advantages brought to the eukaryotes with the internalization of mechanisms worked out by other microbes and adopted by horizontal transfer; and the more robust defense against rogue genes that is afforded by having multiple chromosomes. The individuals are not striving to become better, or more successful critters, but evolution has allowed them to stumble upon a good trick, and will reward them for it.

    I am sure, if he wanted, he could formulate examples from much earlier in evolution (and much later, like the cuckoo). When he gets to the cost/benefit analysis that underlies the evolution of human moral behavior, he points out that self-enlargement can be what he calls a forced move, that impure altruism (or benselfishness) can have a free-floating rationale that need not be appreciated by anyone. In fact, he argues, that may be “better” than a rational altruism — that displays of social cooperation that come from emotional responses that are poorly understood by the individual, and so are harder to fake in a convincing manner, will be less likely to be dismissed by others, and begin to cross the line from impure to what we would like to see as “pure” altruism. We don’t have to understand what we are doing to have purposeful and intentional behaviors. We can begin to see that when we enlarge our view of our own selves to include the purposes and intentions of the evolutionary process in which we are embedded.

  74. natashatasha says

    (3) is only true if (1) states ‘if and only if’, otherwise you’ve only proven a necessary but not sufficient condition of God’s existence (assuming the premise is true, which I’m sure we all agree is wrong).

    That is to say:
    (Not God => Not intention) (Intention => God)

    But to be honest, I can’t see how this argument differs from the ‘God just exists’ argument , it’s just one step removed— basically, he just posits that something that exists in nature couldn’t exist without God (without supporting this supposition), and says that because it exists, his deity-of-choice must also therefore exist. By the same logic, I could argue that narwhals couldn’t possibly exist without the Invisible Pink Unicorn tampering with evolution, and thus their existence proves the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn! Huzzah!

    His point is asinine, and one thing I love about this blog is that Craig’s tired arguments are getting all the ridicule they deserve.

  75. natashatasha says

    Errr, that was supposed to be
    (Not intention => Not God) DOES NOT IMPLY (Intention => God)
    Silly no edit-button.

  76. eyeroll says

    These apologists are actualy excusists.
    Oh, but they make me so mad I grind my teeth. He gets this tickly little feeling in his stomach, therefore god exists.

    I’ve said this before and I will say it once more:
    1. The mother of jesus was a virgin
    2. William lane craig is a virgin
    3. Therefore william lane craig is the mother of jesus.

  77. khms says

    Some definitions of consciousness, off the top of my head:

    1. aware of the environment, reacting to stimuli, what is interesting to EMTs.

    2. Aware of facts

    3. A certain feeling of self

    Now, #3 is not really externally observable in itself, and is (I think) the interesting one for this discussion.

    My personal pet theory is that it is a consequence of the way the brain functions. That is, once sufficiently evolved, the brain builds a model of the world around it (and keeps that model current). At the next level, that model will include a model of the brain itself (not, obviously, a scientifically valid model – just something that seems to account for the (internally) observable facts).

    Now, we do not perceive that model as a model; we perceive it as the real thing. Thus, we perceive the model of the brain as ourself.

    So, when we perceive that we decide to do something (for example), that means the model is being updated with that decision. But it is not the model that makes the decision – that part is an illusion, because the mechanics of what actually happens in the brain are not a part of the model – we can’t really observe that part, just the results. (And thus we’d often have trouble explaining our decisions.)

    This perceiving the model of self as self is, so my theory, what we perceive as consciousness and sense of self.

    And as to Cuttlefish’s points, obviously, without interactions with the environment, there wouldn’t be a model in the first place. In fact, it’s quite possible that we couldn’t even perceive enough about ourselves to build that model of the brain without those interactions.

    I strongly suspect that this also explains free will, but I haven’t worked out the details yet.

    And of course, there might be a good reason it can’t work that way that I’m not aware of … I’m one of those dreaded programmers that like to compare the brain to a computer, except I really don’t think it’s a Von-Neumann-style one :-) High-level concepts, similarities; low-level concepts, not so much. Plus, evolved instead of programmed, with all that entails.

    OK, I really need my sleep now …

  78. says

    @Anri #59
    Your remarks about neural networks presuppose that such structures generate consciousness. They don’t. Consciousness isn’t “inside” brains: brains are “inside” consciousness.
    @Erista #58, #66, #75
    Just as there are more spellings in existence than those with which you are personally acquainted (“enquiry” is common in British usage), so there are many experiences beyond this philosophical playpen in which you choose to live. That you are engaging in “philosophical debate” does not oblige me to abide by your rules. Who is feeling this irritation?
    @Sastra #54, #70
    We have played this game before: you plead for definitions and tests of consciousness, and I try to help you to see how silly this reveals you to be.
    You are watching a movie which captures your attention because it is constantly changing. Turn around now and look at the projector. Does it make sense to explain the projector in terms of the content of the movie?
    You can talk the talk, but there is something else available. A conceptual approach to reality is always about some object, and consciousness is not an object. The one who is conscious is real. Why be satisfied with less?

    @various
    My use of the term “empirical subjective enquiry” has been generally misunderstood. If you like what has been done with science, then simply apply the same methods to your own inner experience. It isn’t difficult, though it is arduous.

  79. Amphiox says

    Your remarks about neural networks presuppose that such structures generate consciousness. They don’t.

    And you know this how?

    Consciousness isn’t “inside” brains: brains are “inside” consciousness.

    And you know this how?

    A conceptual approach to reality is always about some object,

    And you know this how?

    and consciousness is not an object.

    And you know this how?

  80. Cuttlefish says

    And as to Cuttlefish’s points, obviously, without interactions with the environment, there wouldn’t be a model in the first place. In fact, it’s quite possible that we couldn’t even perceive enough about ourselves to build that model of the brain without those interactions.

    Funny thing about the mechanistic view; we can see the causal elements in the past (and present), and the behavior in the present, but we infer a “model”, which adds nothing to our understanding, serving only to reify a proximal stand-in for a known historical series of elements.

    One could argue that this model is represented neurally, but of course we use the terminology colloquially, without any brain scans to back up our inference. Indeed, we tend to call it a “mental model”, not a neural model; we have no idea how (or whether) it is represented neurally. And the way we talk about it, we don’t actually care if it is; we just need a stand-in to bridge the gap between causes we can see and effects we can see. “Need”, though, only within the confines of a mechanistic view that requires an immediate, proximal cause, enough to have us make one up when we don’t have direct evidence of one.

    We may well have something that serves as the functional equivalent of a “model” as you use it. It may be represented singularly, or multiply, or globally. But inferring one to fill a gap, as we see, runs the risk of making up a fictional entity which we then have to explain.

    And as long as you are explaining a fictional entity, why not make up a god to explain it?

  81. Azuma Hazuki says

    This one didn’t even make me blink. This one made me go “oh for fuck’s sake Bill, put that tiny thing away before you get hurt.”

    The worst part is, he probably gets more money for one speaking tour than any of us make in a decade.

  82. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And you know this how?

    I see Vijen the OPINION is back. Not one iota of evidence to support their claims. And he expects to be taken seriously without evidence? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  83. markdowd says

    This is actually quite easy to debunk without a major dissertation. All you have to do is point out that the statement “No physical object has this sort of intentionality.” is an unfounded and baseless assertion, and can be answered back as “Yes, some do. You.”

    Of course, this presumes you are talking to someone sensible.

  84. Amphiox says

    This is actually quite easy to debunk without a major dissertation. All you have to do is point out that the statement “No physical object has this sort of intentionality.” is an unfounded and baseless assertion, and can be answered back as “Yes, some do. You.”

    Take a hammer. Intentionally smash your own face with it. Does it hurt?

    Boom. Physical object has intentionality, proven.

  85. says

    Cuttlefish ( #79)
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. On reflection I think you did have a point. The mistake PZ made is when he said that intentional states are not really physical states. That is just too reductive. The right way to think about intentionality is that physical systems behave in a manner that it is useful to thinking of them as having intentional states. If you go poking about in the brain looking for intentional states I have a hunch that you aren’t going to find them. I think about intentional states in a similar way to how I think about the pressure of a gas. Once you switch to thinking about gas molecules floating around then at that level of analysis pressure is nowhere to be found. Brain states are too low a level to be looking for intentionality.

  86. khms says

    And as to Cuttlefish’s points, obviously, without interactions with the environment, there wouldn’t be a model in the first place. In fact, it’s quite possible that we couldn’t even perceive enough about ourselves to build that model of the brain without those interactions.

    Funny thing about the mechanistic view; we can see the causal elements in the past (and present), and the behavior in the present, but we infer a “model”, which adds nothing to our understanding, serving only to reify a proximal stand-in for a known historical series of elements.

    We pretty much infer everything we “know” about the world; but I certainly disagree that that model doesn’t add anything to our understanding, insofar as it expect that this should allow us to make predictions eventually.

    One could argue that this model is represented neurally, but of course we use the terminology colloquially, without any brain scans to back up our inference.

    Could you find such models in a computer by observing the electrical fields? In theory, but it’d pretty hard to do in practice – you won’t see that level of abstraction. We first need to figure out a way to get at the relevant level of stuff – but I have no reason to expect we can’t get there eventually.

    Indeed, we tend to call it a “mental model”, not a neural model; we have no idea how (or whether) it is represented neurally.

    You know, when I talk about computer programs at a similar level, I usually don’t know or care how it is represented at a comparable level, either. In fact, that knowledge would usually contribute remarkably little to what I was talking about. (Now, when I’d be actually writing those programs … the level I care about is still significantly higher than the physical.

    We may well have something that serves as the functional equivalent of a “model” as you use it. It may be represented singularly, or multiply, or globally. But inferring one to fill a gap, as we see, runs the risk of making up a fictional entity which we then have to explain.

    And as long as you are explaining a fictional entity, why not make up a god to explain it?

    Because I have no idea what this “god” thing does. I’ve never seen anything like that. Whereas, “models” are quite familiar. We build (much smaller) models to represent reality in computers all the time.

    But if it makes you feel better, call it a pet hypothesis instead.

  87. khms says

    For that matter, whenever science makes predictions, it uses a model. It’s pretty much the only way we now of to make reliable predictions. I’ll claim that it’s not all that wide a jump to assume that that’s what we do inside our brain, too.

  88. says

    Again, for all those impressed by the putative plausibility of consciousness “emerging” from brains: you know what it’s like to be the subject, and as the subject you experience objects. This essential faculty, of being capable of experiencing, is utterly irreducible. It has no parts, and is not constructed. All the so-called “evidence” pertains to minds, rather than to consciousness as such. Minds are indeed modular, and thoughts are demonstrably constructed from physical and electrical precursors. But thoughts are not conscious – they are objects among other objects which the subject is conscious of, and a mind is just an interacting system of thoughts.
    Only the subject is ever conscious: in fact, subjectivity is a synonym for consciousness. And you can know this for yourself, simply and directly, by empirical observation. The gap between your mind and consciousness, though easily elided in daily life, can be clearly seen in your moments of quiet reflection. Only through repeated and sustained practice of such introspection can one disidentify with the mind – it really isn’t who you are! – and this is prerequisite to establishing authentic identity.

  89. John Morales says

    Vijen:

    The gap between your mind and consciousness, though easily elided in daily life, can be clearly seen in your moments of quiet reflection.

    What do you imagine reflections are, if not thoughts?

    Only through repeated and sustained practice of such introspection can one disidentify with the mind – it really isn’t who you are! – and this is prerequisite to establishing authentic identity.

    You claim that if you scoop out your brains, you’ll retain your mind? :)

    (Care to prove it?)

  90. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I would argue that such dreams are in fact a continuation of that interaction with, and processing of, the world. Our dreams are absolutely influenced by our waking experiences, and (most easily seen in recurring dreams) are themselves processes that are extended in time well beyond the confines of one given instance of dreaming. – Cuttlefish

    Again, I agree – but they show that once developed, predominantly internal mental processes have considerable autonomy. So does our ability to – for example – learn mnemonic techniques such as those Yates describes in The Art of Memory.

  91. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    This essential faculty, of being capable of experiencing, is utterly irreducible. It has no parts, and is not constructed. – vijen

    This is quite false. Various parts of that faculty can be lost, as in blindsight, or depersonalisation, or hemineglect; there is no sharp dividing line between experiencing and not experiencing, as examples from recovered coma patients show but indeed as we all know experientially from falling asleep; and it is most definitely constructed, as for instance the McGurk effect demonstrates.

  92. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Only through repeated and sustained practice of such introspection can one disidentify with the mind – it really isn’t who you are! – and this is prerequisite to establishing authentic identity. – vijen

    And then we can aspire to becoming as smugly stupid as you?

  93. says

    @Nick Gotts
    You are describing the fragmentary character of mind, not of consciousness; sufferers of these conditions experience a more circumscribed variety of objects, but consciousness is unaffected. Consciousness is that which perceives.

  94. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You are describing the fragmentary character of mind, not of consciousness;

    Here you are describing nothing, as without citdations, *floosh*, your OPINION is sent to the toxic waste center for decontamination. No evidence, nothing cogent to say or to add to the discussion. As you so readily prove.

  95. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Consciousness is that which perceives. – vijen

    Ah – you’re still a captive in the Cartesian theatre.

    You have given not the slightest reason to believe in whatever it is you are calling “consciousness”, which appears to have nothing in common with the everyday uses of the word, and which you have failed to define in any useful way. You keep making vague recommendations to undertake some form of mental practice, but as I hinted @111, you are not a good advertisement for any course of action you recommend. Why would any of us want to turn into someone so smugly self-satisfied and yet so completely unable to support the claims they make, as you?

  96. Anri says

    Your remarks about neural networks presuppose that such structures generate consciousness. They don’t. Consciousness isn’t “inside” brains: brains are “inside” consciousness.

    You know, I went back and re-read what I wrote just to make sure I hadn’t made such a presupposition.

    And, guess what – I didn’t.
    I said nothing about neural networks generating consciousness, I merely asked how this ‘consciousness’ interacts with the elements of neural networks (neurons), and what would be a good way to detect it doing so.

    I then also asked if there was a minimum complexity/size of neural network that could be effected by it, and if so, what that size/complexity was.

    None of that presupposes consciousness arising within the neural network any more than asking what parts of a TV a TV signal acts on and how, and if a minimum complexity of equipment is required to interact with it – to use your metaphor.
    I’m playing your game here, as I said.

    It’s also worth noting that I predicted – correctly as it turned out – that you would fail to substantively address my question.
    Wanna try again?
    Or, rather, wanna actually try this time?

  97. says

    @Anri

    what part of that system does your ‘consciousness’ alter

    I’ll “try” again: apparently you really don’t understand that you have assumed a reality in which “consciousness is an element of physical reality. It isn’t, quite the reverse. Watch my lips…

  98. Erista (aka Eris) says

    @Vijen/96

    So, I take it that you aren’t actually going to deal with any of the points that I wrote? I’m shocked, truly shocked, for I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that you were prone to doing that sort of thing. My belief about your nature is shake to the core. Oh, woe betide my foolish self!

    *snort*

  99. consciousness razor says

    Again, for all those impressed by the putative plausibility of consciousness “emerging” from brains: you know what it’s like to be the subject, and as the subject you experience objects. This essential faculty, of being capable of experiencing, is utterly irreducible. It has no parts, and is not constructed.

    Emergentism and reductionism are an opposite ends of a spectrum. Aren’t you claiming here that emergentism is wrong because it’s reductionistic?

    And that it’s not “constructed” in any way. It’s “primary.” Consciousness is a representation of a thing. If representations of things were primary, that implies there could be some state of ‘pure’ consciousness with no things to represent, which isn’t any kind of representation. It’s exactly what not-consciousness would be like, meaning the ‘primariness’ of consciousness isn’t true because it doesn’t refer to anything at all.

  100. Amphiox says

    This essential faculty, of being capable of experiencing, is utterly irreducible.

    And you know this how, again?

    (Also, the entire history of the science of neuroscience says you’re wrong.)

    It has no parts,

    And you know this how, again?

    and is not constructed.

    It evolved.

  101. Amphiox says

    you have assumed a reality in which “consciousness is an element of physical reality. It isn’t, quite the reverse.

    And you know this how, again?

  102. vaiyt says

    The gap between your mind and consciousness, though easily elided in daily life, can be clearly seen in your moments of quiet reflection.

    Discovering that you can use your brains to think is such a fucking revelation to you?

  103. says

    @Amphiox
    I know this (as do you) with existential immediacy – in just the same way as I cannot doubt that I’m conscious. But you are enjoying the pretense that you don’t know, and for me that game has lost its savour.

  104. says

    @Erista #117
    Please forgive me for not being interested in your nonsense; but also see that there are many others whom I have ignored entirely. Your frustration is a very promising beginning. Namaste.

  105. Owlmirror says

    I know this (as do you) with existential immediacy

    Is that how you say “because I say so!”?

    in just the same way as I cannot doubt that I’m conscious

    Are you conscious when you’re unconscious?

    Is a rock conscious?

    Is a molecule conscious?

    Is an atom conscious?

    Is an electron conscious?

    Is a photon conscious?

    But you are enjoying the pretense that you don’t know, and for me that game has lost its savour.

    Christian presuppositionalists would, with equally facile arrogance, claim that you know that their God exists.

    What makes them wrong and you right?

  106. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I know this (as do you) with existential immediacy

    Meaningless word salad. Evidence is a citation to the peer reviewed scientific literature. It will NEVER BE YOUR OPINION.

  107. David Marjanović says

    And the guess is false: consciousness is primary. “You”, “me”, “brains”, “galaxies”, all the rest is derivative. Anyone who is genuinely committed to empirical enquiry can observe this directly.

    How does this work, and do you have any evidence that it works?

    Relinquish your pedestal for a moment, and you will see that, even if the entire content of your consciousness is false, you cannot deny the fact of your own consciousness. Take hold of this and follow it wherever it leads – nothing more is necessary.

    Please explain.

    As to defining consciousness, the whole is beyond definition: it’s essential character is non-dual (advaita), but ultimately life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved.

    Translation: “Stop thinking about it. Stop asking questions. Shut the fuck up. Just believe whatever I tell you.”

    Don’t you read what you write? Are you conscious of what you write at all?

    in your brain (where you have no sensory nerves–you cannot feel yourself think)

    Indeed. But sometimes you can feel the shifting patterns of blood flow, because various tissue sheets around the brain have pressure sensors. When I try very hard to follow an interesting conversation in a language I understand just well enough (has happened twice in total), I get a localized headache outside both temporal lobes.

    “Si, abiamo un anima, Ma é fatta di tanti piccoli robot.”

    Sì, abbiamo un’anima, ma è fatta di tanti piccoli roboti.

    But as a biologist (and scientific naturalist) I would say that it is one of those tanti piccoli robot[i] that works the will of a process that has been going on for billions of years, and “whose” goal is that of Leslie Orgel’s CITROENS: Complex Information-Transducing Objects Evolving through Natural Selection — that is, it is the goal of life.

    I can’t see where there’s a will or a goal in there.

    Your remarks about neural networks presuppose that such structures generate consciousness. They don’t. Consciousness isn’t “inside” brains: brains are “inside” consciousness.

    Consciousness is something brains do.

    you know what it’s like to be the subject, and as the subject you experience objects. This essential faculty, of being capable of experiencing, is utterly irreducible. It has no parts, and is not constructed.

    Have you never woken up slowly? Have you never started dreaming and fallen asleep during a lecture, trying hard but failing to distinguish what you hear from what you dream? For me that’s a fairly common experience.

    Minds are indeed modular, and thoughts are demonstrably constructed from physical and electrical precursors. But thoughts are not conscious – they are objects among other objects which the subject is conscious of

    Thoughts are not objects. They’re activities.

    Consciousness is that which perceives.

    Consciousness is the state of perceiving, I’d say.

    Your frustration is a very promising beginning. Namaste.

    Ná te yabhati káś caná?

  108. anteprepro says

    Vijen continues to quibble about semantics using his own special personal definition of a word that is apparently beyond definition. What a brilliant way to waste everyones fucking time.

  109. jackasterisk says

    Dan Dennet’s intentional stance is a pretty straightforward response to this nonsense. Intentionality isn’t supernatural — it’s a way of interpreting behavior. We take the intentional stance with all kinds of things considered lesser than human or known to be entirely mechanical. We might talk about bugs or fish as being “frightened” or “curious” because it explains their behaviors. And a software API is often best explained in terms of what its deterministic objects “want”. No ghost in those machines.

    intentional stance

  110. Anri says

    I’ll “try” again: apparently you really don’t understand that you have assumed a reality in which “consciousness is an element of physical reality. It isn’t, quite the reverse. Watch my lips…

    I’ll watch closely.
    Are you saying that ‘consciousness’, whatever it is, does or does not effect physical stuff?

    Like neurons.
    Which are physical things.

    I haven’t asked you, even once, what ‘consciousness’ is, or where it is, or what its aspect might be. I’m just asking how it effects the brain.
    Now, have you watched what I’m asking closely enough to actually answer the question?

  111. erikthebassist says

    Vijen @ 107:

    The gap between your mind and consciousness, though easily elided in daily life, can be clearly seen in your moments of quiet reflection.

    And the gap between your brain and the inside of your colon is equal to exactly the combined measurement of the bone, hair and tissue separating the two.

  112. Snoof says

    Consciousness is something brains do.

    A nice try, but it seems pretty clear to me that when Vijen says “consciousness” xe really means “the Tao” or “the atman” or “Brahman” or “the Force” or something rather than any recognisable human experience or behaviour.

  113. says

    @Snoof
    Consciousness is both cosmic and intimately personal.
    Who is perceiving this?
    Who is doing this?
    Who am I?
    When one is tenacious in the investigation, the surface layers of personal identity gradually evaporate and glimpses of the cosmic arise.

  114. anteprepro says

    Also, let it be noted that Vijen’s 132 was a very convoluted way of saying “Yeah, pretty much” to Snoof’s 131.

  115. says

    @Anri
    It isn’t the “hard” question, but the simple answer which you are having trouble with.
    You don’t need to solve anything, you just aren’t seeing clearly.
    Mind relies on these hard issues, only thus can it continue to dominate you: Life is so serious!
    Simplicity pricks the bubble: We celebrate everything!

  116. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Vijen, you’re in the wrong place to find mystical bullshit seekers.

    (All you’re good for is being a subject of ridicule)

  117. says

    Vijen:
    I cannot understand why you think ‘mysticism’ exists, or why you think there are dots to connect between it and science. Applying the same critical eye to mysticism (whatever the heck that means) as I do with theistic beliefs, I have one important question: where is your evidence?

  118. says

    @Tony
    Most of what I say is from direct experience, the rest has been reported by those whose other observations match my direct experience.
    Of course, I don’t expect you to accept any of it as evidence; all I can do is describe my methodology, which, in practice, is of a piece with the “scientific method”, so that you can check my results of my investigation.
    And those results make it obvious that many so-called scientists and philosophers are promoting such fatuous notions about the nature of consciousness that they are, in effect, preaching a religion. Their arguments depend on a huge dollop of wishful thinking – I’m reminded of Sam Harris’s fridge-sized diamond which they believe is buried within reach, but it’s such a comfort!

  119. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Vijen, see, there’s your problem: you used the “scientific method” rather than the scientific method.

    (So, have you scooped out your brains to prove your point that your consciousness doesn’t depend on them?)

  120. Rodney Nelson says

    I’ve just read all of Vijen’s comments on this thread. He needs to spend more time at the feet of the master because he hasn’t mentioned quantum once.

  121. Anri says

    It isn’t the “hard” question, but the simple answer which you are having trouble with.
    You don’t need to solve anything, you just aren’t seeing clearly.
    Mind relies on these hard issues, only thus can it continue to dominate you: Life is so serious!
    Simplicity pricks the bubble: We celebrate everything!

    The answer to my last question can’t get any simpler – it could be a single word.
    Unfortunately for you, that would actually mean you’d have to pin down your position, and you won’t/can’t do that.

    I’m still batting 1.000 on my prediction of you not giving a substantive answer to my question.

    The yes/no form of my question is: Does ‘consciousness’ effect physical things?
    You could spin this answer out into your typical mealymouthed rambling. You could simply ignore it to continue to pretend you have something of substance to say. Or you could just answer the question.

    I predict you will do one of the first two, and avoid the third option like the plague, while claiming to have embraced it. Pretentious metaphysical wankers like you are a dime a dozen, Vijen. You’re nothing new, nothing special, and you’re not saying anything profound.
    Pity your ego won’t let you admit that to yourself.

  122. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    all I can do is describe my methodology,

    Better known as making shit up, mental wanking, and obfuscation. Don’t pretend anything you do has anything to do with science. A topic you don’t understand. Prima facie evidence for that assertion, in science, you lead with the physical evidence. Whereas you avoid that evidence like the plague.

  123. says

    @Turd Nerd
    Oxford University doesn’t give chemistry degrees to people who don’t understand science: I guess you’ll wish to apologize now…

  124. anteprepro says

    Ultimately those shortcuts, inspiring as they are, become a trap. Click on my name for more.

    Damn. I was going to make a joke about how Vijen was a spambot reciting Choprawoo. I was so close to being prophetic.

    (Annoying people to the point of exasperation and luring them to your website so that they can finally figure out the specifics of what you are being so smug about is a rather interesting advertising technique.)

    And those results make it obvious that many so-called scientists and philosophers are promoting such fatuous notions about the nature of consciousness that they are, in effect, preaching a religion . Their arguments depend on a huge dollop of wishful thinking – I’m reminded of Sam Harris’s fridge-sized diamond which they believe is buried within reach, but it’s such a comfort!

    Projection seems to be the weapon of choice for this caliber of fuckwit.

  125. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oxford University doesn’t give chemistry degrees to people who don’t understand science:

    Actually they do, as you keep proving with your inane and utterly unscientific drivel. After all, just because you were trained, doesn’t mean you aren’t using the tools properly. And you aren’t. Or you could just be a liar and bullshitter. WHERE IS YOUR EVIDENCE? Either present your evidence here, or you are tacitly acknowledging your fuckwittery isn’t scientific. And you know that.

  126. says

    @anteprepro
    Tony asked. You didn’t. Please don’t visit my website.
    Still, if you really are exasperated, then my work here is done.
    There! Is your need for attention satisfied now?

  127. anteprepro says

    There! Is your need for attention satisfied now?

    More projection? You would think that the person who knew how everything was a unified consciousness would be better at mind reading than the average e-psychiatrist. It’s almost like Vijen doesn’t actually have any insight into the secret inner workings of reality, and is merely a delusional moron. Makes ya think.

  128. says

    I recall that I was once assaulted by a coterie of small yapping dogs. While I was dealing fairly and honestly with one of them, another would mount a sneaky attack.
    If I have not addressed my remarks to you specifically, then it won’t help you, nor will it trouble me, if you try to pick holes in the other stuff.

  129. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Vijen,
    While science is empirical, that does not mean that all experience counts as evidence. Dreams are not evidence. Hallucinations are not evidence. Everything you are citing as evidence seems to be subjective, which precludes reproducibility by independent observers. Without that, you aren’t doing anything remotely resembling science.

  130. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s almost like Vijen doesn’t actually have any insight into the secret inner workings of reality, and is merely a delusional moron. Makes ya think.

    Gee, he can’t define anything, can’t evidence anything, and has nothing but egotistical attutide to offer up. Yep, I think it’s a conclusion.

  131. anteprepro says

    I recall that I was once assaulted by a coterie of small yapping dogs. While I was dealing fairly and honestly with one of them, another would mount a sneaky attack.

    So sorry that a blog comment section doesn’t allow for you to have private one-on-one conversations. I shed a single tear for you.

    Also “fairly and honestly” is not how I would describe your consistent unwillingness to say anything of substance. Indignant sneers followed by vague statements copied right off of fortune cookies isn’t what I think of when I hear “fairly and honestly”. But I suppose you different definitions for those words as well, that we are all expected to use even if you can’t actually bother to define your version, right?

  132. David Marjanović says

    Consciousness is both cosmic and intimately personal.
    Who is perceiving this?
    Who is doing this?
    Who am I?
    When one is tenacious in the investigation, the surface layers of personal identity gradually evaporate and glimpses of the cosmic arise.

    No, glimpses of smaller and smaller – and stupider and stupider – things arise. You get to the brain, brain regions, nerve cells, neurotransmitters and their receptors, ion channels ( = protein molecules)…

    Simplicity pricks the bubble: We celebrate everything!

    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

    Oxford University doesn’t give chemistry degrees to people who don’t understand science

    I frankly doubt that. To do chemistry, you don’t often need to know science theory in any detail, and you definitely don’t need to be aware of it all the time. I’m with comment 155.

  133. rr says

    Vijen:

    Of course, I don’t expect you to accept any of it as evidence; all I can do is describe my methodology, which, in practice, is of a piece with the “scientific method”, so that you can check my results of my investigation.

    What other methodologies can be used to verify your (rather nebulous) claims? What parts of the scientific literature (psychology, neurology, etc) support your ideas?

  134. says

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    These issues do not constrain subjective empirical enquiry to extent you suppose. If I have a headache and so do you, we can easily agree that our experience is similar, even though this is not reproducible in the sense you require.
    I was shocked out of a worldview which found your objections perfectly coherent, and unanswerable, by encountering a remarkable being in whose presence my experience of identity was vastly expanded.
    When the distinction between “me” and “you” is eroded, independent observers aren’t found and reproducibility is moot.
    @rr
    Objects don’t characterize the subject. See my remarks to Sastra at #96.

    @practically everyone on this thread
    Starting with the (undeclared) axiom that nothing exists except within physical reality allows the establishment of a conceptual bubble which is hard to see beyond. And consciousness becomes an unsolvable mystery – persuading rational people to adopt the sleight of hand they call “Naturalism”.
    Try starting instead from the axiom that nothing exists except within consciousness. Physical reality is a projection within (cosmic) consciousness, and your (personal) consciousness is a thread which connects you with the whole. By following this thread it is possible to shift the focus of identification: physical reality is as it was, but you are not as you were.

  135. Anri says

    @Anri
    What is the answer to this question?

    Here ya go.

    Now that I’ve answered your question, how about you answer mine?

    Or, even better, since you’ve claimed to, quote yourself and highlight the answer.

    Or you could always just admit you got nuthin. I’d really like to actually get an answer, but I’ll settle for a perfect record of saying you can’t/won’t answer.
    Either way.
    It’s your call.

  136. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If I have a headache and so do you, we can easily agree that our experience is similar, even though this is not reproducible in the sense you require.

    That isn’t evidence. Your experience is and never will be evidence. Evidence is found in the peer reviewed scientific literature. Either put or shut the fuck up. And we both know you can’t put up, and you can’t shut up. But that is where liars and bullshitters lie. Quit lying an bullshitting us.

    When the distinction between “me” and “you” is eroded,

    It isn’t except in your delusional mind.

    And consciousness becomes an unsolvable mystery

    Unsupported assertion, *floosh*, which is sent to where it belongs. The waste disposal system. You have nothing you have supported with evidence, ergo you have nothing on the table other than bullshit.

    Try starting instead from the axiom that nothing exists except within consciousness.

    Why? Why should a proven unscientific liar and bullshitter be listened to about anything. Especially when they can’t back anything up?

    Physical reality is a projection within (cosmic) consciousness,

    Another unsupported and dismissed assertion…

    and your (personal) consciousness is a thread which connects you with the whole.

    More unevidenced assertions *FLOOSH* sent to the waste disposal system.

    By following this thread it is possible to shift the focus of identification: physical reality is as it was, but you are not as you were.

    Mystical word salad meaning nothing, as there is no basis in reality. Nothing but bullshit without reality.

    Try again with real evidence, real defined ideas, and no mysticism, which is for abject losers.

  137. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Vijen:

    Starting with the (undeclared) axiom that nothing exists except within physical reality allows the establishment of a conceptual bubble which is hard to see beyond.

    What a stupid claim.

    Nobody denies imagination exists, but it’s in a different category to physical things — this is just an equivocation between physical existence and abstract existence.

    Try starting instead from the axiom that nothing exists except within consciousness.

    What a stupid suggestion!

    (Samuel Johnson noted as much to Bishop Berkeley)

    By following this thread it is possible to shift the focus of identification: physical reality is as it was, but you are not as you were.

    What an idiotic conceit!

    Reality ain’t static.

    Bah.

  138. throwaway says

    By following this thread it is possible to shift the focus of identification: physical reality is as it was, but you are not as you were.

    By what measurable terms was it altered? A scan of the brain at the moment of perspective shift would show the ‘real’ aspect of your consciousness (the brain which provides it) as the electrical signals of neural activity in recognizable patterns not wholly unique to you as an individual. Grounded in objective reality. You, you have gobbledigoo and mysticism. No thanks.

  139. says

    You know what? If I have a headache, and you have a headache, and we both describe our headaches to each other and we both agree that we have the same exact headache, we actually have no fucking idea if we are experiencing the same thing.

    If I see a big green ball and I point it out to you and say “Look at that big green ball” and you say “Yes, that is certainly a big green ball”, we have no way of telling if we are actually experiencing the same thing.

  140. anteprepro says

    I was shocked out of a worldview which found your objections perfectly coherent, and unanswerable, by encountering a remarkable being in whose presence my experience of identity was vastly expanded.
    When the distinction between “me” and “you” is eroded, independent observers aren’t found and reproducibility is moot.

    The distinction between “me” and “you” apparently hasn’t eroded enough yet for you to demonstrate any evidence that collective consciousness is a thing. For someone who claims to have knowledge of a common consciousness, and knowledge of that through personal experience no less, you seem to be tragically incapable of any actual insight gained from such a profound discovery. You discovered that all minds are basically one, and all you have to show for it is unwarranted self-importance.

    Starting with the (undeclared) axiom that nothing exists except within physical reality allows the establishment of a conceptual bubble which is hard to see beyond . And consciousness becomes an unsolvable mystery – persuading rational people to adopt the sleight of hand they call “Naturalism”.

    Seriously, what have I been telling this fucker about projection?

    Try starting instead from the axiom that nothing exists except within consciousness. Physical reality is a projection within (cosmic) consciousness, and your (personal) consciousness is a thread which connects you with the whole.

    You realize that those are two different assumptions, right? And that the latter (personal consciousness is derived from a universal consciousness) is even more absurd and incoherent than the former (reality is a product of consciousness)? You probably don’t, because you basically proceed from the outset assuming that “cosmic consciousness” is the only real definition of consciousness that deserves any attention, and dismissing “personal consciousness” as a mere side-effect, nothing worth paying attention to unless it is used as evidence for this vague, nebulous “cosmic consciousness”.

    Evidence. It is what “naturalism” has. It is what you don’t. You have done no more than handwave away the need for it. That doesn’t support your case, that is you forfeiting your case. This isn’t a matter of bias or different assumptions on the part of “naturalists”. This is a matter of you having only bias and assumptions to support yourself. Sorry, but when your best argument is from unverifiable and bizarre personal experiences, and vague ones at that, you are better off peddling your bullshit to ufologists or evangelicals. We don’t buy it when they are selling it, so why would we buy the same shit in woo flavor?

  141. says

    @anteprepro

    all minds are basically one

    No they aren’t, no more than all bodies are basically one. Again, consciousness is not mind. This is the root of your misunderstanding.

    “cosmic consciousness” is the only real definition of consciousness that deserves any attention, and dismissing “personal consciousness” as a mere side-effect, nothing worth paying attention to

    No! Consciousness is non-dual (advaita) it doesn’t come in personal and cosmic flavours, and attempting to define it is again a strategy of the mind to retain control – why do you allow this psychological machine to control your life? So much more is possible…
    You don’t need fresh ideas, you need fresh eyes. Imagine that you and your twin had both been born blind, but then you had an operation to partially establish your vision. Your twin hasn’t had the operation yet, and doesn’t want it. In fact he’s marshaling a wide range of specious arguments to prove that sight is impossible. What could you do for him? It’s clearly not worth arguing with him on his terms, because that reinforces his predicament, but you need to make some kind of conceptual engagement, or nothing will ever change. All you can do is honestly describe your own experience, and try to overlook his bitter attempts at scorn and belittlement. How would you feel towards him? It’s a thankless task, and you don’t want to spend too much time on it, but your feel a responsibility toward your unnecessarily benighted brother. Still, you know that nothing he says can take away your vision, so if he really isn’t interested you decide to leave him be.
    I’ve indicated how to go about acquiring a clearer perception of reality, but no-one is interested in doing the work. That’s your freedom.

  142. John Morales says

    Vijen:

    Again, consciousness is not mind. This is the root of your misunderstanding.

    Such stupid equivocation!

    You cannot have a mind without being conscious, nor can you have consciousness without a mind*.

    I’ve indicated how to go about acquiring a clearer perception of reality, but no-one is interested in doing the work.

    Being conceptually muddled is hardly having clearer perception, O simpleton.

    * Well, not unless you do a little semantic hop-and-skip and claim consciousness is awareness (in which case anything that reacts to its environment is conscious) or claim a mind is something that processes information (in which case a computer is a mind).

  143. consciousness razor says

    Physical reality is a projection within (cosmic) consciousness, and your (personal) consciousness is a thread which connects you with the whole.

    So the kind of thing that I and everyone else here considers consciousness is a “thread.” And that’s part of something which is within what is presumably also a “thread” (is there anything else in it?), but I haven’t seen you give any reason why the former could be anything like the latter.

    You just say we have to go and experience … I don’t know … some vague experience or another. But that’s not explaining anything, and it’s not even clear what the concept is that we’re supposed to come away with, much less how it could be relevant to anything whatsoever. How would we know when we’ve done it correctly, according to your “scientific” standards? Maybe I’ve already done it the right way, and you happen to be wrong — what could anyone possibly do to even begin settling the issue?

    No! Consciousness is non-dual (advaita) it doesn’t come in personal and cosmic flavours, and attempting to define it is again a strategy of the mind to retain control – why do you allow this psychological machine to control your life? So much more is possible…

    You were just saying it comes in personal and cosmic flavors. Maybe you should clarify what you mean, instead of going straight back to preaching about how woefully mislead we all are.

    What more is possible? If you know, or even kinda-sorta have some vague concept about it, why not say what that is? Feel free to put it in whichever terms you want. But just try to say something of substance that someone could do something about, rather than another snotty, incoherent variation of “you don’t get it.”

  144. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    why do you allow this psychological machine to control your life? So much more is possible…

    yeah, using real science, not bullshit. Your life is controlled by bullshit. Why don’t you try the one think left. Your silence. You have nothing to offer anybody with a working brain.

  145. anteprepro says

    Vijen is just fucking hopeless. He is unreflective broiling incomprehension. He is a dull child that thinks it has outwitted the teacher. He is an ideologue who thinks debate has to occur on his terms if he says the same shit loudly and repetitively enough. He is a hamster running in a wheel and calling it an escape. He is Billy Lane with less love of genocide. He is equivocation made flesh. He is a man who decided that if he wasnt entitled to his own facts then being entitled to his own definitions was good enough. He is when assumptions trump data. When feelings trump evidence. When word games trump facts. He is pathetic

  146. jaytheostrich says

    Nerd (#25) – not what I was thinking about, but cool.

    David (#158) – Can I use that for a tagline? “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”

  147. anteprepro says

    Jaytheostritch: that was a reference not davids creation. It originated from Noam Chomsky.You couls use it as a tagline with little objection from him I am sure.

  148. Amphiox says

    in just the same way as I cannot doubt that I’m conscious.

    YOU cannot doubt this, perhaps. But you could still be wrong. How would you know if you were wrong?

    If you cannot know when you are wrong, or if you are wrong, then you DO NOT KNOW.

    Again, consciousness is not mind

    And you KNOW this, HOW?

  149. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Vijen: “If I have a headache and so do you, we can easily agree that our experience is similar, even though this is not reproducible in the sense you require.”

    No, we cannot conclude that our experience of headache is similar. I could have a migraine and you a sinus headache. I could have visual sensations and you not. I could have had a headache for years and you for 5 minutes. And so on–all of which could make our experiences that both fall under the name “headache” different.

    All I can say is that you have a very low standard for knowledge. I would call it “fantasy.”

  150. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I’ve indicated how to go about acquiring a clearer perception of reality, but no-one is interested in doing the work. – vijen

    No-one is remotely interested in following any advice from you, first because you provide no evidence whatsoever that your claims are true; and second, because you come across as an obnoxious, tedious twerp.

  151. Anri says

    It’s just rotten, just plain unfair when people stoop to asking you real-world questions, isn’t it, Vijen?

    I mean, how can you go on being the Truly Superior Philosopher-King dispensing clever riddles to the seething masses when that damn kid just won’t shut up about you being naked!

    There otta be a law, I tells ya.

  152. Owlmirror says

    I recall that I was once assaulted by a coterie of small yapping dogs.

    Silly Vijen. If your amusing confabulation were true, you and the small yapping dogs would be the same conscious thing. You are yapping at yourself.

    While I was dealing fairly and honestly with one of them, another would mount a sneaky attack.

    No, one part of consciousness would attack another part of consciousness, all of which is you.

    Why are you attacking yourself?

    If I have not addressed my remarks to you specifically, then it won’t help you, nor will it trouble me, if you try to pick holes in the other stuff.

    But there is no “you” specifically, nor “I” specifically. There’s just consciousness, which apparently has enormous trouble understanding itself, or anything.

    For something that is so universal, consciousness sure seems to have trouble being conscious of consciousness. Maybe it’s really unconsciousness.

  153. Owlmirror says

    When one is tenacious in the investigation, the surface layers of personal identity gradually evaporate and glimpses of the cosmic arise.

    When the butterfly that is dreaming that it is you splatters on the windscreen that is reality, the cleaning spray that is time and the wiper that is space makes everything all higgledy-piggledy,

  154. says

    @Anri #179
    I recommend listening to what I have to say – making up imaginary positions for me won’t be nearly as much fun! Everything is fair, indeed I relish all genuine attempts to grapple with what I say (whilst ignoring most of those who just pretend to). Still, what passes for intelligent discourse in this forum is at best tangential to the search for truth.
    Any understanding of the “real-world” inescapably relies upon a subject who observes that “reality” – simply turn the focus of your enquiry upon your own perceptive faculty: What is its structure? What is its source? Can it be distinguished from the more general kinds of cognitive functionality? This is why our perceptions differ so markedly, your science is limited to the objective world, and mine isn’t.
    @Owlmirror
    Your remarks about “parts of consciousness” are not without merit, but the perspective which you assume is not mine or yours. Yes, there are humans alive who experience that perspective, and I’ve encountered a few; but unless you yourself have begun to doubt that this is all there is, then you won’t recognize them when you meet them :-(
    Regarding electrons, etc., yes, of course they are conscious, since nothing exists which is not, in its essence, consciousness. But consciousness enjoys pretending to be just a human vastly more than it enjoys pretending to be just an electron. You recall, I’m sure, that Wheeler and Feynman established that all positrons and electrons can be equivalently described as a single particle moving forwards and backwards in time. If reality needs only one electron, why should it need more than one human?

  155. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Invariably, those who use the phrase “other ways of knowing” don’t have even one.

    Science, observation, investigation, repeatable results.

    What do you have again?

  156. John Morales says

    Vijen:

    Regarding electrons, etc., yes, of course they are conscious, since nothing exists which is not, in its essence, consciousness.

    Cheese.

    Don’t forget they’re made of cheese, since nothing exists which is not, in its essence, cheese.

    <snicker>

  157. Anri says

    I recommend listening to what I have to say – making up imaginary positions for me won’t be nearly as much fun! Everything is fair, indeed I relish all genuine attempts to grapple with what I say (whilst ignoring most of those who just pretend to). Still, what passes for intelligent discourse in this forum is at best tangential to the search for truth.
    Any understanding of the “real-world” inescapably relies upon a subject who observes that “reality” – simply turn the focus of your enquiry upon your own perceptive faculty: What is its structure? What is its source? Can it be distinguished from the more general kinds of cognitive functionality? This is why our perceptions differ so markedly, your science is limited to the objective world, and mine isn’t.

    So, you still can’t/won’t answer my question.

    Nor can you quote where (as you claimed) you answered it earlier.

    You keep wanting me to “…turn the focus of my enquiry(sic)…”
    Which is to say, stop asking you questions you can’t/won’t answer. Sorry, this is a terribly simple question, not complex, not esoteric, not requiring a wall-o-text bullshit answer. The only thing I’m grappling with is a feeling of deep futility in trying to get you to either answer the question, quote where you (as you say) have already answered it, or just admit you can’t.

    Just stop dodging, derailing, squirming. I’m patient enough to delve into whatever butthole-spelunking woo-woo garbage philosophy you’re espousing, but if you want my attention (and you certainly seem to), you have to answer my questions.
    If you can’t, just admit it. It will hurt… it would of course have hurt a lot less if you’d done it earlier, but that was your call.

    Seriously, for someone who appears to have aspirations to spiritual leadership, you’re bad at it.
    Get better or quit trying.