Saturday, June 4, 2011

I Am a Strange Loop -- Commentary on Chapter 1 part 2

     I've been thinking about experience and qualia and I can't see a way around the conclusion that our current science does not bridge the gap Levine talks about in the essay I gave a reference to a couple of posts ago.  One doesn't need to follow the entire gobbledy-gook of his argument to see that there is something about subjective experience that, from an explanatory point of view, is missing from physical explanations.  Even though I believe that mental phenomena are ultimately dependent on the physical(I am prone to optical migranes, have been on a variety of medications that have affected my mental state, am affected reliably by caffeine, etc.. and have concluded that if the physical substrates of my body are changed, so is the mental, with the inference also that when I die my mental experience will cease) it seems clear to me that there is an explanatory gap when it comes to reducing my experience of the color red to some combination of the Strong, Electro-Weak, and Graviational forces, none of which have anything like bridge concepts between description of physical reality and my qualia. 

     This does not mean that there must be some separable non-physical reality, perhaps the mental is some sort of dimension to physical we can't uncover; physical things in certain combination also combine parts of the mental dimension in ways to give a mental experience.  When the physical organization of the nervous system disintegrates, the mental life disintegrates with it.

     Thus I think that there is something to arguments that from the fact that I can conceive of philosophical zombies I can conclude there is an explanatory gap between the physical and mental, but I do not think that the mental hovers independently of the physical altogether.  You really should read the Chalmers site on philosophical zombies, the others are a little more optional.

     Back to Hofstadter...  He talks about the amount of "souledness" an organism has and asks:

"Why should there not likewise be an average degree of souledness for adults[100], plus a wide range around that average, maybe (as for IQ), going as high as 150 or 200 hunekers[Hofstadter's fictional scale of consciousness, or "souledness"] in rare cases, and down to 50 or lower in others?"(Hofstadter Nookbook pp. 45-46).

He realizes this can cause some people to become a little squeemish morally, but continues anyway.  He states that just-fertilized human eggs have no hunekers worth of soul,  and then says the same regarding 5 month fetuses.  I wonder if Harris(see his The Moral Landscape) has considered hunekers in his scientific view of morality?  Clearly Hofstadter connects hunekers with our moral obligation to entities since he mentions he has no problem eating tomatoes since they have no hunekers(the store-bough brand I trust; home-grown tomatoes clearly have a soul!), or killing mosquitoes, more problems killing ants, etc..
The moral consequences here are obvious, especially for those suffering from mental disability.

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