Consciousness ~=~ self-referentiality' (was Re: Consciousness, New Thinking About

Matt Jones jonesmat at physiology.wisc.edu
Mon Jun 3 17:17:44 EST 2002


Mark Horn <rama at pop3.discovernet.net> wrote in message news:<adge3f$6t9$0 at 216.221.131.245>...
> 3-JUN-2002
> 
> With all due respect -
> 
> It seems surprisingly meaningless to suggest that "whatever 
> consciousness is, it must be made of normal matter," or anything else. 
 
<snip>

> I would suggest that defining consciousness physically might be 
> analogous to the enterprise of defining the quantum wave function of the 
> universe [1], and that the convergence of our efforts must ultimately 
> yield a quantum cosmology that is totally self-consistent;


You bring up a lot of valid points on which our current ideas about
consciousness fall far short of anything resembling a proper physical
theory.

No argument there. We have no idea what a physical theory of
consciousness might look like (assuming consciousness "is something").

But 100 years ago, physicists had literally no inkling whatsover what
their physical theories would eventually look like today (in fact if
you asked almost any of them, approximately -one- of them would have
said anything about spacetime, the equivalence of energy & matter, or
probability functions).

About 150 years before that, nobody, physicist or philosopher (I guess
physicists were all called "natural philosophers" back then), had any
idea that  a physical theory might even involve equations.

Yeah,  there's a lot we don't know.  And that's exactly how it'll
remain unless we mull over the various options.

Physicists didn't arrive at the standard model by some wholesale
theorizing about unified field theories. Indeed, nobody could even
talk about unification theories until a lot of groundwork in more
mundane areas had already been rigorously laid.  And laid in an
entirely piecemeal fashion (ok, so 1905 saw one wholesale theory in
its entirety, but that was an extreme outlier, and was "special", not
"general" anyway).

To say that we need something like a unified theory of physics before
contemplating theories of consciousness just isn't realistic. That's
not how classical physics arose, it's not how statistical mechanics
arose, it's not how relativity arose (close, though), it's not how
quantum electrodynamics or chromodynamics arose, it's not how modern
evolutionary or molecular biology arose, it's not how psychology
arose, etc etc etc.

It's just not how people do science. They start with what they -do-
know, and speculate about things they -don't- know.


Cheers,

Matt




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