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NATS 1860 Note 17.docx

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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1860
Keith Schneider

NATS 1860 Note 17 Consciousness - It’s only recently that we focus on consciousness as an attribute of the brain - Philosophy of the mind: o First of all you need to define consciousness:  The awareness of environmental and cognitive events such as the sights and sounds of the world as well as of one’s memories, thoughts, and bodily sensations o What is awareness then? What are the contents of consciousness?  These would be sensory imagery. - What is mental imagery? o This is an experience that resembles perceptual experience, nut which occurs in the absence of the appropriate stimuli for the relevant perception o Any of the senses – sights, sounds, feelings o Can be quit detailed, but tend to be less detailed than the perception of an actual stimulus o Perception without stimulus? It can be a member of action past perceptual experiences, or anticipations of new ones o Crucial for thought?  It’s used for memory retrieval, problem solving, etc. - Consciousness is the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to environmental stimuli o However, just because it can react doesn’t mean its conscious - The integration of information by a cognitive system - The reportability of mental states o Therefore, consciousness is an access to the current mental state. - The ability of a system to access its own internal states - The focus of attention o This is a vast topic, and the book doesn’t do the topic justice. o What you’re paying attention to – you’re often conscious of. - It involves the deliberate control of behaviour o There a certain type of brain damage when you’re conscious of the world, but you cannot do anything about it - The differences between wakefulness and sleep - Easy v. Hard problems o Chalmers (1996) suggests the previous aspects of consciousness will eventually be explained scientifically. He calls these the “easy problems” of consciousness  He claims that we can look at various stages of consciousness to figure out what neural activity works in regards to what consciousness. o The Hard problem is the problem of experience  There is “something it is like” to be conscious  Experiences have qualities (qualia) not reducible to physical properties: redness, depth, sound, smells, emotions, images  “It’s so hard that we’ll never be able to solve it”  The hard part is how difference experiences that is not reducible to any physical properties.  Phenomenal consciousness is at a subjective level. o How do we know how hard a problem is before we have solved it? - When Isaac Newton came up with gravity, it seemed very hard because there were two things that didn’t exchange anything. o It’s hard to explain metaphysical claims. Mind-Body Problem - What is the relationship between mental events (perceptions, hopes, desires, beliefs, etc.) and physical events (brain activity) o They seem like two separate things, and yet they interact together. o Is the mind a physical thing or is it a mental substance o If the mind isn’t physical, then how does it interact with a physical body? - Dualism: the mind and body are distinct entities. o The mind is separate from the body. These are different things. - Idealism: there are only mental entities o All the physical world is totally an illusion - Materialism: there is are only physical entities o Your mind is a manifestation of the activity of your brain o This is a computer program running on your brain  The program is the power of electrical activity and is running on your computer. Dualism - Cartesian dualism (substance dualism): the mind and body are two different substances o What is the substance of “red” or “pain” – they’re mental things o Maybe these experiences have properties that ordinary physical matter doesn’t o Intentionality: experiences inherently relate to something else o Interactionism: the mind and body interact o Epiphenomenalism: the mental states don’t play any causal role - Property Dualism: mental properties are not reducible to non-physical properties (emergent feature) Materialism - This is the philosophy that there is only material things in the world – no spirits, souls, other than matter or energy - Reductive materialism: mental events will ultimately be reduced to material events (mind-brain identity theory) o Heat is reducible to kinetic energy of the molecules  The more the molecules are moving, the warmer the thing.  Heat is just the velocity of molecules. - Eliminative Materialism: some of our current concepts concerning mental states will be found invalid and will be eliminated from scientific vocabulary o Consider vitalism or ether  People used to think that the universe was filled with a substances called “ether” and the waves went across it.  They used science to prove that ether didn’t exist.  Vitalism is some sort of life force in things. They didn’t understand cells, energy or the mitochondria – they just considered that there is a life force. Consciousness and Behaviour - How do we know whether something is conscious o Consciousness is subjective (internal or private?) - Criteria for consciousness: o Behavioural similarity o Physical similarity o Like a “Turing test” for consciousness.  If you can’t tell the difference between two conscious and unconscious things, then it’s not fair to say that one of the two is unconscious  This is a test for computer intelligence.  You communicate electronically with A and B  Can you tell which one is a computer?  If not, then the computer is said to have passed the Turing Test for intelligence.  There are some that get quite clever.  Eliza used to be a psychotherapeutic program that talking to patients. - Zombies? - Are your mental states the same as my mental states? o Inverted spectrum argument o Alien is raised on a planet where red/green colours are inverted. Their green is our red o Is your red my red? How can we tell? - You can eliminate consciousness by knocking out certain pathways in the head - How do we assess awareness? o It’s a subjective criteria”  Was there something presented or not?  No awareness o Objective criteria: Indirect measure of effect of presented item  item has an affect - A behaviourist would say that the subject is indeed aware of the stimulus, even though the subject denies it o If they see the object, then they cannot deny it even if they’re not aware of it. o If something has an effect on the person, then it exist. - There is a gray areas of whether someone denies something or not - Subliminal perception o Perception without awareness o They would present either a blank screen or word masked  Subjects are a t a chance performance in determining whether or not a word has been presented  But the word still has effects  This is a scare because you don’t know if something is your idea or if it was placed in your head. o There are semantically related target answered to faster than unrelated ones. - Master primes are when subjects are unaware. You can immediately mask images and present the target to judge the character of the boy. Degrees of consciousness - Is consciousness discrete or binary? That is, are you either conscious or unconscious with no middle ground? - Which animals are conscious? o As the complexity of animals increase, are they more conscious or are all animals of the same conscious - What about people? Are we conscious from birth, or is consciousness a phenomenon that develops later? - Can computers be conscious? o Essentially our brain is a computer – you can simulated actions of cells - Self-awareness in animals: o When viewing themselves in mirrors, chimpanzees and other animals first act as if confronted by another animal o However, after 5-30 minutes, chimps understand that the images is their own – they investigate specifics on their own faces  Humans can recognize themselves when we’re about 18 months  Bonobos and Chimpanzees recognize themselves  Gorillas can do this  Orcas, dolphins, elephants, and the European magpie can (this is interesting because it doesn’t have a Neocortex) - Further research shows that they do not attribute beliefs and knowledge to other humans - Animals don’t have the same theory of mind that humans do - Chimpanzee ask where the person stands, but do not seem to be aware that they need to ask the person who needed to do this - They do not attribute knowledge to the knower. If you show a chimp someone hiding food under boxes, then the chimp doesn’t know that the person out of the room doesn’t know Conscious Machines - Can computers be conscious? - What if we replace your brain neurons with chips? - Would you abruptly cease to be conscious at some point? - Or would your consciousness fade away? Is consciousness graded? - Or would your consciousness not change? - Maybe consciousness doesn’t feel Attention, Intelligence, and Consciousness
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