RE: Nothing to Explain about 1st Person C!

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 12:48:11 +1000

Lee Corbin wrote:

>A friend sends me this link:
>which will perhaps be of interest to a number of people here.
>But the familiar first sentence just sends me into orbit:
> The hard problem of consciousness, according to
> David Chalmers, is explaining why and how
> experience is generated by certain particular
> configurations of physical stuff.
>Just how the devil do you all you Chalmerites expect
>that the world could have been any different in this
>regard than it is???
>Do you imagine that it's possible that we could go to
>another star, and encounter beings who discoursed with
>us about every single other thing, yet denied that they
>had consciousness, and professed that they had no idea
>what we were talking about? Yes or No! I want an answer.
>Do you think that this *could* happen someday?

The list is very active recently and as I have to work, eat etc. I haven't
had time to properly digest (let alone reply to) all the excellent posts.
The above question is a version of the zombie problem, and there are two
slightly different answers depending on whether you are talking about human
zombies or zombies from another planet. Human zombies are easy: they're not
really zombies. If they behave like humans, they almost certainly have the
same subjective experiences as humans. If this were not necessarily true,
then the added complication of consciousness would never have evolved.
Nature cares only about behaviour, and has no way of knowing about
subjective experience. This almost certainly means that consciousness is a
necessary side-effect of the type of complexity needed to create human type
behaviour. From memory, Chalmers suggests that this is possibly true, but
still maintains that it is *logically* possible for human zombies to exist,
supporting his thesis that it is not possible to derive consciousness from
brain states (the "hard problem"). Without getting into a discussion of what
"logically possible" means, I would still say that even if it could somehow
be shown that appropriate brain states necessarily lead to conscious states,
which I suspect is the case, it would still not be clear how this comes
about, and it would still not be clear what this is like unless you
experience the brain/conscious state yourself, or something like it. You
could dismiss this as unimportant, but I think it makes 1st person
experience fundamentally different from everything else in the universe.

As for aliens, I don't see how we could possibly assume that organisms who
did not even evolve on our planet have anything in common with us mentally.
They may be more fundamentally alien and different to us than bats or
lobsters are, and it may be completely impossible to empathise with them,
even if we could somehow tap into their minds.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon May 23 2005 - 22:54:37 PDT

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