The Problem

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The Problem Powered By Docstoc
					The Problem

 Section One
 Grace Gu and Nancy Diaz
About the Author:
Susan Blackmore
            Degree in Psychology and Physiology
               from Oxford, and a Ph.D. in
            She has studied the paranormal, and
               now she is involved with the study
               of meme (A unit of cultural
               information, such as a cultural practice
               or idea, that is transmitted verbally or
               by repeated action from one mind to
            Susan Blackmore had a dramatic out-
               of-body experience that convinced
               her that consciousness could leave
               the body, and made her determined
               to become a Parapsychologist. She
               is now skeptical about the
            Resides in England with her partner
               Adam Hart-Davis and two children.
What is Consciousness?
  “Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in
   the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know
   more intimately than conscious experience, but there is
   nothing that is harder to explain.” -Chalmers
  Consciousness is not synonymous with the “mind.”
   This confusion has led to the loss of some of it’s
  Throughout history, mysteries that have plagued
   scientists’ minds have dwindled away and we have lost
   interest. Inversely, the mind/body problem continues to
   grow and capture our interests.
When are you Conscious?
    Are you conscious?
    Are you conscious when you use the restroom?
    Are you conscious when you drive?
    Are you conscious when you sleep?
    Or dream?
 Consciousness is your own
 private experience.
 The colors you perceive in your mind are your property.
 There is no way to publicly share the same experience.
 Some monist theories               However, this takes away from
  emphasize just the mental and       the thought that humans have
  believe objects are just            control over their fate and
  perceptions of the individual’s     future.
 Problems arise as to how two
  human beings can agree to a
  physical object when the
  object is outside their mind.
 Materialist monist theories say
  that there is only matter and
  everything is just a physical
Other beliefs

  Epiphenomenalism: the idea that mental states
   are produced by physical events, but have no
   causal role to play.
  Physical events cause mental events but in
   turn, mental states don’t have any causal
   effects on the physical future.
  But then how can we speak about
   consciousness if our conscious thoughts don’t
   have any influence over our physical

  The view that mind is fundamental
  All matter has associated mental aspects or
   properties; however primitive.
  But then is a rock aware?
  How about it’s contributing atoms?
  Why should there be mental and physical
   properties to everything?
        Cartesian Dualism
 Substance dualism is a widely known theory. The best-
  known form is from Rene Descartes.
 Cartesian dualism was founded by the intention of
  basing the philosophy only on firm foundations that
  were beyond doubt.
 “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes concluded that the
  thinking self was immaterial and did not take up space
  like the mechanical body.
 This view consisted of two entities – the extended stuff
  which bodies are made of and the unextended, thinking
  stuff of which minds are made.
 How do they interact?
 Descartes’ solution was through the pineal gland in the
  center of the brain.
Fall of Dualism
  Few contemporary scientists and philosophers agree that dualism
  Gilbert Rule argued that when we talk of the mind as an entity that
   does things, we are making a mistake. Instead, he saw mental
   activities as processes, or as the properties and dispositions of
  “Minds are simply what brains do.” – Minsky
  The mind carries out the functions of the brain.
  The two notable dualists are Sir Karl Popper and
   Neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles who give us a modern theory of
   dualist interactionism.
  They argue that the critical processes in the synapses of the brain
   are so finely poised that they can be influenced by a non-physical,
   thinking and feeling self, thus the self really controls the brain.
  This however asks for a miracle.
Try defining
  The term psychology popped up in the 18th century to describe the
   philosophy of mental life.
  It was towards the 19th century that it became a science.
  William James dismissed the dualist concepts of “mind-stuff.”
  He pointed out that consciousness can be abolished by injury to
   the brain, or altered by taking alcohol, opium or other substances.
   Certain amounts of brain physiology must be included in
  James coined the term “stream of consciousness” to describe the
   ever changing flow of thoughts, images and feelings.
  Psychophysics was the study between physical stimuli and
   reportable sensations; your outer and inner experiences.
  Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner studied the relationships
   between physical luminance and perceived brightness; weight and
   sensations of heaviness; or sound pressure and loudness.
 Hermann von Helmholtz         German philosopher
  was a German physicist         Edmund Husserl wanted
  and physician.                 to focus on “the things
 Helmholtz made the first
  measurement of the            This was based off of
  speed of conduction of         Brentano's idea that
  nerve signals. Popularly       every subjective
  referred to as the             experience is an act of
  “velocity of thought.”         reference.

 Helmholtz proposed the        Conscious experiences
  idea of “unconscious           are about objects or
  inferences” based off the      events, while physical
  tricks our senses and          objects are not about
  visual illusions can make.     anything.
  Wilhelm Wundt is often called the father of modern
  studied the subjective experience by introspection.
  He wanted to be able to build a psychology based on
   studying from the inside.
  Wundt claimed that there are two kinds of “psychical
   elements”: the objective elements, or sensations such
   as tones, heat or light; and the subjective elements or
   simple feelings.
  Every conscious experience depended on a union of
   these two.
  Introspection fell out of favor because one person’s
   claim to an experience can be quite different form
   another person’s experience. There was no
  Behaviorism became popular because this branch
   could be measured much more reliably.
  John B. Watson argued that psychology did not need
   the methods of introspection and indeed could do
   without the concept of consciousness altogether.
  Many of Watson’s ideas are built on the ground works
   of Ivan Pavlov, whose works included the study of
   reflexes and classical conditioning.
  Skinner’s studies of rats and pigeons shaped the
   history of reinforcements.
  These new findings led to a period of abolishing
   consciousness. Behaviorism's success led to the
   avoidance of “consciousness.”
Cognitive Psychology
 As the popularity of behaviorism was fading, cognitive
  psychology came into play.
 However, consciousness was still discarded. It was not
  welcome in psychology because of the looseness of
  the term.
 In different sentences, consciousness conveyed
  completely different things.
 As we have more information from research on mental
  imagery, altered states of consciousness such as sleep
  and drug-induced states, hypnosis, computer science,
  consciousness began creeping back into our
 Many problems that have plagued us in the past have
  been solved either through new inventions or thinking.
 Consciousness is one that remains as much a mystery
  as it has throughout history.
Close your eyes and imagine
what it’s like to be…….

                           A BAT !!!
Remember : You use sound of ultrasound for echolocation, you fly, you
are nocturnal, you live with thousands of other bats and you can hang
But can we ever know what is would really be
like for the bat?
 Question was posed in 1950 by American Philosopher
  Thomas Nagel.

 “ Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem
  really intractable”-Nagel

 “ There is something it is like to BE that
  organism…something it is like FOR the organism”….

 Hofstadter and Dennett, “ What is it like from the inside?”

 Consciousness = Subjectivity = “ What it is like to be…”
  Private qualities. You only experience it, privately,
   incapable of being expressed because only you
   experience it in your own way.

  A quale is what something is like…our conscious
   experience consists of qualia.

  Now the problem becomes : “How are qualia related to
   the physical world, or how an objective physical brain
   can produce subjective qualia”
Dualist believe that                           believe that
qualia are part of a                           everything is
separate mental                                ultimately
world from physical                            qualia

Epiphenomenalists believe that qualia exist but have no casual properties
The problem with qualia…
 They do not have physical properties that can be

          Are qualia something separate from the brain?

                 Do qualia make any difference?

   Does a quale contain information above and beyond the neural
                     information it depends on?

          This is where Mary can help us out……
Mary the Color Scientist
           •Lives in far far future, when everything there is
           to know about the physical processes in the
           brain and how they produce behavior is known.

           •Knows absolutely everything about : color
           perception, the optics of the eye, the properties
           of colored objects in the world, the processing
           of color the visual system, etc.

           •BUT she has been brought up all her life in a
           black and white room, observing the world
           through a b/w TV monitor…

           •She has never seen any colors at all

           • Suddenly she is let out of her black and white
           room and sees colors for the first time….
                    What happens?

Will she just shrug and     Will she gasp with
say, “That’s red, that’s    amazement and say
green, nothing new of       “Wow-I never realized
course”?                    red would look like that!”
The Mary Thought
   Developed by Frank Jackson devised the Mary thought experiment as an
    argument against physicalism


           When Mary sees color, she will obviously learn something fundamentally new –
    what red is like.
           She now has qualia as well as the physical facts about color
           No amount of information could have prepared her for the raw feel of it is like to
    see color (Chalmers)
           You believe that consciousness,subjective experience, or qualia are something
    additional to knowledge of the physical world.

         Dennett argues that we fail to allow Mary to know everything there is not know
       about color.
         She already knew what kind of impressions color would induce.
         You believe that knowing all the physical facts tells you everything there is to
       know– including what it is like to experience something.
                 The Philosopher’s Zombie

•Someone who looks like you…behaves exactly like you BUT is not
    •There is nothing it is like to be this creature (No view from
    within…no qualia)
    •To many thinkers a zombie is easy to imagine and obviously
    possible, at least in principle.
    •Zombie earth
        •Same as us, but are not able to understand conscious terms
        in the way we do because they have no conscious
        experience(language, thinking, imagining, dreaming,
        believing, etc, but could talk of these!)
        •Conversations with them would seem natural and normal.
        •It would think it was conscious, even if it wasn’t.

        •What do you think ???
Is there a hard problem?
How do we find the solution?
1. The hard problem is
  The problem of subjectivity is
   hopeless – Nagel

  Our human kind of
   intelligence is wrongly
   designed for understanding
   consciousness – British
   Philosopher Colin McGinn

  Our own awareness is ‘the
   ultimate tease…forever
   beyond our conceptual grasp’
   – American evolutionary
   psychologist Steven Pinker
2. Solve it with drastic

                  Rethink all that we know
                   about the universe

                  We can only understand
                   consciousness when we have
                   a new theory of information

                  Fundamental rethink of he
                   nature of the universe is a
                   MUST !
3. Tackle the easy problems
  Tackle the easy problems first
   and eventually we’ll pump into
   the answer (about attention,
   learning, memory or

  Why? We need to start with
   something reasonably
   tractable such as visual

  Those who work on the easy
   problems, come close to
   arguing that there is no
   separate hard problem.
4. There is no hard problem
                  Ignore the problem…for now

                   1. Start with the easy problems

                   2. Solutions to the easy problems
                   will change our understanding of
                   the hard problem, so trying to
                   solve the problem now is

                   3. A solution to the hard problem
                   would only be of use if we could
                   recognize it as such, and for the
                   moment the problem is not well
                   enough understood.
 There is a dissociation between fast motor
  reactions and conscious perception.
 Experiment with showting “Tah” when subject
  saw a light go on showed that there was an
  automatic reflex versus consciousness
  perception (Castiello).
 Milner and Goodale argue that there is a
  distinction based on different functions of the
  brain; fast visuomotor control and less urgent
  visual perception.
 Much of their evidence is from patients with
  brain damage.
No doubt about one thing: We seem to do
some things consciously and others
      Divide actions into five types:
    1.      Are always unconscious
                  i.e. I can wiggle my toes or sing a song, but I cannot consciously grow my hair
    2.      Some actions that are normally carried out unconsciously can be brought back under
            conscious control by giving feedback of their effects, or “biofeedback”
                  i.e. We may unconsciously open the door, but we have no idea all the muscle
            power it takes to do so. The whole action seems to be done consciously, while the
            details remain unconscious.
    3.      Many skilled actions are initially learned with much conscious effort
                 i.e. You probably first learned to ride a bicycle with the utmost conscious
            concentration... but the it becomes automatic. Can be counter-productive: get off
            your bike and you might find that you cannot even walk normally.
    4.      Many such skilled actions, once well learned, can be done either way.
                i.e. Classic example: driving a car. Every driver must have had the experience of
            arriving at a familiar destination without apparently having been conscious of the
            journey. Scary part: potentially life-threatening decisions being made correctly
            without, apparently, any conscious awareness.
    5.      Some actions seem always to be done consciously
                 I.e. When we have to make a difficult moral decision, we seem to be far more
                  conscious than when deciding what clothes to put on. Tempting: To say that
                  these kinds of thinking or decisions require consciousness.
 View that mental states are functional states.
    I.e. Someone in pain = input from damage done. Other
     mental states like the desire for the pain to go away, or
     crying = output.

• Most common view: Works well for explaining mental
sates, but cannot deal with phenomenal consciousness.

• Artificial Intelligence: If it can do the same functions as
a conscious system, it would also be conscious.
Global Workspace Theory (GWT)
 By American Psychologist Bernard Baars

 Cognitive system is built on a global workspace or blackboard
  architecture, analogous to a stage in the theater of the mind.

 Unconscious processors compete for access to the spotlight of
  attention that shines on the stage, from where information is
  broadcast globally to the unconscious audience.

 This global broadcast constitutes consciousness.

 Actions that are performed consciously are shaped by conscious
  feedback, while unconscious actions are not.
     i.e. Unconsciously make a speech error, but when you consciously
      hear the mistake, you can make it right because consciousness creates
      global access to further unconscious resources.

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