What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Discussions relating to conciousness, spirituality, and the great dilemma between materialism and dualism

What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:56 pm

If you believe that humans have phenomenal consciousness, then do you also believe that animals do as well? If not, then why? If so, then where do you draw the line? Do only all mammals have this? Do all animals? Even those that lack any sort of a central nervous system? Was this quality the product of evolution, even though it is a nonphysical concept? Do perhaps all living things have this to some extent? If so, then why not nonliving things? Could a machine ever be built that has phenomenal consciousness? The point is that you have to draw the line somewhere, and in order for this to be an adequate theory, you have to give a reason why some beings have phenomenal consciousness and others do not. I believe in phenomenal consciousness and I have an answer for these questions. I will not explain my answers here because it is quite complicated and because it is in my book, which will hopefully be published within a few months. Right now, I want to hear your answers to these questions.
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Re: What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Postby Rich G on Tue Nov 03, 2009 8:34 am

What an interesting question. Quite a few years ago I a read a book written by a preist of the orthodox faith. I don't remember all the specifics, so I'm a little rusty. There is a difference between the word "spirit" and the word "soul". He went on to define the word "soul" as that part of a person that animates his body and is built through lifes experiences. It unites his body with this 3D world. He then went on to explain that the world "spirit" are those experiences built up through experiences with God. It unites with God. So yes I believe humans can have a phenomenal consciousness since they can have a spirit. An animal or machine with phenomenal consciousness? Maybe, but I don't think so. I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for but it my best shot.
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Re: What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:37 pm

You know, I do agree with you that humans have phenomenal consciousness and animals do not. By this I mean that there is an actual experience, for all humans, of happiness, pain, pleasure, color, sound, etc. Not just that there are brain reactions going on when light waves enter the eyes or sound waves enter the ears or when certain chemicals travel through the body, but there there is something more when this happens and this something is not at all physical. It is determined by what is going on physically, but it is altogether different. I know this from my own experience.

I have thought about this long and hard as to what beings might have this experience as well, and I have concluded that it only makes sense to assume that other beings have phenomenal consciousness if they have the capacity for body-soul interaction. The evidence strongly shows that only humans have the ability to conceptualize reality and to express details about this to others. Therefore I have concluded that no other creatures currently living have this. This reasoning is similar to Rene Descartes, who said that a corollary to this is that when, for example, a dog appears to be in pain, that it is no more in pain then a watch that is being smashed with a hammer. I have more details in my book. I don't have room to put the entire argument here, and I also need to save something for those who wish to read the book.

If anyone reads this and disagrees, please write your response and I will try to address it.
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Re: What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Postby Alex F on Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:36 am

I would have to respectfully disagree with you that all animals do not have phenomenal consciousness. You would hear no argument from me about a slug and the electrical synapses that pass through its body and create movements and the illusion of decisions, but larger animals- and perhaps, I would argue, any animal with a brain- such as the dog you paraphrased Descartes about seem to have phenomenal consciousness to at least some degree.

I think it is preposterous to say that an animal doesn't feel pain or at least some form of happiness and woe. What is different about us is that we experience these in different ways and through a different understanding which I would label as- in the most simplistic of such a complex subject- emotions.

So without discussing more complex items such as self awareness and respect for the dead, which elephants and dolphins have shown to possess, I believe that regarding the most rudimentary of qualitative aspects of phenomenal consciousness, at least some animals have phenomenal consciousness.
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Re: What kinds of beings have phenomenal consciousness?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:07 pm

Alex F wrote:I would have to respectfully disagree with you that all animals do not have phenomenal consciousness. You would hear no argument from me about a slug and the electrical synapses that pass through its body and create movements and the illusion of decisions, but larger animals- and perhaps, I would argue, any animal with a brain- such as the dog you paraphrased Descartes about seem to have phenomenal consciousness to at least some degree.

I think it is preposterous to say that an animal doesn't feel pain or at least some form of happiness and woe. What is different about us is that we experience these in different ways and through a different understanding which I would label as- in the most simplistic of such a complex subject- emotions.

So without discussing more complex items such as self awareness and respect for the dead, which elephants and dolphins have shown to possess, I believe that regarding the most rudimentary of qualitative aspects of phenomenal consciousness, at least some animals have phenomenal consciousness.

Thank you Alex F for your post. I have a detailed argument for why only humans have phenomenal consciousness and I will attempt to outline it here:

First, I have concluded that humans have souls as an extension of my conclusion that I have a soul. I have concluded that I have a soul as a logical implication of my experience of phenomenal consciousness. You see, I know that there is an element of my experience that is altogether distinct from the physical universe. I understand, to some extent, the physical universe that I perceive and I understand my own qualia and I know that the two are distinct. Qualia, for those who don't know, is the actual experience of something. For example, the redness of red, or the actual experience of tasting or hearing or feeling. Now, I am well aware that my qualia are determined by what is going on physically, but the two must be distinct.

One common argument that philosophers who believe this put forth is that it is conceivable that there could be a being that is physically identical to my body in every way, yet does not actually experience qualia. This being, which would have to be, in all seriousness, called a zombie, would have all of the brain functions of perception including seeing, hearing, etc. but it would not actually be phenomenally conscious.

I have concluded that there is merit to this argument, but with the exception that such a zombie would not believe that it is experiencing qualia, as I do. It is my brain that knows this and it is my body that is reporting on the experience of qualia, but it cannot be the physical body that experiences qualia, since a zombie would not be reporting on it. A zombie is purely physical, whereas qualia are nonphysical. Therefore, there is an element of my being that is nonphysical as well. This nonphysical element can be called the soul. It is the soul that experiences qualia, as determined by the body's perceptions and thoughts, and then somehow the body knows certain details about the soul's experience in order to be able to distinguish between its own perception and the qualia. The body does not know that much about the qualia because it does not actually experience it, but it is able to conclude that this qualia and its own perceptions are ontologically distinct.

There is more to body-soul interaction than I have described so far. I have also concluded that I have libertarian free will and that therefore all humans do as well. Please see the topic "Do humans have free will" for more on this. Since free will is physically impossible, it must be nonphysical and therefore it must be a behavior of the soul. The soul has free will to act within the bounds that were defined by the creator. When the soul intends to act, this causes the body to attempt to carry out this intended action.

This is also closely related to morality. The soul's actions are entirely based on moral choices. I know this from my experience of valence, which is the nonphysical positive and negative experience from which moral choices derive. The soul can choose to act in its own interest or in the interest of others or somewhere in between.

Now, in order for a body to be capable of body-soul interaction as defined above, it must have certain functional and representational qualities. In order for the soul to be able to understand the expected consequences of certain possible actions, it must know this from the body. The soul also needs to understand what other beings have souls and thus must get this information from the body as well. So if the body does not understand how things work physically and understand other beings, then the soul cannot make moral choices. Any physical being that does not appear to understand details about the physical world and to communicate these details to other beings likely does not have a soul. Any being whose actions are too simple to be controlled by a free willed soul likely does not have a soul.

From this, I conclude that only humans have souls. Only humans have the ability to understand how things work physically and can communicate details about this to other similar beings. No animal can do this. Not even the "smart" ones. I am aware that young children cannot do this either, but it is best to assume that they will when they get older, provided their right to life is respected, and therefore it is best to respect this right. As for animals, however, they do not have a right to life because they have no soul.

Though animals appear to be suffering or experiencing happiness at times, the only thing that is going on is the physical brain operations associated with this. There is no qualia. There is no valence. Their actions are entirely determined by physical laws, not from free will.

This argument is VERY complex and I have a much more detailed version in my book. The argument that I summarized above takes up eight chapters of my book. If argument that I have outlined here does not make sense, then please stay tuned for the release of the book. It will hopefully clear things up.
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