You know, I couldn't be more sympathetic of the wonderful feelings one experiences when one is drinking fine wine hanging out from the ceiling in some weird club.
Now, what I'm saying is that experience can be described as a rigidly mathematical model. That of [the progression of] your brain's biological state during the experience in question. More precisely, we can surely divide into a "log" of sensory input and what biologically (thus physically) happened in your brain. Let me remind that we are living in 21st century and thus *no* form of dualism is admissible in further discussions.
The log of sensory input is trivial to describe. You could record that in a digital medium with a sufficient precision. The inside-the-skull part is more baffling because there we have a complex machine which we do not really know the design of. If we did, we would have replicated that. So, we don't really know what to measure in there. It's a lot like looking at all the circuit boards in a computer and trying to understand how a compiler works. There some people think that some very cool quantum effect in our brain turns us into glorious human beings in possession of great souls. Surely, that is a superstitious and anthropocentric belief. Comparison with the structure of the brains of other species suggest otherwise. We don't have any fundamental capability that other species don't have. Those other species are just so decent that they don't boast about their cognitive abilities like we do!
So, if there is any difference between the cognitive capabilities of a bug and yours, it isn't some physical or low level difference. Rather, it is a difference in the complexity of the nervous system. Now, my guess is that a chimp is at least as conscious as many people I've met and a rat doesn't seem to be wholly unconcerned with itself so I wouldn't really tag it "unconscious". So, you would run into all sorts of philosophical problems when you try to draw a line between the unconscious and the conscious among living things.
Whenever you take consciousness to be the magical feeling of existence one senses in the bathroom, that is one definition that is too artistic and not at all scientific I must emphasize. Make one definition that has *content*.
The truth is that no one has said that a rock is capable of any sort of cognition, thus it would be incorrect to say that it can have consciousness, or can relate to its own existence. It can be easily inferred from the subtext of our discussion: AI. We are trying to build machines as intelligent as humans, not failingly expect some rock to assume intelligence.
Now for something better. What would a complete definition of consciousness look like? What is its relation to say, learning, reasoning, perception, etc.? Is it really an understanding of first-person subjective experience, which is to say that agent A believes that A exists and that A happens to go through situations S1, S2, S3,... in time? Hardly so. I hear all the Searle like love novel digging types crying out "but that formal definition does not capture what we mean by subjective experience" So I must digress. What is it that you mean by subjective experience. I think none of you who speak of the blessed "blah blah experience" phrases have any idea of what you're speaking so I'll try to guess what it really is that you're referring to unconsciously. You're referring to the incredibly complex web of cognitive activity one has about himself and his deeds including thoughts and feelings. So, in a sense, yes, it is *irreducible*. There is no way we can trivialize some poor soul's mourning of losing his lover, yet there must be a scheme to the creation of these activities.
However, in a mature mind it is very hard to separate conscious elements from the non-conscious. Surely, we can be quite certain that the initial perception of pain in our body due to pressure is not really conscious, (since it involves only a simple signal processing) but the whole perception is. Likewise, we could say that much of our behavior is automated through learning. One pilots a vehicle without knowing how he accomplishes that, yet he can reflect on his activity if required.
The meaning of self is also one of those misleading terms. We have not a unified simplex of a self. We are composed of several autonomous selves in competition and that is what makes us diverse and versatile. There is certainly no central point of control or a magical essence to our feeling of "self". It there is the kind of the necessary feeling like "pain" to keep us focused. [For the record, that is what I mean when I say that "There is no consciousness", that is "There is no such thing as consciousness as we know it". It is merely a useful delusion in our minds to say the least.]
Therein lies even greater problems for those uninitiated participants in discussions of "consciousness". When we cannot even define what self is, it is wholly impossible to define what self-experience is. That is referring to "first person experience" is void unless you come up with good conceptualization of self in one's mind, and what experience is. Which as far as I'm concerned are non-existent.
In reply, yes it must be different things that Minsky and Dennett refer to when they talk about consciousness and what you refer to since:
- Consciousness is not a well defined entity to refer to. Like one's middle finger.
- The definitions the former party give are purposeful and try to give more scientific explanations while the latter party's definitions are void.
In addition, philosophically it would be best if we could abstract away questions pertaining to consciousness and only concentrate on thinking for the questions of "thinking" are discouragingly difficult by themselves.
exa a.k.a Eray Ozkural
There is no perfect circle.
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