The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul
Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel), Eds.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Inside Cover Blurb

  1. In this unique, mind-jolting book, Douglas Hofstadter, the author of "Hofstadter (Douglas) - Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll", the intellectual best seller that won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, and philosopher Daniel Dennett, author of the widely acclaimed "Dennett (Daniel) - Brainchildren - Essays on Designing Minds", explore the meaning of self and consciousness through the perspectives of literature, artificial intelligence, psychology, and much more.
  2. What — if anything — is the soul? Here is a book that goes as deeply into the problem of self and self-consciousness1 as anything written before. But instead of dreary, jargon-filled arguments, the reader will encounter strange thought experiments2, mind-boggling fantasies, and humorous dialogues, all designed to entice the imagination into new and unexpected places.
  3. In selections that range from the fiction of Borges and Stanislaw Lem to scientific speculations about thinking machines, artificial intelligence, and the nature of the brain, Hofstadter and Dennett present a variety of conflicting visions of the self and the soul, each with its own truth and dangerous simplifications.
  4. This remarkable book has something to upset everyone — the hard-nosed materialist as well as the believer in spirits and reincarnation. But, like Godel, Escher, Bach and Brainstorms, it is a work of both art and science that will instruct, charm, and delight for years to come.

Authors’ Preface
  1. What is the mind? Who am I? Can mere matter think or feel? Where is the soul? Anyone who confronts these questions runs headlong into perplexities. We conceived this book as an attempt to reveal these perplexities and make them vivid. Our purpose is not so much to answer the big questions directly as to jolt everyone: people who are committed to a hard-nosed, no-nonsense scientific world view; as well as people who have a religious or spiritualistic vision of the human soul.
  2. We believe there are at present no easy answers to the big questions, and it will take radical rethinking of the issues before people can be expected to reach a consensus about the meaning of the word “I.” This book, then, is designed to provoke, disturb and befuddle its readers, to make the obvious strange and, perhaps, to make the strange obvious.
  3. We would like to thank the contributors and the many people who have advised and inspired us………………….
  4. This book grew out of conversations in 1980 at the Center for Advanced Study in the behavioral sciences in Palo Alto, where Dennett was a Fellow engaged in research on Artificial Intelligence and philosophy; sponsored by NSF Grant (BNS 78-24671) and the Alfred P Sloan Foundation. It was completed while Hofstadter was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow engaged in research in artificial intelligence at Stanford University. We want to thank these foundations for supporting our research, and for providing settings in which our discussions could lead to collaboration.
  5. Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Daniel C. Dennett
    Chicago
    April 1981

BOOK COMMENT:
  • Basic Books, NY, 1981
  • See The Mind's Eye, which has the full text scanned in (though not very well proof-read).



"Dennett (Daniel) - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul: Introduction"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Full Text
  1. You see the moon rise in the east. You see the moon rise in the west. You watch two moons moving toward each other across the cold black sky, one soon to pass behind the other as they continue on their way. You are on Mars, millions of miles from home, protected from the killing frostless cold of the red Martian desert by fragile membranes of terrestrial technology. Protected but stranded, for your spaceship has broken down beyond repair. You will never again return to Earth, to the friends and family and places you left behind.
  2. But perhaps there is hope in the communication compartment of the disabled craft you find a Teleclone Mark IV teleporter and instructions for its use. If you turn the teleporter on, tunes its beam to the Telecone receiver on Earth, and then step into the sending chamber, the teleporter will swiftly and painlessly dismantle your body, producing a molecule-by-molecule blueprint to be beamed to Earth, where the receiver, its reservoirs well stocked with the requisite atoms, will almost instantaneously produce, from the beamed instructions – you! Whisked back to Earth at the speed of light, into the arms of your loved ones, who will soon be listening with rapt attention to your tales of adventures on Mars.
  3. One last survey of the damaged spaceship convinces you that the Teleclone is your only hope. With nothing to lose, you set the transmitter up, flip the right switches, and step into the chamber. 5 4, 3, 2, 1, FLASH! You open the door in front of you and step out of the Teleclone receiver chamber into the sunny, familiar atmosphere of Earth. You’ve come home, none the worse for wear after your long-distance Telecone fall from Mars. Your narrow escape from a terrible fate on the red planet calls for a celebration, and as your family and friends gather around, you notice how everyone as changed since you last saw them. It has been almost three years, after all, and you’ve all grown older. Look at Sarah, your daughter, who must now be eight and a half. You find yourself thinking “Can this be the little girl who used to sit on my lap?” Of course it is, you reflect, even though you must admit that you do not so much recognize her as extrapolate from memory and deduce her identity, She is so much taller, looks so much older, and knows so much more. In fact, most of the cells in her body were not there when last you cast eyes on her. But in spite of growth and change, in spite of replacement cells, she’s still the same little person you kissed goodbye three years ago.
  4. Then it hits you: “Am I, really, the same person who kissed this little girl goodbye three years ago? Am I this eight year old child’s mother or am I, actually a brand-new human being, only several hours old, in spite of my memories – or apparent memories – of days and years before that? Did this child’s mother recently die on Mars, dismantled and destroyed in the chamber of a Teleclone Mark IV?
  5. Did I die on Mars? No, certainly I did not die on Mars, since I am alive on Earth. Perhaps, though, someone died on Mars – Sarah’s mother. Then I am not Sarah’s mother. But I must be” The whole point of getting into the Teleclone was to return home to my family! But I keep forgetting; maybe I never got into that Teleclone on Mars. Maybe that was someone else – if it ever happened at all. Is that infernal machine a tele-porter – a mode of transportation – or, as the brand name suggests, a sort of murdering twinmaker? Did Sarah’s mother survive the experience with the Teleclone or not? She thought she was going to. She entered the chamber with hope and anticipation, not suicidal resignation. Her act was altruistic, to be sure – she was taking steps to provide Sarah with a loved one to protect her – but also selfish – she was getting herself out of a jam into something pleasant. Or so it seemed. How do I know that’s how it seemed? Because I was there; I was Sarah’s mother thinking those thoughts; I am Sarah’s mother. Or so it seems.
  6. In the days that follow, your spirits soar and plummet, the moments of relief and joy balanced by gnawing doubts and soul searching. Soul searching. Perhaps, you think, it isn’t right to go along with Sarah’s joyous assumption that her mother’s come home. You feel a little bit like an imposter and wonder what Sarah will think when some day she figures out what really happened on Mars. Remember when she figured out about Santa Claus and seemed so confused and hurt? How could her own mother have deceived her all those years?
  7. So, now it’s with more than idle intellectual curiosity that you pick up this copy of The Mind’s I and begin to read it, for it promises to lead you on a voyage of discovery of the self and the soul. You will learn, it says, something about what and who you are.
  8. You think to yourself. Here I am reading page 5 of this book; I see my hands holding this book. I have hands. How do I know they’re my hands? Silly question: they’re fastened to my arms, to my body. How do I know this is my body? I control it. Do I own it? In a sense I do. It’s mine to do with it as I like, so long as I don’ harm others. It’s even a sort of legal possession, for while I may not legally sell it to anyone so long as I am alive, I can legally transfer ownership of my body, to, say a medical school once it is dead.
  9. If I have this body, then I guess I’m something other than this body. When I say “I own my body” I don’t mean “This body owns itself” - probably a meaningless claim. Or does everything that no one else owns own itself? Does the moon belong to everyone, to no one, or to itself? What can be an owner of anything? I can, and my body is just one of the things I own. In any case, I and my body seem both intimately connected and yet distinct. I am the controller, it is the controlled. Most of the time. Then The Mind’s I asks you if in that case you might exchange your body for another, a stronger or more beautiful or more controllable body. You think that this is impossible. But, the book insists, it is perfectly imaginable, and hence possible in principle.
  10. You wonder whether the book has in mind reincarnation of the transmigration of souls, but, anticipating the wonder, the book acknowledges that while reincarnation is one interesting idea, the details of how this might happen are always left in the dark, and there are other more interesting ways it might happen. What if your brain were to be transplanted into a new body, which it could then control? Wouldn’t you think of that as switching bodies? There would be vast technical problems, of course, but, given our purposes, we can ignore them.
  11. It does seem hen (doesn’t it?) that if your brain were transplanted into another body, you would go with it. But, are you a brain? Try on two sentences, and see which one sounds more like the truth to you:
    → I have a brain.
    → I am a brain.
    Sometimes we talk about smart people being brains, but we don’t mean it literally. We mean they have good brains. You have a good brain, but who or what, then, is the you that has the brain? Once again, if you have a brain, could you trade it in for another? How could anyone detach you from your brain in a brain switch, if you are always go with your brain in a body switch? Impossible? Maybe not, as we shall see. After all, if you have recently returned from Mars, you left your old brain behind, didn’t you? So suppose we agree that you have a brain. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how you know you have a brain? You’ve never seen it, have you? You can’t see it, even in a mirror, and you can’t feel it. But of course you do know you have a brain. You know it because you know that you’re a human being and all human beings have brains. You’ve read it in books and been told it by people you trust. All people have livers too, and strangely enough what you know about your own brain is rather like what you know about your own liver. You trust what you’ve read in books. For many centuries people didn’t know what their livers were for. It took science to discover the answer. People haven’t always known what their brains were for either. Aristotle is said to have thought that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood – and of course it does cool your blood quite efficiently in the course of its operations. Suppose our livers had been in our skulls and our brains were snuggled into our ribcages. As we looked out at the world and listened, do you think we might have found it plausible that we thought with our livers? Your thinking seems to happen behind your eyes and between your ears – but that is because that’s where your brain is, or is that because you locate yourself, roughly, at the place you see from? Isn’t it in fact just as mind boggling to try to imagine how we could think with our brains – those soft grayish cauliflower shaped things – as to imagine how we could think with our livers – those soft reddish brown liver shaped things?
  12. The idea that what you are is not simply a living body (or a living brain) but also a soul or spirit seems to many people to be unscientific, in spite of its ancient tradition. “Souls,” they might want to say, “have no place in science and could never fit into the scientific world view. Science teaches us that there are no such things as souls. We don’t believe in leprechauns and ghosts any more, thanks to science, and the suspect idea of a soul inhabiting a body – the ‘ghost in the machine’ – will itself soon give up the ghost.” But not all versions of the idea that you are something distinct from your purely physical body are so vulnerable to ridicule and refutation. Some versions, as we shall see, actually flourish in the garden of science.
  13. Our world is filled with things that are neither mysterious and ghostly nor simply constructed out of the building blocks of physics. Do you believe in voices? How about haircuts? Are there such things? What are they? What, in the language of the physicist, is a hole – not an exotic black hole, but just a hole in a piece of cheese, for instance? Is it a physical thing? What is a symphony? Where in space and time does “The Star Spangled banner” exist? Is it nothing but some ink trails on some paper in the Library of Congress? Destroy that paper and the anthem would still exist. Latin still exists, but it is no longer a living language. The language of the cave people of France no longer exists at all. The game of bridge is less than a hundred years old. What sort of thing is it? It is not animal, vegetable or mineral.
  14. These things are not physical objects with mass, or a chemical composition, but are not purely abstract objects either – objects like the number π, which is immutable and cannot be located in space and time. These things have birthplaces and histories. They can change and things can happen to them. They can move about – much the same way a species, a disease, or an epidemic can. We must not suppose that science teaches us that everything anyone would ever want to take seriously is identifiable as a collection of particles moving about in space and time. Some people may think it is just common sense (or just good scientific thinking) to suppose you are nothing but a particular living, physical organism – a moving around of atoms – but in fact this idea exhibits a lack of scientific imagination, not hard-headed sophistication. One doesn’t have to believe in ghosts to believe in selves that have an identity that transcends any particular living body.
  15. You are Sarah’s mother, after all. But is Sarah’s mother you? Did she die on Mars, or was she moved back to Earth? It seems to you she returned to Earth – and of course it seemed to her before she stepped into the teleporter that she would return to Earth. Was she right? Maybe, but what would you say about the results of using the new, improved Teleclone Mark V? Thanks to the miracles of non-invasive CAT-scanning techniques, it obtains its blueprint without destroying the original. Sarah’s mother stil might decide to push the button and step into the chamber -- for Sarah’s sake, and in order to get the full story of her tragedy back to earth in the words of an eloquent spokeswoman – but she would also expect to step out of the chamber and find herself still on Mars. Could someone – some one – literally be in two places at once? Not for long, in any case, but soon the two would accumulate different memories, and different lives. They would be as distinct as any two people could be.

  16. Private Lives: What makes you you, and what are your boundaries? Part of the answer seems obvious – you are a centre of consciousness. But what in the world is consciousness? Consciousness is both the most obvious and the most mysterious feature of our minds. On the one hand, what could be more certain or manifest to each of us that that he or she is a subject of experience, an enjoyer of perceptions and sensations, a sufferer of pain, and entertainer of ideas, and a conscious deliberator? On the other hand, what in the world can consciousness be? How can living physical bodies in the physical world produce such a phenomenon? Science has revealed the secrets of many initially mysterious natural phenomena – magnetism, or photosynthesis or digestion are in principle equally accessible to any observer with the right apparatus, but any particular case of consciousness seems to have a favored or privileged observer, whose access of any others – no matter what apparatus they may have. For his reason and others, so far there is no good theory of consciousness. There is not even agreement about what a theory of consciousness would be like. Some have gone so far as to deny that there is any real thing for the term “consciousness” to name.
  17. The mere fact that such a familiar feature of our lives has resisted for so long all attempts to characterize it suggests that our conception of it is at fault. What is needed is not just more evidence, more experimental and clinical data, but a careful rethinking of the assumptions that lead us to suppose there is a single and familiar phenomenon, consciousness, answering to all the descriptions licensed by our everyday sense of the term. Consider the baffling questions that are inevitably raised whenever one turns one’s attention to consciousness. Are other animals conscious? Are they conscious in the same way we are? Could a computer or a robot be conscious? Can a person have unconscious thoughts? Unconscious pains or sensations or perceptions? Is a baby conscious at or before birth? Are we conscious when we dream? Might a human being harbour more than one conscious subject or ego or agent within one brain? Good answers to these questions certainly will depend heavily on empirical discoveries about the behavioural capacities and internal circumstances of the various problematic candidates for consciousness, but about every such empirical finding we can ask: what is its bearing on the question of consciousness and why? These are not directly empirical questions but rather conceptual ones, which we may be able to answer with the help of thought experiments.
  18. Our ordinary concept of consciousness seems to be anchored to two separable sets of considerations that can be captured roughly by the phrases “from the inside” and “from the outside.” From the inside, our own consciousness seems obvious and pervasive, we know that much goes on around us and even inside our bodies of which we are entirely unaware or unconscious, but nothing could be more intimately know to us than those things of which we are, individually, conscious. Those things of which I am conscious, and the ways in which I am conscious of them, determine what it is like to be me. I know in a way no other could know what it is like to be me. From the inside, consciousness seems to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon – an inner light that is either on or off. We grant that we are sometimes drowsy or inattentive, or asleep, and on occasion we even enjoy abnormally heightened consciousness, but when we are conscious, that we are conscious is not a fact that admits of degrees. There is a perspective, then, from which consciousness seems to be a feature that sunders the universe into two strikingly different kinds of things, those that have it and those that don’t. Those that have it are subjects, beings to whom things can be one way or another, beings it is like something to be. It is not like anything at all to be a brick or a pocket calculator or an apple. These things have insides, but not the right sort of insides – no inner life, no point of view. It is certainly like something to be me (Something I know “from the inside”) and almost certainly like something to be you (for you have told me, most convincingly, that it is the same with you), and probably like something to be a dog or a dolphin (if only they could tell us!) and maybe even like something to be a spider.

  19. Other Minds: When one considers these others (other folk and other creatures), one considers them perforce from the outside, and then various of their observable features strike us as relevant to the question of their consciousness. Creatures react appropriately to events within the scope of their senses; they recognize things, avoid painful experiences, learn, plan, and solve problems. They exhibit intelligence. But putting matter this way might be held to prejudge the issue. Talking of their “senses” or of “painful” circumstances, for instance suggests that we have already settled the issue of consciousness -- for note that had we described a robot in those terms, the polemical intent of the choice of words would have been obvious (and resisted by many). How do creatures differ from robots, real or imagined? By being organically and biologically similar to us – and we are the paradigmatic conscious creatures. This similarity admits of degrees, of course, and one’s intuitions about what sorts of similarity count are probably untrustworthy. Dolphins’ fishiness subtracts from our conviction that they are conscious like us, but no doubt should not. Were chimpanzees as dull as sea-slugs, their facial similarity to us would no doubt nevertheless favour their inclusion in the charmed circle. If houseflies were about our size, or warm-blooded, we’d be much more confident that when we plucked off their wings they felt pain (our sort of pain, the kind that matters). What makes us think that some such considerations ought to count and not others?
  20. The obvious answer is that the various “outside” indicators are more or less reliable signs or symptoms of the presence of that whatever-it-is each conscious subject knows from the inside. But how could this be confirmed? This is the notorious “problem of other minds.” In one’s own case, it seems, one can directly observer the coincidence of one’s inner life with one’s outwardly observable behaviour. But if each of us is to advance rigorously beyond solipsism, we must be able to do something apparently impossible: confirm the coincidence of inner and outer in others. Their telling us of the coincidence in their own cases will not do, officially, for that gives us just more coincidence of outer with outer; the demonstrable capacities for perception and intelligent action normally go hand-in-hand with the capacity to talk, and particularly to make “introspective” reports. If a cleverly designed robot could (seem to) tell us of its inner life, (could utter all the appropriate noises in the appropriate contexts), would we be right to admit it to the charmed circle? We might be, but how could we ever tell we were not being fooled? Here the question seems to be; is that special inner light really turned on, or is there nothing but darkness inside? And this question looks unanswerable. So perhaps we have taken a misstep already.
  21. My use of “we” and “our” in the last few paragraphs, and your unworried acceptance of it, reveals that we don’t take the problem of other minds seriously – at least for ourselves and the human beings with whom we normally associate. It is tempting to conclude that insofar as there is a serious question yet to be answered about the imagined robot (or about some problematic creature) it must turn out to be answerable by straightforward observation. Some theorists think that once we have better theories of the organization of our brains and their role in controlling our behaviour, we will be able to use those theories to distinguish conscious entities from nonconscious entities. This is to suppose that somehow or other the facts we get individually “from the inside” reduce to facts publicly obtainable from the outside. Enough of the right sort of outside facts will settle the question of whether or not some creature is conscious. For instance, consider neurophysiologist E.R. John’s recent attempt to define consciousness in objective terms.
      .. a process in which information about multiple individual modalities of sensation and perception is combined into a unified multidimensional representation of the state of the system and its environment, and integrated with information about memories and the needs of the organism, generating emotional reactions and programs of behaviour to adjust the organism to its environment.
  22. Determining that this hypothetical internal process occurs in a particular organism is presumably a difficult but empirical task in the province of a new science of neural information processing. Suppose that with regard to some creature it were completed successfully; the creature is by this account, conscious. If we have understood the proposal correctly, we will not find any room to wonder further. Reserving judgment here would be like being shown in detail the operations of an automobile engine, and then asking, “But is it really an internal combustion engine? Might we not be deluded in thinking it was?
  23. Any proper scientific account of the phenomenon of consciousness must inevitably take this somewhat doctrinaire step of demanding that the phenomenon be viewed as objectively as accessible, but one may still wonder if, once the step is taken, the truly mysterious phenomenon will be left behind. Before dismissing this skeptical hunch as the fancy of romantics, it would be wise to consider a striking revolution in the recent history of thinking about the mind, a revolution with unsettling consequences.

  24. Freud’s Crutch: For John Locke and many subsequent thinkers, nothing was more essential to the mind than consciousness, and more particularly self-consciousness. The mind in all its activities and processes was viewed as transparent to itself; nothing was hidden from its inner view. To discern what went on in one’s mind one just “looked” – one “introspected” – and the limits of what one thereby found were the very boundaries of the mind. The notion of unconscious thinking or perceiving was not entertained, or if it was, it was dismissed as incoherent, self-contradictory nonsense.
  25. For Locke, indeed, there was a serious problem of how to describe all one’s memories as being continuously in one’s mind when yet they were not continuously “present to consciousness.” The influence of this view has been so great that when Freud initially hypothesized the existence of unconscious mental processes, his proposal met widely with stark denial and incomprehension. It was not just an outrage to common sense, it was even self-contradictory to assert that there could be unconscious beliefs and desires, unconscious feelings of hatred, unconscious schemes of self-defense and retaliation. But Freud won converts. This “conceptual impossibility” became respectably thinkable by theorists once they saw that it permitted them to explain otherwise inexplicable patterns of psychopathology.
  26. The new way of thinking was supported by a crutch, one could cling to at least a pale version of the Lockean creed by imagining that these “unconscious” thoughts, desires, and schemes belonged to other selves within the psyche. Just as I can keep my schemes secret from you, my id can keep secrets from my ego. By splitting the subject into many subjects, one could preserve the axiom that every mental state must be someone’s conscious mental state and explain the inaccessibility of some of these states to their putative owners by postulating other interior owners for them. This move was usefully obscured in the mists of jargon so that the weird question of whether it was like anything to be a superego, for instance, could be kept at bay.
  27. Freud’s expansion of the bounds of the thinkable revolutionized clinical psychology. It also paved the way for the more recent development of “cognitive” experimental psychology. We have come to accept without the slightest twinge of incomprehension a host of claims to the effect that sophisticated hypothesis testing, memory searching, inference – in short, information processing – occurs within us though it is entirely inaccessible to introspection . It is not repressed unconscious activity of the sort Freud uncovered, activity driven out of the sight of consciousness, but just mental activity that is somehow beneath or beyond the ken of consciousness altogether. Freud claimed that his theories and clinical observations gave him the authority to overrule the sincere denials of his patients about what was going on in their minds. Similarly the cognitive psychologist marshals experimental evidence, models, and theories to show that people are engaged in surprisingly sophisticated reasoning processes of which they can give no introspective account at all. Not only are minds accessible to outsiders, some mental activities are more accessible to outsiders than to the very “owners” of those minds. In the new theorizing, however, the crutch has been thrown away.
  28. Although the new theories abound with metaphors – subsystems like little people in the brain sending messages back and forth, asking for help, obeying and volunteering -- the actual subsystems, are deemed to be unproblematic nonconscious bits of organic machinery, as utterly lacking in a point of view or inner life as a kidney or kneecap. (Certainly the advent of “mindless” but “intelligent” computers played a major role in this further dissolution of the Lockean view.)
  29. But now Locke’s extremism has been turned on its head, if before the very idea of unconscious mentality seemed incomprehensible, now we are losing our grip on the very idea of conscious mentality. What is consciousness but, if perfectly unconscious, indeed subjectless, information processing is in principle capable of achieving all the ends for which conscious minds were supposed to exist? If theories of cognitive psychology can be true of us, they could also be true of zombies, or robots and the theories seem to have no way of distinguishing us. How could any amount of mere subjectless information processing (of the sort we have recently discovered to go on in us) add up to that special feature with which it is so vividly contrasted? For the contrast has not disappeared. The psychologist Karl Lashley once suggested provocatively that “no activity of the mind is ever conscious,” by which he meant to draw our attention to the inaccessibility of the processing that we know must go on when we think. He gave an example: If asked to think a thought in dactylic hexameter, those who knew which rhythm that is can readily oblige. For instance: How in the world did this case of dactylic hexameter come to me? How we do it, what goes on in us to produce such a thought, is something quite inaccessible to us. Lashley’s remark might seem at first to herald the demise of consciousness as a phenomenon for psychological study, but its true effect is just the opposite. It draws our attention unmistakably to the difference between all the unconscious information processing – without which, no doubt, there could be no conscious experience – and the conscious thought itself, which is somehow directly accessible. Accessible to what or to whom? To say that it is accessible to some subsystem of the brain is not yet to distinguish it from the unconscious activities and events, which are also accessible to various subsystems of the brain. If some particular special subsystem is so constituted that that its traffic with the rest of the system somehow makes it the case that there is one more self in the world, one more “”thing it is like something to be,” this is far from obvious.
  30. Strangely, enough, this problem is the old chestnut, the problem of other minds, resurrected as a serious problem now that cognitive science has begun to analyze the human mind into its functional components. This comes out most graphically in the famous split-brain cases. (See “Further Reading” for details and references.) There is nothing very problematic in granting that the people who have undergone severing of the corpus callosum have two somewhat independent minds, one associated with the dominant brain hemisphere, and another associated with the non-dominant brain hemisphere. This is not problematic, for we have grown used to thinking of a person’s mind as an organization of communicating subminds. Here the lines of communication have simply been cut, revealing the independent character of each part particularly vividly. But what remains problematic is whether both subminds “have an inner life.” One view is that there is no reason to grant consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere, since all that has been shown is that that hemisphere, like many unconscious cognitive subsystems, can process a lot of information and intelligently control some behaviour. But then we may ask what reason there is to grant consciousness to the dominant hemisphere, or even to the whole, intact system in a normal person. We had this thought this question frivolous and not worth discussing, but this avenue forces us to take it seriously again. If on the other hand we grant full “inner life” consciousness to the non-dominant hemisphere (or more properly to the newly discovered person whose brain is the non-dominant hemisphere), what will be said about all the other information-processing subsystems posited by current theory? Is the Freudian crutch to be taken away again at the expense of populating our heads, quite literally, with hosts of subjects of experience?
  31. Consider, for example, the striking discovery by the psycholinguists James Lackner and Merril Garrett (see “Further Reading”) of what might be called an unconscious channel of sentence comprehension. In dichotic listening tests, subjects listen through earphones to two different channels and are instructed to attend to just one channel. Typically they can paraphrase or report with accuracy what they have heard through the attended channel but usually they can say little about what was going on concomitantly in the unattended channel. Thus, if the unattended channel carries a spoken sentence, the subjects typically can report they heard a voice, or even a male or female voice. Perhaps they even have a conviction about whether the voice was speaking in their native tongue, but they cannot report what was said. In Lackney and Garrett’s experiments subjects heard ambiguous sentences in the attended channel, such as “He put out the lantern to signal the attack.” Simultaneously, in the unattended channel one group of subjects received a sentence that suggested the interpretation of the sentence in the attended channel (e.g. “He extinguished the lantern), while another group had a neutral or irrelevant sentence as input. The former group could not report what was presented through the unattended channel, but they favoured the suggested reading of the ambiguous sentences significantly more than the control group did. The influence of the unattended channel on the interpretation of the attended signal is processed all the way to a semantic level – that is, the unattended signal is comprehended – but this is apparently unconscious sentence comprehension! Or should we say it is evidence of the presence in the subject of at least two different and only partially communicating consciousnesses? If we ask the subjects what it was like to comprehend the unattended cannel, they will reply, sincerely, that it was not like anything to them – they were quite unaware of that sentence. But perhaps, as is often suggested about the split brain patients, there is in effect someone else to whom our question ought to be addressed – the subject who consciously comprehended the sentence and relayed a hint of its meaning to the subject who answers our questions.
  32. Which should we say, and why? We seem to be back to our unanswerable question, which suggests we should find different ways of looking at the situation. A view of consciousness that does justice to the variety of complications will almost certainly demand a revolution in our habits of thought. Breaking bad habits is not that easy. The fantasies and thought experiments collected here are games and exercises designed to help.

  33. Plan
    • In Part I the exploration begins with some swift forays into the territory, noting a few striking landmarks but mounting no campaigns.
    • In Part II our target, The Mind’s I, is surveyed from the outside. What is it that reveals the presence of other minds, other souls to the searcher?
    • Part III examines the physical foundation – in biology -- of the mind, and then from this foundation moves up several levels of complexity to the level of internal representations. The mind begins to emerge as a self-designing system of representations, physically embodied in the brain. Here we encounter our first roadblock – “The Story of a Brain.” We suggest some paths around it, and
    • in Part IV we explore the implications of the emerging views of the mind as software or program – as an abstract sort of thing whose identity is independent of any particular physical embodiment. This opens up delightful prospects, such as various technologies for the transmigration of souls, and Fountains of Youth, but it also opens a Pandora’s box of traditional metaphysical problems in untraditional costumes,
    • which are confronted in Part V. Reality itself is challenged by various rivals: dreams, fictions, simulations, illusions. Free will, something no self-respecting mind would be caught without, is put under an unusual spotlight. In “Minds, Brains, and Programs” we encounter our second roadblock, but learn from it
    • how to press on, in Part VI, past our third roadblock, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” into the inner sanctum, where our mind’s-eye view affords us the most intimate perspectives on our target, and allows us to relocate our selves in the metaphysical and physical world. A guide to further expeditions is provided in the last section.

→ D.C.D.


COMMENT:



"Borges (Jorge Luis) - Borges and I"

Source: Borges (Jorge Luis) - Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings


Notes

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on 'Borges and I'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • Reflections on "Borges (Jorge Luis) - Borges and I".
  • “Different ways of thinking about yourself”.
  • Much of what they have to say is covered in the abstract of "Perry (John) - “Borges and I” and “I”".
  • They note the possibilities of referring to yourself accidentally in the third person (Borges’s third person referencing is conscious and intentional). Such as when seeing someone on CCTV having their pocket picked, and only later realising it was you yourself.
  • They muse of the difficulty of self-representation, and imagine a robot controlled by a remote computer program, with sensory / environmental feedback. Where would the program think it was? We’re referred to Section IV ("Dennett (Daniel) - Where Am I?", etc.).
  • In the Further Reading section we’re referred to "Boer (Steven E.) & Lycan (William) - Who, Me?".


COMMENT: See Borges and I for the full text, and for the text of Borges's original paper.



"Harding (D.E.) - On Having No Head"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • These are – thankfully fairly brief – extracts from a 124-page book.
  • It seems well written – though an Amazon reviewer sympathetic to the “message” complained that the sentences were too long and consequently only gave it one star. Other reviewers are either uncritically appreciative, or treat the book as drivel.
  • Either way, it seems to be typical “new age” stuff. The Amazon blurb (see below) claims that it argues for “no self” – a fairly respectable philosophical position – but it seems to do so by arguing resolutely for “no head” on the flimsy and ludicrous grounds that the individual cannot directly see his own head.
  • Amazon Book Description: 'Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down... I forgot my name, my humanness, my thingness, all that could be called me or mine. Past and future dropped away... Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.' Thus Douglas Harding describes his first experience of headlessness, or no self. First published in 1961, this is a classic work which conveys the experience that mystics of all times have tried to put words to.
  • See "Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on D.E.Harding's 'On Having No Head'" for further comments.


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on D.E.Harding's 'On Having No Head'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • It’s not clear why this extract was included, as Hofstadter seems to think it rather childish and solipsistic – the latter being – I’d have thought – the opposite of the “no self” view. Maybe it’s treated as an example of how philosophy ought not to be done, though this isn’t made explicit.
  • Anyway, it’s used as a springboard to introduce various other topics that are associated with the development of our understanding as we grow from infanthood through childhood to adulthood.
  • These ideas will be important in the rest of the book, and include the following topics:-
    1. One’s Own Death: We leave the thought of our own non-existence submerged. While we understand and accept the death (and non-existence) of others, we can hardly contemplate the concept when it applies to ourselves, even though we understand that being unable to imagine ourselves as not-existing is solipsistic.
    2. Syllogisms as applying to Oneself: While we understand the Socratic syllogism, we’re reluctant to apply it to ourselves1.
    3. Oneself as a Member of a Kind: There’s an interesting – if brutal – thought experiment of a circle of dogs being “decimated”. Would the still-surviving dogs recognize themselves as being of the “dog kind” and therefore as likely to be for the chop as the others?
    4. Logic over-riding intuition:


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on D.E.Harding's 'On Having No Head'")

Footnote 1:
  • Whilst Hofstadter doesn’t reference it, this is straight out of Ivan Illych.



"Morowitz (Harold J.) - Rediscovering the Mind"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • Morowitz complains that – as of 1980 – over the last 100 years, while science has been moving to involve the mind in quantum physics, biologists have been getting increasingly out of step by moving in the opposite direction – of the increasing hard-core materialism exemplified by 19th-century physics.
  • He complains about Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden not mentioning “mind” or “consciousness” in its index, simply focusing on reductive biology. Also, Francis Crick’s Of Molecules and Men claims – in an attack on vitalism – that the ultimate aim of modern biology is to explain all biological phenomena in terms of physics.
  • But – he says – Einsteinian physics re-introduces the observer – all observations are observer-relative – as does quantum mechanics.
  • This strikes me as a fundamental mistake in his analysis of the situation. Nothing in Relativity refers to conscious observers – they can happily be machines (and always are in relativistic physics). This is a more controversial claim in QM, but I don’t think the photographic film that records interference patterns waits for a conscious observer to look at it before it collapses the wave functions. Also, Schrodinger’s cat has already interacted with the non-conscious observer – the macroscopic apparatus – before the conscious observer peeks inn to see whether it’s alive or dead. Or so it seems to me.
  • He mentions the “new age physicists” of the time that claimed to see a connection between QM and Eastern mysticism, namely:-
    → "Capra (Fritjof) - The Tao of Physics", and
    → "Zukav (Gary) - The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics".
  • To be continued …


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Harold J. Morowitz's 'Rediscovering the Mind'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Turing (Alan) - Computing Machinery and Intelligence"

Source: Mind, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Oct., 1950), pp. 433-460


Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. In this article the author considers the question "can machines think?"
  2. The import of the discussion is on "imitation intelligence" as the author proposes that the best strategy for a machine to have is one that tries to provide answers that would naturally be given by man.
    → (Staff)

Sections
  1. The Imitation Game
  2. Critique of the New Problem
  3. The Machines concerned in the Game
  4. Digital Computers
  5. Universality of Digital Computers
  6. Contrary Views on the Main Question
    1. The Theological Objection
    2. The 'Heads in the Sand' Objection
    3. The Mathematical Objection
    4. The Argument from Consciousness
    5. Arguments from Various Disabilities
    6. Lady Lovelace's Objection
    7. Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System
    8. The Argument from Informality of Behaviour
    9. The Argument from Extra-Sensory Perception
  7. Learning Machines

Author’s Introduction – The Imitation Game
  1. I propose to consider the question, 'Can machines think? This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms 'machine' and 'think'. The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous. If the meaning of the words 'machine' and 'think 'are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, ' Can machines think ?' is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.
  2. The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the 'imitation game'. It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart from the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either 'X is A and Y is B' or 'X is B and Y is A'. The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B thus:
      C: Will X please tell me the length of his or her hair?
    Now suppose X is actually A, then A must answer. It is A's object in the game to try and cause C to make the wrong identification.
  3. His answer might therefore be 'My hair is shingled, and the longest strands are about nine inches long.'
  4. In order that tones of voice may not help the interrogator the answers should be written, or better still, typewritten. The ideal arrangement is to have a teleprinter communicating between the two rooms. Alternatively the question and answers can be repeated by an intermediary. The object of the game for the third player (B) is to help the interrogator. The best strategy for her is probably to give truthful answers. She can add such things as 'I am the woman, don't listen to him!' to her answers, but it will avail nothing as the man can make similar remarks.
  5. We now ask the question, 'What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?' Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman ? These questions replace our original, 'Can machines think?


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Turing (Alan) - Computing Machinery and Intelligence")

Footnote 1:
  • Sections 1, 2 and 6 are given in full, together with the first half of Section 3 and a late paragraph from Section 5 appended thereto.
  • Sections 4 and 7 are entirely omitted.
  • It is not made clear to the reader that this is the case.



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Alan Turing's 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • We’re referred to "Hofstadter (Douglas) - The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation" for the bulk of the authors’ discussion1 of this “remarkable and lucid article”.
  • The point they pick up on here relates to Turing’s willingness to give credence to ESP and other parapsychological phenomena – Telekinesis, precognition and telepathy.
  • Turing thought (or at least said he thought) the evidence was strong for ESP back in 1950, but H&D claim it to be certainly no stronger – and probably less so – 30 years later in 1980.
  • They point out the enthusiasm of “some physicists” – who have been made fools of – but point out that most physicists and “certainly” most psychologists deny ESP in any form.
  • They also point out the perplexity the substantial truth of parapsychological phenomena would cause for physics, given how well its theories have worked without taking such alleged phenomena into account.
  • They are also not as sanguine as Turing seemed to be that minor tinkering with the laws of physics might accommodate parapsychological phenomena.
  • I’m not sure why they are so keen to rubbish this area (right though they may be) given that Turing thought that it could be finessed as far as the Turing test is concerned. In any case, the claims for ESP are minor – but allegedly statistically significant – correlations, which can be modelled.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Alan Turing's 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence'")

Footnote 1:
  • For which the text is by Hofstadter, but the Reflections are by Dennett.



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Douglas Hofstadter's 'The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Lem (Stanislaw) - The Princess Ineffabelle"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Lem's 'The Princess Ineffabelle'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Miedaner (Terrel) - The Soul of Martha, a Beast"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Miedaner's 'The Soul of Martha, a Beast'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Miedaner (Terrel) - The Soul of the Mark III Beast"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Miedaner's 'The Soul of the Mark III Beast'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Wheelis (Allen) - Spirit"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • This is – as far as I can see – a completely worthless attempt to claim – I’d hardly say “argue” – that there’s some sort of universal Spirit that’s responsible for the progress we see over historical time. “Spirit is the voyager, man is the vessel”.
  • Extracts from “On Not Knowing How To Live”, 1975. Written by a psychiatrist.


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Wheelis's 'Spirit'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dawkins (Richard) - Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul


Notes
  • "Dawkins (Richard) - The Selfish Gene" is an excellent account of evolutionary theory, and a controversial account to what we are1, namely – according to Dawkins – survival machines for our genes.
  • These extracts probably save the busy reader from having to read the whole book.
  • One interesting point: Dawkins points out that we ourselves soon cease to be, but claims that our genes are for practical purposes immortal. They survive for millions of years.
  • But what is it that survives for so long? Individual genes – the tokens – die along with their “machines”. What persists is the type. Are genes therefore universals2?


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Dawkins's 'Selfish Genes and Selfish Memes'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Prelude … Ant Fugue"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Hofstadter's 'Prelude … Ant Fugue'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Zuboff (Arnold) - The Story of a Brain"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Zuboff's 'The Story of a Brain'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Sanford (David H.) - Where Was I?"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Sanford's 'Where Was I?'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Leiber (Justin) - Beyond Rejection"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Leiber's 'Beyond Rejection'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Rucker (Rudy) - Software"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Rucker's 'Software'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Cherniak (Christopher) - The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Cherniak's 'The Riddle of the Universe and Its Solution'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Where Am I?"

Source: Dennett - Brainstorms - Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Chapter 17


Notes
  1. This paper is an entertaining amalgam of TEs1 that Dennett admits are indebted to essays in "Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg), Ed. - The Identities of Persons", in particular to:-
    1. "Lewis (David) - Survival and Identity",
    2. "Parfit (Derek) - Lewis, Perry, and What Matters",
    3. "Perry (John) - The Importance of Being Identical", and
    4. "Shoemaker (Sydney) - Embodiment and Behavior".
  2. The conceit of the paper is that Dennett is giving a talk describing various vicissitudes beloved of philosophers of personal identity that he has survived (maybe) and one of which occurs during the speech itself.
  3. For dubious reasons that need not detain us, Dennett has had his brain2 removed for safe-keeping and placed in a vat3, from where it controls his body by remote control. Pairs of radio transceivers attached to “nerve stumps in the empty cranium” and “the brain” connect up each “input and output pathway” so that – effectively – the nerves are stretched4.
  4. After the operation, Dennett initially feels a little “light headed5”, but is otherwise fine and is taken to see his brain floating in its vat of nutrients, where it is almost covered6 with “printed circuit chips, plastic tubules, electrodes, etc.”.
  5. To prove that the BIV is Dennett’s, he’s invited to flip7 a switch, after which he immediately8 “slumps groggy and nauseated”, and upon which an assistant flips the switch back, allowing Dennett to “recover his equilibrium and composure”.
  6. Dennett now tries to consider where he is (the title of the paper). Despite believing – as a “firm physicalist” – that “the tokening of his thoughts occurred somewhere in his brain”, he couldn’t convince himself that he – Dennett – was in the vat. Rather9, he was outside where he stood.
  7. Also, while he has no trouble with imagining various locations for “there”, he does not have the same flexibility for “here”.
  8. To try to make things clearer, he adopts the “standard philosophical ploy” and names things: his brain “Yorick”, (the rest of) his body “Hamlet”, while he himself remains “Dennett”. So, where is he, and where is the thought “where am I?” tokened – in his brain (in the vat), or between his ears (“where it seems10 to be tokened”)? Dennett claims that he has no trouble with the temporal coordinates of thought-tokens, only their spatial coordinates.
  9. So where is he (Dennett)? He thinks of three possibilities:-
    1. Where Hamlet goes: Dennett rules this out immediately because of the Brain Transplant11 intuition: we go with our brain because it’s responsible for our psychology. A brain transplant12 is really13 a body transplant14.
    2. Where Yorick goes: Dennett says this isn’t appealing either – how can he be in a vat when he seems to be walking around? Dennett borrows from Locke the idea that personal identity is a forensic15 matter, and considers what US State he’d be tried in if Hamlet committed a crime16, and considers whether Hamlet or Yorick would “do the time17”, and where.
    3. Wherever Dennett thinks he is: the person is where his point of view (POV) says he is. Dennett rather confusingly18 spells this out by saying that “the location of the POV (which is determined internally by the content of the POV19) is the location of the person”. Dennett points out that this would make one’s location infallibly known, yet one has sometimes got lost. Worse, while lost in the woods, one could – at least in normal circumstances – confidently assert that one was in one’s body, but in these unusual circumstances Dennett wasn’t so sure.
  10. Dennett continues his discussion of PoVs:
    1. PoV has something to do with location, but the content of one’s PoV isn’t the same as (or even determined by) the content of one’s beliefs or thoughts20.
    2. Cinerama viewers suffer illusory shifts in points of view.
    3. Other PoV-shifts are less illusory: for instance the use of feedback-controlled mechanical arms in the nuclear industry; they can shift their PoV into the isolation chamber, but are not fooled into false beliefs, and are not transferring themselves there.
    4. There’s a final paragraph in this section where Dennett soliloquises on practice and training one’s PoV:-
      1. If I were really in the vat, I could train myself habitually to adopt that PoV – images of me floating there and beaming volitions to my body elsewhere.
      2. He suggests the ease of this task is independent of the truth of the brain’s location, and might have become second nature had he practiced before the operation – indeed the reader could try it out21.
  11. Dennet now helpfully explores the consequences of the TE:
    1. He repeats the suggestion about initial dizziness – again without explanation. He says this is so only “initially”, and that he soon habituates himself to his new situation, which is “well-nigh indistinguishable” from his former circumstances. However, …
    2. Due to the finite speed of light, he suffers minor coordination difficulties on account of feedback loops. He gives the example of being rendered speechless by hearing your own voice repeated, as in an echo22. He’s unable to track a moving object – such as a ball – when brain and body are more than a few miles apart.
    3. An advantage – he says – is that he can drink any amount of alcohol, which now only warms his gullet, though is still corrodes his liver.
    4. However, while he can take aspirin orally for a sprain, persistent pain requires codeine to be administered to his brain in vitro23.
  12. Dennett now sets off on his mission, leaving his brain hundreds of miles away.
    1. On the way, Dennett decides that he has become a “scattered24” person, rather than that – as he had thought unreflectively – he’d just left his brain behind.
    2. He gives a very poor analogy25: his being in two places at the same time – both in the vat and outside it – is just like someone standing astride a boundary between two states.
    3. Dennett says that while this now seemed obviously true, the philosophical question to which it was supposedly the right answer now seemed less important, as occasionally happens in philosophy.
    4. Yet, the answer was not entirely satisfying. His question was neither “where are my parts” nor “what is my current PoV”; for, there was a sense in which he believed that he and not merely most of him had gone off on his mission.
  13. When he gets down to work on his mission, all’s well until his transceivers start to fail, and he loses his senses (ie. in turn he goes deaf, dumb, blind and paralysed).
    1. He is now to consider himself disembodied in his vat.
    2. Dennett claims that his body is still alive – in that the heart and lungs are still working – but that it’s otherwise “as dead as the body of any heart26 transplant27 donor”.
    3. The shift in perspective now seemed entirely natural. He could still imagine28 himself back in his body, but it was an effort now he’d lost all contact with it.
  14. Dennett now has what I presume is a little joke. His alter ego pretends to have a revelation to the effect that “he has discovered the immateriality of the soul based on physicalist principles and premises”.
    1. The “proof” is that when the last transceiver failed, “he” – or at least his massless soul or mind – travelled hundreds of miles at the speed of light to take up residence in his vat, with no increase in mass.
    2. His PoV had lagged behind somewhat, but this has already been shown to be indirectly correlated with location.
    3. He thinks a physicalist philosopher could only disagree with his “revelation” by banishing all talk of persons29, but personhood is too embedded in everyone’s worldview to be jettisoned, any more than adopting an anti-Cartesian30 “non sum”.
  15. He says this “revelation” tided him over as panic – and even nausea31 – swept over him when he realised his “condition”.
    1. He’s then put into a “dreamless sleep”32 to be awakened by music fed directly into his auditory nerve.
    2. He is assured that efforts are being made to re-embody him, and a year later he does indeed find himself “housed” in a different body.
    3. He notes that philosophers33 speculate that the acquisition of a new body leaves one’s person intact.
    4. He admits there are physical changes to get used to, but any personality changes are no worse than those encountered by those undergoing plastic surgery or sex change, when no-one doubts the persistence of the person.
  16. Dennett names his new body “Fortinbras” and goes34 to visit Yorick, his brain in its vat.
    1. Once there, he flips the transceiver switch but – rather than “slumping” as previously – nothing happens; he notices no difference, nor when the switch is flipped back.
    2. The “explanation” is that – even before his first operation35 – a “computer duplicate” brain had been created.
    3. This “brain” – named “Hubert”, and running on a “giant computer” – reproduced both the information processing structure and computational speed of his brain (Yorick) and had been running in parallel even before his “mission”.
    4. So, the story goes that sensory input from Hamlet – his former body – was – on receipt by the transceivers – sent both to Yorick (his brain) and to the “computer’s array of inputs”. Also, while output from Yorick was sent to Hamlet, it was also stored and compared with that from Hubert.
    5. Over time, the outputs were identical and synchronous, which provided empirical evidence – if not proof – that Yorick’s functional structure had been successfully copied36.
    6. It is now revealed that Hamlet had been destroyed in the course of the failed mission, but Hubert has been kept37 synchronised with Yorick.
  17. Now there is a second switch that is presently set to have Hubert control Fortinbras.
    1. Dennett is asked to flip the switch so that control is passed back to Yorick – he feels nothing38 – and then to prove that Yorick really is now in control, is asked to flip the transceiver switch. Fortinbras immediately starts to slump, but recovers when it is flipped back.
    2. Dennett is left to fiddle with the control switch, and never notices any difference, even if it’s done in mid-sentence39.
    3. So, it is suggested – Dennett now has a “spare40 brain” should anything happen to Yorick.
    4. It’s noticed (in passing41) that wear and tear to Fortinbras has no debilitating effect on either brain.
  18. The TE moves on to the further thought about what would42 happen if one of Hubert and Yorick were detached from Fortinbras and hitched up to another body – Rosencrantz, say.
    1. Then, there would be two persons each claiming to be Dennett – but which43 one would be?
    2. The usual arguments are rehearsed:
      1. The Yorick-brained one has causal priority and was originally intimately connected to Hamlet. Dennett (purports to) downplay this as two legalistic for metaphysical purposes.
      2. For, imagine that Hubert had been driving Fortinbras for years, with Yorick as a “spare44”. He alleges that Hubert-Fortinbras would then have “squatter’s rights” to be legally accounted the true Dennett.
    3. “Dennett” claims that his intuition is that he would survive if either45 combination survived, but would “have mixed emotions about whether he should want both to survive”.
  19. We now have the usual discussion of the problems of fission46.
    1. Two Dennetts would be abhorrent (to Dennett) firstly for social reasons (shared wife, salary, …)
    2. Additionally, Dennett doesn’t like the idea of someone else knowing so much about him.
    3. However, those in the lab try to persuade him that there’s a plus side – he’d be able to do twice as much.
    4. Dennett isn’t sure he’d take up the offer47, and isn’t sure it’s being offered to him48 in the first place.
  20. Retreating from the fission question, Dennett is more worried by the thought of one of the brains becoming detached49 from Fortinbras.
    1. So, he asks for reassurance that no-one can fiddle with either the transceiver or master switch.
    2. He says this request is both50 driven by self-interest and altruism.
    3. So, we are led to believe, Dennett has the master switch about his person (the local ones – controlling the environment for Yorick (and, presumably, access to the transceiver switch) and the power supply for Hubert - are “locked down”) and he checks all is well with both brains occasionally by flipping the master switch in the presence of someone who will flip it back should he flip to Yorick, and Yorick’s transceiver be set to “off”.
    4. For, in the latter case, while he’d have sensory input from Fortinbras, he’d not be able to control51 his body.
    5. It is said that the master switch is unmarked, so Dennett never knows whether Yorick or Hubert is in charge of Fortinbras.
    6. If this means that Dennett52 doesn’t know who he is, then
      1. This doesn’t make much of a dent in Dennett’s sense of who he is – his “essential Dennettness53”, and
      2. This just shows that the question is of less interest than philosophers have claimed.
  21. So, he gives the master switch another flip and there’s an explosion of complaint from Fortinbras54!
    1. Two weeks ago, the two brains drifted slightly apart, and then the differences snowballed because the brains were then in a different receptive state for identical sets of input from the single body (Fortinbras).
    2. Hence, the illusion that Yorick (or Hubert) was in control of “his” body was dissipated. It was like being carried around in a cage - like being possessed – hearing himself say things he didn’t mean to say, and seeing his hands do things he’d not intended.
    3. “His brother” would scratch “our itches” – but not in the way Dennett would have, and would keep him awake
      • On reflection, I think this is a correct scenario.
      • While both Yorick and Hubert receive the same itches from Fortinbras – so neither should be surprised (or wakened) by tossing and turning on that account,
      • However, tossing and turning may be instigated by worries in “the other’s” mind, and if these worries are not shared, the tossing and turning would be inappropriate and awakening.
      with his tossing and turning. He’d been “in purgatory” – on the verge of a nervous breakdown – carried around helplessly by the other’s frantic round of activities and sustained only by the thought that eventually the other would flip the switch, and it’d be his turn for torment.
    4. So, it’s now the other’s turn – but at least he knows that “Dennett” knows he’s “in there” disconnected – which was not the case for “Dennett” himself.
  22. The current problem can only be resolved by getting another body for “the other”:-
    1. Otherwise, the situation is like an expectant mother – “eating55 – or at any rate tasting, smelling, seeing – for two”.
    2. Who keeps the current body (Fortinbras) is to be decided56 by the flip of a coin, and the other can have a choice of bodies.
  23. “Dennett” then sits down after making the final remark that – while the talk isn’t exactly what he’d have said – it’s entirely true.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Dennett (Daniel) - Where Am I?")

Footnote 2:
  • For brains, Click here for Note.
  • It is a constant complaint that TEs in this and other areas of philosophy are underspecified, so it’s not clear what conclusions to draw from them.
  • In this case it is not specified quite how much of Dennett’s brain is placed in the vat – in particular whether it includes the brain stem.
  • The text says it is to be “completely removed”, but a later passage alludes to Dennett’s body continuing to function in its absence, and also in the absence of communication with it.
  • I don’t know enough about neuroscience to know whether heart and lungs can continue to function in the absence of control from the brain stem (but I seem to remember – and Wikipedia confirms (Wikipedia: Brainstem) – that in humans the brain stem “plays an important role in the regulation of cardiac and respiratory function”
  • Decapitations may not be a close-enough parallel. Chickens appear to be able to run around “like headless chickens”. Human beings have much larger brains requiring a much greater blood supply, so this will have a greater impact on the headless human corpse than would be the case for a chicken.
  • Anyway, we can assume that Dennett intends that the brain stem does get transplanted to the vat. Any quibbles about the supposedly continued cardiac and respiratory function in the absence of brain stem control can be put down to a slip that is irrelevant to the TE as a whole.
Footnote 4:
  • As far as transfer of impulses is concerned, practical difficulties aside, I see nothing immediately wrong with this as a TE.
  • There are, however, various concomitant problems that will be demonstrated in due course.
Footnote 5:
  • Dennett doesn’t say why he should feel light-headed.
  • The normal cause of light-headedness is low blood-pressure, which is a proxy for reduced blood-flow and oxygen levels.
  • I can imagine it would be difficult to maintain the very high blood pressure usually enjoyed by brains in a free-floating brain not protected by the skull – thought a prosthetic plastic “see through” skull might do the trick if the arterial connectors can stand the pressure, as no doubt we can assume they could.
  • The “light headedness” isn’t described as an initial set-up (connection) problem but as some sort of consciousness acclimatisation problem. If related to blood pressure, why would it not persist?
  • The whole idea of a brain “floating in a vat of nutrients” is rather ludicrous. Presumably the brain would receive energy as normal from oxygenated blood. Maybe the whole “light-headedness” conceit is a nod to this vagueness in the description of the TE.
Footnote 6:
  • Naturally, this is all a bit vague.
  • I can’t see why the cortex should be covered with anything, as the bulk of the pathways would be via the spinal cord, thought there would need to be “extras” for links to the eyes, ears and nose/tongue.
  • I’m not sure where all these pathways go, but I dare say we can let the lack of detail pass. It is important to think them through to some degree to avoid the charge of under-specification.
Footnote 7:
  • Actually, what it says is “hit the output transmitter switch”, so it’s only instructions from the brain to the body that are cut off.
  • This is important, for continual input of sense data is important for later (Hubert, the computer-brain) even when output is switched off.
Footnote 8:
  • It is important to pick nits in TEs. So,
  • Just why does Dennett react in this way to the disconnection of his brain from his body?
  • Why does he feel “groggy and nauseated”? These symptoms sound like those associated with lack of oxygen rather than loss of information and control.
  • That said, the body stops receiving instructions from the brain but still feeds back sensory / somatic data to the brain, so who knows how the situation would be interpreted? Dennett’s suggestion may be OK.
  • Why does he slump? This is easier to understand, depending on how much control is due to the spinal cord. Chickens run around with their heads cut off, it is said.
  • I intend to look into these things in due course, after a revision of neurophysiology.
Footnote 9:
  • What do I think is the answer to the essay’s central question? Where is Dennett (in this TE)?
  • I think it depends on what we are talking about.
  • As a person to be interacted with socially – or even a human animal interacting with the world – Dennett is outside the vat.
  • However, metaphysically-speaking, he is a scattered object (like the solar system).
  • Later on – where Dennett’s brain is paralleled (or even supplanted) by a computer simulation (as I would say) – would it still be right to say he’s scattered, and where is the brain-alike? Is it the whole computer on which the simulation runs? Or is Dennett just his body then, with an alien puppet-master?
Footnote 10: Surely, thoughts don’t seem to be tokened anywhere? It’s only theory (science) that tells us that they are tokened in our brains, but they don’t “feel” as though they are there, do they?

Footnote 13: Of course, animalists disagree with this intuition, though it is hard to explain away. It’s hard to argue that the brain is “just another organ”, though they have a go.

Footnote 16:
  • I wasn’t impressed by this.
  • Even if Yorick was in another State to where the crime was committed, the crime would be committed in the State it was, by Hamlet – and he (not Yorick) would be tried there.
  • It all depends how the situation is described – and giving parts of a human being names only confuses matters, as it implies that they are separate individuals.
  • It is wrong to describe the situation as of a “master mind” and “an accomplice”.
Footnote 17:
  • Again, this is all getting rather silly.
  • Yorick and Hamlet aren’t two individuals that can be treated separately.
  • Yorick is already as incarcerated as anyone can be, but the well-being of Yorick depends on that of Hamlet.
  • … and the vat of nutrients, of course, but this is true of any brain – it’s just that in this case, the life-support has been sub-contracted.
Footnote 18:
  • Do POVs have locations? Aren’t they brain states? A POV will say where the person thinks he is, which seems to be what Denett is after.
  • Alternatively, a POV is a “viewpoint”, which is just a directed gaze from a specific location in space.
Footnote 19: A POV seems to be equivalent to Baker’s FPP, but may be much narrower, being restricted to geographical perspective.

Footnote 20: Dennett says this is “obvious”, but I’m not even sure what he means, or how it follows!

Footnote 21: Dennett fills out this thought, but I didn’t really get what he was after, and the thought is left hanging as we move on ….

Footnote 22: I’ve had this on the phone, and I know what he means.

Footnote 23: Several points here:-
  • This shows the importance of local chemical activity within the brain. Not all sensation is covered by information transfer between the body and the brain: some is dependent on chemical transfer within the blood stream. However, these chemicals bind to receptors within the brain, which inhibit or enhance neural firing, so all mental life may ultimately boil down to information transfer, though several in the “consciousness” debate (eg. Roger Penrose and Stuart Hammeroff) have it that qualia depend on quantum events in microtubules within the brain structure.
  • The distinction between the action of aspirin and codeine is interesting: presumably aspirin acts within the body and inhibits pain-messages being sent to the brain, while codeine acts on the receptors within the brain where these messages are received.
Footnote 25:
  • Interstate boundaries are not real barriers to somatic integrity in the way that hundred-mile gaps are.
  • So, this case is entirely different – such a person is not scattered at all, and is only conventionally in two places at once.
Footnote 26:
  • This is a strange way of putting it, as this body still has a heart.
  • If the body is still supposed to be functioning, then we might suppose that the brain stem remains with the body, and only the cerebrums are in the vat; but I’ve earlier ruled out this idea.
  • I’m not sure either of these points are important, though the latter is an important detail in the description of the TE; for instance if it required the brain stem to be in two places at once it might signal a contradiction.
  • But it’s not essential to the TE that Dennett’s detached body should continue to live, I don’t think.
Footnote 28:
  • It’s difficult to imagine quite what it would be like to be in those circumstances. All proprioceptive sense would be lost, and there’d be no sensation from the body at all, worse than any case of quadriplegia or MS.
  • How do/did people such as Stephen Hawking or Tony Judt describe their predicaments? I understand they have “just” lost motor control, and still retain sensation – indeed, I seem to remember reading something by Tony Judt to the effect that he used to get cramps in the night when he wasn’t turned, and that this caused him agonies.
  • We’d need accounts from those with “locked in syndrome” (see "Bauby (Jean-Dominique) - The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly", but again Bauby describes his body as a source of pain) or maybe those investigated by Oliver Sacks in Awakenings - Wikipedia: Sacks - Awakenings.
  • Interestingly, Bauby was in the state he was because of damage to his brain stem. However, he’s not on a heart/lung machine, so sufficient of his brain stem must have remained intact to continue to regulate these vital organs.
Footnote 30: Dennett refers us – without explanation – to "Hintikka (Jaakko) - Cogito, Ergo Sum: Inference or Performance?".

Footnote 31:
  • I’m not convinced that a cerebrum in a vat could feel these emotions, which I suspect are triggered by adrenaline (see Wikipedia: Epinephrine), naturally synthesised in the adrenal glands above the kidneys (see Wikipedia: Adrenal gland), which is a chemical carried in the bloodstream.
  • Dennett admits that adrenalin would be absent, but implies that this – along with a sinking feeling in the bowels – would be the first of many “phantom limb” analogues.
  • I’m not sure whether this would be the case – phantom limb pain is – presumably – generated by firings in the neural pathways commencing at the point where the limb was amputated. So, the analogue here would be the place where the local transducers are attached to the brain. But if they produce “phantom body” feelings when their transmissions cease, wouldn’t they do likewise prior thereto? Are the cases properly analogous?
Footnote 33: Well, many do, but animalists (slightly implausible) deny this, saying that the new body receives a new brain.

Footnote 34: This may be a tendentious description. Fortinbras is not the continuer of Hamlet in any sense.

Footnote 35: Ie. The one that removed his brain and set up the transceiver system.

Footnote 36:
  • Because we’re dealing with what are most likely non-linear systems, it’s very unlikely that the creation of a functional equivalent would be a practical possibility without continual intervention – occasionalism, in other words (see "Lee (Sukjae) - Occasionalism"). Leibnizian parallelism (pre-established harmony, "Rodriguez-Pereyra (Gonzalo) - Leibniz on mind-body causation and Pre-Established Harmony") has always been incredible. Not that these positions are talking about the same thing, but near enough.
  • But, even if it were, what have we done? Is a “functional duplicate” a duplicate “full stop”?
  • I don’t enthuse over functionalism, but am happy to concede (for the sake of the argument, the above worries aside) that – as is claimed – “Yorick’s functional structure had been successfully copied”.
  • However, this doesn’t mean that “Dennett has spare brain” (as will be surmised later), nor that the “computer brain” is anything other than a simulation without any phenomenal consciousness.
Footnote 37:
  • Initially by just “running” (like Yorick) in the absence of input,
  • But latterly by receiving all and only the same inputs from Fortinbras that Yorick has.
Footnote 38:
  • Is this credible?
  • The way the situation is best understood – it seems to me – is that Dennett’s FPP resides – and always will reside – in Yorick. Hubert is nothing but a simulator.
  • So, when control is passed to Hubert, which stays in parallel with Yorick, then Yorick still feels in control.
  • To remind ourselves – the reason the parallelism is maintained is that for the sake of this TE it is assumed that functionally equivalent processors will remain synchronised given the same inputs.
  • So, when the “control” switch is flipped, Yorick indeed wouldn’t notice anything.
  • However, if Yorick were extinguished, Dennett’s FPP wouldn’t “pop” over to Hubert, even though – if control were passed, Fortinbras would carry on regardless and the Fortinbras / Hubert combination would act like Dennett.
Footnote 39:
  • Because of non-linearity, we either have exact synchronisation and parallelism or none at all (as we will see at the end).
  • So, we are to assume exactness, and the “mid-sentence” claim is fine.
Footnote 40:
  • I strongly disagree here.
  • The computer brain (Hubert) is at best a copy, and at worst a simulation, of the real brain (Yorick).
  • Yorick’s FPP is never going to hop over to Hubert.
Footnote 41:
  • Is there any point to this remark?
  • As Fortinbras starts to wear out, this will have an impact on the control functions of both Yorick and Hubert, but there would be possibility of damaging either by (say) blood poisoning, anoxia or the like.
Footnote 42:
  • So, we have a TE within a TE!
  • It’s important to bear this in mind as this TE never “happens” to the Dennett of the article.
Footnote 43:
  • Well, I would say at most one – namely the one involving Yorick.
  • But a bit of explanation has gone missing – Yorick and Hubert were kept synchronised. How was this done?
    • It looks as though it was supposed to happen because the two brains (or brain and simulator) have the same structure and processing power, and the same inputs. So, it is assumed, they would have the same thoughts and the same outputs.
    • This would be very unlikely unless the whole system is linear. If it is not, the two brains would butterfly-off in different directions, unless there’s some regulator to bring them back together.
  • But, even were this indeed the case when sharing a body, with different bodies in different situations, the two brains would fly off in different directions and would no longer be functionally equivalent.
  • So, we’d have two distinct psychologies claiming to be Dennett, and the question which is Dennett is still relevant.
Footnote 44: But, Dennett’s FPP would still reside in Yorick – under the illusion of being in control. Hubert – if it has a FPP at all – would have a numerically different FPP (though exactly similar, as the TE is set up).

Footnote 45:
  • There would seem to be four possible pairs of survivors formed from {Yorick, Hubert} x {Fortinbras, Rosencrantz}, though, of course, there can only be two actual survivors. This would depend on the choice.
Footnote 47: It’s not explicit what the offer is. Presumably it’s to have a second body (ie. Rosenkrantz) attached to his spare brain (Hubert).

Footnote 48:
  • And I agree.
  • As noted earlier, Yorick and Hubert are no longer synchronised.
  • As Locke noted – there would be two persons – like the day-person and night-person – with incommunicable consciousnesses.
  • All this fancy has got a bit out of hand.
Footnote 49:
  • Indeed!
  • Dennett doesn’t point this out here, but no-one would know other than the “disembodied” brain cut off from Fortinbras, who would be doubly “locked in”.
  • That is, “he” would not only lose control, but would not receive sensory input either.
Footnote 50:
  • Because, if one brain does become disconnected, then we have two consciousnesses and two people, only one of which can be Dennett.
  • So, he’s self-concerned about the one that’s him, and altruistically concerned for the one that isn’t.
Footnote 51:
  • I’d initially thought the master switch would totally isolate Yorick, but this is not so.
  • Both switches deal with output control only.
  • For Yorick there are two levels, for Hubert only one.
Footnote 52:
  • Well, “Dennett” is always Yorick, and is presently Yorick+Fortinbras.
  • Yorick knows that he is Yorick. So, Dennett knows who he is. He may get confused, but ought not to.
  • The problem is that Hubert also thinks he’s Yorick – or at least acts as though he does.
  • So, third parties have an epistemological problem when listening to Fortinbras. If they don’t know whether Yorick or Hubert is in control, they don’t know whether the mouthpiece (Fortibras) is speaking truly or falsely in claiming to be Dennett.
Footnote 53: This is a qualitative matter, and doesn’t numerically distinguish one Dennett-alike from another any more than “essential VW Golf-ness” distinguishes one from another.

Footnote 54:
  • Well, it’s really from Yorick or Hubert, but “Dennett” doesn’t know which.
  • “Dennett” – the public-facing individual – is either Yorick+Fortinbras or Hubert+Fortinbras, depending on the switch.
  • Yorick knows he’s the real Dennett, basically because he believes he is, and his belief is true, reliably caused and all that.
  • Hubert thinks (wrongly) that he’s the real Dennett, but can never tell.
  • When we had two functionally-equivalent brains, I don’t think either could tell who he was either by introspection or by looking at the switches, as the experiment is set up. Each would experience the world in the same way.
  • The only way then either would know would be if either Yorick or Hubert were destroyed. Then the other would know who he was.
  • Now, however, the controlling brain would know he was in control, so would know who he was by looking at the switches.
Footnote 55: Of course, the “eating” only maintains Fortinbras. Yorick and Hubert have their own means of maintenance – “nutrients” and electricity, respectively.

Footnote 56:
  • Is this suggestion supposed to be serious? How is the random decision to be satisfied?
  • Third parties don’t know whether Yorick or Hubert has been selected to keep Fortinbras, nor which has specified the parameters for the new body.
  • So, they wouldn’t know which to join to which.
  • So, if there was a complaint afterwards, they wouldn’t know who to believe.
  • I suppose, though, they could give the person receiving Fortinbras a code-word, and if whoever gets Fortinbras can’t remember it, assume they have been joined up wrongly and swap them over.



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Dennett's 'Where Am I?'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Lem (Stanislaw) - The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Lem's 'The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Lem (Stanislaw) - Non Serviam"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Lem's 'Non Serviam'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Smullyan (Raymond) - Is God a Taoist?"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Smullyan's 'Is God a Taoist?'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Borges (Jorge Luis) - The Circular Ruins"

Source: Borges (Jorge Luis) - Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Borges's 'The Circular Ruins'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Searle (John) - Minds, Brains, and Programs"

Source: Rosenthal - The Nature of Mind
Write-up Note1

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. I distinguish between strong and weak artificial intelligence (AI).
  2. According to strong AI, appropriately programmed computers literally have cognitive states, and therefore the problems are psychological theories.
  3. I argue that strong AI must be false, since a human agent could instantiate the program and still not have the appropriate mental states.
  4. I examine some arguments against this claim, and I explore some consequences of the fact that human and animal brains are the causal bases of existing phenomena.

BBS-Online
  • This article can be viewed as an attempt to explore the consequences of two propositions.
    1. Intentionality in human beings (and animals) is a product of causal features of the brain I assume this is an empirical fact about the actual causal relations between mental processes and brains. It says simply that certain brain processes are sufficient for intentionality.
    2. Instantiating a computer program is never by itself a sufficient condition of intentionality. The main argument of this paper is directed at establishing this claim
  • The form of the argument is to show how a human agent could instantiate the program and still not have the relevant intentionality.
  • These two propositions have the following consequences
    1. The explanation of how the brain produces intentionality cannot be that it does it by instantiating a computer program. This is a strict logical consequence of 1 and 2.
    2. Any mechanism capable of producing intentionality must have causal powers equal to those of the brain. This is meant to be a trivial consequence of 1.
    3. Any attempt literally to create intentionality artificially (strong AI) could not succeed just by designing programs but would have to duplicate the causal powers of the human brain. This follows from 2 and 4.

Another Abstract
  1. "Could a machine think?"
  2. On the argument advanced here only a machine could think, and only very special kinds of machines, namely brains and machines with internal causal powers equivalent to those of brains.
  3. And that is why strong AI has little to tell us about thinking, since it is not about machines but about programs, and no program by itself is sufficient for thinking.


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - Reflections on Searle's 'Minds, Brains, And Programs'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Smullyan (Raymond) - An Unfortunate Dualist"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Smullyan's 'An Unfortunate Dualist'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Nagel (Thomas) - What is it Like to Be a Bat?"

Source: Block, Flanagan & Guzeldere - The Nature of Consciousness


Author’s Introduction
  1. Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable. Perhaps that is why current discussions of the problem give it little attention or get it obviously wrong. The recent wave of reductionist euphoria has produced several analyses of mental phenomena and mental concepts designed to explain the possibility of some variety of materialism, psychophysical identification, or reduction.
  2. But the problems dealt with are those common to this type of reduction and other types, and what makes the mind-body problem unique, and unlike the water-H20 problem or the Turing machine-IBM machine problem or the lightning-electrical discharge problem or the gene-DNA problem or the oak tree-hydrocarbon problem, is ignored.


COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Nagel's 'What Is It Like To Be a Bat?'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Smullyan (Raymond) - An Epistemological Nightmare"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Smullyan's 'An Epistemological Nightmare'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Hofstadter (Douglas) - A Conversation with Einstein's Brain"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Dennett (Daniel) - Reflections on Hofstadter's 'A Conversation with Einstein's Brain'"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT:



"Nozick (Robert) - Fiction"

Source: Hofstadter & Dennett - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

COMMENT: See Nozick - Fiction for the full text.



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