Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Does ascribing meaning to perception necessitate consciousness? ( Part 1 of ?)

“The comprehensive class we are considering, which is to embrace everything, must embrace itself as one of its members. In other words, if there is such a thing as “everything,” then, “everything” is something, and is a member of the class “everything.” But normally a class is not a member of itself. Mankind, for example, is not a man. Form now the assemblage of all classes which are not members of themselves. This is a class: is it a member of itself or not? If it is, it is one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e., it is not a member of itself. If it is not, it is not one of those classes that are not members of themselves, i.e. it is a member of itself. Thus of the two hypotheses – that it is, and that it is not, a member of itself – each implies its contradictory. This is a contradiction.”(Bertrand Russel, 1919)

Engaging with the enactive approach I can not help but conclude that it is appealing, yet somehow unsatisfactory. Consider Froese’s ascription of the concept of autopoiesis to an autonomous agent:

“We can be certain that an organism exists in its own right, and not merely as a theoretician’s product, because when we distinguish it as an autopoietic system we find that it has an internal relation to its own identity. In other words, it is what it is because of what it does, and it does what it does because of what it is." (p. 5)

Turning the mind-body problem into a body-body problem does a great job in resolving the Cartesian dualism. I nevertheless have to note three issues that arise at this point:

First of all, as the introductory quote implies, this is a self-referential statement; second, it does not explain the psychophysical link; and third, neither does it explain the relation of cognition and consciousness.

Even after we have explained the functional, dynamical, and structural properties of the conscious mind, we can still meaningfully ask the question, Why is it conscious?

Whether and how this question can be a of significance for cognitive science, how it gets addressed by different approaches, and whether the enactive approach can if not explain, then at least be a meaningful starting point to address that question (and probably what possible implications that can have when we look at artificial neural networks) will be outlined and discussed in future posts over the next weeks. Feel free to join the discussion!

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to ask whether the question "why" properly belongs to cognitive science. I'm increasingly of the view that the "why" question of consciousness is more properly to be filed under cosmology. Which would leave some fundamentally different approaches to minds and experience forever irreconcilable, without any one of them necessarily being wrong - at least not in any way that can be resolved with the methods of cognitive science.