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Thomas Nagel: Mind and Cosmos

Thomas Nagel: Mind and Cosmos

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#51 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 24, 2013 - 9:01 AM:

prothero wrote:

There seems little reason to suppose that the only consciouness in the world is human consciouness, and the only experience in the world is human experience or that mind is limited to human brains.

On the other hand there are numerous reasons to suppose that consciousness, mind and experience are considerably more widespread in nature by structural analogy, by behaviorial observation and by evolutionary consdierations. Just where mind, experience and consciousness begin or end is perhaps something that remains beyond our grasp (as does the content of other creatures and other individuals unique experience). Personally I think the seeds of primitive experience extend to the roots of nature and the passage of time but that is admittedly a minority report.

This is why I differentiated a human and other-consciousness. We keep animals in our homes because they have consciousness. Oh yes, I think outside our own earth and beyond the solar system there are various other life-forms - and these too will have what we commonly call consciousness.

Knowledge of Other-consciousness is learning how it functions. This is fruitful because there could be many overlapping areas in which human function is close to Other-function. So if a spaceship landed on earth and people started shooting missles and setting their ship on fire, we could glean that they might be unhappy with the situation.

So, we could say there is one over-arching "consciousness" - God Consciousness? Being-ness? Whatever...
Then Human consciousness - how we function and our own pain/pleasure
Other-consciousness - here we might share functionality, but then again it could be drastically different.

Secular Hindu

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#52 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 25, 2013 - 3:57 AM:

Benkei wrote:
I'm assuming reality is mind-independent and due to a lifetime of correlating results in science and personal experience and man's ability to confer experience and theories assume reality doesn't whimsically change and therefore is regular.

Do you mean mind-independent or your-mind-independent here? It seems to be the latter.

If it were mind-dependent, presumably, that would cause interference with our ability to predict it.


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#53 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 25, 2013 - 5:07 AM:

bert1 wrote:

Do you mean mind-independent or your-mind-independent here? It seems to be the latter.

No, the former implies the latter but I'm asserting the former. I'm just underlying that these are assumptions about the world and that I happen to subscribe to them to clarify what my position is. E.g. I subscribe to the view that reality is existing independently from the mind and consider the probability of this being true higher the longer we continue to share and formulate general theories of reality that appear to hold true for every individual.


I could change my mind.

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#54 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 26, 2013 - 7:46 AM:

Benkei wrote:

Well, why that happens, is still a matter of research. Existing scientific theories that would fit a materialist view can be found here: www.scholarpedia.org/articl...le/Models_of_consciousness

I'll have a look at it, though from what I've read it doesn't seem to address my concern. These models attempt to relate mental phenomena with physical phenomena. That is fine, but I still feel left in the open of how a bunch of neurons properly linked together can emerge as a stable concrete whole. Maybe we can attempt to replicate the brain, piece by piece, to determine when such a process happens, but I fear that that isn't as easy as it sounds (see below).

Presumably, if one of those above theories is true we can then set out to reproduce it.

The problem, however, is that we may never know, unless we can discern some sort of meaningful distinction between a composite object and a group of individual particles. Like the garbage pile example I mentioned above, we can organize the world in anyway we want it, and it will still be valid for all intents and purposes. With regard to the mind, the only reason why we know that that is a composite entity is because we are that entity. For everything else, though, the question is open.

Of course, there is no reason to assume that consciousness as we and other animals have it, is the only way to "generate" consciousness. If for instance some sort of computational model turns out to be correct, AIs should certainly be possible which would open the way to use different matter and perhaps even other types of organisation (e.g. purely rational or limited cognitive abilities, etc.).

We shouldn't just limit ourselves to computational models though. Perhaps, if we come up with a theory of composite matter, then it may not just be limited to the processes we associate with the mind (though I am not sure how that will fit into our worldview if possible). For instance, an individual atom, consisting of a bunch of subatomic particles, may be considered as a concrete composite object, instead of a bunch of elementary pieces of matter.

Edited by Blanc on Mar 27, 2013 - 6:49 AM. Reason: Removed confusing sentence

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#55 - Quote - Permalink
Posted Mar 27, 2013 - 6:47 AM:

Benkei wrote:

Just wondering: is digestion a concrete whole? Or just what happens in the stomach?

Digestion is a process, not really a concrete whole, though I can see where the confusion may come from in my use of the word process, sorry about that. When I use the word process or mechanism, I am referring to the activity which results in a complex object. That object in itself, though, is not really an activity, but a thing just associated with a bunch of individual pieces of matter. So back to your question, since digestion is an activity of the body, i would probably not label it a thing like I would a stomach.
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