Psychology Today: What If Consciousness Comes First?

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sciborg2

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« on: July 26, 2019, 02:48:45 pm »
What If Consciousness Comes First?

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...Some researchers hold on to the hope that, if we just continue to investigate the brain’s physical properties, we will eventually be able to explain why conscious experience exists and why it has the intrinsic qualities it does. But the problem is more intractable than that.

The issue is that physical properties are by their nature relational, dispositional properties. That is, they describe the way that something is related to other things and/or has the disposition to affect or be affected by those other things. Most notably, physical properties describe the way that something affects an outside observer of that thing. But there is something going on in conscious experience that goes beyond how that conscious experience affects people looking at it from the outside. For this reason, the “what it’s like” to be a conscious mind can’t be described in the purely relational, dispositional terms accessible to science. There’s just no way to get there from here.

This explanatory gap is what is now commonly referred to as the “hard problem” of consciousness, thanks to a paper and book written by philosopher of mind David Chalmers some 20 years ago (1995, 1996). The decades since Chalmers’ statement of the problem have seen plenty of solutions proposed (Weisberg n.d.), but none of them has dealt satisfactorily with the core issue outlined above: that no physical property or set of properties can explain what it’s like to be conscious.

There is, however, one elegant solution to the riddle of how to explain the relationship between consciousness and physical properties. Many illustrious philosophers throughout history have held to this view, and if it is rarely considered today, this is likely because it requires such a radical shift in perspective. Nevertheless, if we are ever going to understand consciousness and its relationship to the physical world, I believe this is a shift we are going to have to make.

The key to resolving the hard problem of consciousness lies in the following observation. While physical properties cannot explain consciousness, consciousness is needed to explain physical properties.

As previously noted, physical properties are purely relational/dispositional. They don’t tell us what physical things are in themselves, only how they are related to other things (and how they are disposed to be related to them in the future). However, if all we ever have is relational/dispositional properties—that is, if everything is only defined in terms of other things—then, ultimately, we have defined nothing at all.

It’s as though someone created a very elaborate spreadsheet and carefully defined how the values in every cell would be related to the values in all of the other cells. However, if no one enters a definite value for at least one of these cells, then none of the cells will have values.

In the same way, if the universe is to actually exist, its properties can’t be exclusively relational/dispositional. Something in the universe has to have some kind of quality in and of itself to give all the other relational/dispositional properties any meaning. Something has to get the ball rolling.

That something (at least in our universe) is consciousness...
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2019, 04:22:31 pm »
Hmm, I'm genuinely unsure what to think of this article.

On the one hand, I think what this article is referencing, that is, in this part:
"In the same way, if the universe is to actually exist, its properties can’t be exclusively relational/dispositional. Something in the universe has to have some kind of quality in and of itself to give all the other relational/dispositional properties any meaning. Something has to get the ball rolling.

That something (at least in our universe) is consciousness..."

This is, from what little I understand, the idea of Substance.  And, again, from what little I understand, is what Leibnitz was "after" with Monadology,  In this sense, of being "stand alone" that is, the way in which each Monad is the entire universe, in-itself, it needs to relata, since it is relational to all things, in-itself.

The thing is, I am not so sure that Leibnitz was right.  That is, that the Monad, Substance, is something small, almost "atomic."  Deleuze, via a sort of Bergsonism, I think, goes the opposite direction.  The Whole of Being is Substance, not that the Whole of Being is comprised of Substance.  In this sense, I think the article has a "good point" in that we are "ontologically inclined" to deconstruct the Universe in the "wrong direction."  However, despite agreeing with the diagnosis, I'm not sure about the proscription.

In any case, I'm unsure about the very notion "Consciousness as Substance" point though.  It seems "clear" that the Universe existed before humans were ever conscious, so, what, in that case, was Substance?  The idea of Consciousness?

As a sort of aside, where Hegel seems, to me, apt to point out that self-consciousness is akin to substance, that it, only referring it itself, that is still referential, and so, would seem, to a idiot like me, to reinforce his idea that phenomenologically this is Substance, but not Empirically (Objectively?).  Which is exactly why, "science" empirically would reject the notion, well, categorically...

If any of that made sense, of course...
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2019, 05:21:20 pm »
Hmm, I'm genuinely unsure what to think of this article.

On the one hand, I think what this article is referencing, that is, in this part:
"In the same way, if the universe is to actually exist, its properties can’t be exclusively relational/dispositional. Something in the universe has to have some kind of quality in and of itself to give all the other relational/dispositional properties any meaning. Something has to get the ball rolling.

That something (at least in our universe) is consciousness..."

This is, from what little I understand, the idea of Substance.  And, again, from what little I understand, is what Leibnitz was "after" with Monadology,  In this sense, of being "stand alone" that is, the way in which each Monad is the entire universe, in-itself, it needs to relata, since it is relational to all things, in-itself.

The thing is, I am not so sure that Leibnitz was right.  That is, that the Monad, Substance, is something small, almost "atomic."  Deleuze, via a sort of Bergsonism, I think, goes the opposite direction.  The Whole of Being is Substance, not that the Whole of Being is comprised of Substance.  In this sense, I think the article has a "good point" in that we are "ontologically inclined" to deconstruct the Universe in the "wrong direction."  However, despite agreeing with the diagnosis, I'm not sure about the proscription.

In any case, I'm unsure about the very notion "Consciousness as Substance" point though.  It seems "clear" that the Universe existed before humans were ever conscious, so, what, in that case, was Substance?  The idea of Consciousness?

As a sort of aside, where Hegel seems, to me, apt to point out that self-consciousness is akin to substance, that it, only referring it itself, that is still referential, and so, would seem, to a idiot like me, to reinforce his idea that phenomenologically this is Substance, but not Empirically (Objectively?).  Which is exactly why, "science" empirically would reject the notion, well, categorically...

If any of that made sense, of course...

Yeah I think she's right that there needs to be something more than the bare difference measurements, or as Hawking put it something needs to "breathe fire" into the equations.

Now the challenge is whether consciousness is this intrinsic thing-in-itself, or rather is simply intrinsic to each POV. For example causation has to, on some level, concern things-in-themselves...but no one really says the ontological primitive is Causation b/c causal power is an intrinsic property not a substance.

There are of course Idealist arguments that can bear more scrutiny, but I do admit the "for-ness" of consciousness always seems a bit of a challenge for Idealism IMO. I do think you're right that Leibniz wanted to solve this issue via Monadology, by making PoVs themselves a kind of particle that makes up the Real...but it all goes beyond my paygrade...
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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2019, 06:42:49 pm »
Yeah I think she's right that there needs to be something more than the bare difference measurements, or as Hawking put it something needs to "breathe fire" into the equations.

Now the challenge is whether consciousness is this intrinsic thing-in-itself, or rather is simply intrinsic to each POV. For example causation has to, on some level, concern things-in-themselves...but no one really says the ontological primitive is Causation b/c causal power is an intrinsic property not a substance.

There are of course Idealist arguments that can bear more scrutiny, but I do admit the "for-ness" of consciousness always seems a bit of a challenge for Idealism IMO. I do think you're right that Leibniz wanted to solve this issue via Monadology, by making PoVs themselves a kind of particle that makes up the Real...but it all goes beyond my paygrade...

Well, it certainly is hard to say if consciousness is or is not a thing-in-itself, because, in different ways, it's hard to imagine that is is and also hard to imagine that it isn't.

I mean, consciousness must relate to the brain?  Or at least, so we think, since no one without a brain seems to be conscious.  Or at least, not that we can tell.  But, that leaves us in the same place where "all swans are white" because no one ever saw one that wasn't.  Problem being, there were black swans, just no one had seen it.

So, we don't know if neuro-correlates are consciousness, or just related to consciousness, or are superfluous to consciousness.  In any case, how could we know, as a fact, that, say, a rock is not conscious?  It could not tell us.  It also possesses no manner of self-agency that we can discern.  So, even were it conscious, how could we know?

So, it sure is not clear if consciousness could be a thing-in-itself, or if it couldn't be.  It might not even be something that is falsifiable, since, well, how could we know something is certainly not conscious?  But maybe that just brings us right back to the whole Subject-Object dichotomy and how could it be that, if everything is it's own subject, how is anything an object.  With no objects, then there really aren't any subjects.

Confusing to say the least...
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira