Consciousness:
The Hard Problem, Thomas Nagel, Bats
Key Vocab
• Physicalism: the view that all events can be entirely
explained in terms of physical processes
• Functionalism...
Physicalism/Materialism: Pros
• Naturalism: materialism or
physicalism explains all life in
naturalistic terms.
• Simplici...
Physicalism/Materialism:
Cons
And also! Intentionality: ‘the quality of mental states (e.g.
thoughts, beliefs, desires, ho...
David Chalmers:
Problems of consciousness
The easy problems:
• finding the ‘neural correlate of
consciousness’
• explainin...
Why the hard problem is hard
“You can look into your mind
until you burst, and you will not
discover neurons and synapses
...
C.D. Broad’s Archangel
1887-1971 – one version of the qualia problem…
‘He would know exactly what the
microscopic structur...
Herbert Feigl’s Martian
1902-1988 - another version of the qualia problem…
‘Could a Martian, entirely without
sentiments o...
Thomas Nagel’s Bat
1937- a batty version of the qualia problem!
1. Many physicalists argue for psycho-physical
reduction: ...
4. The bat is a vivid example. It has a range of activity and
sensory activity extremely different from us. We cannot
imag...
7. Similarly, they would not dismiss as meaningless the
claim that we had experience as rich as their own, just
as we gran...
10. Reduction in the case of many phenomena leads to
greater objectivity. But the subjective character of
experience canno...
Bat-conclusion
14. It does not follow that physicalism is false, only
that we cannot understand how it might be true.
Sens...
Physicalism
Dennett
physicalism is true,
qualia are empty,
science has increasing
purchase on mentality.
The hard problem ...
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Nagel, bats, and the hard problem

Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Nagel, bats, and the hard problem

  • 1. Consciousness: The Hard Problem, Thomas Nagel, Bats
  • 2. Key Vocab • Physicalism: the view that all events can be entirely explained in terms of physical processes • Functionalism: the view that an event is entirely explained functionally: ‘If it walks…’ • Behaviourism: the view that mentality is entirely reducible to behaviours. • Phenomenology: the study of the precise subjective nature of experiences • Psycho-physical reduction: the process of reducing mental phenomena (entirely) to physical ones. • (etre)-en-soi – ‘being-in-itself’ – physical things that are passive • (etre)-pour-soi – ‘being-for-itself’ – conscious entities
  • 3. Physicalism/Materialism: Pros • Naturalism: materialism or physicalism explains all life in naturalistic terms. • Simplicity: The reducibility of psychological, biological and other explanations to physical explanations. • No ectoplasm: The elimination of irreducible agency explanations: no ‘souls’, ‘spirits’, ‘ghosts in the machine’
  • 4. Physicalism/Materialism: Cons And also! Intentionality: ‘the quality of mental states (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) which consists in their being directed towards some object or state of affairs.’
  • 5. David Chalmers: Problems of consciousness The easy problems: • finding the ‘neural correlate of consciousness’ • explaining the ability to apply information to thinking and behavior • explaining the ability to focus attention, recall items from memory, integrate perceptions, etc. ‘The Hard Problem’ ( = the qualia problem) • Why does consciousness feel the way it does? Why does it feel like anything? Kurt Cobain, actually. Well, alright, it’s David Chalmers. He thinks the qualia problem can’t be solved. And this is Father Christmas. No, OK, it’s Daniel Dennett. He thinks the qualia problem is solvable.
  • 6. Why the hard problem is hard “You can look into your mind until you burst, and you will not discover neurons and synapses and all the rest; and you can stare at someone’s brain from dawn till dusk and you will not perceive the consciousness that is so apparent to the person whose brain you are so rudely eye-balling.“ Colin McGinn, ‘The Mysterious Flame’ (hence ‘The New Mysterians’ as phrase to describe Nagel, McGinn, others…) This is not an image of your mind. Or is it?
  • 7. C.D. Broad’s Archangel 1887-1971 – one version of the qualia problem… ‘He would know exactly what the microscopic structure of ammonia must be; but he would be totally unable to predict that a substance with this structure must smell as ammonia does when it gets into the human nose…the peculiar smell of ammonia in particular [would be unknown to him] unless someone told him so or he had smelled it for himself.’ NH3
  • 8. Herbert Feigl’s Martian 1902-1988 - another version of the qualia problem… ‘Could a Martian, entirely without sentiments of compassion and piety, know about what is going on during a commemoration of the armistice? …[He could] predict all responses, including the linguistic utterances of the earthlings…their laughter about jokes, or their (solemn) behavior… But ex hypothesi, the Martian would be lacking completely in the sort of imagery and empathy which depends on familiarity (direct acquaintance) with the kinds of qualia to be imaged or empathized.’
  • 9. Thomas Nagel’s Bat 1937- a batty version of the qualia problem! 1. Many physicalists argue for psycho-physical reduction: water is really the same as H2O and this kind of reductive relationship holds between mental states and physical states. 2. However! there is something it is like to be an organism, the ‘subjective character’ of that experience, ‘the most important and characteristic features of consciousness’ 3. So reductive material accounts of mental phenomena must explain the phenomenological features of consciousness. Yet subjective and objective accounts are very different.
  • 10. 4. The bat is a vivid example. It has a range of activity and sensory activity extremely different from us. We cannot imagine what it is really like to be a bat. (Imagining you are a bat is really only thinking of what it would be like for you to behave as a bat behaves, not what it is like to be the bat). 5. This is because to know other minds we extrapolate from our own case, but in the case of a bat ‘the extrapolation is incompletable’. Objective ascriptions of experience between entities is only possible ‘for someone sufficiently similar to the object of ascription to be able to adopt his point of view’. 6. So, similarly, intelligent bats or Martians could not form a conception of what it was like to be us: the structure of their minds and the ‘limits of their nature’ might preclude it, yet…’intelligent bats or Martians might learn more about the human brain than we ever will’.
  • 11. 7. Similarly, they would not dismiss as meaningless the claim that we had experience as rich as their own, just as we grant that bats lust, hunger, have experience. 8. So this realism about the subjective domain  a belief in the ‘existence of facts beyond human concepts’. There are ‘humanly inaccessible facts’ and ’we can be compelled to recognize the existence of such facts without being able to state or comprehend them’. 9. There is a ‘mystery’ about how the true character of an organism’s experiences could be revealed in the physical operation of that organism  a ‘general difficulty about psychophysical reduction’. This is not bat lust. It’s how we might imagine it. Well, some of us might imagine it.
  • 12. 10. Reduction in the case of many phenomena leads to greater objectivity. But the subjective character of experience cannot be reduced to objective nature: ‘What would be left of what it was like to be a bat if one removed the viewpoint of the bat?’ 11. So greater naturalism and objectivity takes us further away from our subjective experience, and the human or animal viewpoint that we leave behind remains unreduced. 12. A physical theory of mind ‘must account for the subjective character of experience’ yet ‘no presently available conception gives us a clue how this could be done, nor have we any idea what a theory would be like that enabled us to conceive of it.’ A bat being removed. It still has a viewpoint. Bastardo!
  • 13. Bat-conclusion 14. It does not follow that physicalism is false, only that we cannot understand how it might be true. Sensations are physical processes, but we are not in a position to understand how: ‘At the present time the status of physicalism is similar to that which the hypothesis that matter is energy would have if uttered by a pre-Socratic philosopher. We do not have the beginnings of a conception of how it might be true.’ 15. Speculative proposal: can we formulate an objective phenomenology not dependent on empathy or the imagination? Structural features of perception might be more accessible to objective description. This may permit questions about the physical basis of experience to assume a more intelligible form.
  • 14. Physicalism Dennett physicalism is true, qualia are empty, science has increasing purchase on mentality. The hard problem will be solved. Dualism Descartes dualism is true: the hard problem has a (strange?) solution, which is the existence of thinking substance as well as physical substance Mysterianism Nagel, McGinn physicalism is true, but we can’t understand its consequences. The hard problem is insoluble. “consciousness is…a deep mystery…our intelligence is wrongly designed for understanding consciousness.” (McGinn) 3 approaches to the hard problem

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