Consciousness: Dennett says it is an illusion (General)

by dhw, Wednesday, October 09, 2019, 11:54 (11 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: Consciousness did not have simple beginnings, but appeared all by itself in humans. Again ignoring Adler's 'difference'.

dhw: I trust it's you and not Adler making a mockery of language. You believe in common descent, you agree that animals are conscious, and so since many of them preceded H. sapiens, how can you possibly argue that there was no consciousness until the arrival of humans? We have inherited all the attributes of consciousness possessed by our ancestors: awareness of the world outside, of ways in which to acquire food, of courtship, home-building, self-protection etc. – but our human consciousness has uniquely progressed beyond that to include self-awareness, conceptualisation etc.

DAVID: Again ignoring the vast difference. Our ancestors before the appearance of bipedalism were simply conscious, nothing more. Adler's long book pounds home the significance of the difference. Tell me how a monkey does any more than obviously expects the responses of other monkeys, as in theory of mind research. They are not self-aware and don't conceptualize, vastly different.

You continue to pretend that there is a difference between being conscious and having consciousness. There is a vast difference, which I have always acknowledged, between other animals’ level of consciousness and our own. That does not mean “consciousness did not have simple beginnings, but appeared all by itself in humans.” On the contrary, your contrast between monkey consciousness and our own makes it crystal clear that ours was preceded by simpler forms, and your comment is doubly absurd coming from someone who believes in common descent.

DAVID: Egnor is correct. Evolution does not explain how or why consciousness appeared, and only in our brain. […]

dhw: We have agreed […] that nobody knows the origin of consciousness, and so of course evolution does not explain how consciousness appeared. That is what I told you, and you said it was a truism. I didn't know Egnor believed that no animal with a brain was conscious/had consciousness. You yourself have said repeatedly that animals ARE conscious, so consciousness did not appear “only in our brain”.

DAVID: By definition you have gotten rid of the hard problem of consciousness! We are different and most folks would disagree with how you are trying to smudge to difference.

How on earth does my statement “nobody knows the origin of consciousness” get rid of the hard problem, and how on earth am I “smudging the difference” when I categorically state that “our human consciousness has uniquely progressed beyond that to include self-awareness, conceptualisation etc.”? This subject has been settled a hundred times between us, and we are now discussing Egnor’s question: “..if consciousness is non-physical, how could it evolve? Darwinian natural selection can only act on a physical attribute”.

dhw: […] since nobody knows the truth, we are simply stuck with conflicting beliefs. However, no matter what might be the source, and whenever consciousness began, I cannot believe anyone would argue that it did not evolve from comparatively simple beginnings (the first cells, or the first brainy life forms) to the complexities of larger organisms culminating (so far) in ourselves, and I find it perfectly logical that increasingly complex consciousness would result in its owners having a natural advantage in the struggle to survive (which Egnor rightly calls Darwinian natural selection).

DAVID: Yes we differ. The first cells didn't think, don't think, and individual cells in our bodies don't think either. Single neurons don't think, but a bunch can receive consciousness and create thought. It requires a team of neurons.

I’ve allowed for this belief of yours in all of the above, which summarizes my objection to Egnor’s question. You have forgotten what we are discussing.


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