Sunday 8 July 2012

VIII. Consciousness and Causality (Saturday July 7)

VIII. Consciousness and Causality (Saturday July 7)
Simon Baron-Cohen (Cambridge UK) Evolution of Empathy 
Alfred Mele (FSU) Do Conscious Decisions Ever Play a Role in Action Production? 
Hakwan Lau (Columbia) How to study the functions of subjective awareness? 
Luiz Pessoa (U Maryland) Cognitive-Emotional Interactions 
Marthe Kiley-Worthington (EEREC, France) Comparing Elephant and Equine Mental Traits, Subjectivity and Consciousness 
Axel Cleermans (ULB, Belgium) Consciousness and Learning 


  1. One theme that has been re-visited by several speakers is that we need to separate consciousness into its separate parts (ie. visual perception, decision-making, etc.) When we talk about the function of consciousness, it may be clearer to think of the function of each of these types of consciousness as separate, and then afterwards look at the commonalities that underlie these functions.

  2. Some of the things we do are felt, some not. Even if we decide to tackle separately each of the kinds of things that we do that are felt, the problem is to explain how and why any of them are felt. Tackling them separately is much more likely to lead us off into explaining the differences between the doings, and begging the question of the feeling.

  3. Another way to ask why feelings matter... why is sugar sweet? let's think about that...


      ANDY NDK :
      "If it would be salty, then we would ask the same question.. ;)

      Ok seriously: i think this is indeed a fundamental problem, however i have not seen any attempt here or in any discussion to boil it down to a concrete problem, other than just saying yes this is a problem and followong Stevan this is a problem not be solved at all. However, i still think we need to transfer that problem into concrete experiments, which will bring us new insights. An example is Synaesthesia: they perceivefor example an auditory trigger associated with some completely other feeling / phenomenal experience, that of vision. So, the question is what makes a visual stimulus visual, and an auditory one auditory. Does the specific receptor where it originates from responsinle for that? Probably not. Does it matter where in the brain it is processed: so everything processed in V1 is visual? What if you would rewire the eyes to the auditory cortex?"

      ANDY NDK :
      "Is the specific receptor where it originates from... Sorry for my bad language.. My brain is a bit tired meanwhile.."

      "Sugar is not sweet by itself, it produced the sweet taste when you taste it. ;) If sugar was poisonous, we'd probably say it has a bitter taste."

      "Sugar is an important composant for our body and a precious resource for survival. Sugar feels sweet and pleasant and we simply wamt to do more what is pleasant. By according sugar such a positive emotional value, it will keep us looking for it. That no more complicated. Emotions helps us looking for things we need by simply making feel es good!

      Why emotions are so neglected in this summer school??"

      "A neurobehavioral glucostat is adaptive (but it's just doing). -- Why sugar should taste like anything at all is another matter..."

      "I don't think emotions are neglected in this summer school. In fact, we talked more about emotions than about « feelings » (i.e. the hard problem)."

      "I know it doesn't answer the question why we feel the taste of suger but I used the word "sweet" because it has a double meaning (especially in english : 1) the fact that it taste sweet, and 2) the fact that it feels good. I wanted to bring up the idea that consciousness was a matter of emotions."

      "@ Alexandre : really? can you cite me the speakers who really pay attention to emotions in their talks exept Ledoux and Pessoa? I rather have the impression that we often go back to the hard problem again and again."

      "Pauline : Armony, Baron-Cohen, at least. But a lot of presentations where about the « easy problems », not about the hard problem directly."

      "Pauline's question is a classic one (I recall Cypher from The Matrix asking if the makers got the taste of chicken right), and I beg to differ from Guillaume's answer : one could very well find something sweet yet not like it, or bitter and like it (just think about beer!). I for one don't think it's intractable. Tononi's modeling suggests that one could differentiate between sensory modalities, submodalities, and even down to the quales themselves. See http://​​article/​info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjourna​l.pcbi.1000462
      The major problem with Tononi's model for now is time integration and the computing power required to graph out the Q space. Others have started to try and derive approximate models that require far less computation to render."


      For a discussion of the difference between what something tastes like and whether you like the taste, see the entertaining discussion of the coffee-tasters, Messrs Chase and Sanborn, in Dan Dennett's "Quining Qualia."

      But don't be taken in! That article is about yet another weasel-word: "qualia." Qualia are whatever it is that feelings feel like. We don't need another word.

      Feelings feel like whatever they feel like: Only the feeler knows. And tastes taste like whatever they taste like: Only the taster knows.

      The taste of coffee is not in the coffee, it's in the taster. Ditto for sugar. You and I may taste the same coffee, but that doesn't mean it will taste the same to both of us (and there's really no way to compare!)

      Ditto for whether I like the taste. That's still part of what it feels like to taste it. If I used to like the taste and now I don't, then it now feels different to taste it.

      Nothing at issue.

      And the hard question -- how and why does anything taste like anything at all -- still begged (though entertainingly).

  4. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Pessoa makes me think: experiments are like single-cell organisms: replicate or DIE! Lol #TuringC

    5:01 PM - 7 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app