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The problem Of Consciousness In The Un-Divine View

I'm not a guy of much culture about biology, sciences in general. But I do know scientists are smart guys who discovered a lot of things we didn't knew and proved themselves right trought experiments and the inventions we use. The majority of them, I believe, think that the world is only matter and we're biological machines. I see nothing wrong with materialism, after all, from what I know the scientists proved all came from hydrogen and whatever, altought they tought the atom couldn't be divised anymore, they discovered themselves wrong. Maybe there are even more invisible stuff. But to what extent are we only machines?

After analyzing the question of matter and ourselves and our conscious selves, I can't help but ask this: What is consciousness? How can matter be organized in a way that not only do we perceive the external world but also feel it (different from a robot, or does anyone believes that a robot made to act like a human really is "feeling" something?)? How to explain things like the taste of food, and I do not mean the experience of a living being eating something, the brain judging it as good so it goes on eating, and if it was judged as bad to stop eating, but to feel the flavor. Or even more sutil things like the feeling of listening to great music, or love for humanity, etc. I don't think we could ever make robots who would have inside them the same stuff going on that we have, only respond in a similar manner to us to the external world.

I'm not even close to resting on the side of either science or religion. The science stuff I accept is mostly because a lot of people do and the scientists say so. But I'm inclined towards believing in science for the most, and many scientists believe we are like machines. But what IS pain? Yes, I'm sure they have an explanation for how pain happens, but what is it? What is feeling? Yes I know, electrical impulses in the brain or whatever. Now imagine your brain with all the electrical stuff making the neurons and other stuff work to present you with your view of reality, that seems reasonable right? But what is this view of reality? Or better yet, what is us? After all, even if reducing it to mere activity of the brain, we need and observer, right? Or not? The observer is the greatest mystery. Many materialists understand how the brain works, but how do the observer works? Many understand that we get a lot of pleasure after physical exercise (Btw people, don't forget to exercise, stay healthy) due to endorphins. But what IS the sensation caused by the endorphins? Can you describe it in purely materialistic terms?

On the other hand things like physical alterations on the brain changing human behavior drastically, with each area altered or damaged reacting on it's function makes me confused and not wanting to believe in spirits and "God".

Either all things have consciousness on some level, thus our selves being just a more advanced form of organized matter (wich has conscience in all atoms, since all things have consciousness) or consciousness is a miracle, altought a miracle that can be damaged by altering the brain.

Please explain your view, especially if you're Theist or agree that we are biological machines and nothing more. Agnostics will just agree with my doubt and uncertainty
You're quite hostile.

I got a right to be hostile, man, my people been persecuted!

Mind and brain are separate.

Mind can be separated into many different processes - creativity, logic, iteration, etc.  The brain is the (temporary?) vessel of the mind, and facilitates the mind's operation in this physical world (consider a brain without a body - useless, isn't it?  The mind is quite likely useless without a "seat", which is, in the human case, the brain).

The soul/spirit/self is either a "higher" part of the mind, or it's a level even higher than the mind (this is especially true from the perspective of "higher consciousness" being an overarching and all-pervading thing [a true "God", if ever there was one]).  The mind operates as something like a "filter" for the soul - it acts for the soul as the brain acts for the mind, as a vessel and prime inputer.

I tend to think of the brain/mind as being "individual" and "interior", and the soul/spirit/self as being "individualised" and "exterior" - consider the crown chakra, at the very top of a human's body: it is at a point on the body which is behind perception (ask me to explain this if you want me to).  The soul/spirit/self, similarly, is behind perception.  Through meditation, it is suggested that one can turn one's perception inward, and focus on the soul/spirit/self (and see whatever else may be "behind" our physical perception?).

Caffeine

Personally I see humans as spare, biological parts who are the product (like all life) of a sort of anomaly.  Spirits, souls, or whatever don't seem to carry any weight logically.  How do you explain such things?  Not to be rude, but they seem far-fetched.  If the brain and it's thoughts include processes dealing with chemicals, synapses, etc., then why would we have souls?  More and more, the human race learns new things about their bodies and other life.  To be honest I see the whole body as a collection of tiny parts waiting to be consumed and recycled by the earth. 

Personally I see humans as spare, biological parts who are the product (like all life) of a sort of anomaly.  Spirits, souls, or whatever don't seem to carry any weight logically.  How do you explain such things?  Not to be rude, but they seem far-fetched.  If the brain and it's thoughts include processes dealing with chemicals, synapses, etc., then why would we have souls?  More and more, the human race learns new things about their bodies and other life.  To be honest I see the whole body as a collection of tiny parts waiting to be consumed and recycled by the earth. 
This.
Let us go beyond "you" and "me"! Feel cosmically!
   
    Friedrich Nietzsche

"Spiritual" dualistic views fail hard because the thought of a "pure" realm injecting itself into the worldly obviously conflicts with immediate experience.  Put your hand on a hot stove if you need proof of this.

"Materialistic" views usually fail because they don't account for the fact that information is encoded in structure, not immediate presence.

This post is mainly to Caffeine.

We have no "scientific" basis for believing that inanimate matter can develope life, we simply know that there was a time when there was no life on this planet, and we know that there was a time when there was life on this planet.  We also know that there's a time in the life of a living thing when it stops living and becomes inanimate again - what's up with that?

There's nothing illogical about any of the suggestions in my previous post, they simply don't have their basis in pure logic.  This, of course, is because we don't even have the most basic facts when it comes to the actualities behind such concepts as "the soul", etc. (and many would argue for the Dawkins approach - "if there's no evidence, don't believe in it").  It's quite impossible to make logical deductions from no data.  However, we can create possibilities which are more or less likely, and conform more or less to what is already known (this is generally what "Philosophy" is about, at certain levels).

Consider that the mind is larger than the physical universe.

As far as "explaining" things go - computer programs are unable to "understand" the system which operates them.  The program is defined, given inputs (hopefully), and left to run.  It cannot escape its design; it cannot escape its confines.  Humans are exactly the same.  Given that we are inside a system [and/or are the system], we can never understand that which is outside of the system, unless we somehow manage to take ourselves outside (again - meditation?).

The whole body is a collection of tiny parts waiting to be consumed and recycled by various systems (might as well say "the earth", to be honest, since that pretty much sums it up).  What about the mind?  It's incredibly far-fetched to deny the existence of a "mind".  Do you disagree with my assertion that the mind and the brain are two different things?  Or, perhaps, your view is more one of "brain creates mind", rather than "mind uses brain"?  At the same time, are these two "options" even mutually exclusive?

To Cynical: I'm becoming more and more convinced that the same thing can exist in two or more different states at the same time.  Fucking Quantum Physics...

As far as "explaining" things go - computer programs are unable to "understand" the system which operates them.  The program is defined, given inputs (hopefully), and left to run.  It cannot escape its design; it cannot escape its confines.
Please don't make computer metaphors when you don't understand computers well enough to understand when you're speaking bullshit. 

A program can easily escape its confines.  This is the entire concept behind a buffer overflow attack.  This is also why sprintf(char*, char*, ...) has been replaced with snprintf(char*, int, char*, ...) in recent years.


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To Cynical: I'm becoming more and more convinced that the same thing can exist in two or more different states at the same time.  Fucking Quantum Physics...
Then you don't understand quantum physics.  Schrodinger's Cat/Quantum Teleportation/etc. are a statistics thing, not a "reality of matter" thing.  An electron only exists in one spot, but because observing it modifies the thing being observed, our model cannot pinpoint a location, and thus it has to be described as being in multiple locations.

All matter in the universe is subject to the same physical laws.
The human brain/mind creates a simulacrum of the external world, and operates within this paradigm.
Link exists between physical reality and mental reality, our capacity for this hints at a correlation in underlying structure of the two.
The sciences, mathematics physics and chemistry, our ability to represent abstract, intangible components of reality points to the same conclusion: The inherent similarities in the structure of the known universe and the human mind enable this, they are both vast arrangements of chemical units all bound by the same relational laws (laws set in place when the universe came to exist; 'weights' and magnetic charge of chemical entities, and the bonding properties of subatomic particles.).

Chemicals aren't alive, on a cellular level your mind/body are the vast movement and mutation of inert chemicals. Electrons aren't alive either but if they're are arranged and moved properly they can be interpreted as data, computers etc. Your mind is  the structured motion of data, interpreted into information by your brain.

Some deviant posted this a while ago, from memory:
"Consciousness is a function of the brain and thought is a secretion of the brain."

Was going to harp on about the parietal lobes but have lectures to attend, meditation appears to still the parietal lobes which are sort of like a global accelerometer/syncromesh for the brain- supposedly responsible for feelings of divine presence as well. ~ Stilling the flow of data --> transcendental experience. I like to think it's how the universe feels most of the time.
Rise Arjuna

Thanks for the answers. Yes cargest explain why you said the point above our heads is behind perception, I was a little confused by that.

At this point of my life I tend to agree with Cargést. But I also find it very reasonable that all that exists has self consciousness on some level, even atoms.

All the other posts did not address my main question: What is consciousness and feeling? HOW do we perceive things? How can extremely small particles, over time, form a thing that did not exist that is self consciousness? There are in my opinion two types of self consciousness. A robot can be made wich has self consciousness. Imagine a human shaped robot that interacts with you. If you try to punch him, he will duck it and then react. Isn't that self consciousness? But we know our consciousness is not like that. We experience stuff.

So as I said this leaves me with two possibilities (I'm repeating them because most people did not address the basic question):

1. All things have consciousness, even the smallest. Thus our consciousness is just and advanced combination of self-conscious particles

2. As Cargest said we use the material world as a vehicle for more subtle things, not that fantastical if you think about it. Or is it?
You're quite hostile.

I got a right to be hostile, man, my people been persecuted!

1. All things have consciousness, even the smallest. Thus our consciousness is just and advanced combination of self-conscious particles

2. As Cargest said we use the material world as a vehicle for more subtle things, not that fantastical if you think about it. Or is it?

This is basically the same conclusion that I've come to.

I think that 1. is correct - everything is conscious, and the level at which the consciousness is most actualised will depend on the degree to which the particles act in unison.

I think 2. factors in when considering the forms that the matter of the universe has a tendency to take. The dualism is probably just metaphor, but good metaphors give us a clearer picture of how things are.

As far as "explaining" things go - computer programs are unable to "understand" the system which operates them.  The program is defined, given inputs (hopefully), and left to run.  It cannot escape its design; it cannot escape its confines.
Please don't make computer metaphors when you don't understand computers well enough to understand when you're speaking bullshit.  

A program can easily escape its confines.  This is the entire concept behind a buffer overflow attack.  This is also why sprintf(char*, char*, ...) has been replaced with snprintf(char*, int, char*, ...) in recent years.

Unless a program is self-reprogramming, it can't escape the instructions which it is given.  If it is self-reprogramming, that in itself is an instruction, so it's still not able to break out of its system.

This is a fundamental aspect of modern computer science, and is one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.  The two reasons that I know anything about this are that I studied Computer Science for two years myself, and a friend of mine from that very same class is currently studying Computer Science at Cambridge University, with a personal focus on Artificial Intelligence.  If you have an issue with anything that I've said there, take it up with his lecturers and tutors.

Memory overflow has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.  I think you basically just misunderstood what I was trying to say, primarily because I don't know the words to use.

You also misunderstand my use of the term "state".  Also, are we sure that electrons exist?  I'm pretty sure there was something which had been suggested to exist but which actually didn't.

Yes cargest explain why you said the point above our heads is behind perception, I was a little confused by that.

The crown chakra is behind our eyes, so we cannot see it; we cannot smell it, or taste it, or hear it.  We can touch the area on our heads where it is supposed to be, but we cannot touch it.  It is outside the realms of our sense, outside the realms of our perception.  In a similar fashion, the "self" is outside of the realms of our perception.  One could say that it is directly behind our perception - the self is looking at this physical manifestation of things through the eyes of the body, using the chemical processes of the brain and the intelligence of the mind to secure itself, in whatever way, in this physical world.  What happens if we turn our perception around, and start looking at/through the self, instead of at this physical reality?

I have no experience of doing this, and I have only the vaguest idea of how to go about doing this.  However, I've already formed wondrous ideas about seeing through the self, into new worlds and new ways of existing.  The "self", really, is simply the point at which consciousness becomes individual (which is why I disagree with the statement "all things have consciousness", and prefer "consciousness is in all things").  Looking out from this point, using this point as a window into either realm - the physical, or the outside - would be very interesting.

I took a graduate seminar on this subject last semester. It's a fascinating subject but not exactly my area of expertise. I take an agnostic position on these matters since I don't feel as though I've wrapped my head around all of the arguments for and against the various positions.

Substance dualism (or Cartesian dualism, if you like) is very much a fringe view within the philosophy and science of the mind these days and some form of materialism seems to be accepted by most people working in these fields, though there has been something of a resurgence of dualism recently (see The Waning of Materialism by Robert Koons and George Bealer, though it should be stressed that recent dualist views don't all address the qualia problem specifically, which is what the OP seemed to be concerned about.)

Substance dualism was historically the dominant form of dualism among those who identified as dualist, but that position does not exhaust the logical possibilities. Another form of dualism that has received a lot of attention in recent years, especially since the publication of The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers, is known as 'property dualism.' Property dualism posits the existence of non-physical mental properties rather than the non-physical substance of Cartesian dualism. This might seem like a rather arcane distinction, but the logical consequences of the two views are quite different. There are, as far as I can tell, two main reasons to accept property dualism. One reason has to do with the causal closure of the physical. According to the causal closure thesis, every physical event that has a cause has a sufficient physical cause. Substance dualism is committed to the denial of causal closure in that it holds that the (non-physical) mental has causal efficacy over the physical domain. Many researchers find it extremely implausible to deny causal closure. Property dualism is not committed to the denial of causal closure. Another reason to favor property dualism has to do with arguments against materialism. One of the most well-known of these arguments is David Chalmers' 'zombie' argument. Chalmers argues from the conceivability of zombies (that is, physically and functionally isomorphic twins of individuals in the actual world that lack conscious experience) to the failure of conscious experience to logically supervene on the physical. If the argument works, it means that consciousness is something over and above the physical; to put it another way, after God determined all the physical facts of the universe, he still had more work to do. This is a very controversial argument and has spawned tons of debate.

One apparent problem with property dualism is that it seems to be committed to epiphenomenalism. In fact, Chalmers' argument against materialism seems to lead to epiphenomenalism. Epiphenomenalism can come in two flavors which seem to be related to one another. One holds that the mental has no explanatory relevance to physical events. The other holds that the mental has no causal efficacy. Both versions are counterintuitive (though intuition is certainly not sacrosanct, and science often overturns intuition). You don't get this sort of problem if you identify brain events with mental events, and on that view you also don't need to deny causal closure, but that sort of identification seems problematic for reasons articulated by Chalmers, Saul Kripke, and others.

The strongest position I would take on these matters is what Thomas Nagel argues, namely that some sort of conceptual revolution needs to occur in this domain before a satisfactory scientific explanation of consciousness can be produced. Our phenomenal and physical concepts simply do not allow us to see how the phenomenal could arise out of the physical.

Caffeine

I understood what you guys are saying, but given the connections we can draw from the information we have there seems to be no reason to assume consciousness postmortem.

Unless a program is self-reprogramming, it can't escape the instructions which it is given.
Wrong.  The instruction area of memory can be changed by outside forces just as easily as anything else.

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This is a fundamental aspect of modern computer science, and is one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to Artificial Intelligence.  The two reasons that I know anything about this are that I studied Computer Science for two years myself, and a friend of mine from that very same class is currently studying Computer Science at Cambridge University, with a personal focus on Artificial Intelligence.  If you have an issue with anything that I've said there, take it up with his lecturers and tutors.
Wonderful, an e-peen measuring contest!

You say that you have two years studying computer science- the fact that you mention that a friend from the same class is currently at Cambridge University without mentioning anything about a graduate degree leads me to believe that you took two highschool CS classes.  Good for you- you have less knowledge than the average sophomore in a CS program.  Meanwhile, I have a bachelor's degree in CS plus two years in industry as a systems programmer.

BTW, this is not a fundamental aspect of computer science, nor is it a major stumbling block in AI.  The fundamental basis for all of computer science i(at the current time, at least) is the equivalency of the Von Neumann architecture and the Turing Machine computational model.  The main stumbling block in AI is that there are problems that are undecidable under the Turing Machine computational model that human intuition can easily solve, so we have to use educated randomness to accomplish the same effect.


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You also misunderstand my use of the term "state".
Your use of the term?  How about trying to use the word by its actual meaning?  If you use the term in other ways, your entire conversation becomes meaningless, as language only has a meaning when the symbols have an agreed up on meaning- otherwise, I can just answer back with "Brown tomatoes fight dinosaurs at perihelion" and it'll have exactly as much meaning.
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Also, are we sure that electrons exist?  I'm pretty sure there was something which had been suggested to exist but which actually didn't.
Yes, electrons exist.  High school chemistry should tell you why we know this to be the case.