A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

The Being And Its Predicates

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on February 14, 2008

I hope I’m not becoming boring to everyone with this ‘consciousness is nothing but being such and such system’, but I keep thinking about it and thinking what follows from it.

I mentioned in the previous post, that the physicalist will say that the ‘problematic’ features of consciousness like the qualitative aspect, the subjectivity and the unity of consciousness can’t be found in the description, as the description is a predicate, and those things are nothing but the being of such system to which the predicate can be given.

Based on this, (if needed) the reductive physicalist can give an answer why for example there won’t be consciousness when we are doing calculations on paper of what will happen with some brain system. That is, in the process of calculating what will happen with certain system, by e.g. taking the state of the system at some time, and then figuring out what will happen with the system in the time after that, there is no actual system with actual being, what we are doing is merely calculating the predicates. The predicates are usually not predicates of the system which calculates the predicates. In usual case the predicates are represented in this calculating system, and are not really predicates of that calculating system. Symbols mean predicates, and are not predicates.

Of course, there is another option open. There possibly can be predicates which are predicates of the system which calculates the predicates of another system. If we predicate implementation of some computation to the original system, by building another system which calculates the predicates of that system, we would end up with a system which also has the predicates that certain computation. IF the brain’s BEING (assuming again consciousness as being idea) is related to implementing some computation, that is IF the ontology of the universe is somehow related to ‘implementing certain computation’, then we might expect that doing calculations on paper might BE, and hence be conscious. Or, which is similar, having a computer which will do the calculations, in that case might have being (and consciousness).

If we think of what ‘implementing a computation’ might mean, we will probably go into the discussion of physical systems with parts, that have specific causal structure, something like Chalmer’s “A physical system implements a given computation when the causal structure of the physical system mirrors the formal structure of the computation.” (here). For sure, we don’t want to take a disconnected systems all over the universe, each of which might happen to perform some part of the whole computation, and say that there is some kind of being there. (for some discussion of those issues see my previous posts Can we digitize the brain and retain consciousness and Consciousness and Special Relativity). There are certainly lot of questions, if one goes that way.

I’m more inclined to think that there is some other metaphysical criteria for being (which would answer the question, which of the things we think of as being are actually being?). Saying that calculating what will happen in some brain, will be being on its own, sounds, well… weird to me. I’m more inclined to go with saying that similarly to how when a computer calculates what will happen with a drop of rain the computer will not be a rain, if it calculates what happens with a brain, it will not BE brain (nor have consciousness). The whole idea seems to me to remove the distinction between reality (what is) and fiction.

Related posts:
Consciousness And Being
Disappearing Being (and Consciousness)
Consciousness as Being and Binding Problems

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2 Responses to “The Being And Its Predicates”

  1. orestesmantra said

    Your remark on doing calculations on paper reminded me of Douglas Hofstdter’s dialogue “A Conversation with einstein’s brain” in The Mind’s I. In the dialogue, he discusses a book that has billions of pages, with each page corresponding to each neuron in Einstein’s brain. On each page, there are a bunch of numbers corresponding to the how the neuron is linked up to other neurons, the thresholds, etc. Furthermore, there are numbers that tell you how to change the numbers due to “interaction” using a pencil and eraser . The point of the dialogue is to show that hypothetically, one could have a “conversation” with a book if one had the time, patience, and know-how to “read” the book. So, would you really be having a conversation with Einstein? The book completely represents the brain and exactly how it would act regarding every possible stimulus, but it just seems so counter-intuitive to claim that yes, you would be having a conversation with Einstein himself. But if you weren’t talking with Einstein who would you be talking with? A book? How would you do that?

    Imagine you had a computerized book-reader that read the book really quickly and spit out the results. Would you then be having a conversation with Einstein now that the time-scales involved were sped up to normal? I think the point of the discussion is that physicalism necessarily commits you to some wild conceptual loopholes, which goes to show just how unintuitive physicalism is, which of course, isn’t to say that physicalism is *wrong*.

    I have been enjoying your series of posts on being though. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks!

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