Just who is it that experiences your life?

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Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:39 am UTC

This video explores this question with pretty profound, perspective shifting results. Specifically, if consciousness in general is the result of brain activity, what does this tell us about the nature of selfhood, morality, and death?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhvUyeUeSdo
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby PeteP » Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:19 am UTC

The video begins with some talks about souls (from someone who apparently has never meet people who don't believe in souls) then it mentions a few things about the brain and then somehow jumps to consciousness experiencing everything and thus everyone being part of one big soul. I don't find the reasoning very convincing.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:29 am UTC

Me, and the NSA.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 3:32 am UTC

PeteP: When the reasoning is hastily mischaracterized in that way, it is indeed not very convincing. Put more accurately, the video essentially outlines the brain/mind identity thesis, which says that mental states arise from neural states. If this is the case, then consciousness in general is simply a phenomenon which is possible in the Universe, and not something special to each of us. It follows from this that any brain, rather than generating its own special consciousness, taps into the Universal potential for consciousness to occur. The moral ramifications of this are then discussed in a rather compelling way.

If you have some quarrel with this reasoning, I think it would be more productive if you responded to the actual argument, rather than a straw-man version of it.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby PeteP » Wed Nov 06, 2013 4:02 am UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:PeteP: When the reasoning is hastily mischaracterized in that way, it is indeed not very convincing. Put more accurately, the video essentially outlines the brain/mind identity thesis, which says that mental states arise from neural states. If this is the case, then consciousness in general is simply a phenomenon which is possible in the Universe, and not something special to each of us. It follows from this that any brain, rather than generating its own special consciousness, taps into the Universal potential for consciousness to occur. The moral ramifications of this are then discussed in a rather compelling way.

If you have some quarrel with this reasoning, I think it would be more productive if you responded to the actual argument, rather than a straw-man version of it.

Am I mischaracterizing it? After all you seem to agree with the video and do exactly what I said.
Here
1 "If this is the case, then consciousness in general is simply a phenomenon which is possible in the Universe, and not something special to each of us."
2 "It follows from this that any brain, rather than generating its own special consciousness, taps into the Universal potential for consciousness to occur."
Sure I agree with 1 since I don't believe in souls, consciousness is a physical phenomena. However depending on what you mean with 2 it doesn't follow from 1. If you mean what the video says then my answer is that something not being special but being just one example of a normal phenomena, doesn't imply that all instances of the phenomena are part of a single whole - the video is just playing word games.
I didn't bother to make any argument against the video, because it doesn't make any real arguments for it's conclusion, it just presents some facts and then pretends that it's conclusion follows from there.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:37 am UTC

PeteP wrote:1 "If this is the case, then consciousness in general is simply a phenomenon which is possible in the Universe, and not something special to each of us."
2 "It follows from this that any brain, rather than generating its own special consciousness, taps into the Universal potential for consciousness to occur."
Sure I agree with 1 since I don't believe in souls, consciousness is a physical phenomena. However depending on what you mean with 2 it doesn't follow from 1. If you mean what the video says then my answer is that something not being special but being just one example of a normal phenomena, doesn't imply that all instances of the phenomena are part of a single whole - the video is just playing word games.


Is the possibility for consciousness to exist in the Universe not one single whole?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby poxic » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:26 am UTC

I think of it like this. You can take a source of light and cook it up until it lases -- now you have a laser. It's based on ordinary electromagnetism, which is a fundamental force of the universe. It's just that these particular light waves are now in a special state, where they are coherent enough to form a laser.

There isn't a fundamental force called "laser" being expressed through this one instance, nor is a laser on the other side of the planet somehow connected to this one here. There's a universal potential for lasing, but that only means "it's possible to throw technology at light and get it to form a laser".

Likewise, ordinary interchangeable atoms have the potential for getting cooked up into brains that can experience consciousness. That doesn't mean that all conscious brains are sharing in a fundamental force called "consciousness", or that each bundle of consciousness is somehow connected to all the other bundles. We're each a little setup of atoms running in a complex pattern that develops into a special state we call consciousness.

If what the video is claiming were true, we could say that there is a universal potential for water to boil, which water taps into when it gets really hot. That's much more easily explained through thermodynamics, I think.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:20 am UTC

+1 for 'Cook it until it lases'.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby addams » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:38 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:+1 for 'Cook it until it lases'.

Is that what education and meditation and laughter are?
Cooking? We cook our minds? Then we lase?

I like it. It makes sense.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 06, 2013 5:28 pm UTC

Potential is not actuality. Describing things as having a x% chance to occur is an abstraction. There may be a 3% chance that a member of your family will get in a car accident in a given year.

This does not guarantee that if you and your brother are both in car accidents, that it will be the same accident. It's just a handy way of expressing probabilities, not a statement regarding identity.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby poxic » Wed Nov 06, 2013 6:57 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:+1 for 'Cook it until it lases'.

I'm a little fuzzy on the technical details of laser-making.

I thought about this a bit more last night. State-changing isn't the best analogy for consciousness -- brain atoms stay in atomic form and don't do anything particularly different when they're thinking than when they're lying around on the ground. It's closer to second- or third-order effects. I can't think of any simple or useful example of that, though.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:27 pm UTC

poxic wrote:I think of it like this. You can take a source of light and cook it up until it lases -- now you have a laser. It's based on ordinary electromagnetism, which is a fundamental force of the universe. It's just that these particular light waves are now in a special state, where they are coherent enough to form a laser.

There isn't a fundamental force called "laser" being expressed through this one instance, nor is a laser on the other side of the planet somehow connected to this one here. There's a universal potential for lasing, but that only means "it's possible to throw technology at light and get it to form a laser".

I disagree; all lasers are connected to the fact that "it's possible to throw technology at light and get it to form a laser" (to be more accurate, since "cooking up a light source until it lases" has nothing to do with how lasers work, you could say "it's possible to use stimulated radiation emission to amplify light"). This fundamental possibility, extension of the nature of electrons and electromagnetism, underlies all individual instances of lasers in the Universe. They need not be linked in any causal way for them to be connected through expressing this fundamental possibility.

It is the same in the video with consciousness- the video does not propose that every unique instance of consciousness is physically or causally related to all others, it merely observes that each instance engages the same fundamental potential for consciousness to occur. What is extremely intriguing and special about consciousness is that in every unique case it is accompanied by an experiencer, one who is aware of the experiences home to that consciousness. What reason do we have to believe that each experiencer is unique to each specific case of consciousness, as the soul hypothesis has it? If the possibility for consciousness to exist fundamentally hinges on the existence of subjective experience, is it not the case that the fabric of subjective experience is more fundamental than any specific instance of consciousness, in the same way that the possibility for stimulated radiation emission amplifying light is more fundamental than any specific instance of a laser, and furthermore that every instance of consciousness is connected through being an expression of this same fundamental possibility?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:37 pm UTC

In that case, you're using the word "connected" in a useless, watered down sense that doesn't actually involve any of the things we normally associate with connections between things.

Sure, it's pretty cool to realize that all matter everywhere is in principal capable of being formed into a conscious brain, but I'm not sure what that gets you beyond the realization that it's pretty cool.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 7:41 pm UTC

Let me put it this way: the fundamental requirement for consciousness is the possibility of there being experience. This fundamental possibility represents the part of the Universe which does the experiencing, and any specific instance of consciousness like you or me engages this fundamental possibility, and is therefore the same universal experiencer in different bodies and perspectives.

Gmalivuk- did you watch the video? It gives a pretty clear moral case for what this understanding gets us.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:00 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:Let me put it this way: the fundamental requirement for consciousness is the possibility of there being experience. This fundamental possibility represents the part of the Universe which does the experiencing, and any specific instance of consciousness like you or me engages this fundamental possibility, and is therefore the same universal experiencer in different bodies and perspectives.

Gmalivuk- did you watch the video? It gives a pretty clear moral case for what this understanding gets us.


I don't think this is "understanding" so much as rambling. You're still treating possibilities as if they make things the same.

My right shoe has a possibility of coming untied. So does my left shoe. That does not mean they are the same shoe.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:15 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I don't think this is "understanding" so much as rambling. You're still treating possibilities as if they make things the same.

My right shoe has a possibility of coming untied. So does my left shoe. That does not mean they are the same shoe.


Nowhere is it proposed that any phenomenon which is founded on the same possibility as another is therefore the same as the other. That simply is not the argument in any sense. For your shoe analogy, the point is that your shoes could not be tied if the possibility for knots to exist did not exist; the possibility for your shoes to come untied is founded on the possibility for knots in general to come untied, and both of your shoes being tied depend on this fundamental possibility. They both relate to the same fundamental property of the Universe (I suppose that explored in knot theory, along with the spatiality necessary to fold strings up in 3 dimensions around each other), but are very obviously not the exact same phenomenon. Same with consciousness, and any other phenomena which rely on more fundamental principles for their existence.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:20 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:I don't think this is "understanding" so much as rambling. You're still treating possibilities as if they make things the same.

My right shoe has a possibility of coming untied. So does my left shoe. That does not mean they are the same shoe.


Nowhere is it proposed that any phenomenon which is founded on the same possibility as another is therefore the same as the other. That simply is not the argument in any sense. For your shoe analogy, the point is that your shoes could not be tied if the possibility for knots to exist did not exist; the possibility for your shoes to come untied is founded on the possibility for knots in general to come untied, and both of your shoes being tied depend on this fundamental possibility. They both relate to the same fundamental property of the Universe (I suppose that explored in knot theory, along with the spatiality necessary to fold strings up in 3 dimensions around each other), but are very obviously not the exact same phenomenon. Same with consciousness, and any other phenomena which rely on more fundamental principles for their existence.


They are not founded on the concepts of knots. Concepts are something humans have, in order to describe and understand the world around us. There is no "fundamental concept" of the universe. Why would that make any more sense than describing my shoe has having concepts of it's own? Why the relationship to the universe, as if the universe was sentient or something?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:22 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:or your shoe analogy, the point is that your shoes could not be tied if the possibility for knots to exist did not exist; the possibility for your shoes to come untied is founded on the possibility for knots in general to come untied, and both of your shoes being tied depend on this fundamental possibility.
A length of twisted cord can be a knot whether or not humans prescribe the concept of 'knot' to it. You're chicken and egging and therefor mindsploding, and it's not particularly intriguing or useful.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Weeks » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:23 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:For your shoe analogy, the point is that your shoes could not be tied if the possibility for knots to exist did not exist; the possibility for your shoes to come untied is founded on the possibility for knots in general to come untied, and both of your shoes being tied depend on this fundamental possibility. They both relate to the same fundamental property of the Universe (I suppose that explored in knot theory, along with the spatiality necessary to fold strings up in 3 dimensions around each other), but are very obviously not the exact same phenomenon. Same with consciousness, and any other phenomena which rely on more fundamental principles for their existence.
That's a lot of words just to say "if knots weren't tied, they'd be like, untied, man".
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:24 pm UTC

I watched the entire video. Its central message is "You can make consciousness out of most anything if you arrange it right." I don't disagree in principle with that statement, but it's hardly a fundamental property of the universe.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:35 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:They are not founded on the concepts of knots. Concepts are something humans have, in order to describe and understand the world around us. There is no "fundamental concept" of the universe. Why would that make any more sense than describing my shoe has having concepts of it's own? Why the relationship to the universe, as if the universe was sentient or something?

Ah, very interesting point. I disagree emphatically- are you saying that in describing the world around us, our concepts do not mirror the logical properties of the world around us? In other words, don't all the logical properties we gather from observing knots exist in the knots themselves?

Where do our concepts relating to understanding the world around us come from, if not the world around us?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:36 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
androidbleepboop wrote:or your shoe analogy, the point is that your shoes could not be tied if the possibility for knots to exist did not exist; the possibility for your shoes to come untied is founded on the possibility for knots in general to come untied, and both of your shoes being tied depend on this fundamental possibility.
A length of twisted cord can be a knot whether or not humans prescribe the concept of 'knot' to it. You're chicken and egging and therefor mindsploding, and it's not particularly intriguing or useful.

Yes! Of course a twisted cord can be a knot whether humans prescribe the concept of knot to it, which shows that the "knotness" of that twisted cord is not something we bring to the table; it is a property of cords that they can twist into knots.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:37 pm UTC

Weeks wrote:That's a lot of words just to say "if knots weren't tied, they'd be like, untied, man".


That's a very few words to say "I missed the point you were making." :D
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:39 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:it is a property of cords that they can twist into knots.
Which means our brains configuration leading to consciousness has no affect on anything in the universe other than our own existence.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:39 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:They are not founded on the concepts of knots. Concepts are something humans have, in order to describe and understand the world around us. There is no "fundamental concept" of the universe. Why would that make any more sense than describing my shoe has having concepts of it's own? Why the relationship to the universe, as if the universe was sentient or something?

Ah, very interesting point. I disagree emphatically- are you saying that in describing the world around us, our concepts do not mirror the logical properties of the world around us? In other words, don't all the logical properties we gather from observing knots exist in the knots themselves?

Where do our concepts relating to understanding the world around us come from, if not the world around us?


The concepts I have in my head are mine. The concepts in your head are yours. It is entirely possible that we could observe the exact same scene, and describe them using different concepts, because we are not identical.

The concepts come from neurons firing in our heads. Our heads not being identical, the concepts may not be.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:45 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:The concepts I have in my head are mine. The concepts in your head are yours. It is entirely possible that we could observe the exact same scene, and describe them using different concepts, because we are not identical.

The concepts come from neurons firing in our heads. Our heads not being identical, the concepts may not be.

Agreed, but the information making up the scene we both observe is still contained in the world, making up the reality of what is out there. I could hallucinate a duck in the scene, but you wouldn't have that experience because the information making up the duck is contained in my mind and is not objectively present in the scene. The reality of the world is very much of a conceptual nature in this regard, if concepts are made up of information; all of physical reality consists of information in different configurations and logical circumstances. The existence of all of this relies on basic logical properties such as causality, spatiality, temporality, etc., and in particular the existence of consciousness relies on the basic universal property of experientiality.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 8:47 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
androidbleepboop wrote:it is a property of cords that they can twist into knots.
Which means our brains configuration leading to consciousness has no affect on anything in the universe other than our own existence.

I don't see how that follows at all. In fact, in typing these words I disprove that assertion; my brain's configuration leading to my consciousness of your words allows me to type these words, which affect the physical reality of my computer (modeling different information on the screen from what would have been here if I weren't conscious), and through the internet affect the physical reality of your computer, and finally your mind. These are clearly things in the universe other than my own existence.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:04 pm UTC

Androidbleepbloop, are you familiar with Max Tegmark's mathematical multiverse theory? If so, do you have a position on it?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:30 pm UTC

I watched your video. Its only redeeming quality, as far as I can tell, is that I would have been reading Davidson otherwise.

You seem to use "It seems to follow" as shorthand when you don't have a real, logically valid argument to fill the gap.

The phenomenon of conscious experience will occur anywhere in the universe that physical interactions of the type seen in brains occur.

Sure, but also somewhat trivial. What does it take for a physical interaction to be of the same "type" as one seen in a brain? What if I took copper wire and modeled the electrical connections of the neurons in my brain? What if I did the same thing with pipes and water? What if I just simulated it in a computer (without any obvious physical similarity between the structure of the silicon and the structure of neuron brains?

Consciousness must therefore be a fundamental phenomenon in the universe.

First of all, this doesn't follow at all. What if mental states correlate with neural states because they are reducible to neural states? Then what's really fundamental is physics, and consciousness is just an offshoot of that.

Second, if you think this is "mind-brain identity theory," then this conclusion should be especially at odds with it, since mind-brain identity theory says that the fundamental facts about consciousness are just ordinary physical facts.

Something about how consciousness is one, fundamental, unified phenomenon and how this shows there are no souls

Two problems here. First, you say that the universal observation of gravity shows that gravity is not powered by a soul, but rather by some universal force. Of course, nobody thinks that the gravitation exerted by the sun is caused by a soul. However, it does seem plausible to say that it's the sun that is responsible for gravitation. Your alternative view seems to be that there is some universal force that draws things together wherever there is mass. And so on for every other phenomenon that falls under a physical law. But this requires us to revise our ordinary way of using the word "cause." For example, it's ordinary to say "The spark caused the fire," and extraordinary to say "A universal fire-starting force caused the fire." Even if our ordinary way of thinking about causation is wrong, you would need some account of why this fire-starting force tends to operate in conjunction with sparks. What causes this universal fire-starting force to have its characteristic effects in some situations and not in others? It can't be that the spark causes the fire-starting force to come into effect, because the whole point of your theory is that the spark has no causal power in its own right.

In short, our physical observations about gravity leave open the question of what sorts of thing should replace the variables in sentences of the form "X caused Y."

Second, your claim that there is some universal phenomenon of consciousness is by no means incompatible with the existence of souls (and, by the way, you have an incredibly hackneyed characterization of what a soul is supposed to be). Maybe what the fundamental phenomenon of consciousness really does is to bring about conscious experience whenever a soul is conjoined with a brain in the right way.

Who is experiencing that pain? It seems that the only answer is that consciousness itself is experiencing that pain.

Here are two different, more conventional answers: The brain is experiencing the pain; the brain gives rise to a mind, which is experiencing the pain.

Here's a less conventional answer: The bottle of ginger ale on my floor is experiencing the pain.

What rules out any of these answers, and makes your answer the only one?

Also, note the shift from the last claim I highlighted. Before the idea was that there is a universal phenomenon called "consciousness" that stands in some sort of causal relation to individual instances of consciousness. Now you're saying that the universal phenomenon itself has experiences, i.e. that it is conscious. This is like saying that jumping from the idea that gravity is the causal agent behind weight to the conclusion that gravity is heavy.

Other people's experiences are really the same experiences from a different perspective.

You just said there's only one experience and one consciousness, so how are there different perspectives?

far beyond my ability to analyze or convey

Yeah, agreed there.

androidbleepboop wrote:Put more accurately, the video essentially outlines the brain/mind identity thesis, which says that mental states arise from neural states.

That's is not what the mind-brain identity thesis says.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Felstaff » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:39 pm UTC

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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Weeks » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:43 pm UTC

It follows that using emoticons doesn't make vain attempts at philosophy any more interesting
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:20 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
The phenomenon of conscious experience will occur anywhere in the universe that physical interactions of the type seen in brains occur.

Sure, but also somewhat trivial. What does it take for a physical interaction to be of the same "type" as one seen in a brain? What if I took copper wire and modeled the electrical connections of the neurons in my brain? What if I did the same thing with pipes and water? What if I just simulated it in a computer (without any obvious physical similarity between the structure of the silicon and the structure of neuron brains?

If it were a perfect simulation, then clearly consciousness would there arise. I don't know what you mean by trivial here.
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Consciousness must therefore be a fundamental phenomenon in the universe.

First of all, this doesn't follow at all. What if mental states correlate with neural states because they are reducible to neural states? Then what's really fundamental is physics, and consciousness is just an offshoot of that.

Second, if you think this is "mind-brain identity theory," then this conclusion should be especially at odds with it, since mind-brain identity theory says that the fundamental facts about consciousness are just ordinary physical facts.

It certainly does follow, and your objection is incorrect: the important thing to account for when considering consciousness is the phenomenon of experience. To say that mental states are reducible to neural states would not negate the fundamentality of the phenomenon of experience, if that phenomenon is something which can occur anywhere in the Universe given the right neural states. The evidence suggests indeed that the causal factors involved in generating conscious states are physical states, but the important question here is "who experiences the phenomenal nature of the consciousness thus achieved?"


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Something about how consciousness is one, fundamental, unified phenomenon and how this shows there are no souls

Haha I like how you quote someone's straw-man version of my argument, then take issue with their statement. Good show. I'll respond nonetheless, as you follow this misquote with:

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Two problems here. First, you say that the universal observation of gravity shows that gravity is not powered by a soul, but rather by some universal force. Of course, nobody thinks that the gravitation exerted by the sun is caused by a soul. However, it does seem plausible to say that it's the sun that is responsible for gravitation. Your alternative view seems to be that there is some universal force that draws things together wherever there is mass.

It is not even remotely plausible to say that it's the sun that is responsible for gravitation. That has absolutely nothing to do with the scientific understanding of gravitation: the sun's mass relativistically warps spacetime, and that warp is expressed as gravitation, which universally attracts every other mass which also relativistically warps spacetime.


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:And so on for every other phenomenon that falls under a physical law. But this requires us to revise our ordinary way of using the word "cause." For example, it's ordinary to say "The spark caused the fire," and extraordinary to say "A universal fire-starting force caused the fire." Even if our ordinary way of thinking about causation is wrong, you would need some account of why this fire-starting force tends to operate in conjunction with sparks. What causes this universal fire-starting force to have its characteristic effects in some situations and not in others? It can't be that the spark causes the fire-starting force to come into effect, because the whole point of your theory is that the spark has no causal power in its own right.

I have no idea how you got this from the ideas put forward. No modification to causality is required at all, the only thing I add is the observation that in order for a spark to cause a fire, the possibility for fires to occur must exist. The possibility for fires to exist is a result of chemical law such that an oxidizer, a fuel source, and a heat source can come together to cause a chain reaction wherein enough heat is generated to continue combustion. This framework is universal in that in order for a spark to cause a fire, these circumstances must be present, and this is a framework which all fires share.


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Second, your claim that there is some universal phenomenon of consciousness is by no means incompatible with the existence of souls (and, by the way, you have an incredibly hackneyed characterization of what a soul is supposed to be). Maybe what the fundamental phenomenon of consciousness really does is to bring about conscious experience whenever a soul is conjoined with a brain in the right way.

Ah, a hackneyed characterization? What would be a more accurate characterization, and what evidence do we have that a soul is necessary for consciousness to exist?


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Who is experiencing that pain? It seems that the only answer is that consciousness itself is experiencing that pain.

Here are two different, more conventional answers: The brain is experiencing the pain; the brain gives rise to a mind, which is experiencing the pain.

You spoke of logical validity- are you capable of applying the same standards to your own arguments? For example, you just said the brain is experiencing the pain, then immediately contradict that by saying the mind is experiencing the pain. Notice the logical error there?


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Here's a less conventional answer: The bottle of ginger ale on my floor is experiencing the pain.

Less conventional indeed. If consciousness is the result of brain activity, what brain activity do you observe occurring in your bottle of ginger ale that would make you think this is a remotely reasonable answer?


TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Also, note the shift from the last claim I highlighted. Before the idea was that there is a universal phenomenon called "consciousness" that stands in some sort of causal relation to individual instances of consciousness. Now you're saying that the universal phenomenon itself has experiences, i.e. that it is conscious. This is like saying that jumping from the idea that gravity is the causal agent behind weight to the conclusion that gravity is heavy.

You plainly misunderstood the point; the idea was never that there is a universal phenomenon which stands in a causal relation to individual instances of consciousness; it's that the universal phenomenon of consciousness represents the possibility for experiences to exist in the universe.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
Other people's experiences are really the same experiences from a different perspective.

You just said there's only one experience and one consciousness, so how are there different perspectives?

Each individual perspective arises from unique brain activity, and engages the same universal potential for consciousness to exist, in the same way that each individual magnet arises from the motion of unique electrons, yet each engages the same universal laws of electromagnetism.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
androidbleepboop wrote:Put more accurately, the video essentially outlines the brain/mind identity thesis, which says that mental states arise from neural states.

That's is not what the mind-brain identity thesis says.

Well, yes it is. From that link: "The identity theory of mind holds that states and processes of the mind are identical to states and processes of the brain. Strictly speaking, it need not hold that the mind is identical to the brain." From this it would follow both that mental states arise from neural states, and in turn that mental states can give rise to neural states, in the from of consciously connecting two disparate ideas- the new idea will be echoed in neural activity.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby iChef » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:38 pm UTC

The video doesn't only fail to put forward any testable hypothesis, but it also doesn't take memory into account. A huge part of who we are is not only experiencing our surroundings but remembering that information and recalling it. What does it matter if there is a universal conciousness if each individual can only remember what it itself has seen?
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby poxic » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:50 pm UTC

The "universal consciousness" thing is a lovely idea that has popped up many, many times in history. It can be a useful tool to play with in one's own spiritual development.

It is, however, useless in any scientific sense. It's as nebulous an idea as a universal god -- it's so vague that it can't be proved or disproved, and can't be used for any practical task.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:57 pm UTC

iChef wrote:The video doesn't only fail to put forward any testable hypothesis, but it also doesn't take memory into account. A huge part of who we are is not only experiencing our surroundings but remembering that information and recalling it. What does it matter if there is a universal conciousness if each individual can only remember what it itself has seen?

First off, philosophical arguments need not be scientific (empirically testable) to be rationally compelling.
Second, I agree with what you say about memory and its importance to personal experience. In addition, each member can only experience its own experiences. However, if each member is fundamentally the same, and is only in that specific perspective due to chance, this has enormous implications for rational morality. If you know that another person is experiencing life within the same experiencer as you, then you should rationally want to minimize pain in that person as much as you want to protect yourself. The reasoning for this takes into account that outside of your individual perspective, you are also experiencing their perspective, because the same experiencer is home to all experiences. If you cause another pain, you are fundamentally causing pain for yourself, even if that fact its not superficially obvious.


For an example in reference to the falsifiability point, is "cogito ergo sum", "I think, therefore I am" scientifically testable or falsifiable? No, but that clearly does not negate its truth or profundity.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby Weeks » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:14 pm UTC

And yet there are people who criticize Descartes' proposition, but I guess they don't really exist
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby iChef » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:22 pm UTC

experience (noun)- 1. the process or fact of learning by personally observing or encountering something. 2. a particular instance of observing or encountering and event in which one is involved.

I fail to see how it is possible for there to be a universal experience. Since I am unable to recall any experience that I myself do not have, anything that anyone else experiences means nothing to me, unless it is communicated to me somehow. If two guys in India get in a fight call each other names and beat the tar out of each other how does that at all effect me? I think we need a new way to define what you are calling a universal experiencer because according to any definition I have been able to find direct observation and memory are very important to experience, neither of which are involved with your idea of a universal experiencer.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:36 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:If it were a perfect simulation, then clearly consciousness would there arise. I don't know what you mean by trivial here.

a) Why is it clear that consciousness would arise?
b) I mean "trivial" in the sense that all the work is being done by your unstated understanding of what it is for two phenomena to be of the same "type."

androidbleepboop wrote:It certainly does follow, and your objection is incorrect: the important thing to account for when considering consciousness is the phenomenon of experience. To say that mental states are reducible to neural states would not negate the fundamentality of the phenomenon of experience, if that phenomenon is something which can occur anywhere in the Universe given the right neural states.

Clear as mud. If A reduces to B, then A is not fundamental, or else you are using some proprietary nonstandard definition of the word "fundamental" which you refuse to reveal to the rest of us.

androidbleepboop wrote:It is not even remotely plausible to say that it's the sun that is responsible for gravitation. That has absolutely nothing to do with the scientific understanding of gravitation: the sun's mass relativistically warps spacetime, and that warp is expressed as gravitation, which universally attracts every other mass which also relativistically warps spacetime.

Your replacement theory suffers the same objections. Why are you saying that the sun's mass warps spacetime, rather than saying that some sort of universal phenomenon warps spacetime? And why attribute attraction to this mysterious universal phenomenon rather than to the individual instance of the space-time warp?


androidbleepboop wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:And so on for every other phenomenon that falls under a physical law. But this requires us to revise our ordinary way of using the word "cause." For example, it's ordinary to say "The spark caused the fire," and extraordinary to say "A universal fire-starting force caused the fire." Even if our ordinary way of thinking about causation is wrong, you would need some account of why this fire-starting force tends to operate in conjunction with sparks. What causes this universal fire-starting force to have its characteristic effects in some situations and not in others? It can't be that the spark causes the fire-starting force to come into effect, because the whole point of your theory is that the spark has no causal power in its own right.

I have no idea how you got this from the ideas put forward.

It was my best attempt at interpreting your claim that the gravity of the sun does not come from a soul. It doesn't seem that I guessed so wrongly, since you just confirmed that you think the sun is not responsible for its gravitational force. But, fine. If you really just meant to say that the sun does not have a soul, maybe you just like saying silly things. Fine with me.


androidbleepboop wrote:You spoke of logical validity- are you capable of applying the same standards to your own arguments? For example, you just said the brain is experiencing the pain, then immediately contradict that by saying the mind is experiencing the pain. Notice the logical error there?

I didn't say that either of those answers are true.

What I did say is that they are both other answers to the question. Thus to say that the only answer is that consciousness is experiencing the pain is patently false.

androidbleepboop wrote:You plainly misunderstood the point; the idea was never that there is a universal phenomenon which stands in a causal relation to individual instances of consciousness; it's that the universal phenomenon of consciousness represents the possibility for experiences to exist in the universe.

OK. Fine. But that's a boring claim that, again, in no way rules out souls. Someone who just believes in souls might just as well say that "the universal phenomenon of consciousness represents the possibility for experiences to exist in the universe." You think that possibility is actualized by brains; they think it's actualized by souls. (And, indeed, they might think brains are involved as well. Aristotle, for example, thinks that the soul is the form of a living thing, and that it can't exist apart from the body. If he had access to modern neuroscience, I suspect he would say that constructing a brain with the right kind of interactions just is constructing a brain with a soul.)

(Or perhaps you could be clearer about what you mean by "universal phenomenon of consciousness.)

The inability of your conclusion to separate these two views also highlights its failure to support the further conclusion that consciousness is the thing experiencing all of our sensations. For if people who believe in souls also believe that there is a universal phenomenon of consciousness that represents the possibility for experiences to exist in the universe, shouldn't they also believe this? If you can move directly from

(A) The universal phenomenon of consciousness represents the possibility for experiences to exist in the universe

to

(B) Everyone's experiences are shared by the same thing

why not just do it directly, instead of haggling over how the phenomenon of consciousness is manifested?

androidbleepboop wrote:Each individual perspective arises from unique brain activity, and engages the same universal potential for consciousness to exist, in the same way that each individual magnet arises from the motion of unique electrons, yet each engages the same universal laws of electromagnetism.

To continue someone else's objection, jumping from this to the conclusion that consciousness itself experiences everyone's lives is like saying that, since every tying of my shoelaces engages the same universal potential for knot-tying, the only possible answer to the question "Who tied my shoelaces?" is "the universal potential for knot-tying."

androidbleepboop wrote:Well, yes it is. From that link: "The identity theory of mind holds that states and processes of the mind are identical to states and processes of the brain. Strictly speaking, it need not hold that the mind is identical to the brain." From this it would follow both that mental states arise from neural states, and in turn that mental states can give rise to neural states, in the from of consciously connecting two disparate ideas- the new idea will be echoed in neural activity.

Well, sure. I took you to mean that mind/brain identity theory and the claim "Mental states arise from neural states" are the same thing. If you just meant that one entails the other, then I apologize for my misinterpretation of your exceptionally clear writing.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby androidbleepboop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:47 pm UTC

Weeks wrote:And yet there are people who criticize Descartes' proposition, but I guess they don't really exist

Hahaha yes. As far as I know, the criticisms generally apply to Descartes' next move, which is to immediately conclude that an omnipotent God exists, and I agree with those criticisms. The cogito itself is mighty compelling to me; what are some of the arguments against? I'm just curious.

iChef wrote:experience (noun)- 1. the process or fact of learning by personally observing or encountering something. 2. a particular instance of observing or encountering and event in which one is involved.

I fail to see how it is possible for there to be a universal experience. Since I am unable to recall any experience that I myself do not have, anything that anyone else experiences means nothing to me, unless it is communicated to me somehow. If two guys in India get in a fight call each other names and beat the tar out of each other how does that at all effect me? I think we need a new way to define what you are calling a universal experiencer because according to any definition I have been able to find direct observation and memory are very important to experience, neither of which are involved with your idea of a universal experiencer.


Ok, I see the disconnect here. I'm am not proposing that each perspective in experience is directly affected by any other; your example of the fight in India is a perfect example. They both experience that fight in a vivid and real sense, while we are totally unaware of it, this I do not disagree with. The point I'm making hinges on the question, "What does it take for experiences to occur at all?" This is where the universal experiencer comes in, because taking evidence from the apparent fact that conscious experience is something which happens when information is processed in the way that brains achieve, the actual fabric of experience itself is a Universal phenomenon. Again, not Universal in the sense that that experience is shared by all experiencers, but that the one doing the experiencing in every unique perspective is, in essence, the Universe.

I can see why this is a confusing proposition. Let me see if I can summarize it simply: I ask, who am I, fundamentally? At the most fundamental level, "I" am the one who experiences my experiences. I am not my body, nor my style of thinking, nor my personality; these are merely the circumstances which make up the context for my experiences. The experiencer of my life: that's who I am. Now, what is this experiencer? Is it unique to me? Conventionally, it is thought that, yes, the experiencer of my life is totally unique to me. However, if the experiencer of my life comes into being solely through the neural activity in my brain, this picture starts to look a little shaky. Your brain produces similar neural activity, and similarly conjures up an experiencer. Our experiences are unique from each other because our brains are unique and process unique sets of information, but the experiencer is what we're trying to pin down. If an experiencer accompanies any brain which processes information, this seems to suggest that the unique part is the information thus processed, not the fact that there is an experiencer there to experience the results of that informational processing. The Universal part of it is the observation that this phenomenon, an experiencer being present, occurs anywhere in the Universe that brains process information. From this, it becomes clear to me that the fact that we have experiences is a result of there being a property of the Universe such that experience is possible.
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Re: Just who is it that experiences your life?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:56 pm UTC

androidbleepboop wrote:Again, not Universal in the sense that that experience is shared by all experiencers, but that the one doing the experiencing in every unique perspective is, in essence, the Universe.

Uhh, what? If the universe is always the one doing the experiencing, doesn't it follow that there's only one experiencer, and therefore that every experience is trivially shared by all experiencers? In the same sense that if there's only one president, then it's trivially true that all cases of presidential action are performed by the same president.
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