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    1. #26
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      Hey nice topic here. The problem of philosophical zombies is a pretty strange one, and quite relevant as I'm currently writing an essay on mental causation.

      Basically, I think the main proponent of the philosophical zombie is David Chalmers... although it has a lot to do with other phenomenalists such as Nagel etc.

      The phenomenalist position is basically a nonreductive physicalist position. They hold that mental states are not fully reducible to physical states. In the area of consciousness, they hold that consciousness is not equal to the physical neural states that realise consciousness. In other words, phenomenalists hold that, in addition to our brains and all the events of synapses firing, there is some other thing going on when we are consciousness. This other thing is not physical, and is called by many different names: 'epiphenomena,' 'qualia' or 'what it is like.'

      This new phenomenalist position centres around Thomas Nagel's influential paper What it is Like to Be a Bat. He argues that we could investigate everything about a bat's brain, and how it uses sonar to navigate, but we would never be able to experience what it is like to be a bat, and that this aspect will continually elude our scientific endeavours. A similar argument is made for things such as seeing red: we can investigate pigments, light and the eye, but we will never be able to explain the 'qualia' of the conscious feeling of seeing red.

      Epiphenomenalism is a type of phenomenalism. Epiphenomena are produced by the physical world, somehow supervene on it, but do not have any causal powers of their own. Think of your shadow - it is produced by you, it mimics your physical actions, it follows you around, but it cannot reach and grab objects. The problem with epiphenomenalism is that it is unneccessary - if the phenomena has no causal power, and the world can get on by fine without it, why posit it?

      The philosophical zombie is basically a thought experiment that seeks to drive the intuition that it is possible to have a physical replica of a human being, but that replica has no conscious experience, and so therefore conscious states are not equal to their physical states.

      Problems: there are many problems with phenomenalism. The main problem comes from its antireductive nature, and the fact that it is basically a form of dualism, which goes against the current recieved view of physicalism. Another problem with the zombie thought experiment is that it doesn't really seem to be that intuitively plausible. At least, not to me anyway. Also, it voilates a thesis held by many philosophers, even those who in part agree with phenomenalism's nonreductivism: the thesis of supervenience. This thesis holds that if one were to build an atom-by-atom replica of a person, once the physical building process is complete, there is no more work to be done in order to duplicate the mental states or the consciousness.

      I'm not sure whether the philosophical zombie is meant to be an atom by atom replica of a human, or simply a sort of composite 'artificial' person, like a robot or something. If it is the former case, it would violate supervenience, and if it is the latter I don't see how any meaningful intuition could be drawn from it.

      So, my answer to how to tell if it were a zombie would be this: it is not possible for such a zombie to exist in the first place. If a zombie is complex enough to be able to properly respond to conversation with me, then it has consciousness and is not a 'zombie.' For it to have no real 'consciousness' it would have to be as dumb as, say, a rock: you increase the intelligence of an organism and you increase the complexity of its consciousness, which is why chimps appear so fascinating.

      Basically this is a version of the Turing test for artificial intelligence, whereby if a computer is able to trick a human into thinking it is talking with another human, then it is genuinely intelligent.

    2. #27
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      Quote Originally Posted by Belisarius View Post
      The only question is: If our thoughts and experiences are generated by the material world, and we can think about our consciousness, doesn't that consciousness have to be connected causally with the material world? If our consciousness causes us to think about consciousness it must be part of the material world of cause and effect that creates thoughts. The only other possible explanation is that our ideas of consciousness aren't related to our consciousness itself and instead are just a weird byproduct of our evoulution.
      Well therein lies an area of my beliefs that unfortunately renders me unable to discuss this issue in the same philosophical paradigm. That belief is that it is incorrect to assume consciousness is reserved for living objects. I don't think such a thing as a living object exists in contrast to a dead object. We exist in a living universe. I frankly don't buy the so called "qualities of life" held as standard by the scientific community.

      However there is still a kind of line drawn between being conscious and being self-sconscious, as in aware that you have awareness. But is there really a point where something becomes conscious of its own consciousness? We're able to talk about consciousness because we know that there is some part of of us that simply experiences the world without judgment or intention, however, is that any better than the way a rock is conscious of itself? Sure a rock lacks brain functions, so it can't turn its self consciousness into an idea, but how can we prove that the rock does not experience?

      Going even further, could computers be aware? That concept is interesting because computers will eventually use probability and other criteria to make decisions for self-resolution. If consciousness exists in everything inherently, then there isn't really a big deal. What is the difference our perspective taes on about something once it gets the ability to choose for itself? Sure, now it's an individual, but is it more conscious?

      What are we, for that matter, but just a collection of material that has chosen to work cohesively together under one ego?

      Anyway, even if there is a term to describe the idea, there isn't really a qualifying factor to consciousness. It has no traits or characteristics, it doesn't truly exist at all, it simply record that which does exist. Though many objects lack intention and judgment, does that mean their experiences are going unrecorded? Just because they don't judge the world they exist in nore have any personal goals, nor brain functions, does that mean they lack awareness?

      And so on the flip side, yes I do suppose that it could work oppositely, we could live in a completely dead universe where everyone still has their brain and they can think and communicate, compare ideas, choose to pursue certain goals, etc... but absolutely none of it is truly being experienced and therefore none of it actually exists at all.

      EDIT: Enlightenment can be described as one's choice to drop awareness of their own awareness, and simply become the experience itself.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 06-24-2008 at 06:06 PM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


    3. #28
      Xei
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      So, my answer to how to tell if it were a zombie would be this: it is not possible for such a zombie to exist in the first place. If a zombie is complex enough to be able to properly respond to conversation with me, then it has consciousness and is not a 'zombie.' For it to have no real 'consciousness' it would have to be as dumb as, say, a rock: you increase the intelligence of an organism and you increase the complexity of its consciousness, which is why chimps appear so fascinating.
      This is pretty much identical to what I tend to think, actually. Indeed I've never met anybody with such similar thought patterns.

      Consciousness is the result of the causal relationships between waves of action potential in the brain along axons (etcetera); to ask questions about a being with the same activity but without consciousness is basically a nonsense point. And I think my original argument provides from evidence for this way of thinking...

      A few little points to raise: I for one am not so sure about the Turing Test working as you describe it. I reckon that there probably needs to be some kind of overlying intelligence to the responding logic system.

      Say there was a hypothetical machine which had a set of convincing responses for every possible conversation ever. Would it be conscious? It would definitely pass the Turing Test, but I think this would be a faulty result.

      Another little thought I've had in the past; do you think there needs to be a causal factor inherent in the brain's activity? To illustrate; if the neurons in a brain were actually firing randomly, but happened to emulate the exact activity required for a thought, or set of thoughts, would that brain be conscious?

      I have a very strong feeling that it would not, although I don't currently have any justification. Just a gut feeling.

      What is remarkable if this is true though is how consciousness makes causality a tangible thing, refuting what I think is the normal view that it is just a concept which nicely fits observation with no 'physical' essence.

      A couple of quick questions for you, by the way; firstly, I suppose you agree that the China brain would be conscious? And secondly, are you currently reading philosophy or something similar at uni? I just got that impression.

    4. #29
      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      " A philosophical zombie, p-zombie or p-zed is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. It behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "ouch" and recoil from the stimulus), but it does not actually have the experience of pain as a person normally does."

      sounds like a dream character to me

      me. "are you real?" them. "yes." me. "no you're not!" them. "you're right, were not."

    5. #30
      Xei
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      Interesting idea actually. You can have a flawless conversation with a DC. Does that mean they pass the Turing Test?

    6. #31
      Nicotine Connoisseur bcomp's Avatar
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      Whoa... so since some DCs are causally linked to a part of your mind, then they would also have to have consciousnesses... which is not only interesting, but testable! Since both your dream consciousness and the DC's consciousness would both be linked to your physical mind, a talented LDer could theoretically explore the DC's consciousness! And if shared dreaming is possible, you could test to see if other people are p-zeds too.

      Really puts a whole new spin on walking a mile in someone else's shoes.

    7. #32
      Xei
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      Hm... I thought about this, and I reckon that the way to look at this is that the language part of the brain is working, but not aware ('in' your consciousness). A bit like blocking out sound when reading a book, vision when in deep thought, or even walking somewhere with no recollection of thinking about it. We often think of language being a higher function which is intrinsic to consciousness so it may be a strange idea that this could be done without awareness... but I don't think that this is true, because I find it quite easy to imagine consciousness without language (just sit and observe your environment without a single word entering your mind, it's very easy and clearly you don't loose consciousness).

      Consciousness can do very strange things, that much is clear. There is evidence from split brain patients that they have two consciousnesses in one body... it's crazy stuff.

    8. #33
      Nicotine Connoisseur bcomp's Avatar
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      With a dual-consciousness like that... there might even be the possibility of consciousnesses merging... which is an interesting concept. I wonder if both the consciousnesses could directly communicate, via some sort of telepathy. Gah. Totally wish I had another awareness rambling around in my brain to talk to when I'm bored. Ha.

    9. #34
      Xei
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      Yes, I often wonder about what merging two networks would do...

      I'm going into computational and theoretical neuroscience research in a few years, which is amazingly cool I think. Best job ever.

    10. #35
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      A few little points to raise: I for one am not so sure about the Turing Test working as you describe it. I reckon that there probably needs to be some kind of overlying intelligence to the responding logic system.

      Say there was a hypothetical machine which had a set of convincing responses for every possible conversation ever. Would it be conscious? It would definitely pass the Turing Test, but I think this would be a faulty result.

      Another little thought I've had in the past; do you think there needs to be a causal factor inherent in the brain's activity? To illustrate; if the neurons in a brain were actually firing randomly, but happened to emulate the exact activity required for a thought, or set of thoughts, would that brain be conscious?
      Hey yeah our thoughts on the issue seem to be pretty similar.

      On the turing test: perhaps it wouldn't work just by itself. I do think, though, that it is a good determination of intelligence, but whether it is enough to determine proper concsiousness is another issue. There is an international competition run every year (or two years?) where people enter their computer software in order to try and fool a panel of judges into thinking that they are talking to a computer. Wikipedia it perhaps - it's a very interesting subject. One of the entrants to the competition is called jabberwacky - www.jabberwacky.com - and it basically works by accumulating a statistical store of responses to conversation. Check out the website and you can talk to it... sometimes it is spookily like talking to a person, other times it is a bit strained. The good part about it is that as you talk to it, it's busy storing your responses so in effect you're helping to develop it.

      But I guess the turing test isn't quite enough for a proper test of consciousness. I guess there'd have to be some sort of 'zombie' test - equivalent of the turing test. If a robot can fool a panel of judges into thinking it's a human, simply by the things it does and the way it acts in common life, it is conscious. Might be a bit harder getting a robot to superficially look authentic, but that's a seperate issue.

      Basically if something looks conscious, acts conscious, and gives every sign of being conscious - being able to make long-term decisions and plans, being able to recognise other people, being able to guess other people's thoughts etc - then it is conscious.

      I guess i'm of an evolutionary physicalist/reductive view of consciousness: I think that our consciousness is a product of our evolution, and allows us to navigate our environment, interact with it, store memories of food sources, be able to predict events through pattern recognition etc. The most important aspect of our consciousness is our conscious awareness, which basically allows us to recognise ourselves as physically distinct from our surroundings. If we cannot recognise ourselves as distinct, then there would be no reason for us to live. If we did not think that we were going to be the same organism tomorrow, why bother eating today?

      I think that there has to be causality in the brain, but i'm not sure... perhaps explain the example again? Also, I'm not familiar with the China brain example, although I've heard of it before. What is it?

      And yeah, I'm doing a double major in English-philosophy at university I've done lots of stuff on philosophy of mind... I just finished a course on metaphysics, and i've done a bit from both the naturalist viewpoint and an analytical viewpoint. I just finished an essay on mental causation yesterday as a matter of fact... it just so happened that lots of stuff in this topic correlated with what I'm talking about in my essay

    11. #36
      Nicotine Connoisseur bcomp's Avatar
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      Hey roller. So I went to that jabberwacky site... and some hilarity ensued. Good lol-factor.

      Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwacky
      08:43:59 User: Butt sex.
      08:44:03 Jabberwacky: So do I. I like to eat them too.
      08:44:43 User: HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA.
      08:44:44 Jabberwacky: It is not a joke.
      08:44:59 User: How do you eat butt sex?
      08:45:01 Jabberwacky: Like normal people do.
      08:45:14 User: How do normal people eat butt sex?
      08:45:19 Jabberwacky: OK, like people do.
      08:45:51 User: How do people eat butt sex?
      08:45:53 Jabberwacky: By accepting and remembering the knowledge that is given to them.
      08:46:11 User: O.o.
      08:46:15 Jabberwacky: Speak russian&.
      08:46:33 User: :-(.
      08:46:37 Jabberwacky: You feel bad about that?
      08:46:51 User: X_X.
      08:47:08 Jabberwacky: What do you feel?
      08:47:16 User: Gay.
      08:47:22 Jabberwacky: Are you?
      08:47:31 User: Yes.
      08:47:43 Jabberwacky: Good.
      Computers eat buttsecks! O_O

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