Consciousness: hard problem not solvable? (General)

by David Turell @, Sunday, September 15, 2019, 18:19 (135 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: A reporter/philosopher's view on how tough it is
https://aeon.co/essays/will-we-ever-get-our-heads-round-consciousness?utm_source=Aeon+N...

dhw: We have covered this subject at great length in the threads devoted to dualism versus materialism. Initially, I found myself critiquing individual quotes from this article, but I’ve now read it all and see that in fact it expertly summarizes lots of different views. I really like the conclusion:

"I don’t know. No one does. And I think it is possible that, compared with the hard problem, the rest of science is a sideshow. Until we get a grip on our own minds, our grip on anything else could be suspect. It’s hard, but we shouldn’t stop trying."

DAVID: And he doesn't mention that NDE's indicate that consciousness can leave a non-functional brain and then come back to it when it is well.

dhw: A good argument for dualism. As a materialist counter to this, he doesn’t mention that all kinds of factors – e,g, disease, accidents, drugs, alcohol - can change the way in which consciousness functions through their effect on the brain. He’s right, though: we don’t know. We agnostics came to this conclusion long ago about most of the “hard” subjects , but I agree: we shouldn’t stop trying! Hence this website!

Under “Free will”:

"These observations point to a fundamental paradox about consciousness. We have the strong impression that we choose when we do and don’t act and, as a consequence, we hold people responsible for their actions.”

dhw: Yes, that is the essence of free will.

Yet many of the ways we encounter the world don’t require any real conscious processing, and our feeling of agency can be deeply misleading.”

They require conscious processing when there is need for a decision. That is when free will comes into play.

"If our experience of action doesn’t really affect what we do in the moment, then what is it for? Why have it? Contrary to what many people believe, I think agency is only relevant to what happens after we act – when we try to justify and explain ourselves to each other." (DAVID’S bold)

DAVID’s comment: Libet did not interpret correctly. The bold considers agency a feeling after we act. That sounds correct to me.

dhw; Perhaps you understand all this better than I do. “Feeling of agency” presumably means the feeling that we are the “agents” responsible for our actions. If not, what exactly does it mean?

That is his meaning as I read it.

dhw: Once again, we are confronted with the mystery of consciousness. Is he saying that when we need to make a decision, we do not consciously weigh up the pros and cons offered by the information at our disposal?

Again I read it as acknowledging that we do weight pros and cons before choosing.

dhw: If so, I completely disagree, and I’m surprised that you endorse the bold. That doesn’t mean I am championing free will, because this depends on one’s view of the influences that cause us to process the information in a particular way. But perhaps I've missed his point?

As I read it I've accepted his view.


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