Re: Searles' Fundamental Error

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 23:50:03 +1100

On 2/20/07, Jesse Mazer <> wrote:
> >I would bet on functionalism as the correct theory of mind for various
> >reasons, but I don't see that there is anything illogical the possibility
> >that consciousness is substrate-dependent. Let's say that when you rub
> two
> >carbon atoms together they have a scratchy experience, whereas when you
> rub
> >two silicon atoms together they have a squirmy experience. This could
> just
> >be a mundane fact about the universe, no more mysterious than any other
> >basic physical fact. What is illogical, however, is the "no causal
> effect"
> >criterion if this is called epiphenomenalism. If the effect is purely and
> >necessarily on first person experience, it's no less an effect; we might
> >not
> >notice if the carbon atoms were zombified, but the carbon atoms would
> >certainly notice. I think it all comes down to the deep-seated and very
> >obviously wrong idea that only third person empirical data is genuine
> >empirical data. It is a legitimate concern of science that data should be
> >verifiable and experiments repeatable, but it's taking it a bit far to
> >conclude from this that we are therefore all zombies.
> >
> >Stathis Papaioannou
> One major argument against the idea that qualia and/or consciousness could
> be substrate-dependent is what philosopher David Chalmers refers to as the
> "dancing qualia" and "fading qualia" arguments, which you can read more
> about at . As a thought-experiment,
> imagine gradually replacing neurons in my brain with functionally
> identical
> devices whose physical construction was quite different from neurons
> (silicon chips emulating the input and output of the neurons they
> replaced,
> perhaps). If one believes that this substrate is associated with either
> different qualia or absent qualia, then as one gradually replaces more and
> more of my brain, they'll either have to be a sudden discontinuous change
> (and it seems implausible that the replacement of a single neuron would
> cause such a radical change) or else a gradual shift or fade-out of the
> qualia my brain experiences...but if I were noticing such a shift or
> fade-out, I would expect to be able to comment on it, and yet the
> assumption
> that the new parts are functionally identical means my behavior should be
> indistinguishable from what it would be if my neurons were left alone. And
> if we suppose that I might be having panicked thoughts about a change in
> my
> perceptions yet find that my voice and body are acting as if nothing is
> wrong, and there is no neural activity associated with these panicked
> thoughts, then there would have to be a radical disconnect between
> subjective experiences and physical activity in my brain, which would
> contradict the assumption of supervenience (see
> ) and lead to
> the
> possibility of radical mind/body disconnects like rocks and trees having
> complex thoughts and experiences that have nothing to do with any physical
> activity within them.
> Jesse

 It's a persuasive argument, but I can think of a mechanism whereby your
qualia can fade away and you wouldn't notice. In some cases of cortical
blindness, in which the visual cortex is damaged but the rest of the visual
pathways intact, patients insist that they are not blind and come up with
explanations as to why they fall over and walk into things, eg. they accuse
people of putting obstacles in their way while their back is turned. This
isn't just denial because it is specific to cortical lesions, not blindness
due to other reasons. If these patients had advanced cyborg implants they
could presumably convince the world, and be convinced themselves, that their
visual perception had not suffered when in fact they can't see a thing.
Perhaps gradual cyborgisation of the brain as per Hans Moravec would lead to
a similar, gradual fading of thoughts and perceptions; the external observer
would not notice any change and the subject would not notice any change
either, until he was dead, replaced by a zombie.

Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Tue Feb 20 2007 - 07:50:20 PST

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