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I don't know if this question falls as a scientific question but to my knowledge

I don't know if this question falls as a scientific question but to my knowledge, this is more of a question on the nature and extent of science, so I think this is more philosophical than scientific. My question is: is it possible for scientists to create a well-functioning human brain, or is the nature of consciousness so intractable that creating a brain would be next to impossible?

If scientists were to create a well-functioning human brain, I suggest it probably would have to involve the brain being part of an anatomically well-functioning body, whether the body is human or humanoid or mechanical (in which case one would have a cyborg of some kind). Philosophers have entertained bizarre thought experiments in which human brains function in vats and are subject to systematic, misleading electro-chemical stimulation, but I suggest this would not be a case of a WELL-FUNCTIONING human brain. It would instead by in a profoundly dysfunctional situation. Are there good philosophical reasons for thinking that it is impossible for scientists to create something that is anatomically an exact replica of a human being such as you and me? Some might argue that "being human" essentially involves the reproductive and nurturing processes that we underwent (and so they would seek to rule out conceptually the idea that a human brain and body can be manufactured in a lab), but this would (in my view) be strained (not obvious). I rather think it is in principle to produce a replica. What about consciousness? I am inclined to think the nature and reality of consciousness would impede the project of scientifically constructing a "well-functioning human brain."

As someone who is firmly confident that consciousness is the most obvious fact about our lives (I am not at all tempted by those who seek to deny the existence of consciousness or the mental), I am led to think that if there is a physical replica of me (and I am conscious), then the replica will be conscious. This would not, however, be the equivalent of asserting that consciousness is itself physical. One might hold that consciousness (as a non-physical state) supervenes or emerges because of the laws of nature or because of the inherent causal powers of physical objects and relations or because of an act of God, and so on. Even so, while I note that this is my inclination, it seems to be possible that (in contemporary jargon in philosophy of mind) there may be zombies -- beings who are physically indistinguishable from conscious embodied beings but who lack consciousness. This is a highly controversial claim. You might do a search for Dean Zimmerman on zombies for further reflection.

How can a certain bunch of atoms be more self aware than another bunch?

How can a certain bunch of atoms be more self aware than another bunch?

Good question, but I hope you didn't intend it to be merely rhetorical.

Even at this early stage of our investigations, there's good evidence that the answer has to do with whether a given bunch of atoms composes a being that possesses a complex network of neurons. Some bunches of atoms, such as the bunch that composes me, do compose such a being. Other bunches, such as the bunch that composes my favorite pen, do not.

Notice that we're not tempted to regard any of these similar questions as rhetorical: How can a certain bunch of atoms be more red than another bunch? How can a certain bunch of atoms have better eyesight than another bunch? And so on. I regard the question you asked as in the same boat as those.

Do non-human animals have self awareness?

Do non-human animals have self awareness?

I presume you're asking about animals on Earth. Otherwise I'd be inclined to answer "Almost certainly!" given the vastness of the universe and the mind-boggling number of planets that astronomers estimate are out there.

You've asked a question that's at least partly empirical, so as a philosopher I'm not especially well-equipped to answer it. But some who are better-equipped have answered "yes": see this link.

Is there a role of mathematics in the development of human consciousness?

Is there a role of mathematics in the development of human consciousness?

In addition to Hofstadter's wonderful writings, you might also be interested in work done on the relationships between mathematics and cognition (more generally than just consciousness). Take a look at these classics in that area:

Rochel Gelman & C.R. Gallistel, The Child's Understanding of Number (Harvard University Press, 1986)

George Lakoff & Rafael Nuñez, Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being (Basic Books, 2001)

Stanislaus Dehaene, The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Prof. Richard Heck has invited me to clarify my question #5466:

Prof. Richard Heck has invited me to clarify my question #5466: A fallacious invocation of the law of the excluded middle is precisely what I have been accused of in proposing my claim about subjective experience. In isolation it might not be obvious why my dichotomous claim is consistently dismissed. I think the dismissal is understandable the context in which I usually present the claim: I begin by stating that if some but not all bodies experience their existence (majority perspective), and those that do develop physically from those that do not, then there must exist a moment before which such a body lacks subjective experience and after which it does not. This implies a spontaneous transformation requiring either a supernatural explanation or one in terms of physical theory. Engaged respondents to my argument are consistent: they are uninterested in explaining this transformation; they reject my dichotomous claim; and they propose a gradual development from bodies that do not experience their...

Having read this question and Question 5466, I think I may see what you're saying. If your opponents deny that there's a dichotomy between whatever has no consciousness at all and whatever has at least some consciousness, then they're mistaken. Maybe nothing occupies the first of those categories, but it's still a genuine dichotomy. On the other hand, if they're claiming merely that consciousness comes in degrees, then their claim is compatible with the existence of the dichotomy.

Compare the real numbers, which also come in degrees (of size): -1 is smaller than 0; 0 is smaller than pi; etc. Yet there's still a dichotomy between the negative and the non-negative real numbers: no real number is both; no real number is neither. Because the real numbers are densely ordered, either there's a largest negative real number or there's a smallest non-negative real number, but not both. (In fact, it's the second option: 0 is the smallest non-negative real number, and there's no largest negative real number.)

So, by analogy: If the instants of time are densely ordered, then there must be a first instant at which a previously non-conscious being is conscious and no last instant at which it was not conscious; or else there must be a last instant at which it was not conscious and no first instant at which it is conscious. However, I don't think that such a transformation is particularly mysterious. If the instants of time are densely ordered, then any transition that occurs in time exhibits this feature. Note that the transformation from non-consciousness to consciousness isn't perfectly sudden: there's no instant of non-consciousness followed immediately by an instant of consciousness, because no two densely ordered instants are ever adjacent to each other. If your opponents are denying that the transition is perfectly sudden, then they're right about that.

I hope I've managed to say something helpful.

Many people immediately dismiss the following claim:

Many people immediately dismiss the following claim: Either something lacks subjective experience, or it does not. Of course, I am talking about consciousness--but I am specifically referring to Nagel's wording, "something it is like to be." Intelligent zombies may not apply. Being such an unpopular claim, it should not be difficult to cite literature refuting it. What are the first two articles and the first two books I should look to in hopes of finding the refutation? Could you begin to refute the claim here? What literature might I read in defense of this claim?

I'm a bit confused. The claim you say "people immediately dismiss" looks like an instance of the law of excluded middle: Either P or not-P. People are often tempted to deny excluded middle in cases of vagueness, but I don't recall a lot of people saying that it can be vague whether a creature is conscious.

Anyway, I suspect that either I'm misunderstanding something, or else there's a bad typo, or something. Feel free to write me and we can try to clarify.

I don't think that consciousness is explicable on physical terms yet I don't

I don't think that consciousness is explicable on physical terms yet I don't think that that means that consciousness is necessarily any more explicable on the idea of a purely mental reality. (ie. Descartes idea of a thing that thinks and who's essence is thinking) What philosophers think along the same lines as I do?

Probably the best known philosopher who thinks along similar lines is Thomas Nagel. While he believes that consciousness cannot be accounted for or understood in light of our current conception of the physical world, he is hoping (or has faith?) that we may eventually have a conceptual revolution that would anchor consciousness in the natural world without resorting to dualism. You can get to some of Nagel's work through his home page at the New York University website for him. Colin McGinn would be another promising thinker for you to engage. A number of other philosophers believe that our current concept of what it is to be physical is problematic, including Galen Strawson and Noam Chomsky.

On Descartes, you might consider a slightly different angle. He does not give center stage to the claim that the concept of a non-spatially extended thing provides a more intelligible grounding for our mental life. The way I read him (setting aside the so-called Cartesian circle) is that he first establishes the existence of the self as a thinking subject. He then considers whether he is identical with his body, and he concludes that he is not. This is because Descartes believes it is possible for him to exist and his body not exist. In a sense, then, what Descartes establishes (if successful) is that he exists and is not his body. His essence being immaterial or incorporeal may be thought of as a default position. In a sense, the way I read Descartes is the revers of Daniel Dennett's philosophy of mind. Dennett questions whether it is reasonable to believe that he exists as a substantial, concrete individual thing. He then claims to not find anything in the brain or elsewhere that is like the self as a substantial thing Then he concludes there is no substantive self but instead there is what he calls "a center of narrative gravity."

The assertion that consciousness is a property of certain individuals and not

The assertion that consciousness is a property of certain individuals and not others--rather than of the entire universe--implies a very special moment in the ontogeny of those individuals. This is the moment of individual consciousness origination, before which the individual (e.g., a gestating human) is not conscious, and after which it is. Would anyone disagree that this moment is implied by most theories of mind given merit in academia? By consciousness I mean nothing vague but quite simply "the subjective character of experience," a no-nonsense definition as worded by Thomas Nagel. In light of that implication, a physical theory of consciousness must either: (a) address the nature of that moment, describing a physical arrangement that gives rise spontaneously to consciousness; or (b) deny such a moment's existence and ascribe consciousness to the entire universe (some sort of pan-psychism). While (b) is typically considered the mystical and unacceptable stance, as a naturalist I find (a) to seem...

This is a very important and difficult question: how do we get from no consciousness to (our) consciousness? You've put the question in terms of ontogeny (or development), but the same sort of question arises in terms of phylogeny (or evolution)--which animals are conscious and which are not, and how did the latter evolve from the former?

The panpsychist alternative (b) may help, and it is advanced by contemporary philosophers such as Galen Strawson (and more tentatively, by David Chalmers). Despite that answer having to assert the seemingly weird claim that rocks have some sort of proto-conscious capacities, it is also unclear if panpsychism helps to answer the problem you raise, since we still need to know what organization of the proto-conscious material parts allows for the more complex consciousness we recognize in some animals and in humans. How do we get from paramecium (or blastocysts) made up of parts that have both physical and conscious properties to monkeys (or babies) that are made up of the same parts but organized in a way that clearly allows a sort of consciousness not shared by the paramecium and blastocysts?

There is no good answer to these questions yet, since we still lack a physicalist theory of consciousness--but when we have such a theory, the questions about development and evolution should become much less mysterious. For now, I think the best way to think about it is to recognize that consciousness comes in degrees and the jump from none to a very tiny bit may be no more mysterious than the vague jump from a non-heap to a heap, or the (less vague) state transitions from gas to liquid to solid or the transitions among species during evolution.

One reason the jump may look so radical may be a sort of illusion imposed by memory and/or self-awareness. When we transition from sleep state to conscious waking state (or from conscious to anesthetized unconsciousness), we don't notice a fuzzy boundary, but we may still go through one gradual transitions and simply be unable to be aware of them, remember them, or report on them. (Sorry if this bit sounds like a Dennettian evasion, but I think it's on the right track). Similarly, we can't easily get information from a newborn or fetus (or grasshopper?) about what it is like to be just a tiny bit conscious.

I hope this helps at least a tiny bit.

In philosophy terminology, what is the difference between the self and the soul?

In philosophy terminology, what is the difference between the self and the soul? When philosophers argue against the existence of the self, are they really doing something much different than when they argue against the existence of the soul? Can you recommend any books that make this clear?

Thephilosophical problem of personal identity is an attempt to determine what a self, or person, is. Asatisfactory definition will tell us what makes someone the same self (orperson) over time. And this inturn will enable us to know whether it is possible for a self (or person) tosurvive after death.

Onecommon understanding of what a person is is this: a person is a union of ananimal body and an immaterial soul. My soul would seem to be what is essential to who I am, and since it isdistinct from my mortal body, there is a possibility that I (my soul) couldsurvive the death of my body. Thisis one of the main conclusions Descartes tries to establish in his Meditations on First Philosophy.

Oneproblem with Descartes’s notion of the soul is that it is quite thin. For Descartes, the soul is the seat ofthought – it is that which thinks. Locke points out that if a person’s soul is simply that which thinks,and if it retains no contents of the person’s thoughts, no memories of theperson’s experiences, none of the person’s character traits, then the soul isnot what makes a person who she is. He illustrates this by saying that the soul of Socrates (stripped of thememories of Socrates and without the philosophical abilities or other charactertraits of Socrates) could enter an English bureaucrat, and no one could evertell.

Soin Locke’s view, the self is distinct from the soul (as so defined). He argues that the definingcharacteristic of a self is his or her consciousness, especially consciousnessof his or her past actions and experiences. Some definition of ‘self’ in terms of the agent’s memory mustbe correct, but it is easy to come up with imaginary scenarios that presentdifficult paradoxes for such views. (For example, what if a man in the year 2012 ‘remembers’ commandingFrench troops at the Battle of Waterloo? Would that entail that he is identical to Napoleon?)

Agood starting place for thinking about the concepts of self and soul is JohnPerry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identityand Immortality. Perryincludes helpful suggestions for further reading.

I need a thorough explanation on what the term 'qualia' defines. How would I use

I need a thorough explanation on what the term 'qualia' defines. How would I use it in an expressive way? It's hard for me to formulate it in a sentence. In order to fully comprehend -- I'll need for the word to be deconstructed. Please and thank you.

A quale (plural, 'qualia') is supposed to be the 'feel' of some experience, such as seeing red, hearing middle C, or tasting chocolate. I think that the idea is supposed to capture the common--although not universally accepted--intuition that there is something that 'it is like' to have a certain kind of experience, that marks it out as that kind of experience. (For an excellent, intuitive, presentation of this idea, see Thomas Nagel, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?".) There is, I should say, considerable disagreement among philosophers about whether there even are qualia.