1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Can Evolutionary Theory Explain Human Consciousness?

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Nikolai, Jan 12, 2008.

  1. 8ball

    8ball ...I'm pretty sure it wasn't.

    Just "wikipedia'ing" it . . .

    Very interesting and involves similar concepts to something I've been trying to figure out in work today. :)
  2. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Marx certainly wasn't from a working class background. Neither was Hegel. Engels was from an industrialist [yes, a rotten capitalist! :D] background [the exception to the rule even!!!!] and so on... Determinism of any sort doesn't wash! Freedom [of this sort, as the last refuge, so to speak] can not be taken away from a Human Being! Expression of it - sure. But to think freely for oneself and go against one's very background - it IS possible!

    Moreover, in Modernity/Capitalism one can even give up one's property and live off one's labour. One is not necessarily a slave to it, as opposed to Feudalism where power that comes from owning the land [actually, the land owns you, the first borne male child!] can only be separated from one by separating the head from the body, such is the amalgamation of power and person... Not so in Modernity!

    Besides, the ruling class, generally speaking, has no time to think - they either make money or rule the darn place... The proletariat has no time to think - they have to work [or are wooed to "entertain" themselves senselessly by the "industry of dreams", by and large]...

    It's the middle classes - generally speaking - who are trying to advance the cultural achievements. And in those classes, as we know from Lukacs and co., there is quite a bit of prevarication, so some go with the upward social mobility and become conservative but some... ;) Not so difficult to understand this one, as even the working classes are frequently confused, in their poor education, as to where their interests lie, so they even vote their class enemy into power, from time to time...

    Explain the point in more detail, please - I do not want to misunderstand you... ;)

    "Idealism" [a frequently misunderstood and misrepresented notion!!!] was carefully and intelligently critically appraised by many a serious thinker so far, and it's well known to most of us who read even a bit on the topic. Why was it attacked - broadly speaking? It had mainly to do with the need to critically engage with the world in terms of actually drawing the consequences of the philosophy one was holding and engaging with one's world in an emancipatory struggle ["History making with consciousness!"]. Philosophy, up until then, at least after the Ancient Greeks, simply came after the deed and made sense of it all, by and large ["Minerva's owl takes off at dusk"].

    Without dialectics, however, none of that insight/critique would have been possible - either in "Idealism" or "Materialism" ["Realism", as some wrongly call it]. So, your point escapes me, I'm afraid...?

    Again: I have to disagree most vehemently. On the first and second "obvious" point: both are readable and it is possible to understand it.

    I agree with you on the second, less obvious point, partly: i.e. with meaninglessness of PoMo, though. But certainly not with the emancipatory thought/potential and meaning of Classical German "Idealism" [some simply call it "Philosophy", for a good reason, I would have thought]!

    Anyone who actually bothered reading Kant, say, from his "Kleine politische Schriften":

    "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View"

    "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?"

    here: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/kant/index.htm

    or Hegel, like "Philosophy of History"

    here: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/index.htm

    would have known the impact that Modern emancipatory struggle in France and America left on them. Moreover, Hegel moves the whole story to [in Philosophy] the hitherto almost unknown element of History. And if you actually bother reading it - I think you will change your mind, both regarding the "obfuscation and impenetrability" of their thought or their "idealism", as if that means disconnectedness with the world in every respect... Obviously you're interested and not stupid, so...

    Moreover, I have to point out Lenin's and others serious warnings that without Hegel [Classical German Philosophy] and dialectics - Marx is not possible and it is not possible to understand his thought! They even established Hegelian clubs to be able to really dig deep into Marx's emancipatory thought!

    Why was that important? Well, for instance, Karl Kautsky, with all his education and intelligence, had no such education/knowledge [of Hegel and co.] and he was messing it all up trying to merry Darwin and Marx... Barking up the wrong tree and then voting - in the German Parliament [with his Social Democrats at the time] for all the laws readying Germany for war etc. etc. There are consequences whichever direction we take!

    I certainly hope so.

    We have seen more and ever more of business like orientation in the Unis - at least in the UK and it seems in the US, too - for quite a while. Dangerous! Especially when a tobacco company sponsors a Chair in Ethics... :eek: :confused:
  3. Fruitloop

    Fruitloop communism will win

    Gorski and others:

    Thanks for your great responses. I have one (large and hairy) task to complete before I have time to respond, but I will do so as soon as possible.

  4. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Not necessarily so. Sometimes... ;) But I find this equally wanting as it's opposite statement, needless to say...:p

    I highlighted the bit of the quote: I have to hope, together with the rest of you, I think, that Phil's pessimism is misplaced! Let's leave pessimism for better times, as someone rightly pointed out!

    That is, of course, not to say we should do nothing, simply having an uncritical optimistic belief in Human Nature as such. Nope, we ought not just sit and wait and see what happens, without raising hell regarding such tendencies!!! But self-fulfilling prophecies of either earlier CT or PoMo [or Heideggerian kind, for that matter!] are a bad place to start being actively engaged with the world, I think...

    Aristotle already points out to the "uselessness" of Philosophy [every science is more useful, he says, but none is better!]! However, when one thinks of the world in terms of Praxis [Philosophy], then it is not possible to dissect the world in principle. Only for analytical purposes and only up to a point, under certain conditions, namely that the wholeness of the world is not lost! And for that one needs Philosophy!!!!

    Again, I have a feeling that we do not have any definitive proof of the sort. There may be tendencies which are not exactly helpful - but there are many Philosophers, Philosophy courses, Philosophy departments, Philosophy classes, Philosophy Authors, book, publications, seminars, colloquiums, summits, debates, thinkers, academicians, students, analysts which are - one way or another - interested in and/or engaged with Philosophy that I just can't see it "disappearing"...

    I mean, if one just has a brief look at Germany's and France's Philosophical machinery and it's production and quality levels... And even in the US and UK - not all Philosophers there are of the silly Positivistic/Pragmatic/Analytical/etc. persuasion... :D :D There are many Kantian, Hegelian, Marxist, CT etc. etc. Philosophers and/or thinkers there, too! Maybe not as many as we'd like and not in the same proportion as in Germany or France, sure... But!!!

    Certain but not every Philosophy, unfortunately! Otherwise agreed!:cool:
  5. Vixiha

    Vixiha Naughty Nurse

    Hey there, Lord Hugh; I've missed you and hope you're doing well; it's good to see you again! :)
  6. Paulie Tandoori

    Paulie Tandoori shut it you egg!

    Paragraphs are your friend. Honest.
  7. Lord Hugh

    Lord Hugh Multiply and

    I haven't read every single post here but in those that I did, I never found anyone addressing a particular issue which is bothering me:

    All these thought experiments about zombies and AI / emulated brain software has not come to the question of how we are to determine whether these systems have consciousness or not. We have no way of looking at a system and telling if it has consciousness.

    I guess I'd start off by asking how we determine that we have consciousness? My answer would be that we decide we do because we have defined a concept of consciousness as part of our experience of the world, so by necessity we must have it - altho as is sorta evident we all have our own slightly different definitions! But they do have an overlapping component of "it's inherent in the way we live and experience things".

    So how do we determine whether a system has consciousness or not? I would say that we have to let the system firstly have a means of communicating with us, perhaps by teaching it language, and allowing it to learn in the same manner that we did - otherwise it would be a misjudgement to say it is or isn't conscious, because it would not be communicating the same concept of consciousness to us as we were using.

    So once the system has learned language, from the ground up as we did, and is able to be communicated with, I think the best method is simply to ask the system if it has consciousness. If it tells us it does, then since it is using the same concept of consciousness as us, then I think it must be conscious (presuming it's not lying :p). We must assume that this system knows as much about the idea of consciousness as a person, since we have allowed it to learn about it in the same way. This doesn't necessarily mean having read Hegel :p because you can't deny a person-who-hasn't-read-Hegel's assertion that they are conscious based on the fact that they haven't read Hegel.

    This would, I believe, lead to the consequence that any system that can communicate with us, and can have an understanding of the idea of consciousness, will in fact be conscious.

    Why? Well because to understand the concept of consciousness, you must have something to relate the idea of consciousness that you are learning to. Since there is nothing that you can really misunderstand as being consciousness, this means that to be able to understand the idea of consciousness, you must in fact be conscious.

    So I tentatively propose that a system of sufficient complexity to understand a concept of consciousness must be conscious.

    (Also hello Vixiha! Nice to see an old... face? Screenname? Somethin like that!)
  8. Spion

    Spion I hear ya

    Well, that's cleared that up. LOL
  9. MadDruminFerret

    MadDruminFerret At best at rest

    Dont want to derail (havent read the whole thread) but this really reminds me of how savants manage to work out algorithms in their head (to figure out prime numbers... or what day of the week dates fall on) They dont know HOW they do it, they just subconciously pick up on patterns and can apply them almost without thought...
  10. 8ball

    8ball ...I'm pretty sure it wasn't.

    Actually, I think it could only lie by saying 'no'.

    If it said 'yes' it's either telling us the truth, or someone else is lying on its behalf via a nifty bit of hard-coding.

    Like the post - this thread has been in need of some logical dexterity. :cool:
  11. 8ball

    8ball ...I'm pretty sure it wasn't.

    While Daniel Tammett is an enlightening exception, most savants aren't especially communicative so it's hard to really tell if they know how they do it as a rule.
  12. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    From the little I've read on the subject, I think you are right. I think the ones who are brilliant at calculations have little ad hoc rules which then have exceptions and the exceptions have exceptions and so on. My feeling is that we all have this machinery but we use it for semantics (and probably other stuff as well).

    This whole thing about the conscious mind bores me a little. When we have these extraordinary things happening in the subconsciousness that we tend to overlook, its not much surprise that consciousness seems profound and mysterious.
  13. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Say what?:eek:

    [hehehe...:D Hegel and so on not being properly absorbed...:rolleyes::p:D ]
  14. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    Philosophy is the war of consciousness against creative intelligence. Hegel and Spinoza being the worst cases. Try actually reading that bit you quoted on Newton. In particular read the passage where Hegel talks about different shades of light.
  15. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Oh, dear...:rolleyes: That bad, is it?:p I suggest a good and thorough rubbing through the ears with a good, pretty rough and absorbent towel...:D
  16. Demosthenes

    Demosthenes neither achieved much. R.I.P.

    Odd how what spinoza perceived by clear reason turns out to be proved by physicists 300 years later.
  17. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    :eek:And how exactly is that?:confused:
  18. kyser_soze

    kyser_soze Hawking's Angry Eyebrow

    EH? What?

    I have to say I'm with gorski when it comes to Spinoza...all the pre-destination business...brrr...gives me the chills...
  19. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up


    I think that Spinoza was creative despite his beliefs. His philosophy is particularly original and imaginative. He does however state that there is no such thing as creativity.
  20. gorski

    gorski customised free radical


    His Philosophy goes precisely against the imaginative/creative part of us!!

    Only the determinists can feel comfy with this sort of stuff...:hmm:
  21. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Oi! You do know!!!:cool:
  22. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    Computer science wasn't particularly advanced in Spinoza's day. I can forgive him for his odd sounding ideas as they were perfectly logical.
  23. Demosthenes

    Demosthenes neither achieved much. R.I.P.

    I explained why i say this earlier on the thread.
  24. Demosthenes

    Demosthenes neither achieved much. R.I.P.

    And on that subject, as it happens, I checked out what I say about atoms being made of spirit with a theoretical physicist I met the other day, - and he said that was fair enough,

    "Once you get inside the atom, it just goes on for ever." his words not mine.

    And going on for ever is more or less what you'd expect for God.
  25. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    Precisely. A scary assumption...
  26. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    Could we just remind ourselves that Hegel was a Spinozan philosopher and that furthermore he took his notion of "freedom" and its dual notion of "necessity" straight from Spinoza. If we wish to describe Spinoza as a determinist then Hegel is also a determinist in exactly the same sense.

    However I wasn't thinking about determinism. I was interested in creativity and the nonconscious mind (I think I will use nonconscious - subconscious has a Freudian feel).

    This topic is almost completely neglected in Western philsophy as far as I am aware. I think this might be to do with the peculiarities of Christianity. When talking about this sort of thing it becomes revalation and theology proper, not philosophy per se. Not that I think that is really the case its just that the church has maintained a monopoly on this sort of question.

    It is also much more natural to write about conscious thought because it seems tangible even though it rides on top of a crest of non-conscious thought.

    The prestige philosophy borrows from the ancients is also a factor. What is admired and re-produced is rational thought.

    So all in all philosophy focuses on the logical and rational. Even when it rebels against rationalism, it decsends to existentialism and thoughtless action.

    The basic error is to mistake the flow of logic for the flow of thought. Logic is how we present our thoughts. It is not a model for thought itself.

    Archimedes' "Eurika!" moment was neither rational - as he saw it all at once not through mediated determinations of logic - nor irrational - as it could be made to follow a logic. It was something else. It was insightful.

    The upshot of this tends to mean that philosophy is little more than a book keeping exercise. Contemplating pure contemplation and putting each idea in its place with respect to other ideas. In much the same way that you might contemplate a car as a moving chassis and discussing the determinations of breaking and accelerating and cornering without once considering the engine.

    OK I'm generalising a bit.

    But to go back to the original question - consciousness is such a vague and culturally loaded notion that we are bound to want to consider it in an odd, almost superstitious, way.
  27. gorski

    gorski customised free radical

    So, no possibility of improvement, then?:rolleyes::D
  28. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
  29. Knotted

    Knotted Sweet when you stir it up

    "In what sense are laws of inference laws of thought? Can a reason be given for thinking as we do? Will this require an answer outside the game of reasoning? There are two senses of "reason": reason for, and cause. These are two different orders of things. One needs to decide on a criterion for something's being a reason before reason and cause can be distinguished. Reasoning is the calculation actually done, and a reason goes back one step in the calculus. A reason is a reason only inside the game. To give a reason is to go through a process of calculation, and to ask for a reason is to ask how one arrived at the result. The chain of reasons comes to an end, that is, one cannot always give a reason for a reason. But this does not make the reasoning less valid. The answer to the question, Why are you frightened?, involves a hypothesis if a cause is given. But there is no hypothetical element in a calculation."
    (Wittgenstein, Lectures on Philosophy)
  30. Jonti

    Jonti what the dormouse said

    I enjoyed Daniel Tammet's "Born on A Blue Day".

    Tammet reports that different numbers have a different flavour and feeling, even visual appearance, for him. He puts these "shapes" together in his imagination -- the resultant shape is the shape of the answer. His phenomenal account of what it is like for him to do savant calculations reminds me of synaesthesia, but applied to numerical quantity. From his description, his abilities are not so much down to heuristics, more like a perception of numericality.

    It's as if he feels the meaning of numbers in a sensory, almost palpable sort of way.

Share This Page