Re: virus: kurzweil cuts the mustard

joe e. dees (
Fri, 08 Jan 1999 22:16:05 -0600

MarXidad wrote:
> The idea of consciousness may be nothing more than that--an idea, but I
> don't think the absence of any actual consciousness means that there isn't
> anything unique about it.

Excuse me for removing the nose clothespin while we're standing in the barnyard, but if consciousness is just an idea, where does that idea occur, and to whom?

<Consciousness> gave rise to the notion that man
> is "higher" than all the animals and separate from them. It's what
> convinces people of the existence of immaterial souls. Not that I buy into
> that nor does it explain consciousness in any way.

Self-awareness as a godelian phenomenon resulting from the breach of some critical product of the quantity of neurons in the brain and the complexity of their interconnections does not require that either the substrate or the dynamic metapattern produced by it be either extramaterially based or independently ( or perpetually) subsistent.

> I think it's safe to say, however, that <consciousness> is an attempt to
> encapsulate something about the thought processes that are unique to our
> species. The concept of consciousness isn't the same as the perception of
> colour (yes, it's the Canadian spelling) because there are other animals
> that can perceive colour (whether or not it's in the same way we do is
> irrelevant).

No, this is exactly what IS relevant. In phenomenology, the color is the noema and the perception of it is the noesis. Animals are noetic, however they lack the ability to abstract from the bipolar structure of noema-noesis and consider it thematically; this is because they lack explicit self-awareness, the ability to consider themselves thematically. Thus animals can see, but they do not think "I am seeing", not only because they lack a concept of "seeing" independent of the experience, but also because they lack a concept of "I." The greater apes, however, do have self-conception (as proven in the mirror test by Lewis & Brooks-Gunn in SOCIAL COGNITION AND THE ACQUISITION OF SELF).

And I'd say that sex appeal is analogous to the attractiveness
> of a male to a female in a lot of other species.
> I agree with Robin that humans readily accept other people to be conscious
> because we're similar so it's more or less assumed as with other common
> subjective experiences. That doesn't necessarily mean that consciousness is
> just a meme but it does show that *what we accept as being conscious* to be
> the prevalent meme here. Humanoid aliens in sci-fi are easily accepted as
> being conscious but what about fictional aliens that are far from humanoid?
> Anyone remember the crystalline entity from Star Trek:TNG?
> What about dolphins, could they be conscious? Personally, I don't think so
> because I think language and communication has a lot do with consciousness.

It is more likely that whales, especially killer whales and sperm whales, are self-aware. Dolphin "language" is akin to the barking of dogs (who also can be finely trained); whalesong, OTOH, evolves and changes. Whether or not language-bearing beings can develop symbolicity in the absence of the evolution facilitated by tool use in a competitive and feature-rich environment is still an open question.
> They do have a pretty sophisticated way of communicating to each other.
> It's not just communicating to each other, but also thinking to one's self
> in some way that constitutes consciousness in the self-aware sense.


I doubt
> that what dolphins say to each other is something a dolphin would need to
> say to itself, and it's probably because the language isn't complex enough
> for that.


And that would be because they don't have any means (i.e. vocal
> cords) to develop enough variations in patterns to express a variety of
> concepts. Nor do they need to develop new terminology for newly invented
> tools since they don't have things like hands and fingers to make tools.

Half right. Neanderthals did not have fluently usable vocal apparatus (lacking the ability to form certain vowels due to the structure of the throat and jaw), but could conceiveably have signed, and the artifacts that they have left us (ceremonial burial and built homes among them) leave little doubt as to their sentience.

> And as for people, are the retarded or Alzheimer's-inflicted conscious?

I can't believe you asked that!
> /_/ / /o / /
> / / / / / / Mark Cidade
> / / /) / / / _
> / \/\ \_/\/\_X/ ^^^^
> "It is not the consciousness of men
> that determines their being, but,
> on the contrary, their social being
> that determines their consciousness."
> - Karl Marx