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  1. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Into It View Post
    Have we? No matter what we can explain physically, it is the gap between the physical and "experiential" that must be bridged, and I don't know if I agree that we have made great strides in that area...but truthfully, I may just not have heard the information. Would you explain what strides have been made in bridging that gap? Intuitively it appears to me impossible to explain.
    I think it is impossible to explain only if you define it to be impossible to explain. Perhaps your very notion of the "gap" is the source of the impossibility.

    I ask a simple question: do you believe there are things that are neither "physical" nor "experiential?" Are there things that are both? Or is this a pure-dichotomy for you (phenomena have to be either physical or experiential but not both)?

    If you believe that it is a pure dichotomy, we might as well call things physical and non-physical.

    In fact, I believe this to be the case:
    No amount of cause-effect explanation will change the minds of those who believe in a pure dichotomy of physical and experiential

    Pseudo-Proof of above proposition:
    Explanations of why things happen is the process of assigning causes to particular effects. On one side you have a cause on the other you have an effect. But that one thing causes another is often clear, especially at a high level.

    If you get pricked and you feel the prick, the prick was the cause of the feeling.

    You can delve deeper. The prick caused an electrical impulse to be sent down your nerve issue to the brain which in turn caused your feeling of the prick.

    You can delve deeper still, but I don't know as much about this as a cognitive scientist would. One could imagine that electrical impulses travel along the nerve tissue to the brain where it triggers a particular pattern of brain-cell firing, which in turn causes

    In this way a digraph of cause and effect can be created. Note that any edge of the digraph has two vertices connected to it. The vertices of the digraph are phenomenon, some of which you call "physical" and the rest of which you call "experiential" (if you believe in the pure dichotomy).
    Now when you have a deeper explanation between cause and effect you replace an edge with a digraph of phenomena of it's own where there is at least one path from the original cause phenomenon to the original effect phenomenon.
    This deeper explanation is once again a digraph of phenomenon, some of which you call physical, the rest of which you call experiential.

    So note, in every cause-effect explanation (digraph of phenomenon) an edge between the physical and experiential represents the same "gap" as there was originally (the gap between one physical phenomenon and one experiential one)

    Note that in the above proof, I did not at all rely on the nature of consciousness. All I relied upon was the nature of cause-effect explanation and the fact that there was a pure dichotomy between "physical" and "experiential."

    Replace "physical" and "experiential" with "springleboinger" and "nutsaphim", as long as the two types of phenomenon are two sides of a pure dichotomy, you will always have a gap. That is why I keep saying the Hard Problem is different from the Soft Problem only due to semantics.

    I don't believe in the pure dichotomy between physical and experiential. I personally think of software as being neither physical nor experiential, and the things that the Japanese read out of people's minds to be both.

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  2. #32
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    That is why I keep saying the Hard Problem is different from the Soft Problem only due to semantics.[/B].
    The falsity of this statement is the source of the seemingly unbridgeable gap between your position and that of erm. As I have explained in my previous post, this debate started due to erm's fundamental misunderstanding of the definition of the Hard Problem.

    The concept of the hard problem has been discovered by David Chalmers, a philosopher of mind who subscribed to a view known as dualism. Chalmers believed that consciousness was not caused by neural activity alone.

    His philosophical orientation led him to proclaim a fundamental distinction between neuroscience and the study of consciousness. For Chalmers, understanding how neurons cause some mental activities is one thing, but understanding why consciousness exists is another. This thinker saw these two tasks as independent from one another because as a dualist, he believed that neural activity can at best explain the origin of some mental entities but not all.

    Erm created a confusion in this thread by ignoring the dualistic underpinnings of the hard problem of consciousness. In other words, he did not realize that the hard problem evaporates completely if dualism is rejected. The easy problem is the endeavor of establishing relationships between neural states and mental states. Hard problem is defined as the task of explaining why consciousness arises. If physicalism is true, than consciousness arises due to neural activity alone which means that an understanding of neural activity constitutes both the easy and the hard problem.

    The debate about the hard problem is at the core related to one of the oldest and most controversial discourses in philosophy of mind: the antithesis of dualism and physicalism. Your posts did not overcome the misunderstanding of the discussion because they've merely asserted adherence to physicalism, yet offered few reasons for rejecting dualism or showing that a dismissal of dualism is necessary for an elimination of the 'Hard problem'. Erm's profound confusion about the subject prevented him from even realizing that his position requires dualism, which is why my previous post was concerned with showing that it indeed does require dualism and the foregoing messages dealt with various reasons for rejecting that position. If my reasons for rejecting dualism are to be accepted, than one has no reason to believe that the hard problem exists.
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  3. #33

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    SW, did you follow my proof using digraphs to represent various understandings of cause and effect?

    I do not presuppose physicalism in that proof.

    What i showed is that if you believe in any sort of pure dichotomy of phenomenon, then there will be an analogous "hard problem."

    So it would be a corollary that if someone is a dualist believing the associated pure dichotomy, then (s)he will see a hard problem of consciousness. IOW, dualism entails the hard problem of consciousness.

    Admittedly, I did not prove that if the hard problem exists that then there is a pure dichotomy. So there is no similar corollary (so far in my understanding) that the hard problem of consciousness entails dualism.

    I am agnostic when it comes to dualism, physicalism, materialism, etc.

    It is true that the examples I used could make me seem physicalist. But the examples were purely for illustrative purposes regarding the "digraph nature" of casue-effect understanding.

    I could have said that "the feeling of a prick on the finger is caused by imagining a prick on the finger," and continued my deeper examination from there. This still would not have changed the "digraph nature" of the "why" of phenomenon.

    You must understand my conception of solutions to "why" questions as digraphs to understand my position.

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  4. #34
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    SW, did you follow my proof using digraphs to represent various understandings of cause and effect?position.
    I must say that I have only read it briefly without looking into it in depth because I perceived it as irrelevant. I will have a closer look soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I do not presuppose physicalism in that proof. .
    I thought that you did so when you claimed that the mind is analogous to the body in a way that software is to hardware. Essentially hard-ware is the combination of physical entities that create software which parallels the central physicalist assertion that the brain is the combination of physical entities that creates the mind. It seems striking to me that you claim that physicalism was not one of the assumptions of your argument, yet your analogy seems to reveal a materialistic conviction.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    What i showed is that if you believe in any sort of pure dichotomy of phenomenon,.
    Could you clarify what a pure dichotomy is? This term seems to be central to your discussion and perhaps my lack of understanding of what you meant precluded me from grasping the core of your argument. If I had to guess, I would think that the pure dichotomy refers to the dichotomy between the mind and the body that physicalism presupposes. At least, that is how I interpreted your post upon initial review.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    then there will be an analogous "hard problem.",.

    This statement and the previous seem to say that if you believe in the dichotomy regarding the mind and the body, a hard problem will emerge and the hard problem is the supposition that the cause of consciousness must be explained without an appeal to neural activity. Thus far, it seems to me that you're saying that if you believe in the 'pure dichotomy of phenomenon' or dualism, you will believe in the hard problem. I can agree with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    So it would be a corollary that if someone is a dualist believing the associated pure dichotomy, then (s)he will see a hard problem of consciousness..",.
    It seems to me that this passage confirms that my interpretation of your views was correct or that if dualism is true, a belief in the hard problem is justified.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    IOW, dualism entails the hard problem of consciousness...",.
    Agreed.



    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Admittedly, I did not prove that if the hard problem exists that then there is a pure dichotomy. ...",.
    I think you ought to have implied that.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    So there is no similar corollary (so far in my understanding) that the hard problem of consciousness entails dualism....",.

    It seems to me that we have just agreed that dualism entails the existence of the hard problem, however, I would also agree that the existence of the hard problem does not necessitate dualism. Solipsism and idealism would be logical possibilities, yet I do not see any reason to take them seriously as both presuppose the mind as the ultimate reality. What we can be certain about is that if the hard problem exists, materialism can be ruled out, but since neither idealism nor solipsism are tenable hypotheses, one can infer that if the hard problem exists, dualism is most likely true. In other words, the hard problem does not necessitate dualism, but the belief in the hard problem does entail a belief in dualism because all other hypotheses (solipsism and idealism) are preposterous.


    .
    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    But the examples were purely for illustrative purposes regarding the "digraph nature" of casue-effect understanding. ....",.
    I am having a difficult time seeing the relevance of the cause and effect principle to the hard problem of consciousness.



    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    You must understand my conception of solutions to "why" questions as digraphs to understand my position.
    I don't see how your solution is contingent on the 'cause and effect' principle and furthermore how it shows that the present debate about the 'hard problem' is semantical rather than conceptual.

    I do recognize that you do not presuppose physicalism in your claim which is the main distinction between your argument and mine. However, I cannot see any other way of showing that the hard problem does not exist. Perhaps deflating the hard problem wasn't your point, which it did not seem to be, but then again, what exactly was your conclusion? Surely it was not that the distinction between the hard and the easy problem is merely semantical, because if it was, I do not see anything in your argument that entails such an outcome.
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  5. #35
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    @SW

    My position is simple: In regards to phenomenal consciousness, no evidence has been produced to show that the physical is the cause of the mental.

    It is not Dualist. In fact, it could be many positions:

    If evidence arose that conclusively linked the mental to the physical, it would be a Physicalist position.
    If evidence arose that conclusively proved that there is no reason to posit the existence of the physical, it would be an Idealist position.
    If evidence arose that conclusively proved that all physical things are conscious in some manner (proto-conscious), it would be a Panpsychist position.
    If evidence arose that conclusively showed that phenomenal consciousness does not exist, it would be a Reductive-Materialist position.

    You claim I presuppose Dualism, which would only be true if I was referring to your definition of the Hard Problem. I am not.

    I would instead state that you presuppose Reductionism. As you use the lack of the "Hard Problem" in the manner of a premise.

    "I have no idea what any of that means."

    You suggested that your position was a less complex explanation. I suggested that Idealism is the least complex explanation aside from Solipsism. As Solipsism makes the least number of assumptions.

    Now in terms of semantics, I see your definition of Dualism as the one commonly used in Philosophy of Mind, and my definition of the Hard Problem as the one most commonly used in Philosophy of Mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Call it an "inference" if you want, but even correlation is an inference. The only difference is the number of steps taken to reach the conclusion.
    We are in close agreement then, rather than a fundamental disagreement.

    All I mean was essentially that Correlation is the method through which causation is inferred. Yes, correlation involves inference, but less inference than causation.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Now you are assuming the programmer doesn't know weather the thing being programed is conscious or not. How do you prove that? It is a very similar statement to saying you cannot measure consciousness. If it is possible to measure consciousness, it seems reasonable to assume some programmer knows how.

    Also, asking the experiencer whether or not it is conscious IS unreliable, but not due to philosophical stance. What philosophical stances beyond tautological ones, would this be a reliable form of measuring consciousness?
    This is all the point I was making. Simply that if the programmer doesn't know how to measure consciousness, then whichever answer he programs is not reliable.

    So no, asking the experiencer if they are conscious is not reliable either. What degree of difference there is in these to cases, I am unsure of.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    If we ask the experiencer what it/he/she is experiencing and it/he/she is capable of answering, then it/he/she is describing some phenomenal aspect of something.
    Now this is where we disagree. Unless by capable of answering, you mean capable of answering truthfully. I won't address this though, until I see your response to a point I will make below.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Then what is the basis of the criticism you offered?
    Hopefully I have answered this above. In simple form, that programming a machine to say it is phenomenally conscious, is not a reliable measure of whether the machine is phenomenally conscious or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Well, I say it because it seems like a matter of semantics to me. You say that Qualia is not the same as PC here, but to Luna you say that's what you meant.

    It is clear that the semantics involved here is a source of confusion, at the very least.
    Not true, as the difference between PC and Qualia is small, so much so that they are often used interchangeably.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I went over our disagreement here. Correlations between time-like separated events is what we use to determine causation. I think the examples Luna will provide (she's a cognitive science person) may illustrate how this can be done.

    One example of direct measurement of qualia is a bit of Japanese research where they directly measured the words an experiencer was reading by interpreting the electrical impulses from the brain.

    Now if it can be further established that the electrical impulses precede when the experiencer actually experience the words being read, then we would have found proximal cause of a bit of qualia.

    The last part was a hypothetical (not yet established by current research as far as I know) but we have been able to establish, for instance, that a prick on the finger occurs a large portion of a second before the person experiences the prick. They did controls by pricking directly in the brain which was "felt" significantly more quickly. Standard errors of experimenting provide the evidence that the difference is significant.
    Yes, this is all good progress in solving the soft problem. I know you equate it to the hard problem, I will address that below.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Well I definitely disagree here. Tautologies represent the "end of understanding" as well, and in what religion is there no "end of understanding?" Present me with a concrete example of something that doesn't have an end of understanding, and I will simply ask why that is true. If you can answer that, I will ask the question again...ad infinitum. If you can provide be with an inductive proof that my "why is this true" questions are answered, then I can question the induction itself. You are them left with an answer that needs to answer all why questions. If you answer with something like "All that is true is due to God." Then we have a "twisted up" answer.
    No, I do not equate the ability to ask "why?" to proof that an end of understanding has not been reached. One can always ask "why?", whether coherently or not.

    The difference is this: A scientific explanation refers to correlations (and thus causations), and infers predictions from those (over simplified, yes). So if the big bang created the universe, what created that and so on. Either the chain of correlations continues, or it reaches a fundamental area where progress ceases. Asking why is to wonder whether further correlations exist outside of our understanding.

    An explanation that reaches an end of understanding is usually a tautology. So A=A is true because it is true, asking "why?" is incoherent and is met with what is essentially repetition that A=A, but can of course still be asked. This is inherently unscientific in nature (not anti-scientific however), but is a very different type of explanation.

    God, if true, is often a tautological explanation. As god supposedly made itself, and thus explains itself. A reference to the truth that, to explain everything, one cannot refer to anything outside of everything. Everything has to explain itself, and thus a tautology will be the final step.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    The second part of "defining in" the difference between the hard problem and the soft problem, comes from the definition of "mental life." If you are assuming that the "mental life" is different from what the measurer believes is consiousness, then of course you are going to conclude to conclude that we cannot measure qualia.

    What i showed is that if you believe in any sort of pure dichotomy of phenomenon, then there will be an analogous "hard problem."
    Now this is serious progress.

    So, you've made a good point, and put forth a good explanation.

    It relates to my point about causation. I think I can express it in a different way to how you have:

    So, if one presupposes that there is an explanatory gap between the mental and physical, one of course creates a Hard Problem. Usually this is done because of the "weirdness" in the idea of one causing the other.

    As my point on correlation shows, there is no more problem in the physical causing the mental, or vice versa, as there is that the physical causes the physical, or the mental causes the mental. So, a nerve impulse causing pain, is as much a hard problem as one ball in motion causing another to enter motion.

    My counterpoint to this, is that it inherently presupposes that there is no hard problem, and thus in a twisted sense presupposes there is. To demonstrate this, it denies any future possibility that more light will be shed on the causation between the mental and the physical, instead only allowing more detailed correlations. So it essentially denies theories like Idealism and such to the position of Strong Agnosticism (that they can never be known), rather than Weak Agnosticism (that they aren't currently known). Meaning it does not solve the Hard Problem, it essentially ignores it. That does not change the importance of the point, but shows that the Hard Problem is not being reduced to semantics. As such, I think arguments in favour of Idealism or Reductive Materialism sidestep this issue.

  6. #36
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    @SW

    My position is simple: In regards to phenomenal consciousness, no evidence has been produced to show that the physical is the cause of the mental...
    That statement is false. As a matter of fact, we have established a causal link between some neural activity and some kinds of mental activity. For example, amnesia is represented in the brain by a loss of certain neural functions which always equates to a loss of certain mental functions. We have reasons to believe in some physicalist entities, that is, in some mental entities that are caused by the brain. However, we have no conclusive evidence for the existence of a single, exclusively mental entity, or a mental item that clearly is not caused by the brain or endures in the event of a brain's demise. This means that at the moment physicalism is better supported by evidence than dualism is, the fact that its not fully supported is irrelevant as it shows that the evidence for materialism exceeds the evidence for any rival conception of consciousness.



    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    You claim I presuppose Dualism, which would only be true if I was referring to your definition of the Hard Problem. I am not...
    You defined the Hard Problem as a question of why anything is conscious in the first place.
    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    The Hard Problem is why anything is phenomenally conscious in the first place (e.g. why is there the experience of pleasure?)..
    If you were a physicalist, you would not have had a hard problem because physicalism presupposes that the answer to the easy problem is the answer to the hard problem. That is, neural activity causes consciousness. Since you deny that, you may be a dualist, idealist or a solipsist. The principle of charity led me to assume that you're a dualist, as the other positions cannot even be construed as defensible.



    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    I would instead state that you presuppose Reductionism. As you use the lack of the "Hard Problem" in the manner of a premise.?)..
    I did not presuppose it nor use physicalism as a premise, I used it as a conclusion to an argument. (More evidence is available in favor of physicalism than for any other conception of consciousness, hence, physicalism is more likely to be true than dualism, with less said for idealism and solipsism, the better.)




    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    I suggested that Idealism is the least complex explanation aside from Solipsism. As Solipsism makes the least number of assumptions..?)..
    Idealism and solipsism are absurd and don't even merit consideration, their simplicity is irrelevant. Physicalism is to be preferred to dualism not only because its simple, but because it has the conceptual integrity that parallels that of dualism.


    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    and my definition of the Hard Problem as the one most commonly used in Philosophy of Mind. ..?)..
    You've overlooked the dualistic underpinnings of the hard problem. Indeed, Chalmers, the writer who propounded the notion was a dualist and most authors who heartily endorse the concept share his metaphysical convictions on the matter. If you're not going to committ to dualism, explain how the belief in the hard problem is compatible with non-dualistic metaphysics. You may argue that its compatible with solipsism and idealism, but then you'd have to give a reason why idealism or solipsism merit consideration. Idealism received little support since Berkeley and even fewer eminent thinkers took solipsism seriously for compelling reasons.
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  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    That statement is false. As a matter of fact, we have established a causal link between some neural activity and some kinds of mental activity. For example, amnesia is represented in the brain by a loss of certain neural functions which always equates to a loss of certain mental functions. We have reasons to believe in some physicalist entities, that is, in some mental entities that are caused by the brain. However, we have no conclusive evidence for the existence of a single, exclusively mental entity, or a mental item that clearly is not caused by the brain or endures in the event of a brain's demise. This means that at the moment physicalism is better supported by evidence than dualism is, the fact that its not fully supported is irrelevant as it shows that the evidence for materialism exceeds the evidence for any rival conception of consciousness.
    That evidence is again towards the soft problem. Correlation of the physical with the mental.

    What Physicalism attempts is to show that the Soft Problem is equivalent to the Hard Problem. In order to do this, it would need to prove that there is not mental activity outside of the physical. A step further is to prove it is nowhere outside of the brain, though that is solely in regards to the commonly held Physicalist positions. First, of course, it would need to prove that there is anything outside of the mental.

    As for Idealism, Solipsism, presumably Panpsychism as well. You will have to provide reason as to why they are absurd. Only Dualism appears absurd from my position. Precisely because of the nature of causation means there is as much distinction between the mental and the physical, as there is between the physical and the physical. Denying Phenomenal consciousness I also see as absurd, as its existence is as known to me as A=A (it is proven directly through experience).

    Solipsism, Idealism and Panpsychism all equate the Hard problem to the Soft problem, just as Physicalism does. Except Panpsychism and Physicalism both suppose the existence of the physical, which does not seem a necessary leap to me in explaining reality.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    The Hard Problem
    Thread title sounds like it belongs here.
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  9. #39

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    @SW:

    1) I think we need to have a discussion about the nature of software eventually, but I think I need make my position a little more clear first.

    2) I think our arguments are similar and the differences you pointed are accurate. I may be wrong about this being a matter of semantics. I have not given an argument for support of my position, I merely stated my opinion, based on how I interpreted the hard problem and the soft problem.

    @erm:

    I think we still have disagreements about the programmer/experiencer example and the about the "end of understanding." Nevertheless, perhaps we should table these points for now, since the crux of our disagreement seems to be in some form a basic misunderstanding. So I will step back, and ask some questions.

    1) Are the phenomena that need explanation the same in the hard problem as in the soft problem?

    2a) If the answer to 1) is no, what phenomena need explanations in the hard problem that don't in the soft problem, and vice versa?

    2b) If the answer to 1) is yes, then are the criteria for accepting explanations of phenomena different between the hard and soft problems? If so, what are the differences? If not, then what is the difference between the hard and soft problems?

    3) Can you conceive of anything that is neither physical nor mental?

    4) Can you conceive of anything that is both physical and mental?

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  10. #40
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    What Physicalism attempts is to show that the Soft Problem is equivalent to the Hard Problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    In order to do this, it would need to prove that there is not mental activity outside of the physical..
    We need to prove that there is no mental activity outside of the neural network only as much as we need to prove that no species evolve outside of a system of evolution. The bottom line is that today we know of only one way regarding how mental activity arises and that is through brain-activity, all other claims are mere speculation.


    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    You will have to provide reason as to why they are absurd. Only Dualism appears absurd from my position. ..
    Idealism is untenable because it asserts that the mind constitutes fundamental reality despite the fact that such a proposition is contradicted by empirical experience. Essentially people have shared experiences about many physical entities, yet the same is rarely the case with regard to most mental experiences. Two people are more likely to have experienced feeling, touching or seeing a certain piece of stone than to have experienced a certain nightmare.

    Solipsism is strictly speaking irrefutable, it could be the case that everything I experience is a mere concoction of my imagination, however, there is also no reason to endorse this claim. It is in the same category as many other kinds of theological and metaphysical speculations; one cannot refute them but one also has no reason to believe in them in the first place.



    Precisely because of the nature of causation means there is as much distinction between the mental and the physical, as there is between the physical and the physical. Denying Phenomenal consciousness I also see as absurd, as its existence is as known to me as A=A (it is proven directly through experience).

    Quote Originally Posted by erm View Post
    Solipsism, Idealism and Panpsychism all equate the Hard problem to the Soft problem, just as Physicalism does..
    Idealism does not equate the easy problem with the hard. Idealism posits that the mind is the ultimate reality which suggests that its unlikely that mental activity is caused by the physical. Therefore understanding the relationship between the neurons and mental states is unlikely to solve the hard problem or to explain why some entities are conscious.
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