A Debate on Dualism

(cont from an earlier discussion)

Language, as usual, says more truth than philosophy.
“What we perceive” is the representations of consciousness. They come in part (but only in part) from the “ongoing chemical and electrical processes of our brains”. For example, the simplest representation, a sensation, is certainly originated by some activity in the nervous system, in turn originated by some physical outer event.
But it’s “we” who perceive. We are the transcendental self representing all representations, ad unifying them in one consciousness.

Thus, the logical order is: “we” (being conscious beings) perceive “what we perceive” (the representations of consciousness, be them sensations, inner states, or the conscious process itself) “through consciousness” (not “as consciousness”: all the representations ore objects to consiousness itself, only the perceiving self is subject). Indeed, although we observe the perceiving self in its conscious process, we just know that it exists intuitively. The intuition that we exist as subjects is the fundamental basis of reality and of our map of it.

Gpuccio I do not think you can enrol ordinary language on the side of dualism.  In ordinary language we do not perceive “the representations of consciousness”.  We perceive things such as tables and chairs.  Nor do we observe ourselves perceiving – this way lies an infinite regress (do we then observe ourselves observing ourselves perceiving?)

Of course we know we exist – but know we exist as subjects? What kind of ordinary language is that?

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15 Responses to “A Debate on Dualism”


  1. 1 gpuccio November 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Mark:

    You are an exacting boss: a whole new thread!

    Well, I said that:

    “Language, as usual, says more truth than philosophy.”

    because I am a big fan of spontaneous language, but I did not mean that language was my only argument.

    “In ordinary language we do not perceive “the representations of consciousness”.”

    What we perceive is a representation of consciousness. We don’t perceive a table, but the image of a table. Images, smells, colors, sounds, as subjective representations, exist only in consciousness. What exists in the outer world, although still rather mysterious, is certainly something different.

    So, in a phrase like:

    “I see an orange”

    There is a subject, the “I”, a process “see” (which defines the type of representation), and on object (an orange), which defines the form we are representing, and usually assumes, for sensations, some mysterious outer object corresponding to that form.

    But all we perceive is a representation.

    “Nor do we observe ourselves perceiving – this way lies an infinite regress (do we then observe ourselves observing ourselves perceiving?)”

    This is more interesting. You may have noticed that I have not said that we perceive the perceiving self. My words are:

    “Indeed, although we observe the perceiving self in its conscious process, we just know that it exists intuitively. The intuition that we exist as subjects is the fundamental basis of reality and of our map of it.”

    I could have been maybe even more precise, saying that:

    “we observe the process of perception, but we just intuit our perceiving self”.

    Let’s be more clear:

    In a sense, consciousness can generate an infinite regress. It can perceive not only the final objects (for instance, sensations), but also the inner processes used by consciousness itself (inner states, feelings, reasonings, visualizations, and even the processes of perception, attention, and so on). In general, consciousness can always “step back” from what it is doing, and observe itself doing it. That really creates a potentially infinite “mise en abime”.

    But the perceiving self can never be “perceived”, because no perception can exist without it. That’s why I call it “transcendental”: it’s no religious judgement, just a philosophical characterization.

    And yet, we know that such a perceiving self exists. We do know that we exist as perceiving selves. That is what I call “intuition”: it is the absolute certainty deriving from being one with the intuited “object”. Indeed, no “subject – object” distinction is possible in that kind of intuition.

    It’s on that intuition that we found all our life, and all our maps of reality. Nothing would make sense without it.

    An interesting thing is that the self remain transcendental (beyond the infinite regress stuff) in both directions: as the receptor of representations (cognition) and as the originator of free actions (free will).

    But please, don’t open a third thread on free will!

    • 2 Mark Frank November 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      You are an exacting boss: a whole new thread!

      It was intended to be a convenience not an order!

      I did not mean that language was my only argument.

      I didn’t suppose so – I just think you cannot use that particular argument successfully.

      What we perceive is a representation of consciousness. We don’t perceive a table, but the image of a table. Images, smells, colors, sounds, as subjective representations, exist only in consciousness. What exists in the outer world, although still rather mysterious, is certainly something different.

      Well this is not supported by ordinary language.  It is also a logical minefield.  For example, you need to carefully distinguish between:

      • “perceiving the image of a table” something which sounds very strange and I don’t quite know what it means. Can one have an image of an image of table?

      and

      • “having an image of a table” – which is fairly straightforward and pretty similar to seeing a table – although of course it might be an hallucination or illusion.

      So, in a phrase like:

      “I see an orange”

      There is a subject, the “I”, a process “see” (which defines the type of representation), and on object (an orange), which defines the form we are representing, and usually assumes, for sensations, some mysterious outer object corresponding to that form.

      But all we perceive is a representation.

      This is highly controversial – have you read Ryle’s Concept of Mind , J.L. Austi’s Sense and Sensibilia, Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations? The would all suggest otherwise.

      And yet, we know that such a perceiving self exists. We do know that we exist as perceiving selves. That is what I call “intuition”: it is the absolute certainty deriving from being one with the intuited “object”. Indeed, no “subject – object” distinction is possible in that kind of intuition.

      It’s on that intuition that we found all our life, and all our maps of reality. Nothing would make sense without it.

      I am afraid I don’t found my life on it! 

  2. 3 Toronto November 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Now here we reach the heart, if not the soul, (pun intended), of this whole ID/Evo debate.

    gpuccio,

    Consider the mystery of a dream.

    Here we have the dreamer, believing he is consciously a part of an experience he has no control of, roaming an unknown world, but aware of his identity, “I”.

    If the “conscious” element we believe interfaces with our brain is not in control of the dream itself, what is?

    There are two options.

    In one case, the brain could be in control of your non “I” elements in your dream. This brain is now acting independently of your “soul” as it decides completely independently what you will react to without regard to any terror you may experience.

    How, without a soul to interface with, since the soul is “experiencing” this scenario, does your brain “know” what will terrify or satisfy you?

    There is another scenario far worse and that is that another soul has reached across the brain/soul interface and is actually controlling the dream.

    Who is more in control in your model, the dreamer or the dream-maker?

    If what you say is true about the brain/soul interface, in a dream, just “who” are you?

  3. 4 Petrushka November 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Obviously consciousness is a poorly understood phenomenon, but if you watc animals of various kinds, it’s also obvious that awareness has gradations.

    Dualism is just another case where people have invented entities as explanations.

    Dualism explains nothing, because it is an ad hoc explanation. It does, however, make live after death more plausible, and that’s the reason people cling to it.

    Interestingly, Adventist, who are adamantly opposed to evolution, do not accept dualism. they believe the literal words of the Bible, which indicate resurrection of the body.

    I was required to learn that as a young Episcopalian:
    _________________
    I believe …
    The Resurrection of the body,
    And the Life everlasting.
    _____________

    Interesting that some of the most fervent believrs do not accept dualism.

  4. 5 gpuccio November 23, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Toronto:

    First of all, a request to you and the other. Please refer in this discussiononly to what I say, and not to your personal models of dualism. I am not defending dualism in itself here, only some concepts which I believe in.

    Your example of the dream is very good, and gives me the occasion to specify some points which are probably not so obvious.

    1) With the term “consciousness” I son’t mean “waking consciousness”, bit everything where a sunjective self experiences something.

    2) I believe that consciousness as we experience it has different states. The subconscious mind and the phenomena of dreams are an example.

    3) In a dream, it is the self, in its state manifested through its subconscious mind, which experiences the whole dream. The same self/sunconscious mind create the whole dream, including its objective scenario and subjective experiencer. Let’s say that the self is subconsciously experiencing the dream world it has created through the dream experiencer it has created.But there is always one self, one final experiencer of all.

    4) The brain is an interface for the self both in the waking state and in the dreaming state. But it is never in absolute control (although it certainly influences the representations).

    You ask:

    “If what you say is true about the brain/soul interface, in a dream, just “who” are you?”

    The same self I am in the waking state. Expressing itself through a different “brain-mind” state.

  5. 6 gpuccio November 23, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Petrushka:

    I am trying to stay away from any religious consideration. I will not even use the world “soul” (unless you force me).

    Could you try to do the same?

    I am not interested in a discussion about religion.

  6. 7 gpuccio November 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Mark:

    Let’s leave aside language for a moment. Maybe we can uunderstand better if I avoid the word “perceive”.

    Can you agree that, when I see a table, the only subjective event is that I am representing an image? (or however you want to call it: I suppose you have seen a table in your life).

    Anything else: the light which hits the table and comes back to the eye, the interaction with the retina, the nural transmission in the optic nerve, the path to the accipital cortex, the cortical reactions, all that can be described and studied in an objective way. But that’s not “I see the table”. “I see the table” is the phrase we have created to describe our subjective experience, long before we had any idea of what physical and biological laws were the outer cause of that experience.

    And it has a subject. “I”.

    IOWs, all tfhe experience is intuited as an I which represents a table.

    That is so true that we easily generate phrases like:

    “I feel sad”

    where the “I” represents not the image of an external object, but an inner state.

    And you atre right, the image of a table could also be an allucination. But it is a representation just the same, a subjective event.

    So now comes one of my fundamental principle: any subjective represenation is an objective fact.

    That is another way to say that subjective reality is a reality.

    What is controversial? That “But all we perceive is a representation”? Please, explain better. And don’t force me to read Wittgenstein, if possible…

  7. 8 Toronto November 23, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    gpuccio:

    So now comes one of my fundamental principle: any subjective represenation is an objective fact.

    I don’t understand this at all.

    If this is a fundamental principle of yours you need to explain it better.

  8. 9 Toronto November 23, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    gpuccio,

    If consciousness is separate from the brain, why would you need the brain to dream?

  9. 10 Toronto November 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    gpuccio,
    If consciousness is separate from the brain, why are dreams required at all?

    Scientists believe one reason we dream, is the result of the brain shuffling memories around in the middle of the night. It makes sense that something like this would have an effect on our consciousness only if the brain was the source of that consciousness.

    Your disembodied consciousness theory begs the question, if cats dream, do they have “souls” also.

    If what you say is correct, then it follows that they must, but that means it is not our “souls” that make us different from other animals, since they must also have souls if that is what is required for dreaming.

    We know cats dream since we can see them trying to act out their dreams when the chemical disabling muscle activity, is blocked by us in experiments.

  10. 11 gpuccio November 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Toronto:

    One thing at a time.

    First of all, I must say that I am very happy of your questions in this context: they are good and pertinent.

    “If this is a fundamental principle of yours you need to explain it better.”

    And I will.

    The principle is, again:

    “Any subjective representation is an objective fact.”

    What I mean is: a “fact” is for me something that we know exists. Science is based on facts.

    How do we know facts? Through our personal consciousness. From the representations in our personal consciousness, including sensations, feelings, reasonings, inner states, inner visualizations, and so on, we derive our judgements about what is real, about what exists, about what is a “fact”. And from that we build theories, inferences, and so on, part of which make up our science.

    Now, my simple point is: our conscious representations certainly exist. They are real. If we deny our conscious representations, we deny all that we know through them, IOWs our whole map of reality.

    Abd even more undeniable is the fact that we, as subjects, experience those representations.

    That’s why I say that cosnciousness is “the mother of all facts”, the fact of facts. Our intuition of ourselves as conscious subjects, and of the formal representations which happen in pout consciousness, is the basis for all.

    Threfore, it must be an important part of our map of reality, and of our science.

  11. 12 gpuccio November 24, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Toronto:

    “If consciousness is separate from the brain, why would you need the brain to dream?”

    The conscious self is constantly perceiving the modifications in the brain and mind.

    In the wakings state, sensations and stimuli from the outer world are the main component of its representations, and they come through the brain.

    In the dreaming state, contents from memory, the subconscious mind, and other parts of he brain are the main components of the dream, and they too come from the brain, although in different ways.

    IOWs, the contents of consciousness (the things and forms and states perceived) come from brain and mind.

    But the perceiving self (the subject) is beyond them. However, it is connected to that physical interface, through which it makes its experiences of reality, both in the waking state and in the dreaming state.

  12. 13 Toronto November 24, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    gpuccio,

    How do we know facts? Through our personal consciousness.

    Some epileptics smell burnt toast before a seizure.

    There is no toast despite the fact that they sense it to be real.

    They are awake, not dreaming and not under the influence of any drugs.

    They cannot trust their senses despite how real it seems.

    The burnt toast turns out not to be an absolute fact, but a subjective experience only.

  13. 14 gpuccio November 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Toronto:

    “If consciousness is separate from the brain, why are dreams required at all?”

    They are an important part of the self’s experience of reality. They allow the self many inner expereinces that would not be possible only in the waking state. They allow us to reflect on the various forms of reality of which we can be aware. They have always been a great source of inspiration for art, phyòosophy, religion, or just life.

    And they allow you and me to make this important discussion.

    “Your disembodied consciousness theory begs the question, if cats dream, do they have “souls” also.

    If what you say is correct, then it follows that they must, but that means it is not our “souls” that make us different from other animals, since they must also have souls if that is what is required for dreaming.

    We know cats dream since we can see them trying to act out their dreams when the chemical disabling muscle activity, is blocked by us in experiments.”

    I have no doubts that cats dream, and that they are conscious. I have two beautiful cats, which I love very much.

    The “soul” is essentially a philosophical and religious concept. I am not debating it here. I am debating consciousness. It is not the same thing. The concept of soul is a concept of “essence”, and it is very difficult and scarcely empirical.

    What I am debating here is empirical. And empirical I will stay, thorughout the debate.

    So, I repeat here my initial request to Petrushka:

    I am trying to stay away from any religious consideration. I will not even use the world “soul” (unless you force me). Could you try to do the same? I am not interested in a discussion about religion.

  14. 15 gpuccio November 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Toronto:

    “The burnt toast turns out not to be an absolute fact, but a subjective experience only.”

    Perfectly correct. But what do you mean with that?

    I said:

    “How do we know facts? Through our personal consciousness.”

    That does not mean that any personal representation necessarily corresponds to an outer fact. I am saying that, if and when we reach some reliable knowledge of any outer fact, that is thorugh our personal consciousness.

    The burnt toast does not exist in the physical world, but its conscious representation is certainly an absolute fact: it exists in the mind of the epilectic.


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