> But surely without an observer then there isn't even an atom, let alone a
> bullet. Equally, when you talk of neurons, synapses etc. you are speaking
> as their observer.
Well this is an even more fundamental point - do things exist outside
of people observing them? I think they do.
>> > because if that
> >collection of atomes acts like a bullet then it is a bullet. The
> >emergent property is inherent to it.
>> Right, so you acknowledge that the concept of emergent property is at
> least valid. So the question is then: is the property of "bullet-ness" (sorry
> for such an ugly neologism) *the same thing* as the atoms of the bullet,
> or is it something else? I would argue the latter, as a bullet has various
> meanings, properties, functions (cf my table example earlier) that only
> come about once you know what it is and what it is for. In other words
> there is an informational realm as well as a physical one. This leads me
> to interpretation B above - though I still don't agree that it's a dualist
>> Supposing you have two objects which are exactly the same size and
> shape, in fact are exactly the same, right down to the atomic level. But
> they come from different cultures, and one is a bullet whereas the other
> is a paperweight. Are you going to say that the second one is, in fact, a
> bullet? Even though the concept of "bullet" has no meaning in that
> culture?? Surely not. But it is exactly the same physically as the first
> object- it only differs in terms of the meaning ascribed to it. So it differs
> in emergent property, but not in physical structure. So there *must* be
> another level besides the physical. This is the level of information.
> Emergent properties depend on information as well as atoms.
Yes but the meaning you ascribe to the bullet is *your* take on it,
and not a property inherent to the bullet. These emergent properties
exist in the minds of the observers not in the bullet. All the
collection of atoms has to do to be a bullet is act like a bullet and
all it has to do to be a paperweight is act like one,it doesn't have
to have all these 'bullet-ness' and 'paper-weight-ness' concepts
attached to it, its *you* who does that from your observation.
Similarly all a neural representation of a triangle has to do is have
the correct causal effects that a triangle should, you can the
abstract/ascribe to it a concept of triangle-ness
> Now, you may argue that like my fMRI of the leg example, this doesn't
> quite work because we are discussing an object, and the meaning
> attached to it comes from the brain. But this relates back to the idea that
> it may be meaningless to discuss consciousness- or at least some of its
> aspects- in isolation from the environment. After all it seems likely that a
> brain with absolutely no sensory input can generate qualia- they depend
> on interaction with environment.
I'm with you here. I don't think the brain can be explained in
isolation if only becuase it didn't evolve in isolation. I think it
unlikely that the brain evolved in isolation in such a way that we can
complex societies for example. And yes I agree that trying to explain
consciousness in isolation may be futile.
> What I should have said was "total sensory deprivation" rather than
> "social isolation".
Poverty of the stimulus arguments are always very difficult to
>> Could someone raised in total sensory deprivation ever experience
> qualia?? I have no idea, but it seems at least possible that they might not.
Well of course they wouldn't because no-one does :)