Lawrence Trevanion

Canberra, Australia

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Comments & conversations

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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted about 22 hours ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
Our different perspectives are easy to understand. You accept as authoritative the language of Leibniz (with a dash of Aquinas and Plato). You maintain a view about logic, reason, truth and knowledge, consciousness and material and seem unable to regard them as words that are learned and taught. You are adamant that we assume there is mind and body from the outset while claiming to be open minded and anti-fundamentalist. You disregard scepticism and are unable to entertain the idea that, as language speakers, our aim is to be articulate about experience. My own view is firstly relativist (the denial of absolutes) based on the recognition that a great quantity of philosophical nonsense involves giving words more scope and power than they could possibly possess. Words are thus regarded as useful rather than perfect (a view that provides a basis for regarding language as an evolved mechanism). Secondly, it is in the empiricist school of Berkeley and Hume. Hume’s scepticism is right, Berkeley’s self-centric viewpoint is right but his description of it is wrong – experience is NOT expressed as the existence of perceptions in the mind. Plainly you do not understand Berkeley’s denial of the existence of the real. Emotion and memory and thinking are regarded as perceptions in the mind IN THE PRESENT. Rephrasing Berkeley’s “all perceptions exist in the mind” to “I perceive X” still views experience in a similar way. Your rejection of my account of subjective perception is thoughtless. The view I express is perceivist - it is based on interpreting experience as a real perceiver perceiving a real world in a real way. Its realism is secondary, and it is a realism that treats the real, not as known, but as perceived. This is a good account, I think, of the human relationship to the real and a good account of the mechanics and evolution of language. This is a new approach, of course. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the glamour of being crazy.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 2 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
No! We do not have states of consciousness. The best way to articulate our experience is to say "I perceive X" and if we understand 'I' to be the object that perceives and perception a real process then we have a sound basis for neuroscience. No! These (non-existent) states are not in anything, not in the brain and not in the self. Science has no need to account for things that don't exist, and particularly not inventions from people who are unable to relate experience, the real and perception in a coherent way. We should be open minded about things we don't understand, not about things that we do.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 2 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
“Science deals in object proofs” is not a phrase I would use. To me proofs have irresistible force and are therefore confined to formal systems/procedures. Science is an enquiry into the real, founded on our perception of the real, and we do our best to organise it into a subject in which logic can apply. There is no implication that objects are simple and unchanging and no implication that the perceiver is simple and unchanging. To look for a self or to conceive of a self inside the object that perceives that does the perceiving is a needless regression – it is bad thinking. I think it is good advice to return to simple concrete examples. “I see a rock” means that ‘I’ is the object that perceives and the experience is I-see-a-rock. Does the perceiving object HAVE an experience? No! It sees a rock. Until you impose discipline on your language you are doomed to confusion and nonsense. If you think that you experience perception, or you think you can visualise experience, for example, you are in trouble. Until your language about yours and others’ perception matches then you are confused about your own perception. And because others are real objects in a real world that perceive via real processes, no new existence can be added until we discover it. Such an existence will be physically evident to everyone and will not be based on confusions we have about our own perception. There is no knowledge to be had in existences we invent when we think badly about our own perception. If I regard myself as an object that perceives and express my experience as “I perceive X”, where I understand perception to be a real process, then no self reference problem arises. Strict self-reference is nonsense, as are circularity and regression. The phrase ‘subjective experience’ can be understood to be the X’s (in “I perceive X”) that are not shared as in “I remember X” or “I imagine X” or “I feel the emotion X” and these are very much a subject for neuroscience.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 4 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
I have not considered the issue of ‘I’ versus ‘me’. I have not supposed there to be an issue. My immediate impression is that we could replace one with the other without ambiguity or loss of meaning. I don’t think me/I reflects a distinction between objective/subjective perception where we understand subjective perception to refer to things we can perceive in common and subjective perception to ‘things’ we perceive privately. The concept of perception allows us to think of the real as persisting regardless of whether we are perceiving it or not, but we nevertheless frame this in terms of our own perception – which is to say that it is wrong to think in terms of ultimate objectivity. Empathy can give us reliable insight into someone else’s objective and subjective perception, likewise can understanding real mechanisms. Private perception is necessarily accessible because its mechanism is real. Nevertheless, I would not have expected that imagining different activities could produce reliably different gross measures outside the brain. I expect perception to be complicated. I would expect the perception we describe as conscious to be the most complicated of all (but it may not be). I think it highly unlikely that ‘conscious perception’ can be clearly distinguished from non-conscious perception. We understand the atmosphere to be atomic/molecular but nevertheless usually talk about the weather i.e. gross events. Perception at this highly complex level seems similar. If we use the brain itself as a reporter of what it perceives then an experimenter systematically interfering with a subject’s perception must nevertheless keep some kind of communication intact. Verbal communication will quickly fail for lack of shared words. So I am a bit bemused by the idea that neuroscience can quickly address extremely complex perception. I am a bit bemused by the idea that it will continue to respect current language such as ‘conscious’.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 4 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
It's not difficult. When I say "I perceive a red car", where 'I' is the object that perceives and perception is a real mechanism, it is possible to enquire thoroughly into the perception, in particular the characteristics of the light that is being reflected off the car. If you abstract red to mean a disembodied color and treat is as an existent perception in your mind then you will find support for the idea of consciousness. But why would you? You ought to note the strange coincidence - disrupt the real brain, interfere with it's mechanisms of perception, and your existent consciousness disappears. As I have stated repeatedly below, the concept of consciousness is a misunderstanding of the concept of perception - we regard others as objects that perceive but come to grief when we try to account for our own perception in terms of our own perception.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 4 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
Chalmers thinks consciousness is self evident and that we have no guarantee that someone else has consciousness. This is standard philosophy of mind. This means that the acceptance of neuroscience as a study of perception is about considering other people as objects that perceive. When we find some new existence in these objects-that-perceive we will have an interesting new science. Consciousness, plainly, is a problem, not about studying others as objects-that-perceive but about how we understand our own perception. It is a self reference problem of trying to frame our perception in terms of our own perception. Saying that ‘I’ is the subject who perceives is not a correction to anything I have said - the subject that perceives is the perceiving object. This usage captures what we mean by ‘I’ very well, including its ambiguities and inconsistencies. Most importantly, it asserts that if there is no perceiving object then there is no ‘I’ that perceives. When you discover an objectless perceiver, please let me know. The absurdity of word usage is everywhere apparent. What is the relationship between consciousness, ‘I’, perception, experience and awareness? Language of possession is often used, as in “I have perceptions”. So do I ‘have’ consciousness, or perceive it, or experience it or do I have consciousness of consciousness? There is no clear answer to these questions. The reason for this is that the subject is nonsense.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 4 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
While ever you are unable to demonstrate the existence of consciousness in another person (something that is demonstrably an object that perceives), there is no basis for studying consciousness and every reason to suppose that you are confused about how to understand your own perception. You say your subjective feeling exists. I'm saying that the way to correctly express this subjective feeling is to say "I feel (perceive) X" where 'I' refers to the object that perceives. There is no evidence of any existence apart from the real in neuroscience.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 6 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
When you write “But I still feel that this is the basis of consciousness and is independent of decision making and actions.” I assume you are disputing behaviourism. My view is different to this. It is concerned with the mind-body problem; the relationship between experience and the real. In my view the mind-body problem is a conceptual problem that misunderstands and confuses the concept of perception. The resolution is to express experience as “I perceive X” rather than “I have perceptions of X in my mind”. In “I perceive X” we can regard ‘I’ as the object that perceives and perception a real process – this gives us a sound basis for neuroscience. Note that “I perceive X” as an expression of experience doesn’t create an additional existence that needs to be accounted for in the way that “I have perceptions of X” does.
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Lawrence Trevanion
Posted 6 days ago
David Chalmers: How do you explain consciousness?
You create a problem of regression. If you explain that you see a rock because your brain produces a model of a rock, then you now need to give an account of what sees the brain's model of a rock. You are trying to explain what we see in terms of creating a copy of what we see. What sees the copy? The regression enables us to contrast the rock as it actually is with how we see it, but it is nevertheless all in terms of seeing the rock – we are merely doubling what the idea of perception does for us in the first instance – convey that we are separated from the rock and have limited knowledge of it. There are complexities of course. The visual input contributes only fractionally to our seeing. Memory involves a re-imagination of the rock so the process of seeing the rock CAN be reproduced. There is also the complexity of language which refers to these things. You are imagining your brain producing the experience of seeing (all of it in terms of your own experience). And hence you are confused as to whether you see the rock or you see the experience of a rock. This is how our understanding of perception gets addled. An explanation cannot be circular or regressive (self referential). The problem is that you are mixing experience as an existence with the real that you experience. The solution to this conceptual mess is to realise that experience is NOT “I have perceptions of a rock” but “I see a rock”, hence the generalisation that experience is expressed as “I perceive X” where ‘I’ is the object that perceives and perception is a real process. If you say “I am watching a movie”, nobody, not you or anyone else, will imagine you in a movie theatre watching a movie watching a movie reproduced by your brain.