Re: The GLUT and functionalism

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Apr 03 2008 - 00:45:18 MDT

Matt writes

Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 1:11 PM
Subject: Re: The GLUT and functionalism

> Lee wrote:
>> In fact, during the narration he [Homer with only a "read-
>> only" memory] doesn't happen to recall that
>> a moment earlier he had said such and such---by my
>> stipulation, he is able nonetheless to recite the whole thing
>> the same way that you, while reciting the alphabet, do not
>> remember (unless you try) having recited the letter 'C'
>> when you have got to 'Q'.
> Normal memory is never read-only. I will still remember reciting the
> alphabet.

Yes, but you had asked whether someone with read-only memory
is conscious.

> What we call "conscious experience" is a recallable,
> continuous time sequence of perceived events, both
> perceptions and thoughts.

I disagree. If what you say were true, then after an
agreed upon conscious experience, we could render
the experience not conscious, it looks like, by
surgically removing the memories acquired during
that time. To me, whether or not an experience
is conscious, is not connected with whether later
it can be remembered.

> Consider the case of Homer without a hippocampus who is able to recall the
> Iliad word for word (which he learned before his surgery) but has no short
> term memory. He will not remember anything that happened after his surgery
> and will not form any new memories. After reciting the Iliad he will not
> remember that he had just done so. Is he conscious?

To me, he was indeed conscious during the recitation.
I consider memory acquisition to be separate, probably
because of our computer metaphor, in which it's easy
to have a program suddenly begin to fail to write out
its transaction logs, say.

>> > If you define consciousness as a sequence S
>> > of algorithmically similar states
>> > (K(S_n+1|S_n) = O(1)) then certainly it exists.
>> First, I don't define consciousness as a sequence of states,
>> similar or not. You could aim your question at Stathis, for
>> example. Moreover, I don't follow your mathematical
>> notation at all. Is the O supposed to be Landau's "big-oh"
>> notation? (I gather that K is Kolmogorov complexity, though.)
> That is what I meant. But choose your own definition if you prefer.
> If we could agree on a definition then the rest would be easy.

I'm pretty leery of definitions (Korzybski explained very well
how easy it is for Aristotelian definitions to be useless or
even dangerous), but I would say that consciousness is
the process whereby a program or operating brain reports
upon its own substates to itself, and is then able to distinguish
these reports from the substates, (informally, "so that they can
be 'though about'".) I mean by "substate" a particular sense
organ's state or a report of a sense organ's state or a recall
of some memory, all of which is recursive, so that a report
of a report may be also considered to be a substate.)

This is admittedly pretty rough, but I've heard people say much
the same thing, and it sounded right to me.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT