Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.
The majority of earthly life forms only developed so far along the path, some along ever narrowing, one-sided branches, while the balance of the whole is ever maintained. The one-sided nature of some creatures is obvious. Giant pandas being a classic example. The hoof of a horse, the wing of an albatross, the middle finger of an aye-aye, are all much more specialised than the human hand. Ideally suited to their specific tasks. But this speciality becomes a hindrance to further novelty.
Like pacemakers in a race, various creatures forego their own advancement to give an outcome which was destined in the long run. And to achieve this outcome whereby nature can look upon herself with a spark of understanding, self-conscious individuals are a necessity. The sleeping beauty that is nature begins to wake up. Or has the dragon been poked with a stick?
The ubiquitous instinctive wisdom of nature which has been in control since physical life began is handing over its power to the still ripening human wisdom. And of course there is no guarantee that the newly sapient creatures that we are will be up to the task of handling this new found power responsibly. Adolescents can be unpredictable when they encounter novel freedom before they have gained the experience to deal with it.
Our minds are our exception within nature. And human exceptionalism rightly regarded is a privilege granted us by nature. It is not something for us to boast about; we did not get here by means of our own efforts. We did not wake of our own accord. This is a responsibility which was thrust upon us and we are now left in a position where we have a great deal of control over the destiny of earthly life. Will we gain sufficient maturity to enhance life or are we the seeds of earthly destruction?
The future will determine if our efforts turn out to be praiseworthy. We can claim no credit for getting to this point. Will we be considered worthy of credit for what follows? We haven’t made the best of starts but who would have expected otherwise.
As far as I can tell, there is no reason at all to assume that experiences are similar.
What we share, are the circumstances in which we have those experiences and the way that we describe the experiences. But we do not share the experiences themselves. For all I know, my experience of blue might be the same as your experience of red.
We both use “blue” to describe what we see when looking at the sky. But our actual experiences could be very different.
The reasons/causes distinction is not the qualia/behavior distinction.
The latter is what Chalmers is getting at with “the hard problem of consciousness”: his complaint is that it seems as if we could explain everything about behavior in terms of functional structures, and yet not explain immediate raw feelings or “qualia”.
By contrast the former is the distinction between rational justifications and causal explanations: the difference between giving a reason why someone did something (or failed to do something) and articulating the causal processes that led to one performing (or not performing) an action.
It has been widely held by philosophers from Plato to Kant that the reasons/causes distinction cannot be accepted by naturalists — but this is mistaken.
(Ironically, perhaps, the one philosopher who was a naturalist and therefore did reject reasons as distinct from causes was Nietzsche.)
Why do you think they became interested in perspective at this time?
Brunelleschi experimented with mirrors in order to achieve a linear perspective that would accurately represent the three dimensional scene before his eyes on a two dimensional surface. Just as happens on the surface of the retina. Before that period artists were not interested in creating an accurate image of the visual world. They were more interested in depicting higher things than this mundane world.
So why do you keep responding?
How do you know that the sun and moon are not both of equal size other than you have become conscious of that fact? Using pure sense impressions they do look very similar in size.
Don’t tell me, they have a ready supply of the ink but every time they try to send each other notes the paper gets really soggy and just falls apart. 🙂
I would say it’s more like asking: how does food taste to other people? Can I know what food tastes like to anyone but myself? I know how a lemon looks and tastes to me because of my personal sensations; how it affects me. But thinking allows us to share objective facts about the lemon which I can know regardless of how the lemon affects me through my senses.
Yes, I think so too. I wrote that final paragraph to stimulate a reaction so I could get the views of others on this.
We could speak of feeling and sensation (how the world affects us), thinking (how the world is in itself), and willing (how we affect the world). There is usually an intricate mixture of all three as we interact with the world and with each other. We do not normally experience thinking in isolation from feeling and/or willing.
Have a thought for this creature
“The pen-tailed treeshrew is the only known mammal that consumes alcohol every night. Pen-tailed treeshrews studied in Malaysia spend several hours per night consuming the equivalent of 10 to 12 glasses of wine with an alcohol content up to 3.8% drinking naturally fermented nectar of the bertam palm.”
It is an extremely fussy eater and an extreme specialist, but it certainly can hold its drink. There may be no other mammal species with this habit, but there are individual humans who would give them a run for their money.
Thanks for bringing that up. I don’t want to comment on it without giving it some serious thought so that I can get a better understanding of what you are saying.
Maybe I’ll mull it over with a nice relaxing glass or two of bertam palm nectar. 🙂
If you know what it tastes like to you, then you should be able to describe that for everyone else. But you cannot, except in general terms that anyone could use for their own taste. So maybe you don’t really know what it tastes like to you, because you have no basis for comparison with what it tastes like to other people.
Knowing something and being able to communicate it are separate issues. I can know my own experiences without regard for the experiences of others.
Especially for DNA_Jock, CharlieH, the early years. The young Charlie Homunculus pictured below, taken from the nostalgic video Gateways to the Mind | Vintage Documentary
Yeah, between this and his reading New Scientist, I think we can safely explain Charlie’s cutting edge understanding of science.
To answer your question, Charlie, I keep responding to you to see how often we can get you to contradict yourself.
Well, sure. But making the assumption that individuals of a species are similar to each other physically, chemically, biologically, functionally doesn’t seem to me an unreasonable initial hypothesis. The trap is in linguistic descriptions which rely on and ultimately derive from shared experience.
PS if I were blind from birth, hearing someone’s description about the blueness of the sky would not help me in understanding what seeing blue is like as an experience.
Here Matthew Segall quotes Whitehead:
“The recourse to metaphysics is like throwing a match into the powder magazine. It blows up the whole arena. This is exactly what scientific philosophers do when they are driven into a corner and convicted of incoherence. They at once drag in the mind and talk of entities in the mind or out of the mind as the case may be. For natural philosophy everything perceived is in nature. We may not pick and choose. For us the red glow of the sunset should be as much part of nature as are the molecules and electrical waves by which men of science would explain the phenomenon. It is for natural philosophy to analyse how these various elements of nature are connected.”
I may not be able to put my point across as well as these thinkers but my perspective is fairly well aligned with the likes of Segall, Whitehead, and Goethe.
You might not believe that we all see colours in the same way, but if we pay attention to them we will see that they have certain qualities. Blue gives the impression of receding and red of advancing towards the viewer. One produces melancholy the other excites.
From The Theory of Colours in the section, “Effect of Colour with Reference to Moral Associations”, Goethe remarks that colours “produce a corresponding influence on the mind. Experience teaches us that particular colours excite particular states of feeling.”
There is more to colours than just how individuals perceive hues.
I’m not sure of the point here. Note the “For us”. I have no disagreement with that, but it leaves us still unable to talk about the world in itself. We can only talk of the world as we experience it.
That quote mentiong “electrical waves” and I suppose that’s what I would call “electromagnetic waves”. These are waves in the electromagnetic field. It seems to me that the electromagnetic field was invented as a purely mathematical abstraction, useful in describing electrical and magnetic phenomena. And now we have light as wave motion in that purely mathematical abstraction.
I agree. Thankyou for highlighting this difference.
This paper examines the explanatory gap problem with reference to Steiner’s philosophical works which “comprises a firstperson method, along with the theoretical background of what has come to be known as the mirror metaphor – an analogy for the brain as a necessary but not a sufficient basis for mental activity.”
“our FLT (functional layer theory) account differentiates and integrates the different levels of description functionally, instead of infiltrating the mental layer from below (physical, vital) or from above (cognitive, social) inadmissibly, and thus, gives a voluntarily guided and introspectively observable mental activity a new significance in consciousness research.”
I have just come across this paper, so I’ve only read it superficially. I intend to read it more thoroughly in the coming days.
For those who think that qualia are purely subjective experiences, why stop there? When we imagine photons hitting the retinas, neurons firing and brains collating the information, do we not also experience these subjectively? We imagine these molecular processes as if they are interactions of objects in the world of our direct perceptions. Whether it is particles or waves that we imagine these entities are borrowed from our sense experience.
In my opinion cause and effect are perfectly suited to examining physical processes. But living systems demonstrate a teleology which complexifies the concepts of cause and effect.
Goethe believed that looking for causal relationships in living nature is not the way to proceed if we seek to understand it.
He said, the pure phenomenon: “can never be isolated, appearing as it does in a constant succession of forms. In order to describe it, the human intellect determines the empirically variable, excludes the accidental, separates the impure, unravels the tangled, and even discovers the unknown.
“Here we would reach the ultimate goal of our powers, if human beings knew their place. For we are not seeking causes but the circumstances under which the phenomenon occurs. Its logical sequence, its eternal return under a thousand conditions, its uniformity and mutability are considered and accepted; its definiteness is recognized and redefined by the human intellect. And in my opinion such work is certainly not mere speculation, but rather the practical and self-correcting operation of ordinary common sense as it ventures out into a higher sphere.”
The interactions between bodily/brain processes and mind/consciousness cannot be reduced to a particular direction. Mind and body interact mutually.
Steiner: ” We have, it is true, torn ourselves away from Nature, but we must none the less have taken with us something of her in our own nature. This quality of Nature in us we must seek out, and then we shall restore our connection with her. Dualism neglects to do this. It considers the human interior as a spiritual entity utterly alien to Nature and attempts somehow to hitch it on to Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the coupling link. We can find Nature outside of us only if we have first learnt to know her within us. What is allied to her within us must be our guide to her. This marks out our path of inquiry. We shall attempt no speculations concerning the interaction of Nature and Spirit. We shall rather probe into the depths of our own being, to find there those elements which we saved in our flight from Nature”
People such as Evan Thompson and Francisco Varela who study neurophenomenology help me to understand the relationships between the body and consciousness.
To understand the world we must look within and to understand ourselves we must look to the external world. By these means we begin to understand the higher unity.