First, let me address a methodological issue.
Kielicious, and other materialists in the thread:
If you require scientific/empiric evidence of any claim made, it is impossible for anyone who does not share your materialist conception of consicousness to debate with you. To require that sort of evidence assumes already that consciousness is purely a biological problem. It's like asking someone to provide evidence that x does not equal 2 in 2x=4, only using the basic rules of algebra. The debate is about whether those rules are appropriate, i.e. about whether consciousness is in fact a biological problem, or some other sort of problem, and then of course what the solution is.
I didn't think my above comment would ignite so much controversy; let me explain exactly what I meant. First, I placed no restrictions on what topics could be discussed or what sorts of could be arguments presented in this thread, so long as they pertained to the 'problem of consciousness,' which is of course a vaguely defined and potentially enormous subject. My only request was that the term 'consciousness' itself be used and understood as defined in my first post. The above comment was directed at anyone who I felt was willing to accept and consider only empiric evidence, primarily from neuroscience, in the course of debating 'the problem of consciousness,' and who (most importantly) did not seem to be concerned with any sort of justification for preferring that sort of evidence. If only arguments based on empiric evidence are acceptable, and the question is more or less 'what sort of problem is consciousness,' then the question has already been answered. In other words, those who would consider only the empiric arguments, and who criticized all other sorts of arguments only because they lacked empiric evidence, had already decided that consciousness was a problem for science, to the exclusion of other perspectives.
... yes, but it still seems a bit odd to me to assume an external world where if both of us are structurally similar and equipped with similar "perspectives" yet the external world is pure chaos that if I hold up what I perceive to be an apple and ask you what it is that I am holding that you would respond by saying "an apple", as at that moment you could cutting up the chaos into a circus elephant
Some people might respond with 'a circus elephant.' That I would call what you're holding an apple proves only that you and I are more similar to one another structurally than either of us are to the weird fellow who calls it a circus elephant.
(let alone could you respond at all, as whatever it is that we intersubjectively perceive as sound waves wouldn't be there for the intersubjective perceiving, either)
Remember, I'm not saying that 'what we intersubjectively perceive as sound waves' isn't there. I'm saying that that 'what' cannot be conceived or spoken of except in anthropogenic terms. When I speak the phrase 'sound waves' or think of the word and experience a mental image, I am not experiencing something which exists objectively, i.e. external to experience. If 'sound waves' existed in the external world, it wouldn't be the external world any longer; external means external to experience. So while there is presumably something 'between us' so to speak, something in the external world, which is allowing us ot communicate, it cannot by definition be 'sound waves,' as sound waves is a concept in the experienced world, yours and mine. And our concepts of them probably differ slightly. Just as our conceptions of apple differ slightly, because we are very similar, but slightly different things you and I.
... it also seems a bit odd to me to assume an external world where "structural similarity" can be coherent with "a lack of order entirely" - that is, how can you, as part of my external world and thus being nothing but chaos, bear any structural similarity to me? ... it seems much more coherent to me that if one is going to bother assuming an external world at all that one would assume an external world in which objective order allows for structural similarity, intersubjectivity, and communication, than to assume an external world in which a lack of order entirely leads one to right back to solipsism ...
We have agreed to accept the assumption that there exists an external world. The problem is that it is impossible for us to conceive of something which does not have properties derived from experience (shape e.g.). So we have no answer to the question, 'what is the nature of a thing in the external world, such as you or I? I assert that you and I (as things in the external world) are more similar to each other than to other things, and thus we live in similar phenomenological worlds. But by what criteria can I say that we are similar? We can only compare things in terms of their phenomenological properties (e.g, shape), and things in the external world have no such properties. Therefore, when I say that you and I are similar, relative other things, I am making an assumption: like we did in saying that an external world exists in the first place. That's unsatisfying, but anything else wouldn't be true. It's nothing more than an assumption based on what we might call 'common sense': like that which compels us to believe (in absence of proof) in the external world.
So again, to reiterate, it's not that you and I don't have structures, aren't existent things in the external world. We assume we do and are. We simply cannot conceive of the nature of these things, just as we cannot conceive of the nature of the thing in the external world to which we attach the concept 'sound wave.' And furthermore, it isn't an absence of knowledge or technology which prevents us from understanding the nature of things in the external world. If by 'nature' we mean properties like a chair or tree has, then indeed these things have no nature; they are by definition not defined by experience-derived concepts and terms. So we can't speak of a specific structure that is common to you or I, with reference to any properties derived from experience, but we can still assume that we have the same nature, or structure, or whatever other general term you want to use.
I have looked over, and over, and thought about and analyzed the demand in BrightNoon's #135
, and cannot help at all but to see something wrong with it.
...Third person experience is observable
. It is presently not experienceable
What does it mean to observe an experience? For example, Bob may have the experience of dancing, while Molly has the experience of observing Bob dancing. Molly is not observing the experience which is that which Bob has while dancing. These are two separate 1st person experiences.
The solipsistic proposition is very faulty; I can demonstrate that clearly by showing that I am not a figment of BrightNoon's brain content alone, and that he is a totally different entity from either of us posting here (and we most clearly all have full consciousness by standard definition, or we wouldn't be posting when we are posting).
That proposition is faulty. You can demonstrate that you are conscious (i.e. independent of my phenomenological world) to whom? To me? No. If not to me, then indeed you have not disproved the solipsist proposition. Furthermore, people need to understand that solipsism doesn't necessarily mean that a person believes there is nothing external to their experiences. I certainly don't believe that. I for one consistently refer to some sort of solipsist logic not to prove that everything is a part of my consciousness with no independent life, but rather as part of this or that logical investigation, to analyze the nature of consciousness. By analogy, I can study Greek mythology in order to better understand the mind of man, but I don't have to believe in it. The solipsist proposition is a tool only (for me anyway) and shouldn't be rejected out of hand just because it's so unnatural and contrary to common sense; and as I said, it cannot be disproved.
de Silentio;93680 wrote:
While I will conform to the definition of consciousness as "the sum of all experience", I will also add that that definition is quite ambiguous. For instance, I would interpret "the sum of all experience" as that which I am currently experiencing. Whether it be my perception of "real, physical" things or my memory of said things, or even my feelings or fantasies of these real things (real things as that which is generally excepted as "being in front of me as an actual existing object or the potential of being a real, existing object).
I would agree. I chose this definition precisely because it makes no distinction whatsoever between 'real' or 'imaginary' experiences, nor between present experiences and memories; in short, because it makes no reference to any fixed external standard of any kind.
However, my argument here is against your definition of consciousness. I currently involved in working out the text of Husserl's Ideas I. In it there is the basic principle of "intentionality", not an idea coined by him, but one that relies on. Intentionality is our conscious relationship to the objects of experience (be they "real" objects or "essences" of real individual things). Consciousness is always consciousness-of something. Thus there is always a correlation between the act of conscioussness and the content of that act. For, there can be no act without content, nor content without an act.
Why the division into content and act? Yes, indeed, once you divide the two then they are inseparable, but why divide at all? Nietzsche would offer the analogous error of dividing force from objects in physics, or cause from effect. There is only action
, or becoming, or whatever you like to call it; it is singular. The division is only necessary in order to be able to think and speak about the singular action. In order to understand, describe, explain, etc. it is necessary to divide the monism into parts, in terms of which the whole can then be understood, described, explained, etc. But the divisions are arbitrary.
So, what is the relationship between consciousness and the real world: In order to experience the 'real world', the objects of the real world have to be correlated with an act of the consciousness of the individual person having that experience.
In answer to question 2:
We shouldn't make that assumption. When any philosophy does, that assumption immediately undermines their entire philosophy. Why? Because it is an assumption.
Doesn't your explanation of 'the relationship between consciousness and the real world' make just that assumption? Simply by referring to the 'real world?'
Hefty claim. How can you experience "the sense itself" when sensing requires an act and content? Experience "the sense itself" would be experiencing the sense of seeing, not what is seen.
I should have used the term 'sensation' in place of 'sense,' as I meant to refer to what you might call the content of sensing, not the act itself without content. But, again, I recognize no distinction between an act of sensing and that content which is sensed. Do we experience such a distinction? Is not my act of sensing always exactly the same as the content of that act? When have I sensed without sensing something, or experienced a sensation without having sensed it? As you say, never, the content and the act are inseparable. I would argue further that they are one and the same
Thanks for your response