Where in the "chain of being" does "experience" end

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Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2009 05:01 pm
At what point in the "chain of existence" does "experience" disappear?

We all impute subjective experience, interiority to our fellow humans based on analogy of form and function even though no one else's direct experience is available to us except by report of language.

Pet owners often impute motives, emotions and other goal directed behaviors to their higher animals even without the medium of language or report. Again an argument can be made on the basis of form (sense organs and brain structure) and function (observable behavior).

This brings up the question at what level does (subjective experience, interiority, differential response, memory, perception, etc) end.

What entities have experience and what entities don't?
How would you know?

See Thomas Nagel's article on "What is it like to be a bat"
http://www.clarku.edu/students/philosophyclub/docs/nagel.pdf

For studies on the apparent adaptive and learning behaviors of bacteria see: http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/science/talking_bacteria.htm

The feeding and learning behavior of Ameba: The general behavior of this ameba is striking in several ways. Globulin is readily ingested to remain so, but lactalbumin is invariably excreted after ingestion. Likewise keratin. After a lactalbumin grain has been once ingested it is not ingested again, although it may attract the ameba into following it about for a while. If the ingested and excreted grain of lactalbumin is presented several times in succession, each succeeding test calls forth less change in behavior; but if followed by a fresh grain ingestion may ensue. The decreasing attractiveness of the same lactalbumin grai n when presented several times in succession, may be due to learning of a simple sort. This ameba is fairly consistent in its general behavior.

On what basis does one deny "experience" to lower forms of life?
On what basis does one deny "experience" to quantum particles or events?
 
Absolution phil
 
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2009 08:35 pm
@prothero,
In a round about way this is a problem I faced when I was a vegetarian. I went vegetarian because I felt at the time animals with traditional meat exhibited intelligence beyond that of plants and somehow then should be treat more special. But the lines of distinction aren't as solid as I began learning about jellyfish in nature and more philosophy. I realized I couldn't make a big justification to morally be a vegetarian, so now I just eat whatever I can get my hands on lol.

Oh and by studying biophysics it is interesting how bacteria and even proteins that have uncanny behavior. Its even more stunning how this behavior can be described by thermodynamics equilibrium. The more scientific knowledge there is, it is increasingly difficult to separate mathematical explanations from learning explanations.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2009 09:04 pm
@prothero,
... from studies on human visual experience pathologies, it appears that a being can sense-and-respond without having any sense-of-experience ... there are two visual processing pathways in the human brain: one involved with experience, and the other involved with sensorimotor activity ... patients with damage to the former have no visual experience, but can successfully perform visually guided tasks; patients with damage to the latter have normal visual experience, but have trouble performing visually guided tasks ... not that this tells us anything about amoebas, but in humans at least it appears to be possible to interact with the world in the absence of conscious experience ...
 
prothero
 
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2009 09:13 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;94970 wrote:
... from studies on human visual experience pathologies, it appears that a being can sense-and-respond without having any sense-of-experience ... there are two visual processing pathways in the human brain: one involved with experience, and the other involved with sensorimotor activity ... patients with damage to the former have no visual experience, but can successfully perform visually guided tasks; patients with damage to the latter have normal visual experience, but have trouble performing visually guided tasks ... not that this tells us anything about amoebas, but in humans at least it appears to be possible to interact with the world in the absence of conscious experience ...

My off the cuff respons is that not all "experience" is conscious experience. When one talks about the "experience" of low level life forms one is not talking about high level cognition but about more fundamental properties of mind (non sensory perceptions, memory, interiority, agency, etc.). The primitive properties of mind which may be widely distributed and present in nature and from which higher levels of cognition (human like self awareness and consciousness) can be derived.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sat 3 Oct, 2009 09:21 pm
@prothero,
prothero;94974 wrote:
My off the cuff respons is that not all "experience" is conscious experience.


... which is why I qualified my last statement with "not that this tells us anything about amoebas" Wink ...
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 07:01 am
@prothero,
Heliotropic plants turn towards the light, but we would not want to say that they experience the sun, or sunrise or twilight. Don't we paint a false picture if we apply experience outside of the human?

A blind man takes his seeing-eye dog to a CSO concert; we would not want to say his dog experiences Brahm's German Requiem, or even that either hears the same sounds.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 10:15 am
@jgweed,
.. yes, you have to be careful when looking outside of human experience (which, in phenomenology is, by definition, conscious experience) ... does the seeing-eye dog experience Brahm's German Requiem qua Brahm's German Requiem? - most likely not ... does the seeing-eye dog experience the concert hall, the orchestra, and the sound? - I think this cannot be doubted without denying our relatively close kinship ... when we get down to the level of the amoeba, however, we're on alien ground ... we can say that humans and amoebas are both information processors because there is an abstract commonality across the unique things that humans and amoebas do that makes them both count as information processors ... to say that humans and amoebas are both experiencers would require the identification of another such abstract commonality, this time between human experience and what it is that amoebas do - and quite frankly, I don't know if anybody's bothered to look just yet Smile ...
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 11:15 pm
@paulhanke,
Human expeience is unique to humans. Probably each individuals expereince is unique to that person. I fail to see why one would say a dog in a concert hall would not "experience" the music. Dogs can hear. They might not enjoy the music. You wont be able to discuss the piece with them. But on what basis would one "conclude" the dog would not "expereince" the sound.
I am not using the term "experience" as a synonym for language,
thought, self awareness or consciousness. We go throughout our day expereincing all sorts of things without converting them to language. The dog perceives, responds and remembers. By my definition the dog has "expereince".
What is required for experience?
Human experience is human experience.
Dog experience is dog experience?
What qualities would the two kinds of experience share?
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 02:48 pm
@prothero,
prothero;95116 wrote:
The dog perceives, responds and remembers. By my definition the dog has "expereince".


... under this definition of "experience", I think the threshold is pretty low ... basically, we're talking about an information processor with memory ... in which case, ant colonies are experiencers ... individual neurons are experiencers ... and as you note in the OP, even the lowly amoeba may qualify ... on the other hand, in the OP you also speak of subjective experience, interiority, and so on - the "what is it like?" of experience - and ask at what level these end and "how would you know?" ... I would hazard to guess that for an amoeba, there is no "what is it like?" of experience - it perceives and responds with respect to what has been remembered ... much like how a human with a damaged visual experience pathway in the brain (thus no visual experience) can still accomplish visually guided tasks ... so at that level, "how would you know?" seems pretty straightforward: if you observe a relatively simple being perceiving and responding in ways that indicate remembering (and better yet, if you can identify its mechanisms of perceiving, responding, and remembering), then it is an experiencer ... moving along the chain toward humans, however, you have the complication of "what is it like?" - the complication of consciousness ... but if it is indeed a complication of consciousness, does it have any relevance for experience? ... that is, can experience and consciousness be disentangled and looked at independently? ... or is consciousness just an advanced way of experiencing? ...
 
Leonard
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:11 pm
@prothero,
It's subjective, of course, as well as scalar. Every living thing has experience, but that doesn't explain why we crush ants just for the sake of crushing them while we treat dogs as well as we treat our children. Maybe it's because we can notice when a certain species of animal is happy, sad, or angry. We have a need for empathy, and often the unspoken empathy of an animal is greater than that of another human.
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:01 pm
@paulhanke,
[QUOTE=paulhanke;95236]... under this definition of "experience", I think the threshold is pretty low ... basically, we're talking about an information processor with memory ... in which case, ant colonies are experiencers ... individual neurons are experiencers ... and as you note in the OP, even the lowly amoeba may qualify ... on the other hand, in the OP you also speak of subjective experience, interiority, and so on - the "what is it like?" of experience - and ask at what level these end and "how would you know?" ... I would hazard to guess that for an amoeba, there is no "what is it like?" of experience - it perceives and responds with respect to what has been remembered ... much like how a human with a damaged visual experience pathway in the brain (thus no visual experience) can still accomplish visually guided tasks ... so at that level, "how would you know?" seems pretty straightforward: if you observe a relatively simple being perceiving and responding in ways that indicate remembering (and better yet, if you can identify its mechanisms of perceiving, responding, and remembering), then it is an experiencer ... moving along the chain toward humans, however, you have the complication of "what is it like?" - the complication of consciousness ... but if it is indeed a complication of consciousness, does it have any relevance for experience? ... that is, can experience and consciousness be disentangled and looked at independently? ... or is consciousness just an advanced way of experiencing? ...[/QUOTE]I am promoting the idea that mentality "basic experience" is a fundamentalor primitive feature of reality. In which case "consciousness" would be an advanced form of "experiencing". That moving down the "chain of being" it is difficult to determine a point at which primitive forms of "experience" can be said to not exist even in theory.

I wish to challenge the assumption that experience, mind and consciousness will ever be explainable in purely physicalistic terms.

The physicalist theories of mind (identism, functionalism, representationalism, and eliminative materialism) have all failed ot provide an explanation for the mystery (or hard problem, the world knot) of consciousness. There is no form of emergentism which can explain how the mental properties of mind could be derived from material components which themselves were entirely devoid of properties of "experience". That consciousness can not be derived from material components which themselves are inert and insensate (devoid of all experience).. That such a notion is irrational and inchorent.

Consciousness is not a property which could emerge from the complex arrangement of material components which themselves lacked all capability of experience. Expereince is a fundamental and primitive feature of the fundamental "material or physical" components of the universe.

That a careful consideration, and investigation of "experience" (perception, memory, agency and response) will show that "experience" is much more widespread and ubiquitous in nature than is generally appreciated or supposed.

In fact there is little basis in science, in reason, in analogy to deny some form of primitive experience to even the most fundamental "constituents" of reality or at the very least to all forms of "life".
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 12:47 am
@prothero,
I don't know if 'experience' is a completely accurate term in this context, although I can see what you're aiming at. When you are at rest, not occupied by anything, not thinking about anything, does that constitute 'an experience'? I suppose you could say it does, but you are pushing the definition a bit. Usually you would reserve for something generating sensation - 'boy that was an experience!' If you were completely still, not thinking of anything, you would be conscious - capable of reacting or thinking - but not experiencing much other than the potential for something to occur, would you not?

However, that aside, I agree with your main argument, and I think the attempt to eliminate first-person experience from philosophical discourse comes from the tacit recognition that the human person, first-person experience, consciousness, or whatever designation you wish to give it, is not explainable with reference to the objective realm, therefore the best way to deal with it is to deny its reality.

From an essay on the topic:

Quote:
Whether known as the Grand Doctrine, the Mechanical Philosophy, reductionism, materialism or [Betrand] Russell's own "logical atomism," the basic idea is that the world consists of simple, discrete entities that behave and combine according to timeless mathematical laws of nature. Reality is particle and law. All else is imaginary, a pointless if amusing dream. In the new intellectual climate, the job of philosophers, if they still have one, is to accept the atomized worldview without protest and investigate issues of human existence in light of it.

A lecture series published in 1921, Russell's Analysis of Mind was geared around the proposal that ultimately the mind boils down to sense data. "All psychic phenomena are built up out of sensations and images alone," he says. "Beliefs, desires, volitions, and so on" are nothing but "sensations and images variously interrelated." Images may seem more mental than tangible, but according to Russell they "have a causal connection with physical objects, through the fact that they are copies of past sensations." Images reduce to sensations, while sensations reduce to the meeting of the external world with nerve endings. From mind to matter in a few easy steps.

The chief threat to Russell's scheme came from his arch rival, French philosopher Henri Bergson. In his 1911 book, Matter and Memory, Bergson asks why, if images are faded copies of old sensations, we never confuse the recollection of a loud noise with the sensation of a soft one. Unable to answer Bergson's question, Russell can only observe that we have a "belief-feeling" that a remembered image relates to the past. On what basis do we arrive at this belief-feeling? In a world where all images arise from the current of consciousness, where do we get our sense of pastness? Russell cannot say.


from An Analysis of Betrand Russell, by Ted Dace.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 08:30 am
@prothero,
prothero;95371 wrote:
There is no form of emergentism which can explain how the mental properties of mind could be derived from material components which themselves were entirely devoid of properties of "experience". That consciousness can not be derived from material components which themselves are inert and insensate (devoid of all experience).. That such a notion is irrational and inchorent.


Let's rephrase this for a moment and see where it leads: "There is no form of emergentism which can explain how non-elementary properties could be derived from material components which themselves were entirely devoid of those properties." ... does that mean that the properties of water cannot be physically explained because hydrogen and oxygen have the elementary property of being combustible gases at room temperature whereas water has the property of being a liquid at room temperature? ... does that mean that the properties of a star cannot be physically explained because the properties of stellar fusion and outward pressure that balance out the gravitational pull and keep the star from collapsing are not elementary properties of the stellar matter? ... and so on, and so on up the chain?

prothero;95371 wrote:
Consciousness is not a property which could emerge from the complex arrangement of material components which themselves lacked all capability of experience.

[/SIZE]
But what if consciousness is not a property of a complex arrangement but rather precisely is the complex (dynamic) arrangement?
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 11:15 am
@jeeprs,
[QUOTE=jeeprs;95378]I don't know if 'experience' is a completely accurate term in this context, although I can see what you're aiming at.[/QUOTE]
jeeprs;95378 wrote:


However, that aside, I agree with your main argument, and I think the attempt to eliminate first-person experience from philosophical discourse comes from the tacit recognition that the human person, first-person experience, consciousness, or whatever designation you wish to give it, is not explainable with reference to the objective realm, therefore the best way to deal with it is to deny its reality.
To deny the reality of mind- eliminative materialism?

One deliberately avoids the use of anthropocentric terms like consciousness, mind, thought, language, self awareness, ect. One is interested in the most elemental properties of mind. The term "experience" as used in these contexts refers to such fundamental properties as perception, memory and agency. The use of any mental term invariably generates the "rocks are conscious? Response" but "experience" or "prehension" a A.N.W. term are the ones most commonly used, Hartshorne used "psychialism" and Griffin used "panexperientialism.

"As some see it, an impasse has been reached on the mind- body problem between mainstream physicalism and mainstream dualism. So lately another view has been gaining popularity, a view that might be called the 'Russellian theory of mind' (RTM) since it is inspired by some ideas once put forth by Bertrand Russell."

From Wikipedia on "neutal monism"

Bertrand Russell 1921 later adopted a similar position to that of William James[2]. Russell quotes from James's essay "Does 'consciousness' exist?" as follows:

"My thesis is," [James] says, "That if we start with the supposition that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a stuff of which everything is composed, and if we call that stuff 'pure experience,' then knowing can easily be explained as a particular sort of relation towards one another into which portions of pure experience may enter. The relation itself is a part of pure experience; one of its 'terms' becomes the subject or bearer of the knowledge, the knower, the other becomes the object known (p. 4)"[3].

Russell summarizes this notion as follows:
"James's view is that the raw material out of which the world is built up is not of two sorts, one matter and the other mind, but that it is arranged in different patterns by its inter-relations, and that some arrangements may be called mental, while others may be called physical"[4].

Russell observes that "the same view of 'consciousness' is set forth in [James's] succeeding essay, "a World of Pure Experience" (ib., pp. 39-91)"[5]. In addition to the role of James, Russell observes the role of two American Realists:

"the American realists . . . Professor R. B. Perry of Harvard and Mr. Edwin B. Holt . . . have derived a strong impulsion from James, but have more interest than he had in logic and mathematics and the abstract part of philosophy. They speak of "neutral" entities as the stuff out of which both mind and matter are constructed. Thus Holt says: '... perhaps the least dangerous name is neutral-stuff.'"[6].

Russell goes on to agree with James and in part with the "American realists":

"My own belief -- for which the reasons will appear in subsequent lectures -- is that James is right in rejecting consciousness as an entity, and that the American realists are partly right, though not wholly, in considering that both mind and matter are composed of a neutral-stuff which, in isolation is neither mental nor material"[7]

---------- Post added 10-06-2009 at 10:27 AM ----------

[QUOTE=paulhanke;95451]Let's rephrase this for a moment and see where it leads: "There is no form of emergentism which can explain how non-elementary properties could be derived from material components which themselves were entirely devoid of those properties." ... does that mean that the properties of water cannot be physically explained because hydrogen and oxygen have the elementary property of being combustible gases at room temperature whereas water has the property of being a liquid at room temperature? ... [/QUOTE]
paulhanke;95451 wrote:

But what if consciousness is not a property of a complex arrangement but rather precisely is the complex (dynamic) arrangement?
It is not difficult to conceive how the combination of "stuff" with physical properties results in "stuff" with changed physical properties. It is considerably more difficult to see how "stuff" without mental properties or experience combines to make "stuff" with mind or consciousness. There has been a fundamental change in the ontological status of the "emergent" property. One either believes that some form of "mentality or experience" is present all the way down or it "magically emerges" from sufficiently complex arrangements of non mental, inert, insensate "stuff" .

Galen Strawson "Realistic Monism:Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism"
Mental phenomena can not arise from any purely non mental stuff. The one reality and all things in it are necessarily experiential. "emergence can not be brute," that is higher order mind can emerge from lower order mind, but mind can not emerge from no mind. "Brute emergence is by definition a miracle every time it occurs," which is rationally inconceivable.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 12:01 pm
@prothero,
prothero;95515 wrote:
It is not difficult to conceive how the combination of "stuff" with physical properties results in "stuff" with changed physical properties.


... so you find it easy to conceive how two substances with flammable properties combine into something that has the property of dousing flame? ... how is that? - shouldn't it instead be doubly flammable? ... and so are we forced to believe that some form of "dousing flame" is present all the way down in order to avoid supposing that it "magically emerges"?

At any rate, I'm a little bit confused ... you've quoted a lot regarding neutral monism ... is it because you are in agreement with neutral monism, or do you disagree with neutral monism? ... because if you are in agreement with neutral monism, aren't you implicitly accepting emergence? ... that the mental and the material are emergent properties that arise from the dynamic arrangements of "a neutral-stuff which, in isolation is neither mental nor material"?

 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 12:29 pm
@paulhanke,
[QUOTE=paulhanke;95546]At any rate, I'm a little bit confused ... you've quoted a lot regarding neutral monism ... is it because you are in agreement with neutral monism, or do you disagree with neutral monism? ... because if you are in agreement with neutral monism, aren't you implicitly accepting emergence? ... that the mental and the material are emergent properties that arise from the dynamic arrangements of "a neutral-stuff which, in isolation is neither mental nor material"?[/QUOTE]
Well, actually I am a process philosophy person, so the ultimate "stuff" of reality is "events". Every event has both a mental and a material aspect or pole. Somehow the "neutral-stuff" concept of neutral monism is still too "being" as opposed to "becoming" for me.

In brief: process philosophy, panpsychism, and panentheism are my "worldview".

In this thread though I am more concerned with the most elemental properties of the "mental or experiential realm" and what "actual entities" possess them starting from the top down. Elephants, dolphins, fish, insects, plants? Complex arrangements of non living matter? Quantum particles?

I am out for a while have to do something in the real material world.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 03:06 pm
@prothero,
prothero;95559 wrote:

Well, actually I am a process philosophy person, so the ultimate "stuff" of reality is "events". Every event has both a mental and a material aspect or pole. Somehow the "neutral-stuff" concept of neutral monism is still too "being" as opposed to "becoming" for me.


... my own leanings are more toward Dewey and Rescher ... so no atomic theory of process; no attribution of mental/material aspects to each atom ... even these atoms seem too close to "being" than "becoming" (although String Theory may have something to say about that Smile) ...

prothero;95559 wrote:
In this thread though I am more concerned with the most elemental properties of the "mental or experiential realm" and what "actual entities" possess them starting from the top down. Elephants, dolphins, fish, insects, plants? Complex arrangements of non living matter? Quantum particles?


... Rescher speaks of "owned" and "unowned" processes ... personally, I think the terminology is way too substantial - let's try "embodied" and "free" processes for now ... anyhoo, life is quite obviously an embodied process - it flows through and perpetuates itself via matter ... electro-magnetic energy, on the other hand, is a free process - it manifests as a frictionless (in free space) back-and-forth between electric and magnetic fields ... Rescher uses this notion to question the "experience-as-paradigm" approach to process metaphysics:

"... perhaps instead of seeing natural process as enfeebled experience, we should - inversely - see human experience as a quintessential and peculiarly vivid sort of natural process" because "There are - or certainly can be - kinds of natural processes entirely beyond the realm of human experience."

... so - can a first distinction be made that embodied processes can be experiencers whereas free processes cannot? (that's not to say that all embodied processes are experiencers - this could just be the first of a number of distinctions) ... or are our process metaphysics camps already too far apart even to agree on that distinction? Wink ...
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 07:48 pm
@prothero,
I will have to investigate the embodied processes and free processes concept and get back to you. Part of the reason for participation is to learn new things but I hope not to have to totally reconstruct a worldview. Are you familiar with Whitehead?

I am just happy to encounter any process metaphysic, anything but mechanistic determinism, please.
 
paulhanke
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 08:55 pm
@prothero,
prothero;95691 wrote:
Are you familiar with Whitehead?


... mostly second-hand, through overviews of his metaphysics as well as various critical responses (Rescher's "Process Metaphysics"; Seibt's Free Process Theory in the collection "Process Theories") ... I did read 2.5 of his essays in the collection "Philosophers of Process" ... the progression was by birth: Peirce->James->Nietzche->Alexander->Bergson->Dewey->Whitehead->Mead->Hartshorne ... it was a great progression and Dewey really had my synapses firing on all cylinders ... I was so looking forward to reading Whitehead, who after all is "The Man" when it comes to a comprehensive process metaphysics ... but after reading Dewey, reading Whitehead was like taking two steps back and wandering off to the left ... I really need to pick that one back up and get through the rest of Whitehead's essays so I can read Mead and Hartshorne! (but that will probably have to wait a while longer, as this thread has prompted me to finally pull Dewey's "Experience and Nature" off of my to-read shelf and put it on the night stand Smile) ...
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 10:09 pm
@prothero,
What we are reaching for here is a way of demonstrating that conscious awareness - 'experience' - is intrinsic to the fabric of being, not simply an epiphenomenon that has appeared fortuitously via evolution and genetics. In some respects, Russell in his more idealist phase almost agreed with this idea, with his 'primitive mind-stuff', but he never really managed to articulate it or demonstrate what it really meant.

I believe the real philosophical difficulty with this subject actually hinges on the non-objective nature of conscious awareness. Whenever you start to think of 'mindstuff' or 'spirit' or any other kind of objective 'substance' which is supposed to be like 'mind' or 'being', you are in trouble. This is because of the basic principle, understood very well in Indian non-dualism, but hardly at all in Western philosophy, that in the case of conscious awareness, the knower is not separate from the thing known. So even though it is obvious that the first term of any argument or observation is that we are consciously aware, at the same time, the nature of that awareness can never be the object of analysis. Ergo, it is excluded from consideration.

(This principle is stated in the Upanisads as 'the hand cannot grasp itself, the eye cannot see itself' - the knower [atman] which is that by which all is known, is itself unknown. Perhaps this insight has also appeared in Western philosophy as the 'transcendental ego' in Kant and Husserl et al - however as you can imagine, the hordes of analytical philosophers flee screaming from any such obscurantism.)

Obviously we cannot come to a succinct analysis of these very problematic philosophical concepts in short order, but I think this observation might help to illustrate why the idea is so difficult to articulate, and why, in particular, modern thinkers have such great difficulties with it.
 
 

 
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