Back Cover Blurb
- Consciousness is widely viewed as the last frontier of science. Modern science may have split the atom and solved the mystery of life, but it has yet to explain the source of conscious feelings. Eminent thinkers from many areas of science are turning to this problem, and a wide range of theories are currently on offer. Yet sceptics doubt whether consciousness can be tamed by conventional scientific techniques, and others wonder whether its mysteries can be understood at all.
- Introducing Consciousness provides a comprehensive guide to the current state of consciousness studies. It starts with the "hard problem" of the philosophical relation between mind and matter, explains the historical origins of this problem, and traces scientific attempts to explain consciousness in terms of neural mechanisms, cerebral computation and quantum mechanics1. Along the way, readers will be introduced to zombies and Chinese Rooms, ghosts in machines and Schrodinger's cat. This is the perfect introduction for anybody who wants to know all about consciousness but doesn't know where to start.
Amazon Customer Review
- As a basic introduction to the philosophical study of the mind, this is by far the best book I've ever come across. If only it had been in print when I was a first-year grad student… I could have understood the material so much better!
- Papineau does an excellent job of introducing the main areas (e.g., the subjective aspect of mental states, the representational character of certain mental states, the difference between a third-person perspective and a first-person perspective2, mental causation3, and the nature of consciousness itself), the main arguments (e.g., conceivability arguments, Jackson's knowledge argument, inverted qualia thought experiments…)4 and pretty much all the main theories concerning what the mind is, and how it relates to the brain (e.g., substance dualism, functionalism, emergent supervenience5, mind-brain identity, behaviorism, etc….).
- All the technical jargon has been either omitted or is gently introduced, which will greatly increase the beginner's ability to quickly grasp the material. Moreover, each page is illustrated in one way or another, which should be a great help as well. At times the authors whose views are under consideration (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz) are caricatured in the illustrations, which makes it fun for those already familiar with the philosophers in question – a sort of inside joke, if you will.
- My only disappointment with this approach is that the illustrator didn't draw a caricature of Dave Chalmers or John Searle. This is unfortunate, as they would make great caricatures! But I digress…
- I also think that Papineau should have noted that not all substance dualists are Cartesians, and he should have briefly described one or more non-Cartesian substance dualisms, such as those found in "Lowe (E.J.) - Subjects of Experience", and William Hasker's, The Emergent Self6.
- All in all though, this work is excellent – especially given the book's price and readability. In short, anyone interested in a readable, informative introduction to the philosophical study of the mind would be a fool to pass up this book!
In-Page Footnotes ("Papineau (David) - Introducing Consciousness")
Icon Books, 2000
"Papineau (David) - Introducing Consciousness"
Source: Papineau - Introducing Consciousness
- What is Consciousness?: Examples – dental work with or without anaesthetic; eyes shut or open; sleep with or without dreams.
- The Indefinability of Consciousness:
- There seems no scientific, objective2 definition to capture the essence of consciousness.
- Definitions in terms of the psychological role conscious states play, or in terms of the physiology, seem to miss out the essential feel.
- We can imagine robots with electronic brains that satisfy a scientific definition, but have no feelings. Lights on but no-one at home.
- Similarly3 for androids4 made of defined chemical and physical stuff.
- Analogy5 with jazz “Man, if you gotta ask, you’re never gonna know”.
- What is it like to be a Bat?:
- "Nagel (Thomas) - What is it Like to Be a Bat?" raises the distinction between the subjective and the objective – which we often run together as humans, though they might come apart in intelligent robots.
- The point is that while we can imagine what it would be like for a human to act like a bat, why cannot imagine what it is like for a bat, despite knowing all there is to know about bat physiology.
- For instance – no doubt – echo-location would seem to the bat more like vision than hearing does to us, but we can’t fill in any of the details.
- Experience and Scientific Description: “… no amount of scientific description will convey a subjective grasp of conscious experience.”
- How Does Consciousness Fit In?: The central problem is to explain the “what it’s like” of phenomenal consciousness – how this fits into the objective world and in particular how it relates to the scientific goings-on in the brain. There are three options6, which will be examined in due course:-
- Dualist: conscious experience is genuinely distinct from brain activity. But, if the world contains subjective elements, how do they interact with normal space-time entities, and what principles govern their emergence?
- Materialist7: despite the appearances, there is a unity8 between the subjective and objective. The problem is to explain how the mind and brain can possibly be identical9 if they appear so different.
- Mysterian: the understanding of phenomenal consciousness is beyond human beings at present, and maybe forever.
- Hard and Easy Problems: David Chalmers distinguishes between the “hard” and “easy” problems of consciousness.
- The “easy” problems – while far from simple – are those that psychologists and physiologists know how to address using standard scientific methods without raising insurmountable philosophical obstacles.
- Easy problems deal with the objective study of the brain – the causal roles played by psychological states, and how these roles are implemented in the brains of different creatures.
- For example, pain is a state typically caused by bodily damage which typically causes a desire to avoid further damage. In humans it is implemented by A- and C-fibre transmissions. Similar analyses are available for vision, hearing, memory and so on.
- But such analyses tell us nothing about the feelings involved. Analyses involving causal roles and physical implementation apply just as much to unfeeling robots.
- The “hard” problem is to explain where these feelings come from.
- The Explanatory Gap: This is the expression used by Joseph Levine. Objective science can only take us so far – there seems to be a gap between what science tells us and what we most want to know – why does pain hurt?
- Creature Consciousness: Animals are said to be conscious if they have some conscious states.
- The Hard Problem is New: It’s only since the 20th century that the physical world view has tended to squeeze out consciousness. In earlier times it was taken for granted that there was a world of conscious minds independent of the physical world. The mental was supposed to be at least as basic, with matter a second-rate citizen.
- Rene Descartes’ Dualism: Despite his contributions to the foundations of modern physical science, Descartes never doubted that conscious minds exist at a distinct non-physical level. As a dualist, he thought that the mental and physical were two separate but interacting realms.
- Matter in Motion: Descartes’ account of the physical world was austere and differed from most accounts before and since. He though the physical world was just matter in motion, with all action by contact. Secondary qualities are not in the things themselves, but colours – say – are impressions produced by the action of material particles on our sense organs.
- Mind Separate from Matter: Outside the physical world is the metal world of unextended mental / conscious10 elements – thoughts, emotions, pleasures. The only property these elements share with matter is location in time, though the mental and physical interact – eg. sitting on a pin causes pain, and pain causes your body to jump.
- The Pineal Gland: a “whacky idea” but an honest answer – the function of the PG is still not fully understood – to a serious problem. The causal interaction of mind and matter remains the Achilles heel of contemporary dualism.
- Berkeley’s World of Ideas: sceptics argued that Descartes’s dualism left us ignorant of the world of matter. Berkeley “solved” the problem by denying that there was a world of matter for us to be ignorant of; mental experiences are all there is. “Esse est percipi”. While Idealism is an affront to common sense, Dr. Johnson’s “refutation” by kicking a stone fails: Berkeley didn’t deny the existence of sense impressions – he simply claimed that their causes were mental rather than physical.
- The Idealist Tradition: Idealism’s philosophical advantages and impregnability to disproof attracted many philosophers, including
- Idealism in Britain: Despite British philosophy being renowned for adherence to common sense, many of its leaders have been idealists:-
- John Stuart Mill: physical objects are “permanent possibilities of sensation” with no separate existence apart from our sensory awareness of them.
- Bertrand Russell: Regarded the physical world as a figment of our mental perspective, a logical construction out of the sense-data we are aware of in perception.
- A.J. Ayer: The material world has no reality apart from its reflection in the deliverances of our sense organs.
- The Scientific Reaction to Idealism:
- Idealism has no problem with consciousness, out of which it builds reality.
- But this just shifts the problem – how are material things part of reality?
- The tide moved against idealism firstly because – if mental events are private, how can third parties know anything about them – and hence – according to idealism – about reality?
- Behaviourist Psychology:
- The behaviourist response – from John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner – was to claim that a scientific psychology should be based on an experimental study of behaviour, not on individuals’ judgements of their feelings.
- They learned a lot about the training of rats and pigeons using rewards & punishments.
- The Skinner Box:
- “Operant Conditioning Apparatus”: initial random lever-press releases food, which reinforces the pressing, the frequency of which increases with Positive Reinforcement.
- An operantly conditioned rat will continue pressing the lever even when the food reward ceases.
- Both Watson and Skinner applied their views to human beings.
- Watson was an extreme environmentalist: claiming that the human mind is formed entirely by nurture – rewards and punishments – rather than by genetic nature.
- Skinner wrote Walden Two - as a “sequel” to the America idyll "Thoreau (Henry David) - Walden"; therein, Skinner proposed child-rearing should be rigorously based on a system of rewards.
- The Ghost in the Machine:
- While psychologists – “methodological behaviourists” - rejected subjective experience as bad methodology, philosophers – “logical behaviourists” – made out that subjective experience was incoherent.
- They claimed that all that was meant by “mental states” were publicly observable inclinations to behave in certain ways.
- Gilbert Ryle believed this and described the traditional view of the mind as a subjective realm controlling the body as “the ghost in the machine”.
- The Beetle in the Box:
- Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument associates him with Logical Behaviourism. Wittgenstein11’s argument12 is that public verification is required for the working of language, and that a language that can only be checked by one person makes no sense.
- Similarly13, we wouldn’t know what we were talking about if talk of mental states referred to private inner episodes.
- We might each be referring to different things if we referred to “the beetle (hidden) in our box”, or to nothing at all (if the box were empty).
- For mental talk to have objective content, we must regard the mental realm as intrinsically connected to the behaviour that makes it publicly observable.
- Psychological Functionalists:
- Both logical and methodological behaviourism are now seen as over-reactions to the subjectivist view of the mind.
- There’s craziness in supposing that mental states can never be known introspectively, only by observation.
- The “behaviourist joke14” – “you’re feeling OK, how am I?”
- Behaviourism has now been superseded by Functionalism15, which upholds behaviourism’s resistance to metal states as essentially subjective, yet allows them to be internal while not necessarily being observable in behaviour.
- The example given is someone being exhorted not to display pain-behaviour to avoid discovery.
- So, mental states are to be thought of as internal states identifiable by their typical causes and effects – pain typically arises from bodily damage and typically causes avoidance-behaviour, though actual behaviour depends on interaction with other beliefs and desires.
- Functionalists consequently think of mental states as causal intermediaries. While internal, they are not to be identified purely according to their feel. While unobservable, they are still objective parts of the causal-scientific world.
- Mental states are consequently thought of as being real – analogous to scientific unobservables such as atoms, genes or quarks16.
- Structure versus Physiology:
- Functionalism has no commitment to what mental states are made of.
- While functionalists turned inwards from behaviour to the brain, they didn’t involve themselves with neurons and functional areas of the brain, but instead drew flowcharts.
- So, they hypothesised mental structure – in terms of functional roles – in abstraction from physical structure.
- The Mind as the Brain’s Software:
- The analogy is with digital computers – with the brain as the hardware and the mind as the software.
- The analogy is stretched to allow that the mind might run on different hardware platforms, just as computer programs can run on different models of computer.
- What matters with software is its causal structure. On any particular hardware, running the software causes some17 internal states – it doesn’t matter quite what these are as long as they satisfy the structural requirement.
- Variable Realisation:
- According to functionalists, mental states are software rather than hardware / “wetware”.
- Example: Human and Octopus Pain
- Humans and Octopuses both show pain-behaviour – which typically arises from bodily damage and typically causes avoidance behaviour18.
- This is in spite of the fact that their “circuitry” differs.
- So – the functionalist claims – because the function of pain is the same in both cases, they have the same software but different wetware.
- A Physical Basis for Mind:
- Because functionalism deals only with structure rather than what mental states are made of, it is consistent with dualism or even idealism.
- Maybe some special “mind-stuff” arises in the brains of conscious creatures to provide the infrastructure needed to fulfil the functional roles.
- But most functionalists are materialists19, arguing that the analogous computers are entirely made of matter.
- A Modern Dualist Revival:
- Functionalism linked to materialism20 leads to the Hard Problem of consciousness – the mental “feels” that make life worth living.
- one response to this problem is to insist that the mind must occupy a separate non-physical realm after all. If modern orthodoxy implies that human beings are unfeeling automata, so much the worse for orthodoxy.
- David Chalmers is cited as a modern-day dualist, though one less extreme than Descartes. Descartes thought of mind and matter as separate substances. However, …
- A Dualism of Properties:
- Chalmers and the like think of human beings as a single substance with two kinds of property – they are property dualists.
- They consider both behaviourism and functionalism as over-reactions to subjectivist idealism.
- Rather than being just an intuition, modern dualist have two arguments:-
- The Argument from Possibility: derives from Rene Descartes.
- The Argument from Knowledge: derives from Gottfried Leibniz.
- Descartes’ Argument from Possibility21:
- Descartes argued that it is “perfectly possible” for mind and body to exist separately.
- For, there’s no apparent contradiction in the ideas of ghosts or immortal souls.
- While – in point of fact – there might not be any ghosts, it still makes sense to think we might continue to exist as conscious beings without a body, as millions have comfortably hoped.
- Even if in reality mind and body are always found together, the possibility of posthumous survival implies their real distinction.
- If they were really the same thing, what sense could be made of their coming apart?
- A modern variant of this argument – attributed to Saul Kripke – is the Zombie argument.
- A Zombie Duplicate22:
- Kripke imagines a molecule-by-molecule duplicate23 of himself – such as might be produced by a Star Trek holocopier24, but which has no conscious experience.
- The philosophical term for such individuals is “zombie25”, not to be confused with the living dead of B-movies.
- Kripke’s zombies don’t bang into the furniture but act just like normal human beings. They have the same brain structure, but just lack the inner feelings.
- Even if – as seems likely – there are no such zombies in the physical universe (as with Descartes’ argument) it is the mere possibility that is important. There doesn’t seem to be anything logically contradictory26 about the notion of a zombie.
- If we admit that zombies are possible, then conscious properties must differ from physical or structural properties.
- Papineau has an interesting diagram of two doppelgangers screwing together a couple of androids27. One asks the other “By the way, which one of us is the zombie?”. The answer is “How should I know. You’re the one with the feelings.” This is presumably ironic, but raises interesting questions28.
- Leibniz’s Argument from Knowledge:
- This argument is attributed to a passage in Gottfried Leibniz’s Monadology29.
- The argument is that if we walked about in a (super-sized) machine that “produces thinking, feeling and perceiving” we would see nothing but moving parts – and “never anything that could explain perception”.
- While the text goes on to investigate the “Red Mary” thought-experiment30 that Papineau considers to be the modern variant of Leibniz’s idea, it strikes me that this argument is similar to John Searle’s “Chinese Room31” argument.
- Leibniz’s point – says Papineau – is that even if we knew all there was to know about the workings of the brain, we still wouldn’t know about consciousness32.
- The Modern Argument from Knowledge:
- This is a TE proposed by Frank Jackson33.
- Mary’s a research psychologist – supposed to have grown up in a black-and-white environment – who knows all there is to know about colour – the properties of light and of eyes and the visual centres in the brain – but has ever seen red. Then one day she sees a red rose and so - it is said – comes to learn something new, namely, what it is like to see red.
- If this is right, not all mental properties are physical or structural properties – because (ex hypothesi) Mary knew all these before she experienced the colour red.
- Hence, this further property must be distinct from the physical and structural properties she already knew about, since she learned something new – the phenomenally conscious “what it is like”.
- A Dualist Science of Consciousness:
- We’re referred to David Chalmers who – Papineau claims – while not anti-science is persuaded by these dualist arguments that the scope of science should be expanded to include consciousness, just as physics was expanded to include electromagnetism rather than hope to reduce it to mechanics. Chalmers thinks that “there is a separate phenomenal realm where conscious awareness can be found”.
- We need a theory that accounts for the emergence of conscious states in the same way34 that Maxwell’s laws govern electromagnetic fields.
- Arguments against Dualism:
- Attempts to revive dualism have to face the old problems of mind-body interaction originating with Descartes and his pineal gland.
- However, the modern dualism is a theory of properties rather than substance, so doesn’t have to explain how two difference substances communicate causally.
- But we’re still left with the most difficult question – how can mind influence matter without violating the laws of physics?
- Causal Completeness:
- The physical world appears to be causally complete.
- An example35 is given of a goalie’s save: retinal registration of ball’s motion → neuronal activity in sensory cortex → physical activity in motor cortex → electrical messages travel through nerves → physical contraction of muscles.
- The Demise of Mental Forces:
- Hence, we never seem to leave the realm of the physical, and there’s no room for non-physical properties like conscious experience to make a difference to behaviour.
- Conscious experiences seem to be causal danglers, with as little impact on events as a child’s toy steering wheel has on the direction of her mother’s car.
- Squaring dualism with the causal completeness of physics was recognised as a problem in the 17th century. While Descartes wasn’t concerned, his successors pointed out that deterministic physics ruled out mind36 influencing matter.
- Newtonian Physics:
- This problem receded a bit in the 18th and 19th centuries as Newtonian physics allowed action at a distance, rather than insisting that change in motion requires contact between bodies.
- Not just gravity, but chemical forces and “forces of adhesion”.
- Also, vital and mental forces that allow living creatures to direct their bodies.
- It is only recently that such forces have begun to seem cranky. Newtonians thought of them as no more mysterious than gravity or magnetism. According to Papineau, C.D. Broad in his 1923 book Mind and its Place in Nature defended an “emergentist37” philosophy whereby special “configurational” forces arise in matter of sufficient organisational complexity, like living bodies and intelligent brains.
- Back to Descartes38:
- The current consensus:-
- Still have action at a distance rather than cause requiring contact.
- Quantum mechanics39 means we no longer have physical determinism.
- Material effects always have material causes.
- There are three fundamental forces
→ Strong nuclear
- All non-random influence on the motion of material bodies results from these forces.
- So, there’s no room for an independent mind to make a material difference. The mind cannot move the body.
- Materialist40 Physiology:
- The major reason special mental forces have been discredited is advances in neuroscience.
- While it seems contrary to common sense that a physical system can display human behaviour, brain research suggests the opposite.
- Particularly, this is demonstrated by advances in understanding the body’s neuronal network, and the chemistry of the neurotransmitters that enable inter-cellular communication.
- No Separate Mental Causes:
- While the picture is far from complete, we’ve learnt enough in the last 100 years to be sure there are no “special mental forces” lurking in intelligent brains.
- Two of the last to hold out against the causal completeness of physics were John Eccles and Roger W. Sperry, both Nobel prize-winners. But the consensus is against them, even though theories of physics as we know it may not be correct or complete.
- Modern physical science would be very surprised indeed were matter to move other than from physical causes, though this idea is not incoherent.
- What about Quantum Indeterminism?:
- Does quantum indeterminism create the loophole to allow mind to make a difference?
- No, because QM fixes the probabilities of the outcomes of events. If the mind – by way of independent conscious decisions – could affect the probabilities of neurotransmitter movements, then their prior probabilities wouldn’t be fixed by QM after all.
- Again, loading of the quantum dice isn’t incoherent, but it would greatly surprise modern science to find it to be true.
- Causal Impotence:
- According to Papineau, most41 contemporary dualists – who accept the completeness of physics – consider it to be an illusion42 that the mental has any effect on the material world. We appear to be in control, but we are not – no more than a child with a toy steering wheel.
- Consequently, the conscious mind is “causally impotent”.
- Pre-established Harmony:
- This is the (crazy43) idea of Leibniz44 – who was a dualist who accepted the causal completeness of physics – and therefore that mind cannot really influence matter. God has set up the initial conditions45 so that mind and matter keep in step, and so that pains follow bodily insult and action follows the willing thereof.
- Modern Epiphenomenalism:
- Epiphenominalism doesn’t require divine action or advance planning, but simply allows influence from brain to mind, while denying influence in the other direction.
- This makes the conscious mind an epiphenomenon of the brain – a “dangler” with no causal powers of its own.
- While it so happens that the brain gives rise to conscious experience, it might have been otherwise, and everything would work the same.
- Using the analogy of a train – it all works fine at the physical level. The mental experience is just like the smoke – a by-product that makes no difference to the motion.
- The Oddity of Epiphenomenalism:
- This is rather counter-intuitive, implying (at least) two things:-
- Firstly – say – the sensation of thirst doesn’t cause us to go and get a drink.
- Secondly, it also implies that phenomenological Zombies46 would act the same as us.
- Papineau gives a longish quotation from "Chalmers (David) - The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory", where Chalmers says that his Zombie-simulacrum would carry on writing volumes about consciousness – including about his experiences – just like he does, without experiencing a thing.
- I think these are two completely different situations, and are not equally plausible47, and aren’t equally necessary as consequences of epiphenominalism.
- The Materialist48 Alternative:
- Papineau agrees with the absurdity of the zombie implication, especially of our verbal accounts of our sensations. While it looks as though physicalism49 forces epiphenomenalism upon us, there are alternatives.
- The materialist50 option is to question whether conscious states really are different from physical states. If they are not, then they can cause physical events, and we can ignore zombies, because if mental states are necessarily brain states, then zombies can’t exist51.
- On the materialist52 view, physical duplicates are necessarily conscious duplicates.
- So, materialism53 avoids the drawbacks of epiphenomenalism. But, is it an options – What about the objections of Saul Kripke (Zombies, Section 26) and Frank Jackson (Section 28) who purported to prove that conscious states must differ from brain states?
- Materialism54 is not Elimination:
- We must note that materialism55 agrees that conscious experiences are real. If you’re in a particular brain state, that’s just “what it’s like” for you.
- In contrast with David Chalmers’s analogy with electricity (see Section 2956), here we have an analogy with temperature.
- The Example from Temperature:
- Rather than adding temperature to the ontology of physics, it has been reduced to mean kinetic energy.
- Temperature57 hasn’t been eliminated – unlike “animal spirits”. Similarly, Consciousness really exists – it just isn’t anything over and above brain activity.
- Functionalist Materialism58:
- Philosophers like Jerry Fodor – a Functional59 Materialist60 – want to associate conscious experience with structures rather than with physiology.
- Just like different hardware can run the same software, so – it is claimed – different physiologies can have the same kind of conscious experience.
- So, humans and octopuses both feel pain, despite their different physiologies, because they share a structural property of being in some physical state arising from bodily damage that causes a desire not to incur further damage.
- Similarly – it is claimed – with silicon-based aliens, provided they had the same structural property.
- However, many theorists – including myself61 – find this implausible as “it seems odd that your material construction should be irrelevant to how you feel” and it makes computer consciousness too easy to attain.
- Making a Computer Conscious?:
- We can program a computer to realise any causal structure whatever, and to role-play actions associated with pain or the emotions based on its internal states.
- But it’s hard to believe62 that such a computer would share our rich mental life – and our fear of death – even if structured in the right way.
- But functionalism also applies to – correctly configured – heaps of junk, not just to slick 2001-HAL-style computers. Would a scrap-metal machine really “feel anything”?
- The Turing Test:
- Standard description of the Turing Test63
- Standard objection: how can a computer feel anything? One that passes the Turing Test is only simulating a conscious mind, and is no more conscious than a weather program is wet.
- Papineau thinks this naturally leads on to John Searle’s Chinese Room argument.
- The Chinese Room:
- The usual exposition of the argument is given, where it’s clear that the Homunculus in the Room, carefully following the manual, doesn’t understand Chinese. So, the appearance of understanding doesn’t guarantee the real thing – and no more does the appearance of consciousness. Therefore, the Turing test doesn’t guarantee consciousness.
- This is much disputed64, of course.
- Language and Consciousness:
- The Chinese Room argument is – strictly speaking – only an argument against the functionalist65 account of linguistic understanding, rather than against the functionalist account of consciousness.
- But, claims Papineau:-
- Language is an intentional66 notion, and
- Intentionality and consciousness are closely related, a claim to be followed up later.
- Searle believes that linguistic understanding67 requires conscious experience, so his argument also applies68 to conscious experience.
- But functionalists can counter that it’s the whole Room that understands Chinese – not a part of it (the homunculus). Similarly, it’s the whole computer that might be conscious, not a part of it.
- Also, isn’t the CR TE somewhat under-specified? If the room really could answer questions addressed to it, it would need to be sensorially attached to its environment to update its understanding thereof. Given this, it would no longer be so obvious that it doesn’t know – say –what the Chinese symbol for “rain” is or – in general – what it’s talking about.
- Functionalist Epiphobia:
- There’s a more basic reason than the CR TE for not wanting to follow functionalism in assigning conscious states to functional ones.
- The attraction of materialism was its promise to restore causal power to conscious states – in contrast to epiphenomenalism – in particular by equating conscious properties with brain properties.
- It’s presumably the passage of specifically human neurotransmitters across my synapses that causes my muscles to contract, rather than some abstract structural property shared with octopuses.
- Given that it’s the physiological properties – that differ between human and octopuses – rather than their functional properties that cause muscles to contract, this leaves the functional properties as epiphenomena: they cause nothing.
- If pain is a purely functional property, it would – on this account – be inefficacious in itself, though emitted by a train of real causation.
- Mental States are “Wetware”:
- Functionalism implies a software-approach to mental states, but the above epiphobia inclines us towards a hardware approach (or “wetware”), whereby pains – for instance – are identified69 with physiological states.
- Papineau says this “blocks” Chinese-room-type anti-software arguments, but I’d have thought it just makes them irrelevant. If feelings depend on wetware, then we already know they are no longer reducible to software without the need for any clever TEs.
- Human Chauvinism:
- Papineau suggests that abandoning functionalism means that we can no longer be confident that70 beings with physiologies different to ours share our feelings.
- The text “rules out” octopuses having the same pains as us. But it goes on to admit that materialism doesn’t deny that octopuses have pains of some sort, just that they’re not (necessarily) the same as ours. Seems reasonable: why would anyone think71 they would be the same?
- Facing up to the Dualist Arguments:
- So, what about the dualist arguments of Saul Kripke and Frank Jackson, which seem effective whether we equate mental properties with structural or physiological ones?
- Kripke’s zombies share structural and physiological properties with us – yet (allegedly) lack consciousness.
- Jackson’s Mary knew everything about colour vision, yet lacked the conscious experience of it.
- The materialist answer is that these are objections to concepts72, not to properties73. There’s one property thought of in two ways – mental properties can be thought of as conscious or material, just as a person can have two names – eg. Judy Garland / Frances Gumm. Similarly, heat and mean kinetic energy.
- So, Mary acquires a new concept of “seeing red”, a new way of thinking about the experience: now she’s seen red, she can imagine it; before, she couldn’t. But, she could still think about the experience before she had it, and her imaginative thoughts refer to the same experience she previously thought of only scientifically.
- Similarly, the existence of two types of concepts for thinking about experience deceives us into thinking zombies are possible when they aren’t. Since conscious properties just are material properties, our imaginative concept of a zombie is self-contradictory.
- Zombies are Impossible:
- So – according to the materialist – the believer in zombies is like a person who believes that a person with two names74 can be in two places at once, or that a gas can have two different temperatures yet the same mean kinetic energy. All these things – zombies included – might seem possible, but are not.
- According to dualists, when God had made our physical bodies, he still had more work to do – namely putting the feelings in. He could have left us a zombies75. But according to materialists, God had no more work to do, and zombies are beyond even an omnipotent God.
- Mysteries of Consciousness:
- Not everyone is convinced by the examples of names and temperature: these seem certain, but the identity of consciousness with brain processes less so. Maybe the once accompanies the other without being identical to it.
- Colin McGinn thinks it beggars belief that phenomenal experience can be the same thing as neurons firing.
- Similarly, Thomas Nagel - while appreciating the reasons for equating mind and brain – argues that we lack and conception of how they could be identical.
- However, such philosophers don’t was to return to dualism, and agree that epiphenomenalism is absurd.
- The Mysterian Position:
- The Mysterian position is that consciousness is beyond human comprehension.
- But while we can’t live with the identity of consciousness and the physical, we can’t live without it either – on pain of ‘mental impotence’ (epiphenomenalism).
- Mysterian philosophers claim we lack the concepts to understand the issue.
- While science may some day resolve the issue, it may be that the structure of our minds means we can never comprehend the truth.
- These concepts may be as far beyond us as calculus is beyond monkeys.
- A Mysterian Speculation:
- Colin McGinn is not beyond some – to me wild – speculation, suggesting that consciousness is the resurrection of the non-spatial reality that existed before the big bang, when spacetime came into being, detected once complex-enough brains arose in their turn.
- Special Concepts of Consciousness:
- Papineau asks whether such flights of fancy76 are necessary.
- Materialist claim that the Mysterians have given up too quickly and that their objections to mind-brain identity rest on nothing other than blank incredulity that “soggy grey matter might constitute technicolour phenomenology”.
- Materialists agree that this identity is more difficult to believe than others, but maybe they can offer an account of just why it is so difficult to accept, even if true, by appealing to the special kinds of imaginative concepts we use when referring to mental items as conscious.
- To be continued …
- Everybody Wants a Theory:
- Neural Oscillations:
- Neural Darwinism:
- Re-entrant Loops:
- Evolution77 and Consciousness:
- The Purpose of Consciousness:
- Quantum Collapses:
- How Quantum Physics Differs:
- Schrodinger’s Cat:
- Quantum Consciousness:
- Another Link to Quantum Physics:
- Quantum Collapses and Godel’s Theorem:
- The Global Workspace Theory:
- CAS Information Processing (CAS = Conscious Awareness System):
- Equal Rights for Extra-Terrestrials:
- Intentionality and Consciousness:
- Consciousness and Representation:
- Explaining Intentionality:
- Can We Crack Intentionality?:
- Non-representational Consciousness:
- In Defence of Representation:
- Non-conscious Representation:
- Panpsychist Representation:
- Behaviour without Consciousness:
- What versus Where:
- The Problem of Blindsight:
- HOT Theories (HOT = Higher-order Thought):
- Criticism of HOT Theories:
- Self-consciousness and Theory of Mind:
- The False-belief Test:
- Conscious or Not?:
- Cultural Training:
- Sentience and Self-consciousness:
- Future Scientific Prospects:
- PET and MRI:
- A Signature of Consciousness:
- The Fly and the Fly-bottle:
- The Dualist Option:
- The Materialist78 Option:
- A Question of Moral Concern:
- Is There a Final Answer?:
- Papineau’s Reading list consists of the following, all of which I now possess:-
- "Baars (Bernard) - In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind",
- "Block (Ned), Flanagan (Owen) & Guzeldere (Guven) - The Nature of Consciousness",
- "Chalmers (David) - The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory",
- "Crick (Francis) - The Astonishing Hypothesis - The Scientific Search for the Soul",
- "Dennett (Daniel) - Consciousness Explained",
- "Edelman (Gerald M.) - Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind",
- "Hofstadter (Douglas) & Dennett (Daniel), Eds. - The Mind's I - Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul",
- "McGinn (Colin) - The Problem of Consciousness: Essays Towards a Resolution",
- "Metzinger (Thomas), Ed. - Conscious Experience",
- "Nagel (Thomas) - The View from Nowhere",
- "Penrose (Roger) - Shadows of the Mind",
- "Shear (Jonathan), Ed. - Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem",
- "Tye (Michael) - Ten Problems of Consciousness".
- Web Refs: Papineau gives two:-
- This was an open-access journal with discussion lists, published by the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, and which was hosted by Monash University, Australia, but it seems to have moved on as the URL no longer works.
- The old site is now at Psyche, and was active from 1994 – 2010. It looks worth investigating as there are a lot of articles by well-known authors therein.
- For the ASSC, see ASSC: Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.
- The journal of the ASSC is Neuroscience of Consciousness, published from 2015 onwards. It is neither a straight replacement for Psyche replacement, nor is it open access (or even on JSTOR).
- David Chalmers
- Papineau gives a defunct reference at the University of Arizona, saying that – as well as Chalmers’ own works – it contains
→ a substantial bibliography of works on consciousness,
→ excellent links to other sites and
→ a section devoted entirely to zombies.
- Chalmers’ current site is: David Chalmers: Home Page.
- This site has links to earlier versions of his site at David Chalmers: Website History.
- Chalmers notes that much of the values of the old sites – which are no longer updated – has been taken over by PhilPapers.
- However, the above links are most likely: -
→ Bibliographies: David Chalmers: Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: An Annotated Bibliography.
→ Links: David Chalmers: People with online papers in philosophy.
→ Zombies: David Chalmers: Zombies on the Web.
In-Page Footnotes ("Papineau (David) - Introducing Consciousness")
Footnote 2: Footnote 3:
- The book’s discussion is a bit like a stream of consciousness; my intention is to reproduce the main points and add comments.
- Where I’ve not yet analysed the text, I’ve just extracted the headings.
- The book is (very heavily) illustrated – later editions are explicitly called “Graphic Guides”. My notes remove that part of the appeal of the book. In general, however, the illustrations are motivational rather than essential to the exposition.
- I don’t think the two cases are similar.
- The consciousness of digital computers depends on functionalism, but – as we’ll see – there might be QM-style physical constrains on what can be conscious.
- Also, I didn’t think Papineau had the right understanding of Androids.
- Finally, conceivability is no guide to possibility, as we’ll find when we discuss zombies.
- Rather a poor one. Jazz can doubtless be defined, as in the dictionary, though I’m not going to try.
- Are these the only three possibilities?
- This seems a rather early commitment to the identity theory.
- Is this Papineau’s view, or are there other materialist options?
Footnote 12: Footnote 13:
- I don’t think Descartes distinguished consciousness from the mind generally, assuming all thought to be conscious.
- I’ve added this comparator – the (highly compressed) “arguments” – really just claims – are run together in Papineau’s text.
Footnotes 15, 59, 65: Footnote 16:
- This is a sanitised version of the usual one – “it was great for you, how was it for me?”
- These are rather a mixed bunch.
- Quarks are theoretically as well as practically unobservable.
- Some atoms can now be observed (I think, in lattices) via electron microscopes.
- Genes may not be observable as they are rather obscure theoretical entities – unless equated with specific strings of DNA.
- Also, it is possible to hold an anti-realist, or instrumentalist view of all these items – treating them as convenient fictions.
- I’ll note a couple of slight misgivings about all this.
- Firstly, software is a universal rather a particular – an instantiation is the particular. Compare “Little Dorritt” with a copy of the book. I am hardware, not software; though – like a computer – pretty useless without an operating system and some programs to run.
- Secondly – while the physical structure of computer memory is changed as a program runs, the CPU is not and nor are the various interconnections. However, in the brain, while new neurons – as far as I know – are not created as the result of mental activity, the connections between them are. The physical structure of the brain is changed as the result of learning and experiencing. And much else besides.
- Functionalism is not much of an improvement on behaviourism in this regard.
- The most important thing about pain to those suffering from it is it’s “feel”, and this is left out of the picture completely.
- Worms and people may display analogous pain-functionality, but people certainly feel something, though we doubt that worms do, or at least not to an analogous degree.
Footnote 24: Footnote 26:
- This is the “Real Distinction” argument, which relies on the doubtful premise that “conceivability implies possibility”: what I clearly and distinctly conceive must be possible.
- There are two objections to this:-
- Descartes relies on the goodness of God in not allowing me to be deceived over those things (I think) I most clearly and distinctly perceive.
- It’s not always clear that I can in fact clearly and distinctly conceive of what I think I can. I may be muddled, or ill-informed.
- I wrote a finals pre-submission essay on this. See “What is Descartes’s argument for the ‘real distinction’ between mind and body? Is it a good one?”.
Footnote 28: Footnote 29: Footnote 31: Footnote 32:
- There’s a lot that could be said about this, but …
- This seems to beg the question against materialism. If feelings “just do” arise from matter appropriately organised, then zombies are impossible. We can’t imagine what we think we can.
Footnote 33: Footnote 34:
- But it looks to me that Leibniz’s argument applies to all mentation, even unconscious thought or perception.
- He treats the brain as a machine and asks “where’s the thought?” – just as Searle asks – of a digital computer – where’s the language faculty?
- Does he really?
- How would this theory be quantified, or is this a very loose analogy?
- “→” = “causes”
- Papineau’s actual example is in reverse, with “caused by”.
- If mind is a separate substance.
- Leibniz held that if all changes in motion are caused by collisions between material particles, there’s no room for mind (“immaterial souls”) to influence matter via the pineal gland.
- I’d thought such emergentism was still a popular idea.
- Papineau implies that it ought to have gone out with the ark, and it’s surprising that Broad was still a professor of philosophy at Cambridge in 1953.
- My reading, of course.
- I didn’t understand this reference.
- Apparently, we’ve left “Newtonian liberality” behind and reverted to “Cartesian austerity”.
Footnote 42: Footnote 43:
- I presume this doesn’t include Richard Swinburne, who’s a more robust dualist.
- Papineau doesn’t seem to mention Swinburne anywhere.
Footnote 45: Footnote 47:
- To me – at any rate – this idea is a non-starter, but no philosophical idea is so silly as to not offer some insights, I dare say.
Footnote 51: Footnote 56:
- The epiphenomenalist claim about thirst is that the same brain events that cause me (unconsciously) to get a drink also cause me to feel thirsty. This claim doesn’t deny that I feel thirsty, only that it’s not this feeling that causes my behaviour. This is implausible, but not absurd.
- The “zombie” claim is – to me – much less plausible. It claims firstly that I would still get a drink even if I didn’t have a sensation of thirst, which is fine as far as it goes, but it also claims that I would complain that I was thirsty even if I had no sensations at all. I find this much less plausible. I can see how a race of zombies would have arisen within a race of sentient beings – because displaying sensations is adaptive for social beings – but it wouldn’t be so if everyone had no sensations? You – the zombie – wouldn’t then be able to free-ride on others’ feelings of empathy, as they wouldn’t have any feelings either.
- The argument was that just as physics was expanded to include electromagnetism, so it should be further expanded to include consciousness.
- Temperature is Papineau’s favourite example – I can’t remember another.
- Note that we’re here talking about thermodynamic temperature, not the “sensation of heat”.
- I agree that it’s right to say that the octopus is engaging in “pain behaviour”, but we can only know that it feels like it does for us in accord with the similarity of the physiology.
- But we should assume it’s unpleasant, and the degree of unpleasantness will depend on the complexity of its nervous system.
- We ought also to consider what use the sensation of pain would be to the organism or entity in question, given that natural selection has selected for it.
Footnote 63: Footnote 64: Footnote 66: Footnote 67:
- Unfortunately, this intuition is hard to justify. It’s similar to the one that denies that “mere matter” could be conscious.
- Also, it doesn’t really imagine the immensely complex software that would be needed to mirror our “rich mental life”.
- Well – trivially – consciousness of linguistic understanding requires consciousness, but linguistic performance doesn’t.
- Most people have only tacit knowledge of grammar.
- Google Translate now works pretty well and has consciousness of nothing.
- I suspect the success of associative learning will up-end all theories of linguistic knowledge.
- Quite how does the argument carry over?
- Does this mean we’re back with the mind-brain identity theory, pains being identical with C-fibre firings, and all that. Presumably we need some middle way?
- But at least identity theories get us away from any conceivable uploading.
- He actually overstates the case, saying “they cannot share our feelings”.
- That said, no-one really thinks that non-human animals’ feelings are the same as ours, just analogous in some way. The important claim is that they have them at all; we can never really know what it is like to be them, but we can be confident – for the higher animals at least – that there is something it is like to be them.
- The epistemological difficulties arise for those with very different physiologies.
- it seems to me that philosophers care more about retaining the purity of our concepts than about the well-being of other animals.
Footnote 75: Two points here:-
- Given Kripke’s theory of rigid designation – Hesperus and Phosphorus are both Venus – I’m suspicious of just what he means – or Papineau thinks he means – by allowing for Zombies. I need to look into this again.
- This is just what Descartes thought God had done with the (non-human) animals – they are zombies, feeling nothing, though acting for all the world as though they do. A damnable doctrine!
- Genesis seems to suppose that what extra had to be added was “the breath of life” rather than “consciousness”.
- While I agree with this evaluation, it’d only be fair to have the motivation behind McGinn’s idea revealed, and how it would explain anything even if correct.
- There is also the question how we might ever know whether there was an “reality” before the big bang, and of what sort it was if so.
- Presumably we should read "McGinn (Colin) - The Problem of Consciousness: Essays Towards a Resolution", which is in Papineau’s rather brief reading-list.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)