Re: Dreaming On

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Wed, 26 Aug 2009 18:58:18 +0200

On 26 Aug 2009, at 17:58, Brent Meeker wrote:

> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> 2009/8/26 David Nyman <>:
>>> On 25 Aug, 14:32, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:
>>> <snip>
>> I think what I have proposed is consistent with functionalism, which
>> may or may not be true. A functionally identical system produces the
>> same outputs for the same inputs, and functionalism says that
>> therefore it will also have the same experiences, such as they may
>> be.
>> But what those experiences are like cannot be known unless you are
>> the
>> system, or perhaps understand it so well that you can effectively run
>> it in your head.
> Does functionalism mean nothing more than if the same inputs produce
> the same outputs then the experience will be the same? I think this
> is to simplistic. To reduce it to a really simple example, suppose
> your brain functions so that:
> You look at sky.
> Blue detectors fire.
> You say, "Blue".
> Now the doctor replaces some neurons so that
> You look at sky.
> Blue detectors fire.
> The blue detectors excite frabjous detectors.
> Frabjous detectors fire
> You say, "Blue".
> Is your experience the same? Do you experience "frabjous"? If you
> put "melody" for "frabjous", you've got synsathesia. I'd say that
> functional equivalence is relative to the level. At *some* level
> equal-input-output=>equal-experience, but not at higher levels.
> What about lower levels? Surely it doesn't matter whether 10,000 K+
> cross the axon membrane or 10,001 cross. So somehow looking at just
> the right level matters in the hypothesis of functionalism. Maybe
> that level corresponds to the level at which the organism acts; the
> functions evolved to support and direct actions. Rocks don't act so
> they don't have any functional level.

You are right. A simpler example is a dreamer and a rock, and the
whole universe. They have locally the same input and output: none! So
they are functionally identical, yet very different from the first
person perspective. This is why in comp I make explicit the existence
of a level of substitution. It is the only difference with
functionalism which is usually vague on that point. It is a key point.

It is a key point in real life too. An enterprise will "survive" if
you get fired and be replaced by someone doing your job, but your
personal perspective will be different.


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Received on Wed Aug 26 2009 - 18:58:18 PDT

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