Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Kelly <>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2009 13:14:20 -0700 (PDT)

On Apr 27, 12:23 pm, Bruno Marchal <> wrote:
> So you have indeed the necessity to abandon comp to maintain your form
> of immaterialist platonism, but then you lose the tool for questioning
> nature. It almost look like choosing a theory because it does not even
> address the question ?

Okay, going back to basics. It seems to me that there are two

A) The problem of explaining WHAT we perceive
B) The problem of explaining THAT we perceive

The first issue is addressed by the third-person process of physics,
and of just generally trying make sense of what we perceive as we go
through the daily grind of life. Everybody has a grasp of this issue,
because you're faced with it everyday as soon as you wake up in the
morning, "what's going on here???".

The second issue is obviously the more subtle first-person problem of

But, for A, the fact that we are able to come up with rational-seeming
explanations for what we experience, and that there seems to us to be
an orderly pattern to what we perceive, doesn't answer the deeper
question of the ultimate nature of this external world that we are
observing. Here we get into issues of scientific/structural realism.
In other words, what do our scientific theories really mean? (http://

But I don't think we can assign any real meaning to what we observe
until we have an acceptable understanding of the first person
subjective experience by which we make our observations.

So the question of consciousness is more fundamental than the
questions of physics. We can come up with scientific theories to
explain our observations, but since we don't know what an observation
really is, this can only get us so far in really understanding what's
going on with reality. Until we have a foundation in place,
everything built above is speculative. To rely on physics as your
foundation is "with more than Baron Münchhausen’s audacity, to pull
oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of

But here we hit a problem because the process that we use to explain
objective data doesn't work when applied to subjective experience.
There is a discontinuity. The third-person perceived reality vs.
first-person experienced reality. The latter apparently can't be
explained in terms of the former. But without an explanation for the
latter, I don't see how any meaning can be attached to the former.

And I think that is for this reason that I don't get hung up on the
"white rabbit" problem. Arguments based on the probability of finding
yourself in this state or that state are fine if all other things are
equal, and that's the only information you have to reason with. But I
don't think that we're in that situation.

So I start with the assumption of physicalism and then say that based
on that assumption, a computer simulation should be conscious, and
then from there I find reasons to think that consciousness doesn't
depend on physicalism. To me, the most likely alternate explanation
seems to be that consciousness depends on information. However, I am
relying on some of my thought experiments that assumed physicalism as
support for my conclusion of "informationalism".

But I think the discontinuity between first and third person
experience is another important clue, because I think that this break
will be noticeable to all rational conscious entities in all possible
worlds (even chaotic, irrational worlds). They should all notice a
difference in kind between what is observed (no matter how crazy it
is), and the subjective experience of making the observation.

Further, let's say that I am a rational observer in a world where
changes to brain structure do not appear to cause changes to behavior
or subjective experience. Physicalism wouldn't have much appeal in
this world. Rather, dualism would seem to have a clear edge as the
default explanation. But it might be even easier to make the leap to
platonism in such a world, as presumably Plato's "ideal forms" might
be even more appealing. So in such a world you wouldn't get to
platonism by way of thinking about computer simulations of brains
(since brain activity isn't correlated with behavior), but I think you
would still get there.

The question is, what kind of world NOT lead you to Platonism? I
think only a world that didn't have first person experience.

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Received on Tue Apr 28 2009 - 13:14:20 PDT

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