Re: Consciousness is information?

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2009 13:58:25 -0700

Kelly wrote:
> 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
> questions:
> 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
> consciousness.
> 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
> nothingness."
> 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 appearances can change. At one it was apparent that life could not
be explained in terms of chemistry and physics. What constitutes an
explanation is rather flexible. If we could make robots that acted in
every respect like conscious human beings and we could directly induce
any given conscious thought into anyone's brain, would you still say we
didn't understand subjective experience? I know we might still feel
there was a category gap, but people felt that about life too. I think
after some time we'd stop worrying about it and decide it was a

> But without an explanation for the
> latter, I don't see how any meaning can be attached to the former.

Bruno seems to find that getting a cup of coffee in the morning is good
because of the subjective pleasure that follows.
> 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.

But why did you feel justified in dispensing with the process
implemented by the computer? Did you consider the information in a
stack of punch cards to be conscious?
> 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 we seem to be in a contrary world in which structure and process
determines subjective experience. Maybe that's the kind of world that
would NOT lead you to Platonism.


> 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 - 13:58:25 PDT

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