The Problem of Consciousness

AgnosticBoy

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Philosophers and scientists throughout history have considered consciousness to be a problem for scientific inquiry for several reasons. The reason I want to focus on here are those related to ontology.

What is the nature of consciousness?

Does this nature pose a problem for science?
 
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AJ

Atheos
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Dec 3, 2020
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Sure, there are things about consciousness that have not been explained and some things have been explained. Scientists are working on explaining all of it and that will take time. How is this different than any other process of science? I noticed you had this question up for a while but you have not explained anything showing that there is a problem.

There is a good outspoken neurologist named Steven Novella. I recommend taking a look at his website. You can start with this article
What Is Consciousness? Another Reply to Kastrup | NeuroLogica Blog (theness.com)
excerpt:
This does not mean, of course, that I can explain exactly how the brain generates the subjective experience of consciousness. It is important to separate the question of how the brain causes consciousness from if the brain causes consciousness.
In other words, the "if" is not in question for scientists but rather it is the "how".
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Philosophers and scientists throughout history have considered consciousness to be a problem for scientific inquiry for several reasons. The reason I want to focus on here are those related to ontology.

What is the nature of consciousness?
Consciousness, as we know it, is private, invisible, and even insensible. Take for instance, a dream which involves mental imagery. This mental imagery is only experienced from a first-person perspective and we don't use our senses to experience it. The same goes for feelings.
Does this nature pose a problem for science?
Many scientists will tell us that everything is made of matter. If true, then given the properties of matter (having mass and occupies space as a liquid, solid, or gas), then it should be observable. Being observable to the senses would also mean that it's not private or isolated to the subject. But as it stands, consciousness is not observable and it's private (subjective). So it seems one big problem is that scientists who are working under the assumption of materialism, are trying to explain how private and insensible phenomena fits with physical and sensible phenomena. The two are obviously not the same so trying to equate the two is unreasonable. However, the two are connected and the real challenge is showing how.
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Sure, there are things about consciousness that have not been explained and some things have been explained. Scientists are working on explaining all of it and that will take time. How is this different than any other process of science? I noticed you had this question up for a while but you have not explained anything showing that there is a problem.
Sure, scientists have been very successful at explaining and inventing things, but if you go on a case-by-case basis, then it's easier to see that this success has not translated into answering the points I raised in post #1. When it comes to the study of consciousness, scientists have gone from studying it, to banning or excluding it from inquiry, and only recently took it back up again. It's nature is still just as mysterious as when Descartes first wrote about it in the 17th century. All of this is to be expected when a phenomenon, such as consciousness, is drastically different than the "physical" stuff that scientists normally deal with.

There is a good outspoken neurologist named Steven Novella. I recommend taking a look at his website. You can start with this article
What Is Consciousness? Another Reply to Kastrup | NeuroLogica Blog (theness.com)
excerpt:
"This does not mean, of course, that I can explain exactly how the brain generates the subjective experience of consciousness. It is important to separate the question of how the brain causes consciousness from if the brain causes consciousness."
In other words, the "if" is not in question for scientists but rather it is the "how".
I'm familiar with Dr. Steven Novella. He states that he can not explain consciousness, but then goes on to say that it's a product of the brain. I think it's reasonable to be more agnostic than that. I'm not disputing that there is a connection between brain and consciousness, but being connected does not mean that the two are identical, or that consciousness can't be something over and above (or an emergent property) the brain. Hek, the brain may be a medium, and I think the evidence allows for that if you consider that a lot of human functions can be carried out without consciousness. We can eat, cook, and drive all in while sleepwalking. We can even design robots to do that. All of this leads me to question if the brain even needs consciousness, and if not, what other mediums can consciousness exist with.

So it's reasonable to be more agnostic than Dr. Novella when it comes to the nature of the connection between brain and consciousness, and even on the ontology of the two.
 
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AJ

Atheos
Agnostic
Dec 3, 2020
11
2
Consciousness, as we know it, is private, invisible, and even insensible. Take for instance, a dream which involves mental imagery. This mental imagery is only experienced from a first-person perspective and we don't use our senses to experience it. The same goes for feelings.
I define consciousness as awareness to sensory stimuli. Seeing the moon is a real experience, whereas dreams are not real. The difference in ontology is therefore a matter of real and unreal. Your idea of nonphysical is no different than the unreal.
 

AJ

Atheos
Agnostic
Dec 3, 2020
11
2
When it comes to the study of consciousness... It's nature is still just as mysterious as when Descartes first wrote about it in the 17th century. All of this is to be expected when a phenomenon, such as consciousness, is drastically different than the "physical" stuff that scientists normally deal with.
This is total nonsense. There is overwhelming evidence to show that consciousness is physical. If you are hit in the head with a bottle, you lose consciousness. Scientists have shown that stimulating certain parts of the brain also effects awareness. These are some of the easiest ways to show that consciousness is physical. Consciousness could not interact with the brain if it were nonphysical.
 

AgnosticBoy

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I define consciousness as awareness to sensory stimuli. Seeing the moon is a real experience, whereas dreams are not real. The difference in ontology is therefore a matter of real and unreal. Your idea of nonphysical is no different than the unreal.
Interestingly, people tend to define consciousness in terms of their worldview rather than defining it as it is. For instance, I would expect for a materialist that believes that the entire Universe is observable and physical to define consciousness in terms of being observable and physical. Your definition fits that when you limit consciousness to being about what's observable instead of also bringing up the non-observable (not available to third-person point-of-view) aspects, as well. While neither you nor I could come up with an exhaustive definition of consciousness that we can agree on, but we can at least develop a working definition on what consciousness involves. It should be obvious that it is not limited to sensory stimuli because I can experience things without my senses, like mental imagery, dreams, feelings, etc.

In terms of your distinction between real and unreal, I'd actually be more cautious on that because even things experienced through the senses do not necessarily reflect a real picture of reality. For instance, colors do not exist beyond our senses but is only a way our brain interprets wavelengths of light and we experience it as a certain color.
 

AgnosticBoy

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This is total nonsense. There is overwhelming evidence to show that consciousness is physical. If you are hit in the head with a bottle, you lose consciousness. Scientists have shown that stimulating certain parts of the brain also effects awareness. These are some of the easiest ways to show that consciousness is physical. Consciousness could not interact with the brain if it were nonphysical.
Do you lose consciousness or do you just lose consciousness of your surroundings? I ask because of various conditions of which people experience consciousness but yet they are unresponsive (at least physically, they are). For instance, researcher Adrien Owens did a study on comatose patients who could not respond using their body. Instead, Dr. Owens was able to record distinct brain activity which he believed correlated with various mental activity (like imagining playing tennis). Some comatose patients indeed responded in that way. You can read more on that here (read from the section "Anyone for Tennis").

There's also the cases involving anesthesia awareness. Anesthesia is supposed to knock out consciousness, but there are now documented cases of people being aware while not being able to respond. Perhaps people that don't report being aware simply don't remember it or they experience nothingness (awareness devoid of content similar to meditative states).

I would ask similar questions for a brain dead person. Does a brain dead person lose consciousness or do doctors simply lose the ability to measure consciousness?
 

AgnosticBoy

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It's been a few days and I haven't heard from AJ. I won't assume that he has rejected the materialistic paradigm for consciousness in light of our conversation.
 
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