Re: Mindless Thought Experiments

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Mar 08 2008 - 01:38:33 MST

Matt writes

>> > The argument fails because it is based on the unproven assumption that
>> > consciousness exists.
> I mean the aspect of consciousness that which distinguishes a human from a
> philosophical zombie.
> To put it another way, what distinguishes this universe from an exact copy
> where people go about their business but nobody is aware that the universe
> exists?

I believe that to be impossible, (as, from what you write below,
you seem also to doubt). The people going about their business
communicate, and when they speak to each other they invariably
mention their own mental states. The notion of zombie implicitly
postulates that there is no "inner experience". But look as you might,
you'll never find where the "inner experience" is inside the brain
anyway! Consciousness arises from just the processes that allow
a brain to be aware of its own signals, and to report on them to
yet other parts of the brain.

In short, I agree with Dennett, who thinks

      A physicalist might respond to the zombie argument in several
      ways. Most responses deny premise 2 (of Chalmers' version
      above); that is, they deny that a zombie scenario is possible.

      One response is to claim that the idea of qualia and related
      phenomenal notions of the mind are not coherent concepts,
      and the zombie scenario is therefore incoherent. Daniel Dennett
      and others take this line. (thanks for the link, Matt)

> The term "consciousness" as it is commonly used confuses this
> aspect (qualia) with other properties of the human mind,

Qualia is a philosophic death spiral.

> It is the qualia aspect, which has no computational or physical basis,
> whose presumed existence leads to bizarre conclusions about
> consciousness in rainstorms or the digits of pi.

Hmm. Could be, I'll have to think about it. But I think that there
are already good arguments against rainstorms and digits of pi
being conscious. The first isn't built for it, and the second doesn't
achieve information flow (i.e. is timeless).

> I believe that this mysteriousness results from the brain being
> programmed such that it cannot accept the logically true
> conclusion that qualia do not exist.

Well, your brain and my brain can! :-)


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