Peeking Behind the Icons

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« on: May 10, 2020, 10:24:26 pm »
Peeking Behind the Icons

There is a relationship then, in the normal case, between what you see in the phenom-enal and relational senses. What you see in the phenomenal sense is a useful and sim-plified interface to  what  you  see  in  the  relational  sense.  It  summarizes  a  myriad  of complexities in  a way  that  lets you  interact  with  that  complexity  without  tedium and distraction. What it provides you is indeed phenomenal — a phenomenal interface. So the answer to your first question — Are we seeing and playing with the same volleyball? — is both yes and no. No, you each have constructed  your own volleyball experiences. And yes, you each are interacting with the same hidden world of circuits and software. There are as many phenomenal volleyballs as there are players. There is only one rela-tional volleyball, and it doesn’t resemble a volleyball at all. That first question took you to unexpected places, so you try another. Is the volleyball still there when I don’t look? Again  the  answer  depends  on  the  volleyball.  Your  phenomenal  volleyball  is your  con-struction.  When  you  don’t  look  you  don’t  construct  it.  So  the  phenomenal  volleyball isn’t there when  you  don’t  look.  However,  the  relational  volleyball  doesn’t  depend  on your constructive powers for its existence. The relational volleyball is just the circuits and software. So the relational volleyball is there when you don’t look. It just doesn’t re-semble a volleyball.

Which brain creates all my conscious experiences? The phenomenal brain or the relational brain?

The brain you just experienced in The Virtual Brain was of course a phenomenal brain. Indeed, The Virtual Brain headphones told you that this phenomenal brain was indis-tinguishable from the phenomenal brain you would find if you opened up your skull. So is it this phenomenal brain that creates all your conscious experiences? No. The phenomenal brain, with all its phenomenal neurons and synapses and neural net-works, is your constructed experience, just like the phenomenal volleyball. If you don’t look, it’s not there. And if it’s not there, it can’t do anything. But you have conscious experiences even when you don’t see your phenomenal brain. In fact, until just a few minutes ago, you had probably never seen your phenomenal brain. So the phenomenal brain can’t be what constructs your conscious experience.

That leaves your relational brain. If it’s true that your brain creates all your conscious experiences, then it must be your relational brain, not your phenomenal brain, which is the creator. But what is your relational brain? Does it resemble your phenomenal brain? There’s no reason to suppose it does. In fact, as we saw with the volleyball, there’s no reason to suppose that the nature of the phenomenal brain in any way constrains the nature of the relational brain. Your phenomenal brain is simply a graphical interface that allows you to interact with your relational brain, whatever that relational brain might be. And all that’s required of a graphical interface is that it be systematically related to what it represents. The relation can be as arbitrary as you wish, as long as it’s systematic. The trash can icon on your computer screen is a graphical interface to software which can erase files on your computer disk. The trash can icon is systematically related to that erasing software, but the relation is arbitrary: the trash can icon doesn’t resemble the erasing software in any way. It could be any color or shape you wish and still success-fully do the job of letting you interact with the erasing software. It could be a pig icon or a toilette icon instead of a trash can icon. All that matters is the systematic connection.

You can’t help yourself. You have to ask the question. Which circuits and software make it all possible? The phenomenal or the relational? By  now  this  question  is  easy.  It’s  not  phenomenal  circuits  and  software  that  make  it possible, say, to spike a virtual volleyball. It couldn’t be. There need be no phenomenal circuits and  software,  for  you  or  anyone  else,  when  you  spike  the  volleyball,  so  there-fore phenomenal circuits and software can’t be what makes that spiking possible. The answer must be that it’s the  relational circuits and software that make it possible to play virtual volleyball. But of course this raises another question. What are relational circuits and software? We know that they needn’t in any way resemble the phenomenal circuits and software that we experience. But what more can we say about them? This raises a general and important question. If the relational realm needn’t resemble the phenomenal, then what can we safely say about the nature of the relational realm? Not much. However,we can propose theories and see how they stack up against our ex-periences. This is an intriguing enterprise, and one that has attracted lots of attention. There  are  now  many  theories  of  the  relational  realm  that  are  compatible  with  all  the evidence we have from the phenomenal realm. These theories come in three basic kinds: physicalism, idealism, and dualism.

Physicalism proposes that the relational realm is mindless. There are many versions of this  proposal.  The  one  most  influential,  at  present,  proposes  that  the  basic  building blocks  of  the  relational  realm  are  the  particles,  fields,  and  other  entities  within  the province of microphysics. The behavior of these entities is mindless, governed entirely by probabilistic laws.

Idealism proposes that the relational realm is made of minds. It may be one mind, as in Berkeley’s  proposal  that  it’s  the  mind  of  God,  or  it  may  be  many  distinct  and  finite minds in interaction. In the latter case,  the behavior of these  minds has also been described by probabilistic laws.

Dualism proposes that the relational realm is made  both of minds and mindless entities. There are probabilistic laws governing the minds, the mindless entities, and the interactions between the two.