[ExI] Consciousness as 'brute fact' and meta-skepticism

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Fri Feb 7 18:56:45 UTC 2020

On Fri, Feb 7, 2020 at 1:24 PM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

*> It has always bugged me when otherwise rigorous science-types claim that
> consciousness JUST IS. That it is (to paraphrase John) "how data feels to
> be processed".  Or that it is an 'illusion',*

I agree with half of that, I agree that saying consciousness is an illusion
is silly and explains precisely nothing because illusion, like
consciousness, is a perfectly respectable subjective phenomenon.

> *> In my opinion, this kind of 'it just is' is the least skeptical, least
> scientific view you could take. Imagine saying "gravity is just the way
> mass feels to be close to other mass",*

The difference is with gravity we're not asking how gravity FEELS but what
gravity DOES, and therefore the scientific method can be used to study it.
In a similar way science can help us understand how intelligent behavior
works, but the only consciousness we can perform experiments on is our own,
and I don't think you'll learn much about it by getting drunk.

>  > *Why is consciousness the only aspect of reality that people so
> staunchly refuse to consider deeper explanations for? *

Because it's one of the few things the scientific method can't help us
with, and that's why Artificial Intelligence theories are really
interesting but Artificial Consciousness theories are a total bore. One
consciousness theory is as good as another, any one of them will work just
fine because there are no facts it must meet.  And besides, if you don't
like the brute fact idea the only alternative is that the chain of "why"
questions goes on forever. After all, it is beyond dispute that things
either go on forever or things don't go on forever.

John K Clark
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