I know that you can group me into your category of people that are "irritated" by a simple explanation, but put simply, I have more so disappointed that an article for a scientific journal would put out such broad, unsubstantiated claims. Especially one titled "either unknowingly or knowingly" after a book written by Daniel Dennett that is about pages longer than this article and actual cites research and notions throughout time. It's true that the photons reflected from a tree are material, but the experience of seeing is not.
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When you imagine a tree that isn't there, what are the material particles that make up that imagined image? You could say that you have a "memory" of the material photons you once saw, but what's material about "memory"? Also, what about imagined images that have never materially existed, like a dragon? Seeing a tree is like kicking a ball. Seeing a tree that is not there is like kicking without the ball. Unreal images are either composites of real images which would be like kicking a baseball or the result of experimentation or randomization just trying things out and noticing something that works.
How do you define real? Are you saying we perceive with our bodies? Is the perceiver mental or non-mental? There is the grasped, the agent of grasping and the grasper. The grasped is outside, the agent of grasping is outside i. A product of mental operations but where is the grasper? Sure, but "kicking without the ball" is also immaterial.
The motion of "kicking" is material: muscle cells moving, etc. But when you "kick a ball that is not there", you must imagine a ball to serve as the object being kicked. You didn't answer my question: what are the material particles that make up the imaginary ball, or the imaginary tree? How is the creation of those variations not mental? There's no choice involved in perceiving; it's inseparably tied to the material object being perceived. But we can choose what to imagine, and it's not tied to any material object.
How is imagination material? How is decision-making not mental?
Consciousness Explained | Psychology Today
Choice is an illusion caused by the fact that the circumstances that make us do things also make us think things. There is no mind, no grasper, no underlying self. There are just words and images that go through our heads. You can see things that are there and you can see things that are not there. Seeing is a behavior like any other.
If you want to equate behaving with mental, then you are not using mental the way most people do. First, I want to say thanks for replying to my comments. I enjoyed this interesting post. I hadn't realized that thoughts are mostly variations of senses, though I do believe in choice and I equate choosing with mental. You still haven't answered the question: What makes the imagined tree material? It's not photons or molecules. I can't disprove your philosophy that choice is an illusion. I'm curious, though, does that make psychotherapy a lie? Would you tell a patient, who thinks they're making choices to change, that "choice is an illusion"?
It's a valid question, but not one that much interests behaviorists. Whatever happens inside people when they behave is material, some function of the body in its environment, the same for pigeons as for people, but it doesn't much interest behaviorists because there no way to intervene inside the person. We are conveniently located outside the person. One good way to get people to behave the way you want them to behave is to convince them that they have a choice.
My job with patients is to help them to change in the direction we agreed on, not to educate them about psychology. This is often best accomplished by starting where they are. I call this learning the patient's theory of the problem. For the purpose of an intervention, behaviorists may only care about the material manifestation of consciousness, behavior. But I want to understand consciousness at work in my own self.
I experience my own imagination as you experience yours and I know I can imagine trees that don't have any material composition that science can yet explain. There's no grasping. There's behaving in ways that other people interpret as grasping if the behavior is reliable. You can skip the mental part if you just say that the person reliably displays the skill. Other people compliment us by saying we grasp something, and then we invent a grasper. The grasper grasps through the mechanisms of grasping. Let me put it another way. There is a chariot, the horses are the five senses, the reigns are the mind, the driver is the intellect and the passenger is the individual, the grasper individual uses mechanisms of grasping intellectual functions and no, I do not mean thinking to grasp objects it perceives as outside of itself.
These objects could be concepts, they could be material, they could be thoughts, they could also be the senses, the mind, cognition and what have you. Is the individual a material construction of brain? If so, how is a material construction of the brain able to understand the brain and its mechanisms? Godel has told us in the past that you can not use a system to understand itself. You can not use logic to understand and explain logic, you can not use math to understand and explain math, so you can not use brain to understand brain, yet there are many, many, many individuals throughout history that manage to do such a thing.
If these are not your ideas and you are merely repeating another mans ideas as though they are fact then maybe you should do research before attacking such a complex subject. The editors at Psychology Today shouldn't really be allowing somebody to publish their opinions on another mans opinions and treat them as though they are true. That is not scientific, that is dogmatic, that is a contributing factor to the intellectual downfall of society and why public education does not do much of anything.
If you have to fall back on saying you are merely regurgitating another mans notions, then that in itself shows that you are not in a position to confidently or adequately back up your statements. I don't care if they are his ideas, you are using them, they came out of your imaginary mouth, therefore, for the moment, they are your property, your responsibility.
Skinner is not just any man, of course, but the most important psychologist in all of history. If a biologist addressed a pseudo-problem in biology by saying, well, Darwin solved this one, would you advocate that the opinion be banned? And I can say Carl Jung is not just any man, of course, but the most important psychologist in all of history. No, I would not, I would ask that he on one hand, explains how the problem is a "pseudo-problem" and two, ask for valid evidence that backs up his opinion that makes it not an opinion but an actual truth.
If a psychologist addresses an issue, I expect that he backs up is claims with something other than pontifications based on anothers work. What makes B. Skinner the most important psychologist in all of history? Because it sounds like you just made a large claim based on opinion and are using that claim as validation for your argument I can't say that Jung explained the subconscious just because he is the most important psychologist in all of history, though I also wouldn't say either of those things to begin with.
Psychology being the study of the mind is a broad subject that has been in the process of being tackled for three thousand years. Western thought only gives credence to the people who went to school and studied it under that title within the past years. Very narrow minded approach.
Your insulting tone is discouraging, but I will try one more time. Skinner's position is that the claim that there is a mind itself has no evidentiary support, The long tradition of science is not rely on entities for which there is no evidence. My post tried to clarify Skinner's position by showing how all the supposed evidence of a mind is merely evidence of being able to hear, to see, and so on.
I understand you are a fan of Skinner, but his views are roundly rejected by cognitive psychologists, no? It is absurd to claim that a subjective phenomenon should be observable as an objective behavior in order to exist. My evidence for consciousness is my own experienced mental state, which cannot be an illusion if an illusion presupposes experiencing the illusion..
MORE BY DANIEL C. DENNETT
You did not say consciousness is a particle, but you said it is material. In order for something to be material, it must be composed of particles. Are electrons conscious particles? Electrons cannot hear or see, so they are not "conscious. What I meant by saying it is material is that it is not mental; it is as physical as hearing and seeing. Imagination and thinking are our words for engaging in the behaviors of seeing and hearing when the thing seen or heard is not there which I analogize to kicking without the ball.
Seems like a typical behaviorist response ends up leading to claims like this Skinner is responsible for the torture we carry out in the name of observing behaviors in mice and other animals because we presuppose they are unconscious automatons. I call B. Up until the very last comment, this was a fascinating discussion, for which I thank the participants! Quite likely the most engaging comments section that I have read. As to that last comment, I must admit that just after reading Dr. Karson's post, I was thinking very similar thoughts. I am not a rat; I don't understand how someone could think that a rat's response would be indicitive of a human's response.
It seems to me that we are vastly different creatures Here the text becomes a little more hit and miss, and a lot less summarizable in small bites. I will resort to a list:. Dennett is somewhat infamous for denying the existence of qualia singular: quale - the private, ineffable stuff that makes the redness of red so red. But it's not that he denies the existence of redness - it's the private and ineffable part that's the problem.
It is in this context that Dennett says that qualia - those things on the screen in the Cartesian Theater - don't exist. Another theme of the book that reaches its crescendo in this section is Dennett's defense of a restricted sort of un-duplicability of qualia though of course he would never call it that , as a natural consequence of how brains work and the limits of third-person knowledge, as identified with heterophenomenology. There's more handwaving than rigorous argument supporting this, but it does seem like pretty reasonable handwaving.
There's also a really good description of ineffability in terms of Jell-O boxes that, unfortunately, I will have to butcher in order to relate. Tl;dr: If you tear a Jell-O box into two pieces, one piece will be a detector for the other - it only fits perfectly with that one shape of torn cardboard. But this property is indescribable - if you try to explain what shape it is that the piece of Jell-O box detects, you can only wave your hands at the piece of cardboard plaintively.
This is a metaphor for the experience of trying to describe what it is that red looks like. Book Review: Consciousness Explained. I knew that all along! The most important example is introduced by considering how, on macroscopic scales, it is convenient to treat observers as point-like entities: We explain the startling time gap between the sound and sight of distant fireworks by noting the different transmission speeds of sound and light. They arrive at the observer at that point at different times, even though they left the source at the same time.
The simple assumptions that work so well on larger scales begin to break down. There is no single point in the brain where all information funnels in, and this fact has some far from obvious — indeed, quite counterintuitive — consequences. Cartesian dualism is hopelessly wrong. The pineal gland is not only not the fax machine to the Soul, it is also not the Oval Office of the brain, and neither are any of the other portions of the brain. The brain is Headquarters, the place where the ultimate observer is, but there is no reason to believe that the brain itself has any deeper headquarters, any inner sanctum, arrival at which is the necessary or sufficient condition for conscious experience.
In short, there is no observer inside the brain. Just about every author who has written about consciousness has made what we might call the first-person-plural presumption : Whatever mysteries consciousness may hold, we you, gentle reader, and I may speak comfortably together about our mutual acquaintances, the things we both find in our streams of consciousness. And with a few obstreperous exceptions, readers have always gone along with the conspiracy. We are fooling ourselves about something. Perhaps we are fooling ourselves about the extent to which we are all basically alike.
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- Richard Rorty reviews ‘Consciousness Explained’ by Daniel Dennett · LRB 21 November .
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You could not confirm that the computer was conscious of anything by this method of interpretation. Fair enough.
Is Consciousness Real?
Some texts, such as novels and short stories, are known — or assumed — to be fictions, but this does not stand in the way of their interpretation. In fact, in some regards it makes the task of interpretation easier, by canceling or postponing difficult questions about sincerity, truth, and reference. Consider some uncontroversial facts about the semantics of fiction. A novel tells a story, but not a true story, except by accident. In spite of our knowledge or assumption that the story told is not true, we can, and do, speak of what is true in the story.
What is true in the story is much, much more than what is explicitly asserted in the text. There are delicious philosophical problems about how to say strictly all the things we unperplexedly want to say when we talk about fiction, but these will not concern us. Perhaps some people are deeply perplexed about the metaphysical status of fictional people and objects, but not I. Setting aside the intricacies, then, and the ingenious technical proposals for dealing with them, I want to draw attention to a simple fact: the interpretation of fiction is undeniably do-able, with certain uncontroversial results.
Second, if we are cautious about identifying and excluding judgments of taste or preference, we can amass a volume of unchallengeably objective fact about the world portrayed. All interpreters agree that Holmes was smarter than Watson; in crashing obviousness lies objectivity. The heterophenomenological method neither challenges nor accepts as entirely true the assertions of subjects, but rather maintains a constructive and sympathetic neutrality, in the hopes of compiling a definitive description of the world according to the subjects.
These things I am describing to you are perfectly real , and have exactly the properties I am asserting them to have! But since believers in general want more — they want their assertions to be believed and, failing that, they want to know whenever their audience disbelieves them — it is in general more politic for heterophenomenologists, whether anthropologists or experimenters studying consciousness in the laboratory, to avoid drawing attention to their official neutrality.
And if we discovered that the real goings-on bore only a minor resemblance to the heterophenomenological items, we could reasonably declare that people were just mistaken in the beliefs they expressed, in spite of their sincerity. Even if we can give precise times for the various moments at which various officials of the Empire became informed, no one of these moments can be singled out as the time the Empire itself was informed.
The signing of the truce was one official, intentional act of the Empire, but the participation by the British forces in the Battle of New Orleans was another, and it was an act performed under the assumption that no truce had yet been signed. Descartes thought the pineal gland was just such a nerve center in the brain, but he was wrong. Since cognition and control — and hence consciousness — is distributed around in the brain, no moment can count as the precise moment at which each conscious event happens. We human beings do make judgments of simultaneity and sequence of elements of our own experience, some of which we express, so at some point or points in our brains the corner must be turned from the actual timing of representations to the representation of timing, and wherever and whenever these discriminations are made, thereafter the temporal properties of the representations embodying those judgments are not constitutive of their content.
The objective simultaneities and sequences of events spread across the broad field of the cortex are of no functional relevance unless they can also be accurately detected by mechanisms in the brain. We can put the crucial point as a question: What would make this sequence the stream of consciousness? There is no one inside, looking at the wide-screen show displayed all over the cortex, even if such a show is discernible by outside observers. What matters is the way those contents get utilized by or incorporated into the processes of ongoing control of behavior, and this must be only indirectly constrained by cortical timing.
You have probably experienced the phenomenon of driving for miles while engrossed in conversation or in silent soliloquy and then discovering that you have utterly no memory of the road, the traffic, your car-driving activities. It is as if someone else had been driving. You were paying attention to other things, but surely if you had been probed about what you had just seen at various moments on the drive, you would have had at least some sketchy details to report. What we actually experience is a product of many processes of interpretation — editorial processes, in effect.
They take in relatively raw and one-sided representations, and yield collated, revised, enhanced representations, and they take place in the streams of activity occurring in various parts of the brain. This much is recognized by virtually all theories of perception, but now we are poised for the novel feature of the Multiple Drafts model: Feature detections or discriminations only have to be made once. In other words, discrimination does not lead to a representation of the already discriminated feature for the benefit of the audience in the Cartesian Theater — for there is no Cartesian Theater.
These spatially and temporally distributed content-fixations in the brain are precisely locatable in both space and time, but their onsets do not mark the onset of consciousness of their content. It is always an open question whether any particular content thus discriminated will eventually appear as an element in conscious experience, and it is a confusion, as we shall see, to ask when it becomes conscious.
These distributed content-discriminations yield, over the course of time, something rather like a narrative stream or sequence, which can be thought of as subject to continual editing by many processes distributed around in the brain, and continuing indefinitely into the future. I will resort to a list: Orwellian vs. Stalinesque falsification. Suppose a grey truck passed you yesterday, but you mistakenly remember it being yellow. On this comfortably long length scale, there seems to be a clear distinction between having consciously experienced a grey truck and then changed your memory "Orwellian" revision , and having erroneously experienced seeing a yellow truck all along a "Stalinesque" show trial.
We can imagine probing you shortly after the truck passed, and asking you if it was yellow, and getting different answers. But at short time scales, like if you made the error three seconds after the truck passed, there is no fact of the matter about your conscious state - our approximation of a pointlike observer starts breaking down. Your mental state does not have to cleanly fall into either having totally experienced a grey truck and then forgotten, or having totally experienced a yellow truck erroneously.
Evolution of consciousness. Begins as a fairly standard tour of the evolution of things that represent other things. One fun idea is the picture of verbal imagination as a literal evolutionary descendant of talking to onesself - but this falsifiable speculation seems to indeed be false, upon further thought. There's also a lot of neuroanatomy that is impossible to reproduce in short form.
A long analogy about Von Neumann architercture and virtual machines. The story we tell ourself about consciousness is a serial story produced on parallel hardware. So Dennett proposes some level of description - describing a virtual machine, if you will - in which it makes perfect sense to talk about the brain as having a single stream of consciousness.
Dennett flirts with taking this analogy quite far, combining it with the "memes as software" analogy, but I think that this only gets him into trouble. Models of word generation. This is the chapter against a Central Meaner who intends pure propositions, which we then convert into words. Instead, a model of word generation is proposed based on specialist homunculi that might all simultaneously be activated to some degree - an interesting chapter, and one of the more speculative ones about the internal functioning of human brains.
These days, of course, everybody and their duck knows about neural nets, which might give us an edge in imagining the computational model of the brain. The slightly disappointing definition of consciousness. The middle of the book culminates in Dennett taking a stand that consciousness is, at the appropriate level of description, the presence of this "virtual machine" that corresponds to the protagonist of the story we tell about ourselves.
This is a very high-level property, currently identifiable largely by handwaving - which puts it in good company among other semi-reasonable definitions of consciousness.
Book Review: Consciousness Explained
I call it slightly disappointing because this isn't built to in a narratively satisfying way, nor does it serve as the cornerstone for the remainder of the book - except for a chapter on the development of selfhood, where it shows up again. A story about visual perception that's too good to not reproduce: Almost twenty years ago, Paul Bach-y-Rita developed several devices that involved small, ultralow-resolution video cameras that could be mounted on eyeglass frames.
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