Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dualism with Alrenous

I had an interesting discussion with Alrenous regarding dualism. Alrenous's quest is to explain consciousness and he seems to take a mathematical approach to building a model of consciousness out of the physical laws of the universe. He then declares this to be a 'different substance' - i.e. consciousness. fair enough - I like the approach because when you have numbers involved you can potentially remove much of the vague nature of philosophy.

the key places where I seem to differ in opinion however is that I don't think consciousness needs dualism.

First let me split consciousness into two parts.
the first is all the calculations and reactions that amount to thought. What this tells us is that humans are more conscious than dogs and dogs are more conscious than ants. I don't need any more complex theory to justify that because the brain structure of an ant is just not complex enough to support a humans consciousness. By this scale everything has calculations - just those of a brain are far more interesting and complex than those of, lets say, a fuse.

the second i call perspective
that is the wider question of why is there a first person perspective for a human a dog or debatably an ant. My answer here is that everything has perspective.

why? well
1) take relativity - the laws of the universe are invariant regardless of frame of reference.
2) I know I have a perspective and I presume you do, I then infer dogs do too - do i have a non arbitrary reason to stop in this chain of logic? I think not.
3) I have no reason to think third person has a special status if anything I have reason to think first person has that status.

Alrenous seems to have had the same sorts of thoughts saying "Electrons are conscious but they are all exactly the same consciousness making exactly the same decision over and over and over, and while this is minimally conscious, it is indistinguishable in this form from regular stochasticity."

But I don't think that that consciousness needs explaining because I believe I've found it as a fundamental aspect of the universe, probably necessary and inseparable from being. So through the thread he is left trying to tie together evolution and his theory etc while for mine there are no loose ends. to ask me why somthing has a first person is like asking me why a person has a location.


Anyway for those who have read Alrenous's stuff I don't have an issue with the spiffy vs nifty stuff. although I don't see how spiffy stuff could acquire a totally different status (although a somewhat different status is understandable) and i don't see how there could be a 100% differentiation between the two (ie a clear cut dividing line) although maybe that isn't being claimed.

Its quite possible that for all intensive purposes the switching on of a mind note is what makes a person conscious thus addressing all sorts of moral questions. Still if the brain uses hundred of billions of mind nodes (as he states) having one mind node is a pretty cheap form of consciousness.


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