Re: computationalism and supervenience

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 10:52:16 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent meeker writes (quoting SP):
>>>Maybe this is a copout, but I just don't think it is even logically possible to explain what consciousness
>>>*is* unless you have it.
>>Not being *logically* possible means entailing a contradiction - I doubt that. But
>>anyway you do have it and you think I do because of the way we interact. So if you
>>interacted the same way with a computer and you further found out that the computer
>>was a neural network that had learned through interaction with people over a period
>>of years, you'd probably infer that the computer was conscious - at least you
>>wouldn't be sure it wasn't.
> True, but I could still only imagine that it experiences what I experience because I already know what I
> experience. I don't know what my current computer experiences, if anything, because I'm not very much
> like it.
>>>It's like the problem of explaining vision to a blind man: he might be the world's
>>>greatest scientific expert on it but still have zero idea of what it is like to see - and that's even though
>>>he shares most of the rest of his cognitive structure with other humans, and can understand analogies
>>>using other sensations. Knowing what sort of program a conscious computer would have to run to be
>>>conscious, what the purpose of consciousness is, and so on, does not help me to understand what the
>>>computer would be experiencing, except by analogy with what I myself experience.
>>But that's true of everything. Suppose we knew a lot more about brains and we
>>created an intelligent computer using brain-like functional architecture and it acted
>>like a conscious human being, then I'd say we understood its consciousness better
>>than we understand quantum field theory or global economics.
> We would understand it in a third person sense but not in a first person sense, except by analogy with our
> own first person experience. Consciousness is the difference between what can be known by observing an
> entity and what can be known by being the entity, or something like the entity, yourself.
> Stathis Papaioannou

But you are simply positing that there is such a difference. That's easy to do
because we know so little about how brains work. But consider the engine in your
car. Do you know what it's like to be the engine in your car? You know a lot about
it, but how do you know that you know all of it? Does that mean your car engine is
conscious? I'd say yes it is (at a very low level) and you *can* know what it's like.

This just an extreme example of that kind of special pleading you hear in politics -
nobody can represent Black interests except a Black, no man can understand Feminism.
  Can only children be pediatricians?

Brent Meeker

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Received on Tue Sep 12 2006 - 13:53:31 PDT

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