Dualism

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Dualism

Postby MysticWav » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:01 am

This is just a quick side thread for Justin and crayzz and anyone else that wants in. Odds are nothing new is going to be presented here if you're a longtime forum member.

Monism doesn't make sense to me because it can't explain the most central piece of evidence I have to work with. Namely myself. It gets a bit dicey to describe since a lot of people ascribe different qualities to these terms, but I'm talking about that which for various people falls awareness/sensation/experience/thought/feeling. The thing that makes me different from a robot that is able to completely simulate my input/output responses. The fact that I don't just act like I burnt my finger in an input/out manner, but actually feel the process. I am /not/ talking about calculation or mechanics, which monism explains very well.

I do not think a chunk of coal feels anything. I don't think if I slice it into a cube, or a sphere, or a single layer of atoms, or combine it with any other element that it is going to start feeling. There are little feel-tons that once they achieve critical mass will form a consciousness. I don't think there is an feel-netic field produced by matter interactions or movements that will do it either. There is no physical entity described so far which even offers the slightest hint of that property other than the very specific configuration of a brain, and let's face it, the brain isn't exactly some magical physical structure that should be viewed as completely alien from a muscle or a tree or a baseball or a lump of coal in terms of the physics involved.

So basically that's where I'm at. I have an important piece of evidence that doesn't seem explicable by anything we've seen so far, or even anything similar to what we've seen so far. There is something Else, significantly different from what we've seen in our physical universe.
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Re: Dualism

Postby Packbat » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:23 am

If I understand you correctly, you are basically raising the hard problem of consciousness - this YouTube video (2:32) presents it in the words of its originator, David Chalmers. Is that the case? I don't want to try to refute something you don't believe.
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Re: Dualism

Postby MysticWav » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:52 am

I'll have to review the video later, I don't have audio at work. :) The wikipedia article makes it seems like the same idea, though.
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Re: Dualism

Postby Leibowitz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:55 am

I don't buy that "weird and complex" means "not physical," that's just argument from ignorance. The fact that we don't fully understand all the things reality does is not evidence that there's some special inexplicable magic outside the universe.

If you take a single atom from a tree, you do not have an atom of "tree," you have an atom of carbon. The carbon does not have tree-qualities, it does not grow or make seeds. You only have a tree when you have a large quantity of atoms and energy all interacting in a certain complex pattern. Vibrating air is not music, a single note is not music (shut up, Philip Glass.) You only have music when you have air vibrating in certain complex patterns. Similarly, a person is a phenomenon, not an object, a pattern that emerges when matter and energy are arranged juuuuuust right. Like the green flash at sunset, or the whorls in a river's current where water temporarily flows uphill, or the way that ink and cellulose in exactly the right configuration can be a story.

The dualism you're looking for is matter and pattern, medium and information.
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Re: Dualism

Postby MysticWav » Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:08 am

An atom of a tree is not a tree. But a tree does have properties that we regularly acknowledge atoms and their combinations to produce. A consciousness does not.

I'd buy your argument if any of the matter or pattern at our disposal allowed us build up such a property. It's like if you have a palette of paints. I can understand how, with red, blue, and yellow we might combine them to obtain green. Or even if we didn't understand black and white, it's something plausibly out there that we'd expect to get to eventually. And then from their we can certainly mix them in increasingly nuanced and complex ratios and patterns to produce paintings. But none of our paints are believed to produce sound. It seems far more reasonable to conclude that we're not going to produce a note than that we will if we just find some unknown pattern (blue grids on a yellow background with red polka dots).

Now it's possible to take the position that you /do/ believe all the paints are producing sound, that is to say, that every chunk of charcoal really does experience things. But I don't know anyone who actually believes that or behaves as if it's true. :)
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Re: Dualism

Postby Leibowitz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:33 am

I acknowledge that atoms and their combinations produce properties such as life and consciousness. You seem to be granting life, but drawing the line at consciousness. This is classic god-of-the-gaps stuff, a couple hundred years ago people were certain that living material must be infused with divine magic.

That's exactly it: with red and blue and yellow you can produce green or purple. Or Girl with a Pearl Earring. There is no atom in the paint that is an atom of Girl. There are no molecules of perspective. The girl, the earring, the scene, only exists when the paints are arranged in a very particular way.

Computers make this even more obvious. You've got your silicon, your magnetic particles, your copper and fiber-optic cables. And then you've got the game you're playing: a simulated world, a hypothetical space, with dragons and magic and other people playing too. Impossible, says the 18th century fop, for mere metal and glass to create a captive world! Only magic or god could accomplish such a thing.

Impossible, you say, for mere matter to create a conscious mind. Only magic. How long till full AI? And which argument will you make then: that it's not really conscious, or that it has magically acquired the same magic property that humans have?
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Re: Dualism

Postby crayzz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:38 am

MysticWav wrote:An atom of a tree is not a tree. But a tree does have properties that we regularly acknowledge atoms and their combinations to produce. A consciousness does not.

Now it's possible to take the position that you /do/ believe all the paints are producing sound, that is to say, that every chunk of charcoal really does experience things. But I don't know anyone who actually believes that or behaves as if it's true. :)


We don't know the underlying properties of consciousness; we cannot simply state that consciousness can't come from matter. In any case, doing so is simply starting of with one's conclusion as one's premise. You seem to be accepting dualism as axiomatic and then dismissing other models that contradict that axiom.

I don't know why you think monism dictates that all matter experiences. It doesn't, and mocking that in an attempt at reductio ad absurdum isn't much of a criticism. In any case, I find reductio ad absurdum very ineffective when dealing with things that are subjectively absurd rather than things that are objectively absurd. If you point out that a given premise leads to a demonstrably false conclusion, that's all well and good. If you're relying on saying "Most/everyone agrees that this is silly," especially in a field where human knowledge is limited (and thus context for determining what is or isn't silly is limited), I'm going to shrug my shoulders and say, "Ok, that's silly, but that's no reason to say its wrong."

Leibowitz wrote:Impossible, you say, for mere matter to create a conscious mind. Only magic. How long till full AI? And which argument will you make then: that it's not really conscious, or that it has magically acquired the same magic property that humans have?


The same criticism I made towards MysticWav applies here, I think. You seem to assert full AI as a given in the future, but if MysticWav is right, then maybe it won't be.
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Re: Dualism

Postby MysticWav » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:07 pm

Problematically, we have no way to measure consciousness. Thus, none of us can actually wave a detector over a block of matter and agree objectively agree whether or not it is conscious. Similarly, should advanced AI ever be created, we'll never really know of it is conscious or just doing a really good job of faking it. That said, we can look at how matter behaves in other instances and come to some likely conclusions. Matter generally behaves the same within certain scale ranges. To make it do something truly odd, you have to interweave it very carefully on an atom by atom basis for a meta-material, scale it up past stellar masses, or bust it up below the atomic level. And let's face it, consciousness is an even weirder effect than anything we've seen out of those even. The human brain, the only structure commonly agreed to be correlated with consciousness, does not exist on those scales. The combinations and patterns are not particularly exotic in the grand scheme of the other mundane objects around it. So separating it out from its peers without establishing a substantive distinction doesn't make a lot of sense. Which leaves one with a fairly absurd world. As you say, crayzz, that doesn't mean it's wrong, but it does strip Monism of some of the "taken for granted" sense of superiority over that wacky dualism and its "magic". "Ok, that's silly, but that's no reason to say its wrong." should cut both ways, which it sounds like something you understand.

I'm more or less left with 3 possibilities
1) The human brain is a nearly singular pattern that allows the physical laws of nature as we know them to produce consciousness. That seems awfully specific and uncharacteristic of how physical laws act so far. (I therefore call this path, classic monism, highly unlikely)
2) That nearly all matter in the universe is at some level conscious. (wacky monism. Entirely possible, but virtually unadvocated for with profound impacts on moral theory)
3) That the source of consciousness is non-physical. (dualism. Rather unspecific but entirely possible and also intuitive to how we perceive the universe.)

A far cry from obsolete, three seems like the best option to me.
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Re: Dualism

Postby crayzz » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:58 pm

Problematically, we have no way to measure consciousness. Thus, none of us can actually wave a detector over a block of matter and agree objectively agree whether or not it is conscious. Similarly, should advanced AI ever be created, we'll never really know of it is conscious or just doing a really good job of faking it.


How do you know "faking it" is a meaningful distinction? If a given piece of matter behaves exactly as we expect from conscious beings, what's the distinction between the piece of matter and me? What's the difference?

That said, we can look at how matter behaves in other instances and come to some likely conclusions. Matter generally behaves the same within certain scale ranges. To make it do something truly odd, you have to interweave it very carefully on an atom by atom basis for a meta-material, scale it up past stellar masses, or bust it up below the atomic level. And let's face it, consciousness is an even weirder effect than anything we've seen out of those even. The human brain, the only structure commonly agreed to be correlated with consciousness, does not exist on those scales. The combinations and patterns are not particularly exotic in the grand scheme of the other mundane objects around it. So separating it out from it's peers without establishing a substantive distinction doesn't make a lot of sense.


Ok, of this I'm thoroughly unconvinced. What do you mean by "odd"? It looks like an arbitrary distinction, from where I'm sitting.

I think one thing you're missing is that a brain has a generally consistent structure. Under dualism, where mind and matter are distinct, there's no reason for consciousness to only be found in beings with human brains. And yes, humans historically are the only ones consistently agreed to have consciousness, but any definition you bring up will also apply to animals, in varying degrees. Other apes, monkeys, elephant, cetaceans, perhaps some birds, and I'm certain more I'm forgetting exhibit the same properties by which we ascribe consciousness to ourselves. More broad definitions of consciousness would likely include most every animal, and beyond even those other life forms exhibit properties similar to consciousness. The properties of consciousness correlate with matter; with a broad biochemical arrangement. That's the distinction between us and a pile of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and trace elements, and its a similar distinction between that same pile of elements and a tree.

A tree, for that matter, is an incredibly bizarre arrangement. Most life is. Its a strange and staggeringly complex arrangement of matter; one which we don't fully understand; and yet seemingly rests entirely upon matter and the simple rules by which matter behaves. The same argument you use for dualism between matter and consciousness can and has been used to argue for dualism between matter and life. I think monism explains life better, and I think monism explains consciousness better. Granted, we understand life better than we do consciousness, so I'm more tentative with the latter conclusion.

The human brain is a nearly singular pattern that allows the physical laws of nature as we know them to produce consciousness. That seems awfully specific and uncharacteristic of how physical laws act so far. (I therefore call this path, classic monism, highly unlikely)


This is actually very similar to a common ontological argument for God's existence, and I reject it for the same reason. If a specific and unlikely arrangement is required for our consciousness, then yes, that's unlikely. Similarly, if there are 10^20 balls in a sack, and only three of them are blue, it's highly unlikely that one would pick a blue ball of of that bag. But we accept that we are conscious; we see the blue ball sitting on the table. When questioning how the ball got on the table, saying "From the sack is too unlikely, so it must simply exist on its own," you're substituting an unlikely source of a known result for a source who's likelihood cannot be measured or defined.
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Re: Dualism

Postby JustinReilly » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:19 pm

Alright, let's get serious here. The hard problem of consciousness is -- as one may expect -- hard. You're right. We can't measure consciousness. We haven't found a spot in the brain that we can point to and say "There. There's where consciousness is." We may never be able to. We can certainly infer its neural origins, however. The fact that just about any aspect of the experience we call consciousness can be altered or removed with the right drug, electrical or magnetic stimulus, or brain lesion strongly suggests that consciousness resides between my ears. There are tests like the mirror test that can let one infer self-awareness. The point being that just because we don't know for certain how our brains produce consciousness, we don't get to automatically default to magic. Or god. Or aliens.

Let's assume you're right, however. How does a non-physical object affect a physical object? How does it make a neuron fire or make dura matter release neurochemicals? It has to be moving something physical, be it calcium ions or manipulating cellular machinery or producing ATP or something. Where does it get the energy to do that? Why can't we measure that energy? Why haven't we seen these spontaneous firings? Or any evidence that our neuromusculature is doing anything at all without a physical cause? Or does it control the body? Is consciousness just an epiphenomenon? Are we just a ghost floating in here pretending to have control? (Psst, this is why I asked you what type of dualism you're espousing.)

From where I'm sitting, I'm seeing far more, and far more difficult questions about dualism than materialism.
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