The consciousness illusion

#1
https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-your-cons...your-brain

EXCERPTS (Keith Frankish): In the movie The Matrix (1999), Morpheus offers Neo a red pill. If he takes it, he will discover that reality as he knows it is an illusion created by machine overlords to keep humans enslaved. I am going to offer you a different pill, which – if it works – will convince you that your own consciousness is a sort of illusion, a fiction created by your brain to help you keep track of its activities. This view – which I call illusionism­ – is widely considered absurd (it’s been described by Galen Strawson as ‘the silliest claim ever made’), but it has able defenders (pre-eminently Daniel Dennett), and I want to persuade you that it isn’t absurd and might well be true. Are you ready to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?

[...] It is phenomenal consciousness that I believe is illusory. For science finds nothing qualitative in our brains, any more than in the world outside. The atoms in your brain aren’t coloured and they don’t compose a colourful inner image. (And even if they did, there is no inner eye to see it.) Nor do they have any other qualitative properties. There are no inner sounds, smells, tastes and pains, and no inner observer to experience them if there were. It is true that cognitive scientists talk of there being representations in the brain. But by this they don’t mean inner pictures or copies that we observe instead of observing the world directly. They mean patterns of neuron-firing that respond to specific features of the world and that the brain uses to construct models of its environment. Representations in this sense are not things we are aware of; rather, they are parts of the machinery that makes us aware of things. By modelling the world, your brain creates sensitivities and dispositions that put ‘you’ – the person – in direct contact with the world. Such representations need not share properties with the things they represent. The mental representation of redness need not be red, any more than the word ‘red’ or the numeral that denotes red in a painting-by-numbers kit.

[...] isn’t the very idea of illusionism confused? To be under the illusion of seeing an apple is to have an experience exactly like that of seeing an apple, even though there’s no apple present. How then could we be under the illusion of having an experience? If you are having an experience exactly like a pain experience, then you are having a pain experience. As the philosopher John Searle puts it in The Mystery of Consciousness (1997), when it comes to consciousness, the appearance is the reality. This looks like a serious objection, but in fact it is easily dealt with. Properties of experiences themselves cannot be illusory in the sense described, but they can be illusory in a very similar one. When illusionists say that phenomenal properties are illusory, they mean that we have introspective representations like those that we would have if our experiences had phenomenal properties. And we can have such representations even if our experiences don’t have phenomenal properties. Of course, this assumes that the representations themselves don’t have phenomenal properties. But, as I noted, representations needn’t possess the properties they represent. Representations of redness needn’t be red, and representations of phenomenal properties needn’t be phenomenal.

[...] The idea, then, is that introspection tracks the impact objects make on us. The red quality you seem to experience is an expression of your response to the apple – your active ‘redding’, as the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey puts it in his book Seeing Red (2006). However, introspection doesn’t represent phenomenal properties as properties of us but as powers in objects to create that impact. Redness is represented as a power of surfaces to affect us in a certain way, a rose smell as a power of airborne substances to affect us in another way, a stabbing pain as a power of a body part to affect us in yet another way, and so on. In each case, the character of the represented property corresponds to the nature of the impact on us. (Compare aesthetic properties, such as beauty. Our judgments of beauty reflect our reactions to things, but we think of beauty as a property of the things themselves.) This makes good design sense. The easiest way for us to remember, recall and communicate significant experiences is by picking out the objects that cause them. Our minds represent objects as decked out with illusory qualitative properties that highlight their significance for us. This perspective is not so different from the common sense one. Common sense says that qualitative properties are potent, mind-independent features, and illusionists says that representations of qualitative properties track just such features. (MORE - details)

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"Experience" in philosophy of mind usually entails phenomenal content -- it's a kind of generalization of the latter. Frankish, however, apparently wants to define it as consisting of microscopic information associations and reactions taking place in the nervous system as well as perhaps the outward behavior of the macroscopic body. For instance: "The experience of a stubbed toe, for example, carries information about bodily damage and will trigger a host of negative associations and reactions, but (the story goes) it also has a qualitative aspect – a pure awfulness."

He rejects the latter aspects, or phenomenal presentations are not real with respect to the way that the abstract, described affairs, or "rational objects" of physicalism are "real". Never mind that the manifestations of consciousness are both prior in time (history-wise) and prior in rank to humans encountering the invented slash inferred latter philosophical system.

In the 3rd paragraph above Frankish evidently conflates "experience" with the empty meaning of "representation" that he gives in the 2nd excerpted paragraph. If experience was likewise blank in terms of manifested content (like his neural representations) then it would become a useless term, akin to claiming that unicorns exist but are invisible. (The whole universe would actually lack observable evidence that it exists, since all the body's senses would only feature Frankish's invisible slash non-phenomenal content or processes.)

The "phenom-" word unit etymologically means "to show, show forth" (equivalent to manifest or visible), and was in use long before the introduction of "quale" (singular) and "qualia" (plural) in the 20th-century. So his, Dennett's and others' attempts to demote or to seemingly narrow "phenom-" terms down to being dependent upon the potentially mutable or vulnerable definitions of newcomer nomenclature is perhaps a deliberate tactical decision. Of either seeking potentially faulty ideas or manufacturing suitable strawman punching bags. Eric Schwitzgebel refers to this as Inflate and Explode.

An illusion requires appearance (something being present or exhibited) -- the appearance is just misinterpreted by the intelligence-related activity. So to claim that appearance itself is illusory is analogous to asserting that you can have a snakebite without snakes being real because all snakes are actually invisible water hoses. It's a hierarchically scrambled act of making "illusion" more fundamental than what makes an illusion possible in the first place (i.e., that your senses do feature manifested content which thereby makes both identification and mis-identification viable).

The 4th excerpted paragraph makes reference to "common sense" [realism?] -- outright proclaiming qualitative properties are mind-independent features. Setting aside how that conflicts with earlier contentions that phenomenal properties are not real... If this is what all adherents of the thought orientation maintain, then it's round-a-bout word-play equivalent to panexperientialism. The view that all matter (entities and their relationships) has experiential or qualitative properties. If that was the case, then no wonder the adherents masquerade under obfuscating labels like illusionism and eliminative materialism. There would also be the irony of Galen Strawson ridiculing them and vice versa, when both views could arguably be slotted together under a broader family category.
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#2
Quote:'But how does a brain state represent a phenomenal property? This is a tough question. I think the answer should focus on the state’s effects. A brain state represents a certain property if it causes thoughts and reactions that would be appropriate if the property were present. I won’t try to develop this answer here. For it is not only illusionists who must address this problem. The notion of mental representation is a central one in modern cognitive science, and explaining how the brain represents things is a task on which all sides are engaged. Indeed, even realists about phenomenal consciousness must explain how we mentally represent phenomenal properties, if they are to account for the fact that we think and talk about them. There is a challenge here for illusionism but not an objection."

I think this is deeply problematic for his thesis: how does a mere representation give us an experience of redness? There appears to be nothing that is RE-presented because there is nothing being phenomenally presented in the first place. The word "red" can induce a memory of seeing the color red, but it does not actually create the sensation of red in us. Only vision can do this, as well as certain hallucinatory drugs perhaps. The presentation and the re-presentation seem inextricably woven together in one event. The re-presentation does not refer to some primary state of experienced redness..it IS the primary state of experienced redness. And that's why reducing the phenomenal to a state of non-phenomenal representation in our brains just doesn't work. There is no introspectable dividing line between seeing red and re-presenting red. There is no basis to see it as a secondary re-presentation of a more direct experience of redness. It IS the creation of redness in our experience, and as such IS a direct phenomenal experience of redness that cannot be reduced to anything else.
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#3
(Oct 4, 2019 08:44 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:'But how does a brain state represent a phenomenal property? This is a tough question. I think the answer should focus on the state’s effects. A brain state represents a certain property if it causes thoughts and reactions that would be appropriate if the property were present. I won’t try to develop this answer here. For it is not only illusionists who must address this problem. The notion of mental representation is a central one in modern cognitive science, and explaining how the brain represents things is a task on which all sides are engaged. Indeed, even realists about phenomenal consciousness must explain how we mentally represent phenomenal properties, if they are to account for the fact that we think and talk about them. There is a challenge here for illusionism but not an objection."

I think this is deeply problematic for his thesis: how does a mere representation give us an experience of redness? There appears to be nothing that is RE-presented because there is nothing being phenomenally presented in the first place. The word "red" can induce a memory of seeing the color red, but it does not actually create the sensation of red in us. Only vision can do this, as well as certain hallucinatory drugs perhaps. The presentation and the re-presentation seem inextricably woven together in one event. The re-presentation does not refer to some primary state of experienced redness..it IS the primary state of experienced redness. And that's why reducing the phenomenal to a state of non-phenomenal representation in our brains just doesn't work. There is no introspectable dividing line between seeing red and re-presenting red. There is no basis to see it as a secondary re-presentation of a more direct experience of redness. It IS the creation of redness in our experience, and as such IS a direct phenomenal experience of redness that cannot be reduced to anything else.

Yah, the only first "presentations" of the world there ever are, are the ones of phenomenal experience (I guess "phenomenal" has to be added to distinguish it from the useless blank or empty "experience" these illusionists seem to advocate.) One might contend that qualitative memories are "re-presentations" since they're about the past and are not perfectly faithful to the original manifestations. But otherwise it's the conversion of events to language and symbolism that is the representational stuff that we're familiar with in an everyday context. (If images of neural patterns were converted to an advanced series of schematic diagrams in order to be understood, that's still highly technical symbolism.)

"A brain state represents a certain property if it causes thoughts and reactions that would be appropriate if the property were present" equates to the similar situation of philosophical zombies: Where there is only a procedural mimicking slash pretending of one's senses and thoughts having presented or exhibited content to them (caused by "brain states" molded via evolution to make people act that way). There are never literal appearances and feelings, only formal, enforced pretending that there is such.

What's perversely hilarious, however, is that if those thoughts and outward behaviors which treat phenomenal properties as if they were true are likewise not manifested as anything, then there's no validation of them either. As well as existence and occurrence of everything in general. Imagine scientism folk -- of all people -- asserting that an invisible God is verified by invisible angels. Just replace "God" with cosmos, and "angels" with inferential processes in the brain while retaining the invisible adjective to both, for the point of the analogy.

"Indeed, even realists about phenomenal consciousness must explain how we mentally represent phenomenal properties, if they are to account for the fact that we think and talk about them. There is a challenge here for illusionism but not an objection."

Since the [metaphysical] external world of materialism is usually not portrayed as conscious (it's also a rational or inferred world -- an object of reasoning), then any realism about manifestation and its qualitative characteristics has to refer to the original external world in the extrospective half of our experiences. The given sensible world, IOW, not the world outputted by intellect which eliminates phenomenal properties as a pre-condition of its beliefs. It's self-evident that the immediate world is composed of colors, sounds, tactile sensations, odors, etc with respect to the non-scientific meanings of those words (which humans experienced first, long before modern science and its technical descriptions came along). They're just not real in the theorized world of materialism which is constituted of abstract description rather than sensations and outer appearances.
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