Re: Dreaming On

From: David Nyman <>
Date: Tue, 01 Sep 2009 00:09:55 +0100

2009/8/31 Flammarion <>:

> That says nothing about qualia at all.

It would be helpful if we could deal with one issue at a time. Most
of the passage you commented on was intended - essentially at your
provocation - as a contextual exploration of possible conditions for
recallable consciousness experience, not an explication of qualia per
se. But you haven't commented on this. By the way, if you have a
simple extrinsic account of the phenomena of the specious present, I'd
be genuinely interested in more detail. As to qualia, I've said
before that I believe qualitative instantiation to be beyond extrinsic
explanation (though not beyond indirect reference) for the simple
reason that all explanation takes place in terms of it (if you're
wondering what this means I trust a little introspection will

> Do you think Chalmers suggestion that qualia are intrinsic properties
> of fundamental particles is feasible or not?

I doubt, despite standard usages suited to technical ends, that talk
of properties is helpful in this regard. There are fundamental
problems with any attempt to attach first-person consciousness to
matter, for the obvious reason that matter cannot be reduced to
individually identifiable entities. Consequently, the
self-referential "I" is attachable only contextually to some overall
schema in which fundamental differentiation - physical or otherwise
(e.g. 'computational') can then play a processual role. I've remarked
before that 'knowledge' must be regarded in the final analysis as
ontic - i.e. we *instantiate* what we know - the subject-object
distinction in mentality is merely a metaphor inferred from the
polarisation of roles. When I've said this in other contexts you've
usually reacted with bewilderment, so if this still seems opaque
perhaps you could specify what is unclear. Anyway, on this basis we
might think of qualitative instantiation as consisting in peculiarly
differentiated ways-of-being, as distinct from the unbroken symmetry
of the undifferentiated context. As an aid to intuition, you could
think of this distinction in broadly similar terms to those you have
proposed for 'property-less' materiality as an enduring existential
substrate for extrinsic physical properties.


> On 31 Aug, 17:57, David Nyman <> wrote:
>> 2009/8/31 Flammarion <>:
>> > If the lower level is discarded, the qualia aren't there. So where
>> > are they?
>> Since you find this mode of thought so uncongenial, let's focus on
>> this single issue for now.  I don't want to say that lower levels are
>> completely discarded, since that of course would not meet the case.
>> I'm saying that they are qualitatively discarded *at their own level*
>> (i.e. 'forgotten') though still contributive to levels constructed in
>> terms of them.  What I'm trying to steer you towards is that
>> postulating either brute qualitative 'consciousness' or brute
>> qualitative 'unconsciousness' gets us nowhere, and for the same
>> reason: ex nihilo nihil fit, and hence on this basis either everything
>> is conscious or nothing can be.  Rather I'm suggesting that we wonder
>> about what could be 'memorable' (or not) *in context*.  In this way we
>> could start to think about how contexts could emerge in terms of which
>> specific contents could be retained or discarded.  I think that a
>> little introspection shows that what is not remembered in context is
>> as good as unconscious.
>> David
> That says nothing about qualia at all.
> Do you think Chalmers suggestion that qualia are intrinsic properties
> of fundamental particles is feasible or not?
>> > On 31 Aug, 00:21, David Nyman <> wrote:
>> >> 2009/8/28 Flammarion <>:
>> >> > 1. It seems reasonable that relations must have relata. However,
>> >> > relata
>> >> > need not have a rich set of properties. You could build a physical
>> >> > universe out
>> >> > a single type of particle and various relations.
>> >> What we're trying to get to here, remember, is *many* intrinsically
>> >> differentiable forms of instantiation.
>> > I thought we were trying to get at an analysis of Chalmers's theory.
>> > I can't make sense of the above (instantions of what?)
>> >>Hence for what you say to meet
>> >> the case (which I would certainly not reject out of hand), any unique
>> >> intrinsic nature you envisage for the particle would need to be
>> >> capable of emergence, purely in virtue of combination in terms of its
>> >> various relations, into many such intrinsically differentiable forms.
>> > forms of what?
>> >> Does that seem feasible on this basis?
>> > Let's work on "comprehensible" for the time being...
>> >> > 2. Someone's perceptual data are already encoded relationally in the
>> >> > matter
>> >> > of their brain, so if qualia are intrinisc properties of relata,
>> >> > something needs to arrange
>> >> > that they encode the same information, so some novel laws ar required
>> >> > in addition to novel
>> >> > properties,
>> >> I'm not sure if I follow you.  Nothing is 'already' encoded.
>> > Yes it is. That is fact, it is known from fMRI technology.
>> >> As I
>> >> said to Brent, we mustn't be misled into supposing that the state of
>> >> affairs to which we refer literally 'possesses properties'.
>> > You have said it , but you haven't said why. That there are some sorts
>> > of things with some sorts of properties is about the least contentious
>> > claim I can think of.
>> >>As I see
>> >> it, the 'perceptual data' consist in;
>> >> 1) An instantiation or substitution level which is self-referentially
>> >> organised in terms of intrinsic differentiables in intrinsic relation.
>> > I don't have the faintest idea what that means. By perceptual data, I
>> > mean
>> > detectable changes in neurological activity, the kind of thing
>> > neuroscientists
>> > study.
>> >>  This is the qualitative 'causal level' and as such exists independent
>> >> of any extrinsic characterisation.  It makes no reference outside of
>> >> itself.
>> >> 2) Second-order 'extrinsic' accounts abstracted from and referring to
>> >> level (1).  These accounts are themselves also instantiated at level
>> >> (1).
>> >> In terms of the above, the 'laws' are simply whatever regularities are
>> >> abstractable at the level of the extrinsic account (2).  The
>> >> instantiation level is not in itself abstractable, but can be
>> >> nonetheless be referred to ostensively via the exchange of relational
>> >> data.  As Chalmers implies, the 'subtle causal effect'(!) of the
>> >> instantiation is to provide a substrate of realisation without which
>> >> the extrinsic account lacks any referent.  Consequently any
>> >> characterisation of level (2) accounts as independently 'causally
>> >> closed' fundamentally mistakes the direction of inference.
>> >> > 3,. The Grain problem
>> >> I really can't fathom why anybody thinks that there is a grain
>> >> problem.  ISTM that this is taking full-scale reflective consciousness
>> >> altogether too much for granted.  One might as well complain that
>> >> there should be a grain problem with respect to matter - after all,
>> >> why isn't the brain just explicable at the level of molecules, or
>> >> atoms.
>> > It is.
>> >>  I think, to use Chalmers' notorious terminology, that the
>> >> grain problem is susceptible to 'easy' solution.  For example - and I
>> >> emphasise that this is merely suggestive - conscious perception as we
>> >> know it provides us with an experience of time which is utterly at
>> >> odds with either flux or block temporal models - i.e. the notions that
>> >> time at the 'objective' level is either utterly ephemeral or
>> >> enduringly spatial.
>> > That we experience a "specious present" rather than an infinitely
>> > thin time-slice is very easily explained by data storage, which is
>> > itself
>> > easily explained itself as a by product of data-transmission
>> > latencies.
>> > I agree there is a problem with the block model.
>> > I have no idea what this has to do with the GP
>> >> On the basis of this we might well suppose that
>> >> any experience even approximating to subjective consciousness is very
>> >> far from supervening directly on some process naively considered as a
>> >> simple traverse 'through time'.
>> > But the claim that qualia per se are the intrisic properties of
>> > fundamental particles is a claim that cosnc. or that aspect of consc.
>> > *does* supervene directly on the fine-grained physical structure. You
>> > are not *resolving* the problem, you are just saying the initial claim
>> > is
>> > false.
>> >> We should instead perhaps envision a) highly-evolved, multi-level,
>> >> subject-relative processes of abstraction, synthesis and editing with
>> >> b) high dependence on successions of (very) short-term memory-based
>> >> gestalts that instantiate the qualitative temporal content of the
>> >> 'specious present', c) whose adaptive function - to speak
>> >> teleologically - is to mediate sophisticated discrimination of, and
>> >> response to, co-evolving environments.
>> > So where are the qualia in all that?
>> >> In the first place, some such
>> >> notion is justifiable as a rationale for the very expensive adaptive
>> >> machinery represented by full reflective consciousness.  But more
>> >> fundamentally, such a gedanken experiment allows us to see that it is
>> >> naive to conceptualise 'experience' as qualitatively uniform and
>> >> indiscriminately available 'through time' to reflective subjective
>> >> consciousness.  Rather, we should expect that 'low-grain' generative
>> >> process will indeed be discarded (i.e. 'forgotten') at the level of
>> >> the reproducible temporal content of any self-conscious subject
>> >> capable of supporting and articulating such experience.
>> > If the lower level is discarded, the qualia aren't there. So where
>> > are they?
> >

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Received on Tue Sep 01 2009 - 00:09:55 PDT

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