[FoRK] Why is there any experience of it, at all? (was: GEB, etc.)

Elias Sinderson <elias at soe.ucsc.edu> on Tue Jul 10 08:37:44 PDT 2007

Lion Kimbro wrote:
> On 7/9/07, Elias Sinderson <elias at soe.ucsc.edu> wrote:
>> So therein lies the rub, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I believe that this
>> is a false distinction, if ever there was one*, akin to trying to make a
>> distinction between the motion of atoms and heat -- the motion of the
>> atoms /is/ the heat. Qualia do not exist, except as a construct of our
>> own convention and comfort. The neural correlate of an experience /is/
>> the experience; without the neural correlate, there is no experience.
>
>  But we can't conceive of the motion of atoms (in the pattern that is
>  heat,) without heat.
As Russel noted, this is exactly what 18th century physicists thought.
>  But we can conceive of the motions of neurons without an experience.
Sure, similar to how very slowly moving atoms don't feel 'hot'. Perhaps 
it would be clearer to replace the word 'heat' with 'temperature' in the 
above... An absence of perceived 'heat' does not imply an absence of 
atomic motion, only that the motion doesn't impart enough energy for me 
to perceive the heat. There is, however, still temperature, and I see 
conscious experience much the same way -- some 'motions of neurons' just 
aren't moving enough to cause 'experience'. Indeed, there are many 
things going on in the motion of my neurons that (thankfully) I am not 
aware of. Various activities of my limbic system, or my autonomic 
nervous system, are good examples of this.

One can clearly conceive of situations in which the motions of neurons 
do not register as 'experience' and, further, there are a great number 
of experiments which are able to demonstrate this 'threshold effect' 
quite well. Cognitive scientists have been exploiting this for some 
40-50 odd years now with a great deal of success. I think what 
distinguishes our position on the matter is simply that it seems to 
bother you (like an itch you need to scratch), but I am quite 
comfortable with the notion due to my framing of the problem (if it can 
even be called a problem).
> But we CAN conceive of neurons firing like when there is an associated 
> experience, but we can ALSO conceive of there not being an experience 
> on the other end of it. Ergo, there's an explanatory gap.
There s only an explanatory gap if you assume that neural activity 
implies associated experience. This is clearly not the case, hence no 
explanatory gap.
>  They are not coupled-in-identity, like the atoms and heat [...]
See above, re: degrees of perception and awareness, and get back to me...


Regards,
Elias

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