Dualism vs. Monism

Dualism vs. Monism
doitintheroad
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#11 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 15, 2006 - 2:29 PM:

Better than i put it. I doff my cap. =)
Mariner
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#12 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 16, 2006 - 3:09 AM:

Kali Yuga wrote:
If it is logically possible to encode sensory information, abstract mathematics and decision-making powers in a hunk of silicon, it is logically possible to do the same via neurons and synapses, no?


Yes, but we are not discussing any of these. We are discussing consciousness. A stone -- any stone -- properly interpreted (and therein lies the rub) has as much information as any computer program. The key word is "codified". For something to be codified, it must exist independently from the code. And materialism is, quite simply, the denial of this last statement, hence it is incoherent.
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#13 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 16, 2006 - 4:21 AM:

Dualism does have the advantage that it accords with how we "seem" to be. We do have the impression of being some sort of captain or pilot living within our skulls and receiving signals from and giving commands to the various parts of our body.

However philosophy wouldn't exist if we were obliged to accept appearances at face value. How REAL is this impression?

To consider Mariner's thought experiment.

Assuming we're all familiar with Star Trek, it always seemed to me a great difficulty with this series was the transporter beam which instantly transferred people from one place to another.

Apart from the practical problems of recording the physical state of a person to subatomic level and reproducing it some distance away, the concept is based on destroying the original person - like sending a fax and burning the original.

So - when Kirk appears on the surface of the planet, he is not Kirk, but a very accurate copy.

Now let's say the original Kirk is NOT destroyed. We now have Kirk1 and Kirk2. Both have identical memories. In the case of the transporter, the transporter system's records, in conjunction with the undeniable fact that Kirk2 is now hundreds of kilometres from where Kirk1 was beamed from, would be enough to persuade Kirk2 that he is a "mere" copy (also, amongst Kirk2's memories would be the memory that he was about to be duplicated).

As soon as the two Kirks are physically separate, they will diverge in their experiences, and quite possibly if they lived for several years they would no longer have the same personality, if we accept that experience can alter personality, which I think most of us would (?????)

The introduction of the spirit into the duplication process does appear to me to be begging the question.

I would prefer to consider the question of whether Kirk2 would have a spirit/soul or not. If Kirk were cloned we would, I guess, say that if the soul exists the clone would have one. But why would duplication by a biological method produce a soul and duplication by physical copying not do so?

My personal opinion is that the soul or spirit is a convenient shorthand for the self. It only has significance beyond that if we accept that the soul can exist independently of the body, after death (or as some religions believe, before birth, or that the soul migrates between bodies). . IF you do accept this definition of the soul it would be difficult to see how a machine could duplicate it.

I don't, so the question is moot IMO

Therefore - Kirk2 IMO would be at the moment of duplication be indentical to Kirk1 (IF the duplicating process was accurate enough).
However, the very fact of duplication would mean that Kirk2 and Kirk1 would diverge from the moment of duplication onwards.

And to return to dualism - I suspect that an out-and-out dualist would say that complete duplication would be logically impossible (instead of impossible for practical reasons which the monist would also agree with)









Kali Yuga
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#14 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 16, 2006 - 2:17 PM:

Mariner wrote:
A stone -- any stone -- properly interpreted (and therein lies the rub) has as much information as any computer program. The key word is "codified". For something to be codified, it must exist independently from the code. And materialism is, quite simply, the denial of this last statement, hence it is incoherent.

The difference between a rock and a computer is that it's much easier to change the information coded into a computer than into a rock. I think. grin

Silicon has the property of retaining and terminating electrical currents on command and in a reasonably fast manner. Rocks do not.

We could use a bunch of rocks to encode a bunch of information, but it'd be a very slow process that requires a 3rd party (animated agents to move the rocks). The inability of the rocks to rearrange themselves, at least with our current technology, pretty much means they can never be conscious.

What neurons and computer memory units have in common is the ability to rapidly alter their states in a manner that can affect other neurons / memory units. As to why these neurons generate consciousness, I admit the full explanation is beyond my knowledge of the science. (Not all nerve cells do, after all.)

What's your objection again?
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#15 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 17, 2006 - 2:55 AM:

Kali Yuga wrote:

What's your objection again?


Your scenario still requires interpreters. Without an interpretation of encoded information, encoded information simply does not exist (or is ubiquitous, take your choice -- both are insurmountable difficulties). Random atoms, just as law-abiding atoms, can't produce information on their own, without an interpreter. The usual example of a "non-interpreted code", DNA, says nothing -- it just "is there", self-replicating, but sending no message.

The relationship between symbols and the symbolized is not usually considered in this matter, but it is quite important.
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#16 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 17, 2006 - 10:15 PM:

Mariner, why does code need an interpreter to be a code? How does the existence of an interpreter effect the 'codehood' (if you will) of the would-be code?

Either way, the computer(s) would be the "interpreter" of its own code.

-Floyd
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#17 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2006 - 4:12 AM:

Floyd wrote:
Mariner, why does code need an interpreter to be a code? How does the existence of an interpreter effect the 'codehood' (if you will) of the would-be code?


Try to define "codehood" and it will become apparent.

Either way, the computer(s) would be the "interpreter" of its own code.

-Floyd


But a code can't be used to interpret itself (try to define "codehood", with its intrinsic referentiality, and it will become apparent). If it were so easy, there would be no cryptography. Cryptography, in effect, is the science of relating a known code to an unknown code, assuming that the unknown refers to the known.
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#18 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2006 - 1:23 PM:

Mariner wrote:
Your scenario still requires interpreters. Without an interpretation of encoded information, encoded information simply does not exist (or is ubiquitous, take your choice -- both are insurmountable difficulties).

Do they now. How curious.

The brain is both encoding and decoding information. It does so selectively and with a purpose -- e.g. "find food," "identify threats."

Let's say I'm a primitive human. I look at an antelope, and I think "food!" No one encoded the antelope in such a way that "antelope must be food." And yet, "antelope = food" is a type of "representation," no?

You're receiving information all the time, you are just selective about your focus. So I'm not really seeing ubiquity as a problem.

Random atoms, just as law-abiding atoms, can't produce information on their own, without an interpreter.

I hate to be picky, but I'd disagree. The atoms are producing information, regardless of whether anything actually picks up on it. The interpreter recognizes the value to the information.

So, a natural process encodes the information, and another agent decodes it. The walls of the Grand Canyon were "encoded" by the millenia of geological events, as revealed by the erosion of the river. The human wanders up, sees it, and one day decides to "decode" it for its geological information.

What about subjective experiences? I cut my hand; the nerve impulses travel up my arm and activate selected neurons. This is pain. The neuron firings do not represent or generate pain; they are the pain. You are directly experiencing the pain, and in the process some aspects of the experiences get encoded in other neurons. At a later date, something triggers off a reaction that leads to a decoding of the pain all over again.

The mind is complex enough that you may have a series of agents, rather than a single bureaucratic self. One agent encodes, and this either forms storage for or globally transmits information to the other agents. The mind may appear to be some kind of unified whole. But appearances may be deceiving. grin

The usual example of a "non-interpreted code", DNA, says nothing -- it just "is there", self-replicating, but sending no message.

Except that the "code" is a set of instructions acted upon by something else. Messenger RNA, yes?

I'm not seeing any problems here due to the idea of self-awareness or "representation by the self to the self," particularly for an identity-based cognitive model.

Why do you?
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#19 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 18, 2006 - 2:24 PM:

Kali Yuga wrote:

You're receiving information all the time, you are just selective about your focus. So I'm not really seeing ubiquity as a problem.


It's not information before it is interpreted. It's just random noise, even if someone reads the whole set of Plato's dialogues grin.

I hate to be picky, but I'd disagree. The atoms are producing information, regardless of whether anything actually picks up on it. The interpreter recognizes the value to the information.


No, there is no information without interpretation. How would you define information, anyway?

So, a natural process encodes the information, and another agent decodes it. The walls of the Grand Canyon were "encoded" by the millenia of geological events, as revealed by the erosion of the river. The human wanders up, sees it, and one day decides to "decode" it for its geological information.


Exactly. And before the human learned how to decode it, it was a wall, not "information". (Of course, this decodification assumes gradualism, and is therefore a very metaphysical stance. I know that science ignores that aspect but it is true nonetheless).

What about subjective experiences? I cut my hand; the nerve impulses travel up my arm and activate selected neurons. This is pain. The neuron firings do not represent or generate pain; they are the pain.


I agree, with a few caveats (since "the same pain", from that POV, is subjectively felt in different ways by different subjects).

The mind is complex enough that you may have a series of agents, rather than a single bureaucratic self. One agent encodes, and this either forms storage for or globally transmits information to the other agents. The mind may appear to be some kind of unified whole. But appearances may be deceiving. grin


I agree with all of that, but it only makes my point even more cogent. There must be interpretation before there is information.

Except that the "code" is a set of instructions acted upon by something else. Messenger RNA, yes?


No, it isn't a set of instructions, anymore than winter is a set of instructions to let lakes freeze. RNA does not decode DNA, it just follows the laws of nature. If information were something akin to that, there would be no need for language, no room for misunderstandings, no need of imagination in human communication.

Sure, we like to use the words "code" and "decode", metaphorically, when speaking about canyons and DNA, but any closer study of what a code is (and perhaps most important, what it is not) shows the error in taking these metaphors literally. (Incidentally, the mere possibility of error in "taking metaphors literally" is evidence of the problem we're discussing, of the inherent ambiguity -- polyguity ? grin -- of "information", prior to interpretation).

I'm not seeing any problems here due to the idea of self-awareness or "representation by the self to the self," particularly for an identity-based cognitive model.


I don't see any problem with that either, since that -- it must be clear enough -- presupposes a self before there is any representation. If you agree with what you just said, we are in agreement. But are you sure that you agree with it? Or perhaps you think that there can be a "representation by the self to the self"... without a self? That would be odd.
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#20 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Jan 19, 2006 - 9:03 AM:

Mariner wrote:
It's not information before it is interpreted. It's just random noise, even if someone reads the whole set of Plato's dialogues grin.

So, you need an interpreter? No problem. The interpreter does not necessarily need to be conscious or experiential. What is noise to one machine is information to another, and vice versa. All you need to distinguish between the two is a goal.

So "data" is ubiquitous. We pick out the data we need selectively based on our goals. Not a problem. grin

There is no information without interpretation. How would you define information, anyway?

Would you prefer the term "data?" My point is that any object can be examined and some type of data or information is extracted from it. Without an observer actually present it can still validly be called "data" or "ubiquitous potential information."

Exactly. And before the human learned how to decode it, it was a wall, not "information". (Of course, this decodification assumes gradualism, and is therefore a very metaphysical stance. I know that science ignores that aspect but it is true nonetheless).

It was and still is a wall. There's no exclusivity here. Was it a wall before any humans perceived it, by the way? grin

The information was always there. In fact, there is quite likely more information in the canyon wall than we currently know or care, as it is either a) not yet "mined" for data and/or b) there is tons of data that is irrelevant to our current purposes.

I agree with all of that, but it only makes my point even more cogent. There must be interpretation before there is information.

See, I'd go the other way. There is tons of information -- ubiquitous information if you like -- in the environment. The early human survives based on its ability to pick out what information best helps it survive and reproduce. So the information is always there, long before the human mind knows / cares / reacts to it.

Interpretation cannot exist prior to information, as it would have nothing to interpret. Information can easily exist prior to interpretation, all that's needed is to go back to the object and pull the data out.

None of this requires anything "special" or "magical" to be involved. All you need is a machine that has standards to distinguish signal (e.g. food) from noise (e.g. not-food).

Sure, we like to use the words "code" and "decode", metaphorically, when speaking about canyons and DNA, but any closer study of what a code is (and perhaps most important, what it is not) shows the error in taking these metaphors literally. (Incidentally, the mere possibility of error in "taking metaphors literally" is evidence of the problem we're discussing, of the inherent ambiguity -- polyguity ? grin -- of "information", prior to interpretation).

If that is the case, then why did YOU specifically use the term "non-interpreted code" for DNA?


I don't see any problem with that either, since that -- it must be clear enough -- presupposes a self before there is any representation.

Er, yes, if you assert that an entity has self-awareness, then you're presuming a self. I can easily program a computer to have a degree of self-awareness -- e.g. internal thermometer readings, continual updates on subsystem and hardware integrity, etc. In fact, a self-aware computer can make a representation of itself to itself -- it would have to, actually, as (with current digital technology) it will convert those conditions into binary on-off states.

So I'm not seeing the experiential or consciousness requirement here.
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