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The Problem Section One Grace Gu and Nancy Diaz. About the Author: Susan Blackmore Degree in Psychology and Physiology from Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Parapsychology.

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Presentation on theme: "The Problem Section One Grace Gu and Nancy Diaz. About the Author: Susan Blackmore Degree in Psychology and Physiology from Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Parapsychology."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Problem Section One Grace Gu and Nancy Diaz

2 About the Author: Susan Blackmore Degree in Psychology and Physiology from Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Parapsychology. She has studied the paranormal, and now she is involved with the study of meme (A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another) Susan Blackmore had a dramatic out- of-body experience that convinced her that consciousness could leave the body, and made her determined to become a Parapsychologist. She is now skeptical about the paranormal. Resides in England with her partner Adam Hart-Davis and two children.

3 What is Consciousness?  “Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain.” -Chalmers  Consciousness is not synonymous with the “mind.” This confusion has led to the loss of some of it’s mysteries.  Throughout history, mysteries that have plagued scientists’ minds have dwindled away and we have lost interest. Inversely, the mind/body problem continues to grow and capture our interests.

4 When are you Conscious?  Are you conscious?  Are you conscious when you use the restroom?  Are you conscious when you drive?  Are you conscious when you sleep?  Or dream?

5 Consciousness is your own private experience. The colors you perceive in your mind are your property. There is no way to publicly share the same experience.  Some monist theories emphasize just the mental and believe objects are just perceptions of the individual’s mind.  Problems arise as to how two human beings can agree to a physical object when the object is outside their mind.  Materialist monist theories say that there is only matter and everything is just a physical state.  However, this takes away from the thought that humans have control over their fate and future.

6 Other beliefs  Epiphenomenalism: the idea that mental states are produced by physical events, but have no causal role to play.  Physical events cause mental events but in turn, mental states don’t have any causal effects on the physical future.  But then how can we speak about consciousness if our conscious thoughts don’t have any influence over our physical outcomes?

7 Panpsychism:  The view that mind is fundamental  All matter has associated mental aspects or properties; however primitive.  But then is a rock aware?  How about it’s contributing atoms?  Why should there be mental and physical properties to everything?

8 Cartesian Dualism Cartesian Dualism  Substance dualism is a widely known theory. The best- known form is from Rene Descartes.  Cartesian dualism was founded by the intention of basing the philosophy only on firm foundations that were beyond doubt.  “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes concluded that the thinking self was immaterial and did not take up space like the mechanical body.  This view consisted of two entities – the extended stuff which bodies are made of and the unextended, thinking stuff of which minds are made.  How do they interact?  Descartes’ solution was through the pineal gland in the center of the brain.

9 Fall of Dualism  Few contemporary scientists and philosophers agree that dualism works.  Gilbert Rule argued that when we talk of the mind as an entity that does things, we are making a mistake. Instead, he saw mental activities as processes, or as the properties and dispositions of people.  “Minds are simply what brains do.” – Minsky  The mind carries out the functions of the brain.  The two notable dualists are Sir Karl Popper and Neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles who give us a modern theory of dualist interactionism.  They argue that the critical processes in the synapses of the brain are so finely poised that they can be influenced by a non-physical, thinking and feeling self, thus the self really controls the brain.  This however asks for a miracle.

10 Try defining Consciousness

11 Psychology  The term psychology popped up in the 18 th century to describe the philosophy of mental life.  It was towards the 19 th century that it became a science.  William James dismissed the dualist concepts of “mind-stuff.”  He pointed out that consciousness can be abolished by injury to the brain, or altered by taking alcohol, opium or other substances. Certain amounts of brain physiology must be included in psychology.  James coined the term “stream of consciousness” to describe the ever changing flow of thoughts, images and feelings.  Psychophysics was the study between physical stimuli and reportable sensations; your outer and inner experiences.  Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner studied the relationships between physical luminance and perceived brightness; weight and sensations of heaviness; or sound pressure and loudness.

12  Hermann von Helmholtz was a German physicist and physician.  Helmholtz made the first measurement of the speed of conduction of nerve signals. Popularly referred to as the “velocity of thought.”  Helmholtz proposed the idea of “unconscious inferences” based off the tricks our senses and visual illusions can make.  German philosopher Edmund Husserl wanted to focus on “the things themselves.”  This was based off of Brentano's idea that every subjective experience is an act of reference.  Conscious experiences are about objects or events, while physical objects are not about anything.

13 Introspection  Wilhelm Wundt is often called the father of modern psychology.  studied the subjective experience by introspection.  He wanted to be able to build a psychology based on studying from the inside.  Wundt claimed that there are two kinds of “psychical elements”: the objective elements, or sensations such as tones, heat or light; and the subjective elements or simple feelings.  Every conscious experience depended on a union of these two.  Introspection fell out of favor because one person’s claim to an experience can be quite different form another person’s experience. There was no agreement.

14 Behaviorism  Behaviorism became popular because this branch could be measured much more reliably.  John B. Watson argued that psychology did not need the methods of introspection and indeed could do without the concept of consciousness altogether.  Many of Watson’s ideas are built on the ground works of Ivan Pavlov, whose works included the study of reflexes and classical conditioning.  Skinner’s studies of rats and pigeons shaped the history of reinforcements.  These new findings led to a period of abolishing consciousness. Behaviorism's success led to the avoidance of “consciousness.”

15 Cognitive Psychology  As the popularity of behaviorism was fading, cognitive psychology came into play.  However, consciousness was still discarded. It was not welcome in psychology because of the looseness of the term.  In different sentences, consciousness conveyed completely different things.  As we have more information from research on mental imagery, altered states of consciousness such as sleep and drug-induced states, hypnosis, computer science, consciousness began creeping back into our vocabulary.  Many problems that have plagued us in the past have been solved either through new inventions or thinking.  Consciousness is one that remains as much a mystery as it has throughout history.

16 Close your eyes and imagine what it’s like to be……. A BAT !!! Remember : You use sound of ultrasound for echolocation, you fly, you are nocturnal, you live with thousands of other bats and you can hang upside-down….

17 But can we ever know what is would really be like for the bat?  Question was posed in 1950 by American Philosopher Thomas Nagel.  “ Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable”-Nagel  “ There is something it is like to BE that organism…something it is like FOR the organism”….  Hofstadter and Dennett, “ What is it like from the inside?”  Consciousness = Subjectivity = “ What it is like to be…”

18 Qualia  Private qualities. You only experience it, privately, incapable of being expressed because only you experience it in your own way.  A quale is what something is like…our conscious experience consists of qualia.  Now the problem becomes : “How are qualia related to the physical world, or how an objective physical brain can produce subjective qualia”

19 Dualist believe that qualia are part of a separate mental world from physical objects Epiphenomenalists believe that qualia exist but have no casual properties Idealists believe that everything is ultimately qualia

20 The problem with qualia… They do not have physical properties that can be measured Are qualia something separate from the brain? Do qualia make any difference? Does a quale contain information above and beyond the neural information it depends on? This is where Mary can help us out……

21 Mary the Color Scientist Lives in far far future, when everything there is to know about the physical processes in the brain and how they produce behavior is known. Knows absolutely everything about : color perception, the optics of the eye, the properties of colored objects in the world, the processing of color info.in the visual system, etc. BUT she has been brought up all her life in a black and white room, observing the world through a b/w TV monitor… She has never seen any colors at all Suddenly she is let out of her black and white room and sees colors for the first time….

22 What happens? Will she just shrug and say, “That’s red, that’s green, nothing new of course”? Will she gasp with amazement and say “Wow-I never realized red would look like that!”

23 The Mary Thought Experiment  Developed by Frank Jackson devised the Mary thought experiment as an argument against physicalism SURPRISED: When Mary sees color, she will obviously learn something fundamentally new – what red is like. She now has qualia as well as the physical facts about color No amount of information could have prepared her for the raw feel of it is like to see color (Chalmers) You believe that consciousness,subjective experience, or qualia are something additional to knowledge of the physical world.  NOT SURPRISED: Dennett argues that we fail to allow Mary to know everything there is not know about color. She already knew what kind of impressions color would induce. You believe that knowing all the physical facts tells you everything there is to know– including what it is like to experience something.

24 The Philosopher’s Zombie Someone who looks like you…behaves exactly like you BUT is not conscious. There is nothing it is like to be this creature (No view from within…no qualia) To many thinkers a zombie is easy to imagine and obviously possible, at least in principle. Zombie earth Same as us, but are not able to understand conscious terms in the way we do because they have no conscious experience(language, thinking, imagining, dreaming, believing, etc, but could talk of these!) Conversations with them would seem natural and normal. It would think it was conscious, even if it wasn’t. What do you think ???

25 Is there a hard problem? How do we find the solution?

26 1. The hard problem is insoluble  The problem of subjectivity is hopeless – Nagel  Our human kind of intelligence is wrongly designed for understanding consciousness – British Philosopher Colin McGinn  Our own awareness is ‘the ultimate tease…forever beyond our conceptual grasp’ – American evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker

27 2. Solve it with drastic measures  Rethink all that we know about the universe  We can only understand consciousness when we have a new theory of information  Fundamental rethink of he nature of the universe is a MUST !

28 3. Tackle the easy problems  Tackle the easy problems first and eventually we’ll pump into the answer (about attention, learning, memory or perception).  Why? We need to start with something reasonably tractable such as visual binding.  Those who work on the easy problems, come close to arguing that there is no separate hard problem.

29 4. There is no hard problem  Ignore the problem…for now 1. Start with the easy problems 2. Solutions to the easy problems will change our understanding of the hard problem, so trying to solve the problem now is premature 3. A solution to the hard problem would only be of use if we could recognize it as such, and for the moment the problem is not well enough understood.

30 Disassociation  There is a dissociation between fast motor reactions and conscious perception.  Experiment with showting “Tah” when subject saw a light go on showed that there was an automatic reflex versus consciousness perception (Castiello).  Milner and Goodale argue that there is a distinction based on different functions of the brain; fast visuomotor control and less urgent visual perception.  Much of their evidence is from patients with brain damage.

31 No doubt about one thing: We seem to do some things consciously and others unconsciously.   Divide actions into five types: 1. 1.Are always unconscious i.e. I can wiggle my toes or sing a song, but I cannot consciously grow my hair 2.Some actions that are normally carried out unconsciously can be brought back under conscious control by giving feedback of their effects, or “biofeedback” i.e. We may unconsciously open the door, but we have no idea all the muscle power it takes to do so. The whole action seems to be done consciously, while the details remain unconscious. 3.Many skilled actions are initially learned with much conscious effort i.e. You probably first learned to ride a bicycle with the utmost conscious concentration... but the it becomes automatic. Can be counter-productive: get off your bike and you might find that you cannot even walk normally. 4.Many such skilled actions, once well learned, can be done either way. i.e. Classic example: driving a car. Every driver must have had the experience of arriving at a familiar destination without apparently having been conscious of the journey. Scary part: potentially life-threatening decisions being made correctly without, apparently, any conscious awareness Some actions seem always to be done consciously I.e. When we have to make a difficult moral decision, we seem to be far more conscious than when deciding what clothes to put on. Tempting: To say that these kinds of thinking or decisions require consciousness.

32 Functionalism  View that mental states are functional states.  I.e. Someone in pain = input from damage done. Other mental states like the desire for the pain to go away, or crying = output. Most common view: Works well for explaining mental sates, but cannot deal with phenomenal consciousness. Most common view: Works well for explaining mental sates, but cannot deal with phenomenal consciousness. Artificial Intelligence: If it can do the same functions as a conscious system, it would also be conscious.

33 Global Workspace Theory (GWT)  By American Psychologist Bernard Baars  Cognitive system is built on a global workspace or blackboard architecture, analogous to a stage in the theater of the mind.  Unconscious processors compete for access to the spotlight of attention that shines on the stage, from where information is broadcast globally to the unconscious audience.  This global broadcast constitutes consciousness.  Actions that are performed consciously are shaped by conscious feedback, while unconscious actions are not.  i.e. Unconsciously make a speech error, but when you consciously hear the mistake, you can make it right because consciousness creates global access to further unconscious resources.


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