Re: Dreaming On

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 12:27:59 -0700

David Nyman wrote:
> 2009/9/10 Brent Meeker <>:
>>> Yes, I agree. But if we're after a physical theory, we also want to
>>> be able to give in either case a clear physical account of their
>>> apprehensiveness, which would include a physical justification of why
>>> the fine-grained differences make no difference at the level of
>>> experience.
>> Consider what a clear physical account of apprehensiveness might be:
>> There's an increased level of brain activity which is similar to that
>> caused by a strange sound when along in the dark, a slight rise in
>> adrenaline, a tensing of muscles that would be used to flee, brain
>> patterns formed as memories while watching slasher movies become more
>> excited. Fine-grained differences below these levels, as might differ
>> in others, are irrelevant to the experience. For comparison consider a
>> Mars rover experiencing apprehension: Sensor signals indicate lack of
>> traction which implies likely inability to reach it's next sampling
>> point. Extra battery power is put on line and various changes in paths
>> and backtracking are calculated. Mission control is apprised. The
>> soil appearance related to poor traction is entered into a database with
>> a warning note.
>> Notice how the meaning, the content of 'apprehension' comes from the
>> context of action and purpose and interaction with an external world.
>> We summarize these things as a single word 'apprehension' which we then
>> take to describe a strictly internal state. But that is because we have
>> abstracted away the circumstances that give the meaning. There are
>> difference cirmcustances that would give the same hightened states.
> Whilst I am of course in sympathy with the larger import of you're
> saying, Brent, I'm not sure how it's relevant to the intentionally
> more restricted focus of the current discussion. It is by definition
> true that "fine-grained differences below these levels, as might
> differ in others, are irrelevant to the experience". My point still
> is that a complete physical theory of consciousness would be capable
> of explicating - both in general physical principles and in detail -
> the relation between coarse and fine-grained physical accounts of an
> experiential state, whatever the wider context in which it might be
> embedded. Or IOW, of explaining what physical principles and
> processes are responsible for the fineness of fine graining and the
> coarseness of coarse graining. CTM doesn't appear to offer any
> physically explicit route to this goal.
> David
But isn't that because the "computational" in CTM is abstracted away
from a context in which there is action and purpose. It's the same
problem that leads to the question, "Does a rock compute every
function?" When looking at a physical process as a computation one has
to ask, "Computing what?" and the answer is in terms of some interaction
with the rest of the world in which the computation is embedded, e.g.
the answer will mean something to the programmer who started it and it
means something to him because he's a human animal that evolved to have
goals and values and can take actions. The level of experience, the
finess or coarsenss of physical process, is determined by the level at
which there are actions.



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Received on Thu Sep 10 2009 - 12:27:59 PDT

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