Re: Dreaming On

From: Flammarion <>
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 2009 02:07:09 -0700 (PDT)

On 10 Sep, 14:56, David Nyman <> wrote:
> 2009/9/9 Flammarion <>:
> >> What you say above seems pretty much in sympathy with the reductio
> >> arguments based on arbitrariness of implementation.
> > It is strictly an argument against the claim that
> > computation causes consciousness , as opposed
> > to the claim that mental states are identical to computational
> > states.
> I'm not sure I see what distinction you're making.  If as you say the
> realisation of computation in a physical system doesn't cause
> consciousness, that would entail that no physically-realised
> computation could be identical to any mental state.

That doesn't follow because causation and identity are different
The realisation could be consciousness (fire IS combustion)
without causing it (fire CAUSES smoke but it not smoke)

> This is what
> follows if one accepts the argument from MGA or Olympia that
> consciousness does not attach to physical states qua computatio.
I find them both quite contestable

> >> But CTM is not engaged on such a project; in fact it entails
> >> the opposite conclusion: i.e. by stipulating its type-token identities
> >> purely functionally it requires that a homogeneous phenomenal state
> >> must somehow be associated with a teeming plurality of heterogeneous
> >> physical states.
> > It doesn't suggest that any mental state can be associated with any
> > phsycial
> > state.
> It doesn't need to say that to be obscure as a physical theory.  The
> point is that it can ex hypothesi say nothing remotely physically
> illuminating about what causes a mental state.  To say that it results
> whenever a physical system implements a specific computation is to say
> nothing physical about that system other than to insist that it is
> 'physical'.

..and it implements a certain computation. That's kind of the point.
It is not a criticism of the CTM that it doesn't work like
a reductive physcial theory: it;s not suppposed to be.
It just supposed to be a phsycialist theory that doesn't have ghosts
in the machine

> > It has been accused of overdoing  Multiple Realisability, but MR
> > can be underdone as well.
> I agree.  Nonetheless, when two states are functionally equivalent one
> can still say what it is about them that is physically relevant.  For
> example, in driving from A to B it is functionally irrelevant to my
> experience whether my car is fuelled by petrol or diesel.  But there
> is no ambiguity about the physical details of my car trip or precisely
> how either fuel contributes to this effect.

One can say what it is about physical systems that explains
its ability to realise a certain computation. One can't say that
there is anything that makes it exclusively able to. Equally
one can explain various ways of getting from A to B, but
one can't argue that there is only one possible way.

> >> Various arguments - Olympia, MGA, the Chinese Room etc. - seek to
> >> expose the myriad physical implausibilities consequential on such
> >> implementation independence.  But the root of all this is that CTM
> >> makes impossible at the outset any possibility of linking a phenomenal
> >> state to any unique, fully-explicated physical reduction.
> > That's probably a good thing. We want to be able to say that
> > two people with fine-grained differences in their brain structure
> > can both be (for instance) apprehensiveness.
> 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.

THat would be because they make no computational difference,
if CTM is correct.

> >> If nothing
> >> physical can in principle be ruled out as an explanation for
> >> experience,
> > That isn't an implication of CTM. CTM can regard computers as
> > a small subset of physical systems, and conscious computers as
> > a small subset of computers.
> Yes, but we needn't push "nothing physical" to the extent of random
> association to make the point at issue.  The relevant point is that,
> in picking out the subset of physical systems solely qua computatio,
> no kind of physical realisation is capable of being ruled out in
> principle.  That is unproblematic in the usual case because our
> interest is restricted to the computational output of such systems,
> and we are unconcerned by the physical details that occasion this.
> But if we are seeking a physical explanation of consciousness, then it
> is precisely the coupling of the physical process and the mental
> process which requires explication in a physical theory, and this is
> now obscured from any general resolution by the computational posit.

Obscured? It goes in two stages. Physical-.computational and
Beyond that, your objectio to CTM seems to be (again) that it is not
reductive physicalism.

> >> no uniquely-justified physical explanation need - or in
> >> practice could - be explicated.
> > I don't think "unique justification" is a requirement
> >>The detailed implausibilities
> >> variously invoked all fall out of this.
> >> So if a physical theory of mind is what is needed, CTM would seem to
> >> fail even as a candidate because its arbitrariness with respect to
> >> physical realisation renders it incapable of grounding consciousness
> >> in any specific fundamental physical reduction.
> > MR is not complete arbitrariness.
> I can only suppose that complete arbitrariness would be a random
> association between physical states and mental states.  This is not
> what is meant by arbitrary realisation.  What is meant is that the
> requirement that a physical system be deemed conscious purely in
> virtue of its implementing a computation rules out no particular kind
> of physical realisation.  Consequently a theory of this type is
> incapable of explicating general principles of physical-mental
> association independent of its functional posit.

It isn't. Why is that a problem?

> > If CTM had the implication that one material
> > system could realise more than one computation, then there
> > would be a conflict with the phsyical supervenience principle.
> I agree.

> > But CTM only has the implication that one computation
> > system could be realised more on more than one
> > material system.
> Yes, but the upshot is that CTM is reduced to the theory that
> conscious states can be associated with material systems only in a
> manner that ex hypothesi must obscure any prospect of a general
> reduction of their detailed material causes, because any such causes
> could only be specific to each realisation.

You can have as many material details as you like
so long as they are relevant to explaining the computation.

Maybe you are hung up on causes. CTM is really an identity theory--
states are identified with functional states. It's not fire-causes-
smoke causation.

> Doesn't that make CTM
> somewhat spurious as a materialist theory of consciousness?

It's materialist because it doesn't require anything immaterial.

> >>Indeed, its success could only be in direct
> >> opposition to the principles of materialist reductive theory.
> > I don't think that follows at all.
> Shouldn't the business of a physical theory be to seek general
> physical principles that lead to a detailed physical reduction?

CTM associates the set of relevant physcial properties with
the physical properties that makes something a certain kind
of computer. What's wrong with that?
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Received on Fri Sep 11 2009 - 02:07:09 PDT

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