What is like to be a bat?
Thomas Nagel's essay on the nature of consciousness and the "what it is like to be" a ba

What is like to be a bat?
mutemaler
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 2:28 PM:

I read this a long time ago, will read it again, but:

A bat creates a bat reality, people create a people reality.

We both create realities. That is the most important point to me.

There is one universe, many, many realities.

Edit:

Implicit in the above: I largely dissolve our tradtion's objective vs. subjective distinction. See perspectives, see non-excluding realities. What we call the objective to me is simply another perspective, ditto what we call physicalism (another point he addressed). Ditto science, it creates a measuring reality (call it), we augment our own perspective with it, and for good reasons, because it works well. But there is no separate, "objective" reality "out there", not for the bat, not for us. We are both part of our respective realities, with a "look into" another reality extremely difficult if not impossible.

So Nagel makes good points, but I think he lacks the killer instinct to really "break free".

Edited by mutemaler on Mar 8, 2012 - 3:25 PM
ciceronianus
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 3:30 PM:

Not being bats, we can't know what it's like to be a bat. We know certain things about bats through observing and studying them, however, and can come to reasonable conclusions regarding how they behave and may behave in certain circumstances.

We must (alas!) reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are not bats.

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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 4:07 PM:

ciceronianus wrote:
We must (alas!) reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are not bats.
Somebody get Batman over here!
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 4:21 PM:

prothero wrote:
What is it like to be a bat?

http://www.thebigquestions.com/nagel_bat.pdf

Are bats conscious? Do they have some form of "mind"? Do they have …experience"?

Why do you agree or disagree with Thomas Nagel?

How would you "know"? Can we get beyond arguing about definitions of these terms?



Nagel explicitly says in the article that he assumes his readers share his belief that bats are conscious and have experiences. The article isn't about whether bats are conscious, and it's not about how you would "know".

These are not very interesting questions. Of course bats are conscious. Doubt about consciousness may be reasonable lower down the evolutionary tree, but in the case of mammals it's pretty silly. But if you want to be silly and doubt that lower mammals are conscious, Nagel also provides examples using human consciousness: what is it like to be a sighted person (if you are born blind); and imaginary extraterrestrial consciousness: suppose Martians were superintelligent but didn't have a sense of vision?
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 4:26 PM:

Mr. Natural wrote:

That is something humans can never experience.

And here, Mega, is the bear assertion that there is a something-that-it-is-like-to-be-a-bat; but of course, one must not ask how this chap knows he does not know.
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 4:37 PM:

Banno wrote:
What grounds are there for the assumption that there is a what-it-is-like-to-be-a-bat?

I put it to you that there isn't, and hence this whole exercise is misguided...


Among the grounds for believing that there is a wiiltbab are that bats have nervous systems, brains, sensory equipment and behaviour that are so very like our own. But Nagel's point applies equally well to humans, as he explains in the article, so your dismissal of the exercise is misguided.

You know there is a what-it-is-like-to- be-a-Banno. I know you know. The problem of other minds isn't a serious problem in this modern era.
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 4:42 PM:

Duckrabbit wrote:


Among the grounds for believing that there is a wiiltbab are that bats have nervous systems, brains, sensory equipment and behaviour that are so very like our own. But Nagel's point applies equally well to humans, as he explains in the article, so your dismissal of the exercise is misguided.

You know there is a what-it-is-like-to- be-a-Banno. I know you know. The problem of other minds isn't a serious problem in this modern era.


But Banno doesn't seem to be denying that he has a mind, or that other have minds, only that there is some ghastly wiiitbBanno that is forever inaccessible to the nonbannos of the world.
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 5:09 PM:

MeowMix wrote:
That bat or this bat? There is no 'what it is like to be a bat'. Yet there is a 'what it is like to be that bat', or 'what it is like to be this bat'.


Nagel suggests that there is a general "what it is like to be a bat", he says that he is talking about a "type". I suggest that there is for example a general "what it is like to see light" for humans. There will be individual variation, and systematic variations like colour-blindness, but the similarities will vastly outweigh the differences. There is a general "what it is like to be a human seeing light".
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 5:14 PM:

Banno wrote:

And here, Mega, is the bear assertion that there is a something-that-it-is-like-to-be-a-bat; but of course, one must not ask how this chap knows he does not know.


Well, I feel comfortable asserting there are bats. I feel comfortable asserting I am not a bat. I feel comfortable in asserting I cannot be a bat. In what way is it objectionable to respond to the question "what is it like to be a bat?" by stating "I don't/can't know" or, better yet "how the hell should I know?"?

Edited by ciceronianus on Mar 8, 2012 - 5:40 PM
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Posted Mar 8, 2012 - 5:18 PM:

The interesting question for those who answer we cannot know what it is like to be a bat, is whether the indescribable properties of -- say bat pains -- implies the existence of non-physical properties.

Edited by TecnoTut on Mar 8, 2012 - 5:32 PM
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