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Old 10-08-2019, 06:08 PM
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If consciousness is an illusion, who is being illuded?


How can I be deceived into thinking there is an I if there is no I?

A magician can in principle produce any illusion you can imagine. Except the illusion that there is audience observing his illusion. If there is no audience, there is no illusion.

So to me it sounds not so much like "consciousness is an illusion" is wrong but rather that it is a non-sensical statement. Likely the problem is that I don't understand it fully. Please explain.

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Old 10-08-2019, 06:15 PM
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It seems like a variation of the "if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Some phenomena are defined by being observed. If they're not observed they don't exist. And the act of observation requires an observer.

So I agree. The existence of an illusion requires the existence of an observer.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:21 PM
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Where did you get the idea that consciousness is an illusion? In terms of Hindu non-dualistic metaphysics, shuddha chaitanya (pure consciousness) alone exists, everything else being an illusion. Names and forms, including those of the Gods, arise from it and subside in it.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:25 PM
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Where did you get the idea that consciousness is an illusion? In terms of Hindu non-dualistic metaphysics, shuddha chaitanya (pure consciousness) alone exists, everything else being an illusion. Names and forms, including those of the Gods, arise from it and subside in it.
It is a concept seriously put forward by cognitive researchers. I believe Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris are popular proponents of the idea.
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Old 10-08-2019, 06:25 PM
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The OP could be talking about this concept, that the brain is a machine and consciousness as we perceive it is an illusion. BTW, that is how it works. Traditionally we have imagined consciousness as some kind of magical ability, but there is no evidence that the human brain is anything but a machine that dreamed up this concept based on a lack of knowledge of how our brains work. Consciousness is a myth to explain how our brains work.

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Old 10-08-2019, 07:02 PM
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My conscious brain knows I'm not gonna fall off the spinning earth. But somewhere in my subconsciousness there's a little tiny neuron, or whichever they're called, it fires a message. And any time I'm in a wide open space, it happens. So my conscious brain decides to throw a panic attack at me, in an attempt to make me run and get under something. That's how I know consciousness is real.
YMMV

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Old 10-08-2019, 07:27 PM
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I agree with the OP's referenced position (don't know if the OP regards it as their own viewpoint or not). Whatever-the-fuck I may or may not be, I'm conscious. My consciousness can't be an illusionto me.

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BTW, that is how it works. Traditionally we have imagined consciousness as some kind of magical ability, but there is no evidence that the human brain is anything but a machine that dreamed up this concept
If the machine that is the human brain dreamed up this concept, then I am that human brain-machine and it, and I, am conscious. Unconscious brains don't dream things up.

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Old 10-08-2019, 07:36 PM
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If I write a book, and in the book is the sentence "This book is conscious", then one could reasonably say "the book thinks that it is conscious".

Is it?

Whatever it is, is the book's status any different than that of a mind, that has written in it "This mind is conscious"?
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:18 PM
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If I write a book, and in the book is the sentence "This book is conscious", then one could reasonably say "the book thinks that it is conscious".

Is it?
You can't reasonable conclude that the book is conscious. But if the book is consciously pondering the question, the book is entitled to conclude in the affirmative. You should not take the book's word for it; the book's consciousness could certainly be an illusion to you. But not to itself.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:27 PM
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Where did you get the idea that consciousness is an illusion? In terms of Hindu non-dualistic metaphysics, shuddha chaitanya (pure consciousness) alone exists, everything else being an illusion. Names and forms, including those of the Gods, arise from it and subside in it.
From two recent essays on precisely said topic which have come out in the last month:

Michael Graziano

Keith Frankish

To do this of course they pretty much had to ignore a quarter-century's worth of debate on said topic.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:43 PM
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To do this of course they pretty much had to ignore a quarter-century's worth of debate on said topic.
Where has that debate gotten us and why should we pay any more attention to it than what any other professional has to say?

These are serious questions, not snark.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:50 PM
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It seems to me that you are being pretty much DeCartesian here. I'm more of a fan of the Hofstadterian Godel Escher and Bach strange loop approach. And that Strange Loop book is a faster read! The linked article condenses it well:
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First, the notion of “I,” and the associated phenomena of consciousness, thinking, and the soul that Hofstadter broadly identifies, arises because of a “strange loop” inside the brain. Second, that notion turns out to be an illusion ...
The framing of the op is like declaring that the chicken had to come first for there to be an egg.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:54 PM
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If I write a book, and in the book is the sentence "This book is conscious", then one could reasonably say "the book thinks that it is conscious".
No, because you wrote the book. But if a book was capable of generating that line by itself then I'd be willing to concede it is conscious.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:56 PM
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Honestly though the illusion of consciousness is a boring debate. Bottom line is so what if it is? If consciousness is an illusion (emergent of a system containing itself as part of its set) it is a necessary one. "I" experience a self be it an illusion or otherwise and that experience is necessary for my self to exist. Eliminate that sensation and I am no longer "I" but an automaton.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:23 PM
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I have no difficulty with the notion that consciousness is emergent as an outcome of the strange loop kind of process described by Hofstatder and yet I don't consider that to make it an illusion. I still experience mine. If I'm a strange loop via being a program sufficiently complicated that it contains a model of itself as part of its overall world-model, I'm nevertheless a conscious strange loop.
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Old 10-08-2019, 10:43 PM
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I’d like to see some falsibility if this is a scientific discussion. If the hypothesis “consciousness is an illusion” is true, what predictions can we make? If it is not true, what predictions can we make?
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:57 AM
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I think there are different senses of 'illusion' that need to be distinguished here. One sense is that of a non-veridical experience: I have the illusion of there being a black cat in the room if I have an experience of seeing a black cat in the room when there isn't, in fact, a black cat in the room. In this sense, saying 'conscious experience is an illusion' is indeed nonsense: I can't have a non-veridical experience of conscious experience---indeed, I don't have any experience of experience at all, the experience is all there is!

But that experience can be systematically non-veridical, and thus, be illusory in a different sense. This sense concerns false conclusions that are only apparently implied by some data---in a literal sense, for instance, if I have a study of some illness indicating the effectiveness of a treatment which turns out to have been a statistical fluke (in which case I could rightfully say that its efficacy turned out to be illusory), or in a more figurative sense, if some items of knowledge---perceptions, memories, and the like---strongly imply something to be true that actually isn't, as in when I think that the hairs on the cushion imply there was a black cat in the room, but there actually wasn't.

So illusionism, in my opinion, means that experience is systematically non-veridical in the sense that it doesn't have the properties that we normally, and perhaps unavoidably, associate with it, and thus, the word 'experience' does not actually refer to anything real in the world, but merely our misguided beliefs. For instance, experience is often claimed to be ineffable---that is, I could never explain to a congenitally blind person 'what it's like' to see the color red. In principle, however, that could be wrong: it could merely be really, really hard, involving the transfer of quantities of information that we can't fathom transferring via language, or transferring that information in a way that we haven't yet thought of. (For instance, there are people that claim to be able to visualize four-dimensional objects, without obviously ever having seen one; thus, the capacity of having that experience must be something that's transferable without the need of actually having that experience, and that transfer presumably was enabled only by our development of the requisite mathematics.)

It's this sense in which consciousness may turn out to be illusory: the properties we consider it to have may simply turn out not to apply to it, and hence, the term fails to refer to anything in particular---i. e. there's nothing of the sort of what we believe 'consciousness' is in the world.

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Old 10-09-2019, 02:19 AM
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I have to say it doesn't really concern me that much.

I have a mechinism inside my head that helps me navigate the world. It analyses input and makes decisions. I also have some sort of a view of that happening which I consider to be my consciousness. Rather like a computer may handle inputs and crunch numbers and outputs the results on a screen. The actual processing happens behind the scenes and I only become "aware" of it when it is displayed. That "screen" is what I might call my consciousness, it is a manisfestation of the processing, not the the processing itself.
This seems reasonable to me because it is entirely possible for all that processing and decision-making to happen and for the "screen" to be turned off (when asleep, dreaming, sleepwalking etc.)
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Old 10-09-2019, 05:13 AM
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I also have some sort of a view of that happening which I consider to be my consciousness. Rather like a computer may handle inputs and crunch numbers and outputs the results on a screen. The actual processing happens behind the scenes and I only become "aware" of it when it is displayed. That "screen" is what I might call my consciousness, it is a manisfestation of the processing, not the the processing itself.
This seems reasonable to me because it is entirely possible for all that processing and decision-making to happen and for the "screen" to be turned off (when asleep, dreaming, sleepwalking etc.)
I realize you're probably speaking metaphorically, but it's important to note that whatever way consciousness works, it can't be anything at all like that. Because viewing stuff on a screen requires being conscious of what's being shown; so if consciousness were some internal screen or analogous instrument just 'highlighting' some data, then we'd beg the question against how this data is itself perceived---is there some entity in the brain (called the 'homunculus' in this sort of debate) that perceives the display? If so, then how does its perception work in turn?

Trying to explain, or even describe, consciousness in terms of data displayed for internal consumption thus appeals to the phenomenon it's trying to explain by way of explanation, leading to the so-called homunculus regress.
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Old 10-09-2019, 05:17 AM
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I think there are different senses of 'illusion' that need to be distinguished here.
This is an important distinction. however, Daniel Dennett in particular speaks of the illusion as an illusion of experience, not an illusion of conclusion.
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Old 10-09-2019, 05:30 AM
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However, on further consideration I suspect that it is Dennett who has failed to make this distinction. The arguments seem to me to point to an illusion of conclusion but Dennett's analogies are illusions of experience.

Also, it may be that Dennett is overstating the case. What we can say about consciousness, when examined carefully, is very different from what we would conclude from our direct experience. And it is so different that Dennett announces that "there is no consciousness," because the reality is other than what we normally mean by consciousness. (However, I am not convinced of this myself yet.)

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Old 10-09-2019, 05:33 AM
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This is an important distinction. however, Daniel Dennett in particular speaks of the illusion as an illusion of experience, not an illusion of conclusion.
That's not how I read Dennett. In brief, conscious experience acquaints us with things: when we see something, we get information about its properties. To somebody like Dennett, that's simply all there is to experience; to people who think that there's a substantial hard problem, there are further aspects to experience---its qualitative, ineffable, intrinsic nature, the 'what it's like'-ness.

That's what Dennett et al. think we're wrong about, and what constitutes the illusion of experience: we merely believe that there's all this extra stuff, but there's not. So there's no experience in the sense that it has qualitative, ineffable, intrinsic etc. features, but there's experience in the sense that we have certain knowledge about the objects within our field of consciousness---say, a cat's color, size, furriness and the like.

This sort of illusion doesn't fall prey to the argument that to have an illusion at all is to experience it---or rather, we can 'experience' the illusion, in so far as we believe that experience has properties going beyond the merely informational. That is, we have false information about experience: that it has properties going beyond the merely informational, i. e. qualitative, intrinsic, you get the gist. We don't have a misleading experience of experience, because that sort of thing we think experience is---with all its intrinsicality and what-it's-like-ness---simply doesn't exist.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:11 AM
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I realize you're probably speaking metaphorically, but it's important to note that whatever way consciousness works, it can't be anything at all like that. Because viewing stuff on a screen requires being conscious of what's being shown
Oh it is absolutely metaphorical. There's no "screen" of any type. Merely the fact that the processing is done and whatever conscious awareness we have about it is analogous to the display on the screen of a black box computer. i.e. our brain "shows" us the processing of the brain in the form of consciousness just like the screen shows us the working of the computer.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:25 AM
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our brain "shows" us the processing of the brain in the form of consciousness
Dennet's argument is that it doesn't, though. We're merely looking at an after-the-fact story about that processing. That can and often does include lies and half-truths.The actual processing is never effable to us.That's part of the illusion - the "immediacy" of consciousness doesn't exist (which is trivial to show, Consciousness Explained is full of examples)
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:32 AM
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Dennet's argument is that it doesn't, though. We're merely looking at an after-the-fact story about that processing.
I don't think my analogy runs contrary to that. The screen on which the information is displayed is also after-the-fact of the processing

ETA, that is part of why I chose that analogy in the first place.
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Old 10-09-2019, 06:53 AM
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Don't you have to be conscious in the first place in order to have any kind of "illusion"? I don't have illusions when I'm unconscious because ..... well, I'm UNCONSCIOUS. Ergo, how can consciousness itself be an illusion?
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:07 AM
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Oh it is absolutely metaphorical. There's no "screen" of any type. Merely the fact that the processing is done and whatever conscious awareness we have about it is analogous to the display on the screen of a black box computer. i.e. our brain "shows" us the processing of the brain in the form of consciousness just like the screen shows us the working of the computer.
Well, but already the idea that 'our brain "shows" us' anything runs into trouble, namely, that there's a separate 'us' that could somehow 'observe' what the brain 'shows' it---but that's already again appealing to the capacity of observing things in order to explain how we do just that.

Now, you could maintain that the observer isn't observing in the way we do, but merely unconsciously, in which case, you'd get something close to a Higher Order Thought (HOT) approach, where a thought is conscious if it's the object of a higher order thought (that thought thus 'observing' the former), but such an approach runs into great difficulties (not least of which is that its solution to the problem of consciousness essentially amounts to mere stipulation---consciousness just is being the object of a higher order thought, but there isn't really any account of how that actually works).
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:44 AM
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At a certain point this kind of discussion devolves into a sort of "what the meaning of 'is' is" debate.

Whatever-the-fuck consciousness "is", it "thinks" it is conscious, that being a self-referential act. From the outside it is relatively easy to dismiss that as a self-monitoring circuit, the equivalent of a status gauge or a security camera array where one security camera is aimed at the bank of security monitors or something of that ilk. From the inside... well, I don't know firsthand what your experience is like, do I? Mine is imbued with an "I am here, I am me, this is me knowing I am here" awareness, so the question is whether that awareness is an illusion, and we've sort of run the "well if so, to whom" retort into the ground, haven't we?

What would it mean for awareness to be an illusion? How would that be distinguished from being genuinely aware? But now we're faced with the question of meaning -- "what would it mean to whom?" -- which highlights the probability that the question (and the answer) have no relevance to anything.

Awareness is. You are experiencing yours, for whatever it is. Neither you nor I can define what that awareness "is" in some kind of objective way precisely because it's a subjective experience which, in turn, is intrinsic to the topic, that there actually does or does not exist such a thing as subjectivity. Positing that our subjective consciousness awareness is an outcome of an objective phenomenon of self-reference neither validates or nor invalidates a damn thing, useful line of thought though it might otherwise be.
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:00 AM
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Well, but already the idea that 'our brain "shows" us' anything runs into trouble, namely, that there's a separate 'us' that could somehow 'observe' what the brain 'shows' it---but that's already again appealing to the capacity of observing things in order to explain how we do just that.
We very quickly run into the limitations of our language for such discussions. The concept of "showing" "observing" and "us" are not perfectly suited for describing what is going on. We shouldn't get too nit-picky and pedantic because none of us has the ability to describe what is going on without assuming that what we are trying to describe is inherent in formulating and understanding such a description.

I don't think there is any way around that so I don't worry about it. I do the best I can. At the simplest level I am comfortable with accepting consciousness as being an emergent property of a sufficiently complex brain, an inescapable artifact. Imperfect, capricious but interesting, but of course only "interesting" by dint of it creating the "me" that might be interested in it......and back round we go.
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:03 AM
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Awareness is. You are experiencing yours, for whatever it is. Neither you nor I can define what that awareness "is" in some kind of objective way precisely because it's a subjective experience
See, that's exactly the sort of thing an eliminativist would consider you to be wrong about (i. e. laboring under a particular illusion regarding the kind of thing experience appears to be). They'd claim that, say, something like information-processing, perhaps self-referential information processing or what have you, is all there is, and that when it seems to us that it's not, that there's some ineffable undefinable unquantifiable incommunicable element to it, exactly then are we mistaken about it---in the perfectly ordinary way we're mistaken when we consider a magic trick to involve something transcending the laws of physics, say.

For any properly constructed elminativism, the issue of 'to whom' an illusion is illusory simply doesn't arise, and claiming it does simply misconstrues the position in a question-begging way, because we suppose that there needs to be some of the 'mysterious' awareness in order for there to be somebody who could properly said to be under an illusion; but that's of course exactly what the eliminativist denies.

Perhaps think about it in terms of two different notions of awareness, awarenessq and awarenesse, where awarenessq refers to the qualophile's intrinsic, ineffable, ineluctably and inexplicably subjective experience we all (even the eliminativist) take ourselves to possess, and awarenesse refers to the eliminativist's information-processing awareness, or whatever exact form it may take. A problem only arises if we suppose that to have the illusion of being awareq of something, one needs to be awareq of having that sort of illusion; but that's just question-begging, as the eliminativist can simply say, well, it just seems as if we're awareq, because that's just what the illusion is---that is, being awaree of something entails believing ourselves to be awareq of it, but in fact, there's no such thing as awarenessq.

That doesn't make eliminativism right, or even plausible---indeed, I don't think it really stands a chance---but its failings aren't quite that immediate.

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Old 10-09-2019, 11:09 AM
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They'd claim that, say, something like information-processing, perhaps self-referential information processing or what have you, is all there is
The problem with that sentence, and that viewpoint, lies in the loaded word "all".

Self-referential information processing is awareness. ETA: or at least it can be; I suppose it does not follow that it always must be.

For some people, establishing that awareness is self-referential info processing apparently results in the conclusion that awareness is an illusion.

I, a self-referential information processing that is (therefore) self-aware, do not see any reason to draw any such conclusion.

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Old 10-09-2019, 11:28 AM
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The problem with that sentence, and that viewpoint, lies in the loaded word "all".

Self-referential information processing is awareness. ETA: or at least it can be; I suppose it does not follow that it always must be.

For some people, establishing that awareness is self-referential info processing apparently results in the conclusion that awareness is an illusion.

I, a self-referential information processing that is (therefore) self-aware, do not see any reason to draw any such conclusion.
This isn't a conclusion, though; it's an explanatory hypotheses put forward by certain people to get a grip on the difficult metaphysical character of conscious experience (by essentially saying that it only seems difficult, but is, in reality, much less so). The point being, awareness doesn't seem like self-referential information processing, so there's a need for explanation if that's what it, in fact, is---namely, how to get to awareness from self-referential information processing. This is what illusionism offers: that seeming is only illusory (and that's not circular, because it doesn't appeal to any 'seeming' that goes beyond self-referential information processing), and thus, we may stand a chance to close that explanatory gap.

Emergentism, on the other hand, would be the claim that something more arises out of the self-referential information processing, perhaps in a way not reducible to that processing. Dual-aspect theories, panpsychism and outright Cartesian dualism take the stance that there actually is, as it seems, more to awareness than the mere information-processing, while, on the other extreme, idealism considers that really only that 'something else' exists, with everything else---the physical world and all the information within it---reducible to that, instead.

So I think one shouldn't be so quick to try and dismiss the option of eliminativism on mere terminological grounds; there's a real, contentful metaphysical thesis here that prima facie might just be how the world is.

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  #33  
Old 10-09-2019, 11:38 AM
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I think I understand why these are seen as diametrically opposed positions.

And I am saying that actually they are not, aside from a lot of implicit (and often explicit) adjectives like "just", "only", and "merely" and associated terms such as "all". Those seem to have less to do with what is, and pertain instead to some kind of "intrinsic value" argument, an argument that tastes to me like "are you a soulless machine or do you possess a soul".

It's an argument also approached pretty often from a discussion of artificial intelligence. And I tend to say "when the machine lays claim to having a soul, we're in no position to claim otherwise".
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Old 10-09-2019, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
And I am saying that actually they are not, aside from a lot of implicit (and often explicit) adjectives like "just", "only", and "merely" and associated terms such as "all". Those seem to have less to do with what is, and pertain instead to some kind of "intrinsic value" argument, an argument that tastes to me like "are you a soulless machine or do you possess a soul".
I'm not intending a value judgement, though. It's analogous to seeing a shape in a darkened room, of a jacket, on some frame, with perhaps a hat, having the outline of a person---it seems as if there's a person there, but it could be 'just' the jacket hanging on a rack. There might be 'more' there---an actual person (person here as a physical object, without any appeal to the value judgement in the notion of personhood), or 'just', 'merely', 'only' the jacket. Both are live options, and it might be the case that only closer inspection can adjudicate between the two---the same, it seems to me, is the case with experience and whether it's 'only' information processing, or if 'more' is going on.

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It's an argument also approached pretty often from a discussion of artificial intelligence. And I tend to say "when the machine lays claim to having a soul, we're in no position to claim otherwise".
Actually, I think that's pretty much everybody's position.
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:11 PM
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Old 10-09-2019, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by AHunter3 View Post
At a certain point this kind of discussion devolves into a sort of "what the meaning of 'is' is" debate. Whatever-the-fuck consciousness "is", it "thinks" it is conscious, that being a self-referential act.
I think, therefore I think I am.

(with apologies to Rene Descartes)
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Old 10-09-2019, 01:31 PM
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Experience is an illusion that we experience. Consciousness is an illusion of which we are conscious.
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Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin
I think, therefore I think I am.

(with apologies to Rene Descartes)
No, you just think you are thinking.

I think.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 10-09-2019, 01:58 PM
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Experience is an illusion that we experience. Consciousness is an illusion of which we are conscious. No, you just think you are thinking.

I think.

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  #39  
Old 10-09-2019, 02:18 PM
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A bit of data to possibly just remind people about.
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Your brain makes up its mind up to ten seconds before you realize it, according to researchers. By looking at brain activity while making a decision, the researchers could predict what choice people would make before they themselves were even aware of having made a decision. ... “We think our decisions are conscious, but these data show that consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg,” says John-Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, who led the study.

“The results are quite dramatic,” says Frank Tong, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Ten seconds is "a lifetime” in terms of brain activity, he adds.
To make this very clear: they found that the brain information processing made the decision and after the fact the self experienced itself making a choice by conscious thought processes.

The brain created an illusion of a self making a conscious decision. A false narrative of agency.

The experiment in no way proves that every experienced conscious decision made is an illusionary process, but it is most consistent with a formulation that consciousness is, in part at least, how our brains lie to us.

But again, these are necessary lies for our selves to exist and our senses of self and agency ("real" or "illusory") have value.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by TGWATY View Post
How can I be deceived into thinking there is an I if there is no I?

A magician can in principle produce any illusion you can imagine. Except the illusion that there is audience observing his illusion. If there is no audience, there is no illusion.

So to me it sounds not so much like "consciousness is an illusion" is wrong but rather that it is a non-sensical statement. Likely the problem is that I don't understand it fully. Please explain.
Who is claiming that consciousness is an illusion? How can I trust that your interpretation of this concept is consistent with the interpretation of whomever originated this idea? How do I know you aren't arguing a strawman?

I think awareness can be illusory, in that we are great at telling ourselves a story to explain our motivations and actions. The story may certainly feel right and it may in fact be right. But it can easily be a confabulation. Who authors the confabulation? The unconscious part of us. The part of us that controls all of our involuntary processes and does all kinds of things outside of our awareness. The part that tells us scary stories as we sleep at night.

But just because I think we are self-deluding creatures doesn't mean I think consciousness is a charade. We certainly have some awareness, even if it's just awareness of our existence. I know I can't really know with 100% certainty why I committed a particular act, but that doesn't mean I can't say with 100% certainty that I possess an image of me committing an act. That image may not be an accurate depiction of reality, but that doesn't mean the image itself doesn't exist somewhere (whether it be in my body's brain or in a mainframe computer on an asteroid a trillion light-years from planet Earth). To me, a modicum of awareness of one's own cognition is all consciousness is. It's a very low bar to meet.
  #41  
Old 10-10-2019, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
A bit of data to possibly just remind people about.

To make this very clear: they found that the brain information processing made the decision and after the fact the self experienced itself making a choice by conscious thought processes.
This sort of thing has been credibly called into question by more recent studies, though---part of the trouble is that the sort of artificial scenarios considered in Libet-like experiments don't yield any true means for a subject to decide between options; their preferences are symmetrical. The suggestion is then that it depends on a chance factor to 'tip things over', and that what's been called the 'readiness potential' is just that---a chance fluctuation in the random noise of the brain just strong enough to break the symmetry of the situation, and produce one or the other outcome. It wouldn't then be indicative of 'the brain making a decision before we become aware of it', but rather just part of the random background working of the brain.

Indeed, when comparing the brain activity of a group of subjects in a Libet-like experiment with that of a group of subjects that were asked not to move at all, a difference only emerged about 150 milliseconds before participants of the first group moved---i. e. at the time they became conscious of making a choice.
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Old 10-10-2019, 09:13 AM
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I fail to see why instantaneity conveys authority whereas a time lag discredits the process.

Also, consciousness is absolutely not the same thing as verbal analytical thought.

When I accidentally brush the back of my hand against the electric heating element in the oven's broiler, I have a dearth of rational thoughts coursing through my brain; it's occupied by sensation and emotion. I could not provide you with a transcript of any coherent thought process that concluded with "I really oughta snatch my hand away from that before it does more damage".

There was also a time lag involved: the rate at which sensory nerve endings transmit signals is a whole lot slower than the speed of light, and even if my reaction had been to compelling visual stimulus, the speed of light isn't the same thing as instantaneous. Then the brain had to process all that, at several different levels. That scorched hand was well out of the oven's maw long before the rational intellectual verbal frontal cortex got the memo.

But I was conscious. Oh hell yeah, I was conscious. More so than I particularly wanted to be.
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Old 10-10-2019, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Half Man Half Wit View Post
This sort of thing has been credibly called into question by more recent studies, though---part of the trouble is that the sort of artificial scenarios considered in Libet-like experiments don't yield any true means for a subject to decide between options ...
The study cited was specifically designed to attempt to address that issue, to distinguish between a general preparation for movement, a readiness potential, and an actual specific decision being made.
Quote:
But Libet's study has been criticized in the intervening decades for its method of measuring time, and because the brain response might merely have been a general preparation for movement, rather than activity relating to a specific decision.

Haynes and his team improved the method by asking people to choose between two alternatives — left and right. Because moving the left and right hands generates distinct brain signals, the researchers could show that activity genuinely reflected one of the two decisions.
AHunter3 in the example you give you experience the qualia of pain as your gets the information. In the experimental set up the brain is making the decision and afterwards the mind is thinking of itself as having made the conscious decision that in fact it was not consciously making. The lag time of one does not involve the brain lying to the mind while the other does. It is not the time lag; it is the lie.
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Old 10-10-2019, 11:25 AM
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Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." It seems to work for me.
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Old 10-10-2019, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
The study cited was specifically designed to attempt to address that issue, to distinguish between a general preparation for movement, a readiness potential, and an actual specific decision being made.
That's not the issue the article I linked to raises, though. Rather, there, it's shown that the 'readiness potential' simply isn't anything of the sort---it's just a chance fluctuation randomly occurring in the brain, whether or not any movement is made afterwards, that, however, in certain cases may suffice to tip the scales towards taking an action, or break the symmetry between equivalent cases. If that's the case, it's simply not the brain making an unconscious decision, but rather, a factor influencing what decision the brain makes, akin to other motivators, like hunger, but just occurring at random.

Consider Buridan's ass, who's as hungry as it is thirsty, and as far away from a source of food as it is from a source of water. There's no means by which it could make a decision based on its preferences, those being equal by hypothesis; but now, suppose that its internal 'detectors' for hunger and thirst (or lack of food and lack of water, if you prefer) are somewhat noisy, and subject to random fluctuation (as they would likely be in a real-world case). Then, it might occur that on such a chance fluctuation, hunger outweighs thirst, causing the ass to go towards the food source.

That chance fluctuation is what the readiness potential turns out to be, and it's not any more 'the brain making a decision' than the random fluctuation of hunger is in the ass's case.
  #46  
Old 10-10-2019, 01:26 PM
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This thread is so deep, I can hear Chinese.
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  #47  
Old 10-10-2019, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
In the experimental set up the brain is making the decision and afterwards the mind is thinking of itself as having made the conscious decision that in fact it was not consciously making. The lag time of one does not involve the brain lying to the mind while the other does. It is not the time lag; it is the lie.
By what non-conscious process was the "brain" making a decision that the "mind", later, thought it had consciously made instead?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nature (the Journal article that DSeid linked to)
When the researchers analysed the data, the earliest signal the team could pick up started seven seconds before the volunteers reported having made their decision. Because of there is a delay of a few seconds in the imaging, this means that the brain activity could have begun as much as ten seconds before the conscious decision. The signal came from a region called the frontopolar cortex, at the front of the brain, immediately behind the forehead.
It reads to me like the authors of the Nature article are saying that the mind begins processing sensory input, makes decisions, and then after the fact processes the fact that it did indeed make such a decision. Despite the way they worded that, I don't agree with them, or you if you're endorsing their description, that that means the decision was not "conscious". There's a difference between "consciously making a decision" and "being conscious of having in fact made a decision". The latter contains an additional level of self-referential behavior, the very type of self-referential behavior we've been discussing throughout this thread, Hofstadter's strange loop, if you will. It makes sense to me that the mind can't be aware that it, itself, has indeed made a decision until after it has done so.

That doesn't, to me, mean that the decision-making itself did not involve consciousness.
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Old 10-10-2019, 02:24 PM
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By what non-conscious process was the "brain" making a decision that the "mind", later, thought it had consciously made instead?
That's an unfair question. We can tell that the brain can do things without understanding how they are done.
  #49  
Old 10-10-2019, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
Experience is an illusion that we experience. Consciousness is an illusion of which we are conscious. No, you just think you are thinking.

I think.

Regards,
Shodan
You've got it. It's thinks all the way down.


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Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." It seems to work for me.
See Post #36
  #50  
Old 10-10-2019, 04:18 PM
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I don't think my analogy runs contrary to that. The screen on which the information is displayed is also after-the-fact of the processing
But one of the definitional aspects of consciousness is that it's immediate - that's implicit in the frequent use of the words "aware" and "awareness" in definitions - not an edited greatest hits reel.

Unless you're working with a different definition of consciousness that you'd care to share?
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