676 thoughts on “Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved

  1. I don’t have any doubt that consciousness evolved.

    Let’s turn this around. Define “Kastrup-consciousness” to be whatever it is that Kastrup is really discussing.

    It seems that Kastrup is thinking in terms of an AI system (based on computation). And Kastrup believes that such an AI system is not conscious.

    Kastrup-consciousness is what has to be added to an AI system, so that the AI system will then be conscious in the sense of having some sort of qualitative experience (qualia).

    So Kastrup is arguing that Kastrup-consciousness cannot evolve. I’m puzzled as to why this is important, because an AI system could not evolve. Yes, humans evolved, and they create AI systems. But we would not say those systems evolved. Rather, we would say that they are human artifacts. And if an AI system could not evolve, why would we expect some kind of consciousness of an AI system to be able to evolve?

    Here’s another question. Suppose we were somehow able to provide that AI system with Kastrup-consciousness. Would the AI system then know it is conscious? It seems to me, based on Kastrup’s argument, that it wouldn’t know. After all Kastrup expects the system’s behavior to be identical, with or without Kastrup consciousness.

    I guess I am suggesting that Kastrup-consciousness is incoherent.

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  2. Graziano and he have had an exchange. Here is Graziano’s contribution (it’s a variant of Dennett). Something like that makes sense to me.
    https://iai.tv/articles/why-you-dont-know-your-own-mind-auid-1297

    ETA: So, for me, the interesting problem is what Chalmers calls the meta-problem of consciousness: “why do we think there is a problem of consciousness?”
    http://consc.net/papers/metaproblem.pdf

    Here’s a long thread on Kastrup at PF
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6110/page/p1

    My probably unfair first impression: Kastrup is another fringe thinker looking to build an audience among that fringe and thereby sell some books. His basic ideas seems be like Goff’s and panpsychist monists, ie::

    Our knowledge of our subjective, qualitative experience is our most certain knowledge of all. Science can only provide quantitative, not qualitative, knowledge. Hence science cannot explain the knowledge we have based on our subjective experience.

    Or something like that.

    Goff is a bona fide philosopher, however.

    Life is too short for more from me…..

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  3. BruceS: Our knowledge of our subjective, qualitative experience is our most certain knowledge of all.

    I think that was BruceS attempting to give a synopsis of part of Kastrup’s view.

    My response: whatever “knowledge” means in that quote, it cannot possibly mean “justified true belief”.

    In a Kastrup article, linked from the Graziano article that BruceS referenced, Kastrup says: “Phenomenal consciousness is seen as one of the top unsolved problems in science.” I already disagree. Phenomenal consciousness is not any kind of science problem. It is a philosopher’s problems. Scientists can safely ignore it. I guess that’s also my response to the linked Chalmers article about the metaproblem.

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  4. Neil Rickert: I think that was BruceS attempting to give a synopsis of part of Kastrup’s view.

    Actually, it’s Goff’s view I was summarizing as I am more familiar with Goff’s work. I only spent a few moments skimming the linked Kastrup article, but I did get the impression that in that article Kastrup was pushing the same viewpoint as Goff. I have seen other articles that say Kastrup is also an idealist, not a realist (which Goff is), so if true that would mean that Hoffman has priority, at least on TSZ, for that strand of fringe thinking. Although Hoffman is more of a quantum woo guy than Kastrup, I think.

    In a Kastrup article, linked from the Graziano article that BruceS referenced, Kastrup says: “Phenomenal consciousness is seen as one of the top unsolved problems in science.”I already disagree.Phenomenal consciousness is not any kind of science problem.It is a philosopher’s problems.Scientists can safely ignore it.I guess that’s also my response to the linked Chalmers article about the metaproblem.

    There a many neuroscientists who disagree with you, of course. But you’ve told me before that they are wrong too.

    The meta-problem is in fact an easy problem of consciousness, according to Chalmers.

    My response:whatever “knowledge” means in that quote, it cannot possibly mean “justified true belief”.

    On knowledge: the Mary the color scientist framing of the qualia (Hi Alan!) issue is about whether her first experience with color does give her new facts, thus contradicting physicalism (since she supposedly knew all the physical facts already). So that is a JTB claim regarding propositional knowledge, I believe.

    One physicalist reply to the Mary argument against physicalism is that she gains knowledge by acquaintance. Another physicalist reply is that she gets a new ability,. Both those replies do agree with you that she is not getting JTB ie propositional knowledge.

    But I think the most popular physicalist reply is based on phenomenal concepts: she does not gain knowledge of new facts, but rather only the same facts she already new, except via a new, special type of concept. I think this is JTB knowledge, but since the concepts are of a special type, I am not sure.

    Dennett, I believe, says the thought experiment is incoherent in the sense that if Mary really knew all the physical facts then she would be able to imagine qualitative experience.

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  5. BruceS: framing of the qualia (Hi Alan!)

    Sure, Bruce. For a fruitful discussion on qualia to ensue, a workable definition ought to be a prerequisite. As Neil points out, if people work with idiosyncratic definitions of consciousness, there’s not likely to be much progress.

    Would anyone like to offer a definition of consciousness?

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  6. BruceS: The meta-problem is in fact an easy problem of consciousness, according to Chalmers.

    The scientific problem of consciousness is what Chalmers calls “the easy problem”. Anything beyond that is outside the realm of science.

    On knowledge: the Mary the color scientist framing of the qualia (Hi Alan!) issue is about whether her first experience with color does give her new facts, thus contradicting physicalism (since she supposedly knew all the physical facts already). So that is a JTB claim regarding propositional knowledge, I believe.

    For all I know, my experience of red might be identical to your experience of blue. The point here is that there is nothing about my knowledge of phenomenal consciousness that could be put into words (or expressed as JTB) that would distinguish my experience of red from your experience of blue. So there cannot be a JTB account whatever Mary is supposedly missing.

    The underlying problem here, is that philosophers tend to see people as idealized AI systems. Or, if you prefer, as truth & logic systems. But we are really animals. We poop, piss and eat like animals. We interact with the world like animals. Language evolved to allow coordination between human animals. Language isn’t anything like the entirety of our being.

    Phenomenal consciousness is an attribute of animals. It is not an expected attribute of AI systems or of truth & logic systems.

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  7. Alan Fox: Would anyone like to offer a definition of consciousness?

    Yes, my shout out was alluding to your previously-expressed focus on this issue (even though you have pink dresses in your closet, or at least in your conceptual scheme).

    Maybe Louis A was within sight of the answer, although I am not sure it would pass the smell test and so would not be to everyone’s taste.

    Is there a laugh track emoji?.

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  8. I see that definition troll is trolling.

    Perhaps he’d like us to define ‘that’, ‘definition’, ‘is’, and ‘perhaps’?

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  9. keiths,

    Right, because not a single one of us knows what consciousness means. I don’t know why there is even such a word in the English language. I believe in Nordic viking cultures there was a saying roughly translated to “flapjack wool nose scions.”

    Is that what is meant by consciousness perhaps?

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  10. Any viable theory of consciousness ought to specify which creatures are conscious, in what way, and why.

    – Susan Blackmore

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  11. Alan Fox: Sure, Bruce. For a fruitful discussion on qualia to ensue, a workable definition ought to be a prerequisite.

    Thousands of philosophers and scientists disagree: they don’t seem to have a problem doing published work on consciousness without a formal definition.

    Of course, they all start with a rough definition which you can find in their work or in summaries like IEP on qualia.

    That’s how science and philosophy work when they use terms, including those of everyday language. The scientific or philosophical understanding of the term is not an if and only if definition; rather, it is implicit in the resulting theoretical claims which detail the initial rough definition.

    So it is often better to think of theoretical terms as cluster concepts. When theories differ, the elements of the cluster need not completely overlap. In biology, this is evident for terms like ‘natural kind’, ‘fitness’, or ‘biological function’ (eg see Sandwalk’s series on biological function and genome).

    That’s why I think it is wrongheaded to keep asking for a precise definition before starting inquiry.

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  12. OK, some first impressions:

    1) Who decided that phenomenal consciousness is not quantitative?
    2) Where was it shown that information processing with and without experience are equally efficient?
    3) Where was it shown that information processing with and without experience are equally likely to emerge from brain processes?
    4) If information processing with experience is the more likely one to arise, why should consciousness be adaptive?

    That should do for now.

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  13. https://owenbarfield.org/reith-lectures/
    In a review of the 1976 Reith Lectures by Dr. Colin Blakemore, Owen Barfield wrote:

    As I sit back from this laborious and, I fear, not very interesting account and try once more to survey the whole of what I have attempted to describe, I am left with one question uppermost in my mind. How much longer will it all go on? For how much longer will educated men go on being allured by the ignis fatuus of a ‘consciousness’ accessible to physical experiment and investigation? How much longer will they go on spending untiring energy in pursuit of it?

    Forever? Will any argument ever penetrate the mental morass far enough to convince them of its inherent futility?

    Four decades on and still they search for an understanding of how consciousness arises out of the physical brain. Isn’t it time to stop chasing our tails, step back and take a fresh look at what has been revealed about the reality we live in?

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  14. In this video Arthur Zajonc says:

    There is no single objective state of affairs of the universe. It’s always in relationship to an observer. Everything is subjective, and that subjectivity is an inherent part of the new physics. You can’t get away from it, you can’t objectivise it, you can’t make objects, because what you have now in place of objects are events and processes as the physicist David Bohm remarked in his book on special relativity. Events and processes, experiences in a particular context, that’s what we are given. So the new physics it seems to me plays right into this, you could say, turn away from the abstractions and towards a kind of scientific and empirical experience which can be legitimated and made reliable but robust and at the same time open us to experiences leading to moral sensibilities and judgements.

    Here Zajonc talks about the primary qualities of length, mass and so forth are as much determined by us as are the secondary qualities. We cannot picture a world without our participation. If I try to imagine, say the primordial earth before life was thought to be present, then that world will be imagined from my point of view, through the lens of my senses. But that is a subjective view. Do you then say that in reality it is in reality particles in motion? But then we imagine these particles as similar to objects of our everyday experience. Gas clouds, rotating spherical objects and such like. We make models according to the objects of our sense experience and then we treat the models as having greater reality than the world of our experience. In Barfield’s terms this is the worship of idols. Goethe’s methods “saves the appearances” by recognising the models for what they are and making the attempt to stay within experience.

    Any attempt to understand consciousness must begin with experience. If we begin from a point of view where matter is primal then we have already made a judgement based on experience. We must have consciousness to even begin our enquiry because our experience presupposes consciousness.

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  15. CharlieM: Any attempt to understand consciousness must begin with experience. If we begin from a point of view where matter is primal then we have already made a judgement based on experience. We must have consciousness to even begin our enquiry because our experience presupposes consciousness.

    We tend to tell other people that what they are thinking and doing is mistaken. If our aim is to convince them, rather than ourselves, then we must stop doing so. Any attempt to make a convincing case must begin with demonstrating that our own approach is a fruitful one.

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  16. CharlieM (quoting Zajonc) : There is no single objective state of affairs of the universe. It’s always in relationship to an observer. Everything is subjective, and that subjectivity is an inherent part of the new physics.

    I agree with that. And that really points to where the hard problem of consciousness goes wrong. The hard problem presupposes that there is a one true objective account, and we have it. Then it goes on to seek an objective account of the subjective.

    But there isn’t any one true objective account.

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  17. phoodoo< to Neil Rickert,
    There can be one true objective reality, without us being able to see it.

    That’s a contradiction of terms. Objective means that it would stand regardless of whether you see it or not. Only you would not know about it. That contrasts with your subjective awareness of such reality.

    Pathogenic bacteria existed before we were aware of them, and killed loads of people before anybody was able to see them. They were there despite our lack of knowledge.

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  18. Entropy: Pathogenic bacteria existed before we were aware of them

    You mean they were true before we existed? Imagine that!

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  19. BruceS: Thousands of philosophers and scientists disagree:they don’t seem to have a problem doing published work on consciousness without a formal definition.

    Just as biologists don’t need a formal definition* of life to study aspects of living organisms. Consciousness is an umbrella term for the various processes, all physical, biochemical, occurring in the brain and nervous system. But I just skimmed over several previous OPs, here, here, here and I see the arguent over whether consciousness is an abused term has continued through those threads and probably elsewhere without much sign of anyone’s views changing. I see Michael Graziano has recently published Rethinking Consciousness: A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience so I might give it a read and maybe post a review.

    Of course, they all start with a rough definition which you can find in their work or in summaries like IEP on qualia.

    I remain unconvinced on “qualia”.

    That’s how science and philosophy work when they use terms, including those of everyday language.The scientific or philosophical understanding of the term is not an if and only if definition; rather, it is implicit in the resulting theoretical claims which detail the initial rough definition.

    My impression is scientists are habitually very clear in defining terms when introducing new concepts.

    So it is often better to think of theoretical terms as cluster concepts.When theories differ, the elements of the cluster need not completely overlap.In biology, this is evident for terms like ‘natural kind’, ‘fitness’, or ‘biological function’ (eg see Sandwalk’s series on biological function and genome).

    That’s why I think it is wrongheaded to keep asking for a precise definition before starting inquiry.

    Folks are welcome not to bother responding with their own version of what “consciousness” means to them. If they propose a binary concept (you have it or you don’t) then that is obviously unsatisfactory. And if you think (as I do) of a scalable property then it should be measurable. Anyway, this has all been said already in the threads I linked to and elsewhere here. I doubt I can add anything new. I’ll also be pleasantly surprised if anyone else adds something new. 🙂

    ETA*

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  20. The problem of consciousness is, notoriously, Hard. However, it seems to me that much of the hardness is a result of the nature of the word itself. “Consciousness” is a noun, an abstract noun, derived from an adjective: “conscious”. And that adjective describes either a state (a person can be “conscious” or “unconscious” or even “barely conscious”) or a status (a person, or an animal, is said to be a “conscious” entity, unlike, for example, a rock).

    But what must an entity be like to merit the adjective “conscious”? What, properties must it possess? Merriam-Webster gives as its first definition: “perceiving, apprehending, or noticing with a degree of controlled thought or observation doing, or be capable of doing”. In other words, the properties of a conscious thing refer to its capacity to do something. And, indeed, it is derived from a latin verb: the verb scire, to know. In other words, “consciousness” may be better thought of as an abstract noun derived not from an adjective that describes some static attribute of an entity, but from one that implies that that entity is an agent capable of action.

    And so, I will coin a new verb: to conch. And I will coin it as a transitive verb: an entity conches something, i.e. is conscious of something.

    Armed with that verb, I suggest, the Hard Problem becomes tractable, and dualism no more of an issue than the dualism that distinguishes legs and running.

    And it allows us, crucially, to see that an animal capable of conching itself, and conching others as other selves, is going to be something rather special. What is more, to be an animal capable of conching itself and others as selves will not only experience the world, but will experience itself experiencing the world.

    It will, in a sense, have a soul, in Hofstadter’s sense, and even a measure of life beyond death in the conchings of other conchers.

    From here

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  21. Alan,

    Many words in English have multiple meanings, and this can cause some confusion at times, yet fluent speakers don’t demand a formal definition every time they see one of these words.

    Here’s the funniest part : had you made it to the third sentence of Kastrup’s essay, you would have seen that Kastrup is clearly talking about phenomenal consciousness:

    Insofar as it is produced by the brain, our phenomenal consciousness—i.e. our ability to subjectively experience the world and ourselves—is no exception:

    Instead of resorting to definition trolling, why not read the material?

    Or will you demand a definition of ‘experience’ now?

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  22. Rumraket:

    So if consciousness didn’t evolve, then why are we, a species that evolved, conscious?

    Here’s the only passage in Kastrup’s essay that addresses your question:

    Phenomenal consciousness cannot have evolved. It can only have been there from the beginning as an intrinsic, irreducible fact of nature.

    I don’t know what that second sentence means to Kastrup. He says elsewhere that he is not a panpsychist.

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  23. Corneel:

    1) Who decided that phenomenal consciousness is not quantitative?

    Kastrup apparently, but I think he just means that phenomenal consciousness is non-physical and therefore causally inert with respect to the physical (and therefore with respect to evolutionary fitness).

    4) If information processing with experience is the more likely one to arise, why should consciousness be adaptive?

    He believes that it isn’t adaptive and therefore could not have evolved. It must have been there all along. See the passage I quoted to Rumraket above.

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  24. Corneel:

    2) Where was it shown that information processing with and without experience are equally efficient?

    Kastrup believes that experience is always present, so he would disagree with the premise of your question.

    3) Where was it shown that information processing with and without experience are equally likely to emerge from brain processes?

    Ditto.

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  25. keiths: Here’s the only passage in Kastrup’s essay that addresses your question:

    Phenomenal consciousness cannot have evolved. It can only have been there from the beginning as an intrinsic, irreducible fact of nature.

    I don’t know what that second sentence means to Kastrup. He says elsewhere that he is not a panpsychist.

    I’m not any kind of ist, but I tend to agree that consciousness is a property of matter. Whatever that means. But consciousnesses is a property of configured matter, and the configuration of brains evolved. And, I think, selected. Probably via sexual selection. Big brains don’t seem to be necessary for any task other than attracting a mate.

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  26. petrushka: But consciousnesses is a property of configured matter, and the configuration of brains evolved. And, I think, selected. Probably via sexual selection. Big brains don’t seem to be necessary for any task other than attracting a mate.

    Graziano agrees. It certainly is a reason for brain expansion during the half-million years prior to human cultural expansion.

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  27. keiths: Me: 1) Who decided that phenomenal consciousness is not quantitative?

    keiths: Kastrup apparently, but I think he just means that phenomenal consciousness is non-physical and therefore causally inert with respect to the physical (and therefore with respect to evolutionary fitness).

    That I do not understand. I read him as saying it was not a quantifiable property of physical objects. As far as I know, consciousness is tied to brains, and may have continuous variation among organisms (different “intensity” if you like).

    keiths: He believes that it isn’t adaptive and therefore could not have evolved.

    That’s just false. It could be a spandrel.

    keiths: Kastrup believes that experience is always present

    Isn’t he saying here that computers can do without experience?

    Computer scientists know that none of this requires experience, for we routinely implement all three functions in presumably unconscious silicon computers.

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  28. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Any attempt to understand consciousness must begin with experience. If we begin from a point of view where matter is primal then we have already made a judgement based on experience. We must have consciousness to even begin our enquiry because our experience presupposes consciousness.

    We tend to tell other people that what they are thinking and doing is mistaken. If our aim is to convince them, rather than ourselves, then we must stop doing so. Any attempt to make a convincing case must begin with demonstrating that our own approach is a fruitful one.

    If a person believes that matter is primal and consciousness is the result of a specific arrangement of matter, how do you imagine he or she came to hold this opinion?

    If we want to begin to attempt an answer to this question, we must begin by the process of thinking. Thinking is neither subjective nor objective. These terms are a conclusion we arrive at based on thinking. If we have decided that there is just matter or there is just spirit, or that reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view we have come to we have made this decision through the prior act of thinking.

    If you want to make a counter argument, go ahead.

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  29. CharlieM: If we have decided that there is just matter or there is just spirit, or that reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view we have come to we have made this decision through the prior act of thinking.

    I’m of the view that thinking about something is limited by our cognitive ability to understand what we are thinking about. Human brains are amazingly complex. But are they complex enough to understand something as complex as human brains? If so, the possibility follows we could construct brains more complex than our own. They in turn etc. I think there’s a fundamental barrier there.

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  30. keiths: Many words in English have multiple meanings, and this can cause some confusion at times, yet fluent speakers don’t demand a formal definition every time they see one of these words.

    A workable definition was suggested.

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  31. newton,

    Indeed it was just a suggestion. Personally, I find using “awareness” and “self-awareness” much less open to misinterpretation than “consciousness” when discussing brain function. Keep consciousness as a medical term. I have no difficulty contemplating an evolutionary path for awareness. Bacteria are biochemically aware of their surroundings and those with motility can decide to move towards or away from stimuli.

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  32. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM (quoting Zajonc) : There is no single objective state of affairs of the universe. It’s always in relationship to an observer. Everything is subjective, and that subjectivity is an inherent part of the new physics.

    I agree with that. And that really points to where the hard problem of consciousness goes wrong. The hard problem presupposes that there is a one true objective account, and we have it. Then it goes on to seek an objective account of the subjective.

    But there isn’t any one true objective account.

    Yes that is true of this world of the senses, which is the world of our experiences.

    So if there is any unity to be found it must lie at a higher stage than the sense world gives us.

    But we can experience a world that although connected to the sense world is not confined by it. That is the world of thinking.

    Steiner:

    Modern natural science, in accordance with its whole being, cannot believe in the ideal character of knowledge. For, it does not regard the idea as that which is primary, most original, and creative, but rather as the final product of material processes. But in doing so, it is not at all aware of the fact that these material processes belong only to the sense-perceptible, observable world that, however, grasped more deeply, dissolves completely into idea. The process under consideration presents itself to observation, namely, in the following way: We perceive facts with our senses, facts that run their course according to the laws of mechanics, then phenomena of warmth, of light, of magnetism, of electricity, and finally of life processes, etc. At the highest level of life, we find that life raises itself up to the forming of concepts and ideas, whose bearer, in fact, is the human brain. We find our own “I” springing from just such a sphere of thoughts. The “I” seems to be the highest product of a complicated process that is mediated by a long series of physical, chemical, and organic occurrences. But if we investigate the ideal world of which the content of that “I” consists, we find in that world essentially more than merely the end product of that process. We find that the individual parts of that world are connected to each other in a completely different way than the parts of that merely observed process are. As one thought arises in us, which then demands a second, we find that there is an ideal connection between these two objects in an entirely different way than if I observe the colour of a substance, for example, as the result of a chemical agent. It is of course entirely obvious that the successive stages of the brain process have their source in organic metabolism, even though the brain process itself is the bearer of those thought-configurations. But the reason as to why the second thought follows from the first: this I do not find within this metabolism, but do indeed find within the logical thought-connection. Thus, in the world of thoughts, there holds sway, besides organic necessity, a higher ideal necessity. But this necessity, which the human spirit finds within its world of ideas, this it also seeks in the rest of the universe. For this necessity arises for us, indeed, only through the fact that we not only observe, but also think. Or in other words, the things no longer appear in a merely factual connection, but rather as joined by an inner, ideal necessity, if we grasp them not merely through observation but rather through thoughts.

    There are physical processes which allow us to sense and think but we have sequences of thought processes that cannot be traced to having their origin in physical brain processes.

    It is not the physical processes in my brain that have given rise to my writing this post, it is through my thinking activity. The physical processes are the means by which I make my thoughts known but they are not the creator of their content.

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  33. phoodoo: To Neil Rickert,

    There can be one true objective reality, without us being able to see it.

    Yes the fact that we are embodied and experience the world though our senses means that our perspective is unique and so must be subjective. There cannot be an objective physical reality.

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  34. CharlieM: It is not the physical processes in my brain that have given rise to my writing this post, it is through my thinking activity.

    Why can’t it be both?

    What makes you think that thinking activity is not a physical process?

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  35. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: If we have decided that there is just matter or there is just spirit, or that reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view we have come to we have made this decision through the prior act of thinking.

    I’m of the view that thinking about something is limited by our cognitive ability to understand what we are thinking about. Human brains are amazingly complex. But are they complex enough to understand something as complex as human brains? If so, the possibility follows we could construct brains more complex than our own. They in turn etc. I think there’s a fundamental barrier there.

    Human brains don’t understand anything. Individual people understand things through the use of their senses, brain processes and thinking abilities. Isolating brains in the way you have done is an abstraction.

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  36. CharlieM:

    Human brains don’t understand anything. Individual people understand things through the use of their senses, brain processes and thinking abilities. Isolating brains in the way you have done is an abstraction.

    Shorthand. I don’t think we just walk with our feet either. My question remains. Do you think thinking is non-physical?

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  37. CharlieM: If we want to begin to attempt an answer to this question, we must begin by the process of thinking. Thinking is neither subjective nor objective. These terms are a conclusion we arrive at based on thinking. If we have decided that there is just matter or there is just spirit, or that reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view we have come to we have made this decision through the prior act of thinking.

    If you want to make a counter argument, go ahead.

    If you want to begin to attempt thinking, you first require a brain. regardless whether you think reality can be divided into spirit and matter, then whatever view you have come to you couldn’t have come to this decision without a brain. No brain, no thinking.

    So far we haven’t really gotten closer to understanding conscousness, have we?

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  38. The first thing to notice is that the conclusion doesn’t actually follow. Even in the total absence of any theory of how consciousness develops or works, it does not actually follow that it could not have evolved.

    Another problem is that to say consciousness is somehow “fundamental” and must have always been there still explains nothing at all. We are still left without any explanation for why consciousness exists.

    You also have to wonder why, if consciousness is supposedly there from the beginning as some fundamental property of things, why thinking and sensory organs evolved. What would there be to be conscious of, if you did not have a sense of sight, a sense of smell, a sense of touch, a sense of sound, and a brain to process those senses with?

    Imagine you are a rock. You have no sensory organs, and you have no brain. Yet you are conscious. What are you conscious of? What are you experiencing? If you’re going to say you still have thoughts of some kind that you are conscious of, what is making those thoughts? What could you possibly be thinking of, if you’ve never experienced anything. How did you even learn to think? You don’t have a brain.
    If the brain is not making your thoughts, then what is the brain for? If you’re going to say moving your limbs, why is there so big a difference in brain sizes between species? Seems to me an insect brain can move limbs just fine, so what’s all the rest of the brain doing? Why did the prefrontal lobes develop? Are they not normally associated with controlling behavior? I have an endless amount of questions here, and the “consciousness is fundamental” people have no answers for any of them but to wave their hands in the direction of the hard problem. I can’t explain how the brain makes consciousness, which is true I can’t. But the brain still evolved, we all have one, a fact that appears fundamentally mysterious on the “consciousness is fundamental” view. They can explain nothing at all.

    It’s not clear what it even is he thinks that is conscious. If he’s not a panpsychist, then what it is that is fundamentally conscious. Life? The very first cell was conscious? Okay, but it’s material constituents were not? Then consciousness evolved when they combined into the first cell.

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  39. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM: It is not the physical processes in my brain that have given rise to my writing this post, it is through my thinking activity.

    Why can’t it be both?

    It does involve both. If I didn’t have the physical senses, the memories, the brain processes and the physical ability to participate here then obviously there would be nothing produced from my end.

    What makes you think that thinking activity is not a physical process?

    Should you not be asking, “what makes your brain think that thinking activity is not a physical process?”? 🙂

    Whether or not there are physical processes involved is not the point. When we are having these thoughts, like say, the two questions that you have just asked, what was it that linked the two? Can you point to a physical cause for you having made this link?

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  40. CharlieM: Should you not be asking, “what makes your brain think that thinking activity is not a physical process?”?

    I think “you” covers it. It’s you that thinks and you that goes for a walk. But I also think you are a physical entity. What do you think?

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  41. Alan Fox:

    CharlieM:

    Human brains don’t understand anything. Individual people understand things through the use of their senses, brain processes and thinking abilities. Isolating brains in the way you have done is an abstraction.

    Shorthand. I don’t think we just walk with our feet either. My question remains. Do you think thinking is non-physical?

    What sort of shorthand is it that would use, “brains understand” (16 letters) for “I understand” (11 letters)?

    I’m sure you’d happily use the term, “brains think”, but I don’t see that you’d find it necessary to use the term, “feet walk”.

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