Benjamin Virrion

Paris, France

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Benjamin Virrion
Posted 9 months ago
John Searle: Our shared condition -- consciousness
I agree that my argument is not a proof that stone has a consciousness. I mostly wanted to point out two things : 1) The belief that stone does not have a consciousness doesn't seem to be based on any evidence. 2) If we are considering the fact that we have no proof for it, believing that consciousness is limited to brains is actually more "bizarre" than a theory considering that everything can have a consciousness. Indeed, it would turn out to just allow a consciousness for humans and animals, which seems quite an outstanding coincidence, considering all the different possible arrangements you can find in the universe. I believe that there is a mistake in the example with graphite. Indeed, saying that something is made of pencil lead or diamond means that you are describing a macroscopic arrangement, and only making two categories : one being all the bonds are of one type, and the other being all of the bonds are of the other type. However, there is no description of all the "in between" possible arrangements (pure graphite or pure diamond actually do not exist in nature, because it would require the crystal to fill the hole universe). From the starting state to the end state, there is indeed a discontinuity in the properties of the material, but that is because there is a discontinuity between the "all lead" and the "all diamond". If you take the macroscopic properties of the material after each small step of changing only one bond, properties will evolve by small steps/continuously. In physics today, to my knowledge, only quantum physics (compared to classical and general relativity) is not continuous, where these kinds of discontinuous changes in properties are aloud. Even state transitions from solid/liquid/gaz, that are very abrupt, are in classical physics still continuous phenomena. But I would agree that my explanation also has its flaws, such as what do we consider to be the set of "all possible arrangements".
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted 9 months ago
John Searle: Our shared condition -- consciousness
Here, the assumption that stone has no ability for consciousness is still not proven. You are saying that the brain can have consciousness while the stone cannot because the brain has a kind of arrangement the stone does not have. Physically, bot the brain and the stone have an arrangement. The question would then be : why does the brain's arrangement bring a consciousness while the stone's would not allow one ? A thought experiment that shows a big problem with the assumption that the stone does not have a consciousness comes from the following question : what is a brain ? Take a normal brain. Change one atom. Is it still a brain ? Change another one, then another one, then another one. Here, I talk about little blocks (atoms), but mathematically, you could even imagine a continuous process. At the end, you get a stone. When did you go from having a consciousness to not having one ? Either there must be a non continuous step somewhere, or a continuous evolution of consciousness from something that would have one to something that would not. My belief is that each arrangement corresponds to one state of consciousness. This can explain a continuous evolution of consciousness from a brain's to a stone's.
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted 9 months ago
John Searle: Our shared condition -- consciousness
Good talk. This is a subject I've thought a little about, and I think this is a good place to share what I believe in. 1) Why do we think that consciousness is "something else" ? I think that we can solve this mind-body mystery with the following answer : there is a bijection (a one to one correspondance) between the physical brain and our feelings. Therefore, to one "state of mind" corresponds one and only one "physical state". This simplifies the hole question : why can we by changing the "physical state", affect the "state of mind", and vice versa ? Because they describe the same thing. I think that here, John Searl makes the same point. 2) Why do we believe that only humans/animals have a consciousness ? Physically, the human body is made of the same stuff than stone, just rearranged in a different way. With the hypothesis given above, the answer becomes clear. Anything that is physical has a consciousness. I don't really know what are the "feelings" of the stone, but I believe that it is made of the same stuff as me, therefore, it must also have a consciousness. When I say this, many people object to the idea, but I think it is the most logical explanation. The laws of physics usually don't make exceptions for human being or things that we consider animals : they are the same for everything. An argument I often here against this is that humans are more "complex". First, I don't see why emotions/feelings would have anything to do with the complexity. Second, from a mathematical description of information point of view, a very big, hot stone is more "complex" than a human body. 3) This explanation enables us to consider that our "senses" might be just a very limited part of the senses that exist in the world. Indeed, what we call human is just one restricted set of the physical states that exist in the world, and thus, when we talk about consciousness, we only talk about the "state of minds" that correspond to this limited set. What do you guys think of this ?
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted almost 2 years ago
Seth Shostak: ET is (probably) out there -- get ready
The expansion actually affects all space-time, whether in galaxies or not. One simplified way to see it is like a force pushing objects from one another, which would be proportional to the distance between them. On a galaxy scale, it is a negligible force. It starts becoming strong enough when we are at scales close to the hole universe's.
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jon Bergmann: Just how small is an atom?
There is just one thing in your reply that I probably don't understand well. You say that gravity could be instantaneous ? Wouldn't that be in contradiction to Einstein's theory of relativity ? Because what I understood is this. Acceleration is just in fact the consequence of the curvature of space time. Particles, in space time, go in straight lines. And particles with mass themselves make curvature. However, in all of this, a change of curvature cannot propagate at a higher speed than light. Am I wrong ?
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jon Bergmann: Just how small is an atom?
The Pauli Exclusion Principle only applies to fermions. For example, electrons are fermions. However, many particles are not fermions. The latter are called bosons. For example, photons are such particles. This means that you can have two photons with the same state, which is not possible for the electron.But being in a certain state is a bit more complex than just "being somehere". It also means having the same spin, and probably other things that I don't recall perfectly. However, you also need to realize what "being in a place" means in quantum theory. Indeed, a particle is no longer a single point, but a "cloud", and the "cloud" only describes the probability, "if you observe the particle", to find it in a point of space. Quantum theory describes the motion of this cloud in a given potential, just like Newtonian physics describes the motion of a point particle considering the forces exerted on it. So if you ask the questions : can two clouds overlap ? Sure they can. However, one will probably be more dense at a different place than the other.
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Benjamin Virrion
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jon Bergmann: Just how small is an atom?
This is not true of most great thinkers. Einstein himself said that he would not have "found the answer" (special relativity), if he had not read the books of great thinkers that preceded him : Kant, Maxwell of course, Newton, and also a few philosophers. Laforgue (Field Medal), defends the idea that mathematicians are a community that have traditions. He reminds people of the importance to have mentors, and not to be isolated from the community. People that try to find something new but who do not interact with the working community usually end up making basic errors just because they do not have some of the otherwise well known knowledge. However, I do defend that knowledge is not sufficient : thinking is also necessary to make the next step possible.