[ExI] Mental Phenomena

Brent Allsop brent.allsop at gmail.com
Sun Dec 29 20:30:36 UTC 2019

Hi Ben,

Thanks for jumping in on this!!

I was completely agreeing with everything you were saying.  I get so upset
at most theories of consciousness that have exactly the problem you pointed
out with:

“It seems to be a general rule of nature that large numbers of complex,
higher-level things are built from much smaller numbers of simpler,
lower-level things.”

One of many examples is “pan-psychic” ideas that claim everything has
“proto” consciousness.  What the heck is a "proto" consciousness?  Does a
proto-consciousness have the same resolution and color depth as our visual

But then you revealed your qualia blindness in your last paragraph by

“the concept of 'elemental red' is sheer nonsense”.

“Red” is a label we give to something that reflects or emits red light.  It
is elemental “redness” that we are talking about.  Redness is a label for a
very different set of elemental physics than “red”.  One is a color
property that initiates perceptions.  Colorness is the different property
of the final physics that result from perception.  Colorness is the
qualities of the stuff we directly experience from which our conscious
knowledge is composed.

Ben, let me ask you this.  What do you think your knowledge of a strawberry
is composed of?

I believe the supporters of “Representational Qualia Theory
<https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Representational-Qualia/6>” are saying
exactly what you are saying by defining consciousness (love, free will,
intentionality…)  to be “Composite computationally bound elemental physical
qualities in the brain like redness and greenness.”

On Sun, Dec 29, 2019 at 3:51 AM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> It seems to be a general rule of nature that large numbers of complex,
> higher-level things are built from much smaller numbers of simpler,
> lower-level things.
> Think of proteins, music, maths, and life itself.
> Twenty amino acids can give rise to more protein molecules than there
> are particles of matter in the universe. A couple of handfuls of notes
> and rules can produce all the music that has ever existed and ever will.
> You get the idea.
> I think it's a pretty safe bet that this principle extends to mental
> phenomena as well. If anyone claims that a mental phenomenon such as the
> awareness of a specific thing is 'fundamental', and there are many, many
> different instances of this kind of phenomenon (which there certainly
> are. Potential thoughts are even more numerous than potential proteins),
> they are almost certanly wrong, imo.
> We know of the lower-level phenomena that underlie mental processes, and
> the ones that underlie those: Neural spike-trains, all made of simple
> action potentials which are /exactly the same/, all over the brain (and
> which, incidentally, correspond exactly to a digital representation of
> data), which are in turn produced by a very small number of types of
> ions traversing a membrane, which.. You get the idea.
> Neurotransmitters often seem to get mentioned, but they are only a means
> of getting a spike-train from one neuron to another. They could be (and
> in many cases are) replaced by more direct connections between neurons,
> such as gap junctions. I suspect the main advantage of neurotransmitters
> is the scope they provide for modification of the signals, such as
> variable timing, attenuation or amplification, etc. These could also be
> achieved with gap junctions, but would involve more complex mechanisms.
> Neurotransmitters are, in a sense, irrelevant. They are a mechanism for
> a function that could be achieved by many alternative mechanisms, but
> they are not a principle of operation.
> Anyway, my point is that any idea which proposes the opposite of the
> general principle I'm taking about, claiming that a very large number of
> very diverse phenomena (such as the awareness of colours, and by
> extension, all other things that minds can be aware of) are 'fundamental
> elements' (and thus indivisible, not derived from other, simpler
> things), while perhaps not being impossible, is highly suspect, and
> faces a large burden of proof.
> Put another way, the concept of 'elemental red' is sheer nonsense. The
> concept of 'red' (or, to be more accurate, the mental cagegory of 'the
> colour red') has to be made up of many simpler things going on in our
> brains. Things which are very likely (to say the least) to vary between
> individual people.
> Ben Zaiboc
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> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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