[ExI] Can philosophers produce scientific knowledge?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Sun May 9 20:08:28 UTC 2021

On Sun, May 9, 2021 at 12:38 PM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Hi Jason,
> Sounds like you know your stuff, and have been studying the field for some
> time, so fun to have an additional challenger, even if your just another
> person in the currently leading consensus "functionalism" camp, which I
> believe is dead wrong.

Thank you Brent. I have been researching the field for many years, and am
working on a book on the subject. I am currently in the midst of writing an
article on the topic of "What is consciousness?" so I am again deep into
the subject.

> On Sun, May 9, 2021 at 8:07 AM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> If the "bio-brain" is conscious, and the "compu-brain" preserves all the
>> relevant interrelationships of the bio-brain in an isomorphic manner, then
>> all externally visible behavior will likewise be the same.
> Still not accounting for qualia in any significant way.

I watched the series of videos you linked to, and while I thought it was
well executed and explained, I did not find any account of qualia given

My own beliefs concerning qualia and their ineffability is that qualia
relate to how information is processed in the brain, while our third-person
("from afar") representations or descriptions of information can only
capture a serialization of 1's and 0's. I can send words or hand gestures
to you, or write squiggles on paper, to put new inputs into your senses,
but I can't directly manipulate the processing of information as done by
your brain. This is what differentiates book knowledge from first-person
experience. It is also why Mary learns something new when she sees red for
the first time: she activates new forms of processing information by her
brain. She could read all the books in the world on what red is like
without causing her brain to activate the appropriate areas that make her
experience red.

> For example, wonder if you have two bio-brains, one engineered to be
> red/green qualia inverted.  With questions like: "What is redness like for
> you, they will behave very different, but on everything else you are
> describing in your post, they will behave identically, even possibly
> better, in any way you care to define better.

I think it is an open question whether the behavior would be identical for
a qualia-inverted being, especially if you include introspection of brain
processes in the scope of externally visible ("from afar") behaviors. As
you say, to get inverted qualia requires a differently-engineered brain,
and that would be a third-person observable difference. For there to be no
observable difference in behavior with inverted qualia or not is also to
suggest that if we had a switch that could invert or revert the qualia at
will, that the observer could not notice or report on the flipping the
switch back and forth. If they could not notice the flipping, then I think
it is a difference that makes no difference, and thus is not a difference
at all.

> For that matter, Stathis is also always completely qualia blind, and any
> functionalists I have ever seen, the same.  They never fully account for
> qualia in anything they talk about or argue, and always completely avoid
> any reference to what qualia are, or how they would fit in any of the
> beliefs, or how redness might fit in their 'neuro substitution'....  To me,
> this is very strong evidence that any functionalists has no grasp at all on
> the qualitative nature of consciousness, and the assumptions they are
> making.  They just ignore it all, thinking it doesn't need to be accounted
> for.

Visual perception is the most complex, and likely most contentious of
qualia to discuss. I think it is easier to consider the quale of the most
simplistic of senses, such as stimulation of a single tactile nerve. For
example, lightly touch the back of your hand with the top of a pen so you
can just barely feel it. What does it feel like? All we can really say
about this quale is that it is nothing more than the knowledge of being
touched in that particular location. Qualia are just certain forms of
knowledge. The dictionary definition of consciousness is awareness of
information. Awareness is having knowledge of. So consciousness is merely
having knowledge of information.  There are infinite forms of information,
and interrelations, and ways of processing information, and so I think
there are also infinite varieties of possible qualia.

>> The person with a compu-brain will still cry when in pain, still say
>> there's an incommunicable difference between red and green, still describe
>> their dull back ache in full (and identical) detail to the person with the
>> bio-brain. If based on the brain of Chalmers or Dennett, the compu-brain
>> will even still write books in the mysteries of consciousness and qualia.
>> In short, there's would be no objective or scientific test you could do
>> to rule out the consciousness of the compu-brain, as all objective
>> behaviors are identical.
>> Although you could reason that "if philosphical zombies are logically
>> impossible" then "identically functioning compu-brains must be conscious,
>> in the same ways as bio-brains are conscious."
>> I see no rational basis for an assumption that the compu-brain is not
>> consciousness or is differently conscious. But there are rational bases for
>> assuming they must be the same (e.g. dancing/fading qualia, self-reports,
>> non-dualism, non-epiphenomenalism, successes of neural prosthesis, the
>> anti-zombie principle).
>> 3. There must be something that is responsible for each of the intrinsic
>>> qualities of each elemental piece of conscious knowledge, and you must be
>>> able to observe these computational differences.
>> Are you speaking from a first person or third person viewpoint when you
>> say you must be able to observer computational differences?
> Two answer this, let's assume our description of glutamate, reacting in a
> synapse, is a description of your redness quality.
> If not, then substitute all instances of glutamate, with whichever
> description of stuff in our brain, is a description of redness.
> Given that, here is the answer:
> We "Directly apprehend" glutamate reacting in a synapse as a redness
> quality of subjective experience (first person)
> We observe glutamate, from afar, possibly using scientific instruments,
> and we end up with a description of glutamate, and how it behaves.  (third
> person)
> Notice any description of how glutamate behaves tells you nothing of the
> colorness quality of that behavior.  You need a dictionary to know that.
I think we can rule out "glutamate" or any particular neural transmitter or
molecule as having any immediate role in our perception, on the basis of
the pigeonhole principle. There are far more possible perceptions (even
just considering possible perceived colors) than there are
chemicals/proteins in the brain. Color-blind individuals can perceive
around 10,000 colors. Normally sighted individuals with trichromatic vision
enables humans to distinguish around 1,000,000 different colors. A few rare
humans are tetrachromats, and can perceive 100,000,000 distinct colors.
This number is far greater than the number of genes in the human genome, so
it is more than the number of unique proteins our cells can manufacture. So
it's not possible for base molecules to represent qualia -- only higher
level structures have room for enough unique complexity to explain the
variety of our perception.

> For more info on this, see the "Distinguishing between reality and
> knowledge of reality
> <https://canonizer.com/videos/consciousness/?chapter=differentiate_reality_knowledge>"
> chapter of our video.

If functionalism fails at the neural-simulation level, would your theory
say it succeeds if we simulate everything physical down to the quark-lepton
level, which includes all the electric fields, particles, glutamate
particles, etc.? Or would this simulation result in a zombie world, with
non-conscious patterns nonetheless writing books about qualia and the
mysterious nature of the redness of red?

While there are many reasons to doubt functionalism/computationalism, there
is strong indirect observational evidence supporting it, which is that if
we assume computationalism is true, we can directly explain many of the
observed properties of our physical world. I have written about this here:


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