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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Marc Séguin: on 2/25/18 at 5:01am UTC, wrote Dear Laurence, I really appreciated your entry in this year’s contest....

Steven Andresen: on 2/23/18 at 13:21pm UTC, wrote Dear Laurence If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the...

Laurence Hitterdale: on 2/17/18 at 20:18pm UTC, wrote Narendra, you are correct that I have used the time available for comments...

Narendra Nath: on 2/17/18 at 16:09pm UTC, wrote Laurence, may i request you to atleast respond to the many comments made on...

Avtar Singh: on 2/12/18 at 18:21pm UTC, wrote Dear Laurence Your statement - ".....belief in the non-fundamentality of...

John Merryman: on 2/11/18 at 19:17pm UTC, wrote Laurence, One logical attribute of fundamental is that it is not fully...

Narendra Nath: on 2/7/18 at 2:36am UTC, wrote Without con.sciousness we can not become conscious about anything. Thus, it...

James Hoover: on 2/6/18 at 18:07pm UTC, wrote Laurence, I need to correct myself. I did rate your essay on 1/23. Jim


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FQXi FORUM
May 24, 2019

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2017 [back]
TOPIC: Consciousness and Fundamental Truths by Laurence Hitterdale [refresh]
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Author Laurence Hitterdale wrote on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 19:07 GMT
Essay Abstract

The question has been much debated whether there are fundamental properties, fundamental laws, or fundamental truths which apply specifically to consciousness. According to the relevant concept of being fundamental, a fundamental item stands on its own. That is to say, what is fundamental has some features which are not derived from or explained by anything else. By contrast, something derivative is to that extent not fundamental. The debate about the fundamentality or non-fundamentality of consciousness forms the background for this essay, although I do not take sides on the underlying issue. I argue that, if the experience of being conscious were more agreeable than it is, then we would not care very much where the truth falls with respect to the fundamentality of consciousness. However, given the sometimes untoward circumstances of living as conscious beings, we might be inclined to look for a sort of compensation in an alleged theoretical fundamentality of consciousness. When we theorize about consciousness, we are not thinking in an intellectual vacuum. Rather, we theorize from within the lived experience of being conscious. Under different circumstances there might not have been resistance to believing that consciousness is derivative and not fundamental. In the world as it actually is, belief in the non-fundamentality of consciousness does not fit comfortably with the subjective experience of being conscious.

Author Bio

Laurence Hitterdale holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. He is now retired, after having worked for both business firms and academic institutions. He resides in California. His philosophical work is focused on ontology, philosophy of cosmology, and philosophy of mind. Some published and unpublished essays are available on the Web, including the 2014 FQXi contest essay, “A Rope over an Abyss,” which was awarded a special commendation prize.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jan. 19, 2018 @ 05:51 GMT
Dear Laurence Hitterdale,

I like your analysis of [the question of fundamentality of] consciousness. I tend to forget the Hawking idea that "some mathematical structures, by virtue of their inherent abstract logic, contain the power of self-actualization." Can you spell sterile? Pushed to the limit "everything is true somehow somewhere sometime." Spare me. Question: does...

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jan. 19, 2018 @ 23:00 GMT
Dear Dr Laurence Hitterdale,

You wrote in the Abstract: “That is to say, what is fundamental has some features which are not derived from or explained by anything else.”

Nature produced one single unified VISIBLE infinite surface occurring eternally in one single dimension that am always illuminated by mostly finite non-surface light millions of years before humanly contrived finite speculative information ever became evident on earth.

Joe Fisher, Realist.

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Stephen James Anastasi wrote on Jan. 20, 2018 @ 11:01 GMT
Dear Lawrence

Loved your essay. I smiled at several points of your argument, especially where you question Carroll’s cheerfulness, and for that matter the certainty that they (Carroll and Dennett) are right with no empirical evidence to support their view. At present, as you conclude, the jury is out on this and at present there is no way to decide.

I rate the essay an 8, great investigation but doesn’t/can’t provide a solution.

Your work connects to my essay: https://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/3041 in that mine does actually provide an inroad to answer the question of consciousness. While Chalmers’ proposes that new laws would be required, rather, consciousness follows from my principle, within a rationalist ontology in that all equivalent models (e.g. different topologies and morphisms) are equally valid. In this circumstance, the world of the mind and that of the body must be in lockstep. As such, agency (FQXi’s present area of focus) is achieved by conscious beings, for neither model has primacy over the other. Perhaps it will be you that develops this.

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Jan. 22, 2018 @ 16:51 GMT
Laurence,

Very interesting discussion. You have an analytical approach that builds on constructive logic in a very thoughtful manner. That "fundamentality is relational, and that a fundamental truth is always fundamental relative to other truths" rings true and I touch on this in my essay as well, perhaps to a lesser degree. I do lose the thread a tad in your conclusion when you center on consciousness, whether it is derivative or fundamental.

Well done overall.

Jim Hoover

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Wolfgang Baer wrote on Jan. 23, 2018 @ 02:26 GMT
Laurence:

It is refreshing to see consciousness added to the list of fundamental.

As long as consciousness is assumed to be an emergent property it cannot be fundamental. However can there be any theory or statement that is fundamental which is not conceived in the mind of some physicist or philosopher who must be conscious.

Perhaps one must look at the fundamental assumptions upon which all our contemporary theories are built. Whether elementary particles or probability waves those assumptions rest upon the concept of an independent external universe.

Is this fundamental or simply a guess, that seems to work for a while.

Wolfgang Baer

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Wolfgang Baer wrote on Jan. 24, 2018 @ 19:47 GMT
Dear Laurence Hitterdale:

In reply to your comment on my essay the question of interior vs exterior of matter is easy to confuse and perhaps I did not explain it well.

But you got it right.

"we know the interior (the mental domain) directly and perhaps with certainty, while we have to infer the exterior (the physical domain)"

However if we look at any object in front of our nose and recognize the experience as an interior metal phenomena and then dig further by attempting to break it apart to find out what is "inside" that object eventually we will reach the quantum limit where there are no longer any optical surfaces to define the object. At this point it is only the interaction from something too small to see that remains and we project an explanation of the interaction into the sensations resulting from the interaction. This is a theoretical construct of what the ultimate interior of experienced objects are like.

Thus the inside of our interior mental domain becomes a postulated exterior physical cause of our experience.

The key word is postulated. Quantum physicists postulate the wave function as a physical reality( albeit statistical) into the photon hits reported by their measurement instruments.

Once grasped, the independent objective physical world is replaced by ongoing interactions physical world i.e. objects to events. That is the change in Foundations I propose.

Hope this helps

Wolf

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Francesco D'Isa wrote on Jan. 25, 2018 @ 13:39 GMT
Dear Laurence Hitterdale,

thank you for sharing your essay, I found it very interesting and I voted it high. Moreover, I found some interesting similarities with mine about absolute relativism.

You write that

> Fundamentality is relational. A fundamental truth is always fundamental relative to other truths which are less so.

And I completely agree. Then you state that

> There are the first-order statements, which are almost certainly all of them in mathematical form. Then there are meta-assertions enclosing the first- order statements. Finally, there are truths about the explanation, or lack of explanation, for the other fundamental truths.

That's an insightful vision, but I can't see how it's related to considering consciousness as fundamental, even if your pages about it are still pleasurable and interesting.

Bests,

Francesco D'Isa

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jan. 25, 2018 @ 17:05 GMT
Dear Laurence,

I tend to agree with the thrust of your essay. Consciousness does not likely have any causal role in the universe, and in fact I suspect it is entirely epiphenomenological. By this it is meant it is a sort of generated image, maybe a sort of bio-holography, which is generated "after the fact." There were experiments conducted by Libet and others which suggest something similar, in that neural processing for action starts before a subject is aware of the decision to act.

If there is some cosmic purpose for consciousness it might be as observers that perform some type of cosmological Wheeler delayed choice experiment to measure the earliest moments of the universe to fix the constants of nature. This would conform to Wheeler's conjecture of a self-referential universe. If there is anything else it might be that along with mathematics consiousness exists in its own sphere apart from physical reality. This of course takes us out of the realm of physics and science and into a sort of metaphysics. These are things I am noncommittal on.

If you want to read some fairly serious physics you can check out my essay. I may have overkilled on the mathematical level for this contest.

Cheers LC

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jan. 31, 2018 @ 16:30 GMT
Dear Fellow Essayists

This will be my final plea for fair treatment.,

FQXI is clearly seeking to find out if there is a fundamental REALITY.

Reliable evidence exists that proves that the surface of the earth was formed millions of years before man and his utterly complex finite informational systems ever appeared on that surface. It logically follows that Nature must have permanently devised the only single physical construct of earth allowable.

All objects, be they solid, liquid, or vaporous have always had a visible surface. This is because the real Universe must consist only of one single unified VISIBLE infinite surface occurring eternally in one single infinite dimension that am always illuminated mostly by finite non-surface light.

Only the truth can set you free.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 2, 2018 @ 04:09 GMT
Hi Dr Laurence Hitterdale

You have nicely debated about ” The debate about the fundamentality or non-fundamentality of consciousness forms the background for this essay, although I do not take sides on the underlying issue.” And concluded well saying that, “In the world as it actually is, belief in the non-fundamentality of consciousness does not fit comfortably with the subjective...

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta replied on Feb. 5, 2018 @ 15:31 GMT
Respected Dr Laurence Hitterdale,

Thank you for your esteemed nice words and blessings on Dynamic Universe Model,

I am also hoping for someone will help me for testing this model’s new prediction. I am an individual and independent researcher from a lower middle class family. I cant do all these testing myself. I hope you will help me to find a means for testing this proposition..I hope and pray God for the best…

You wrote a very nice essay, I am giving my maximum appreciation (10) for your essay now best wishes for your essay….

Thank you once again for pleasant words again…..

Best regards

=snp

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Stephen James Anastasi wrote on Feb. 3, 2018 @ 14:33 GMT
Hello again Laurence

I have responded to your questions of my essay on my page.

In relation to your work, now you have read my essay, the mind body problem falls away, in that it is quite easy to recognise that, even without considering the world in terms of the Harmony Set, under the General Principle of Equivalence, it is reasonable to conjecture that the mind is an entity in its own right that exists in a space that is a transform, probably a mathematical transform,in some as yet undexplored topology, equivalent to structures of our brain.

This equivalence goes both ways, and neither is ontically prior to the other, so free will is possible, and the mind can influence the body. Something to think on. Feel free to make contact if you wish to pursue this further.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Feb. 4, 2018 @ 16:52 GMT
roger Penrose has this idea of a triality between physical, mathematical and conscious realities. I don't particularly believe this as such, but the idea is intriguing. We might then say that while consciousness is an epiphenomenology within a physical perspective, consciousness may nonetheless have a reality and our evolving conscious experience is some sort of path or geodesic in what might be called C-space.

As for your decent reply on my essay page: Your description of two descriptions with different degrees of freedom is right. That is in one sense how one can assign which is more fundamental. The description with the fewer is often most fundamental. What I am finding is that two descriptions of quantum gravitation may be equivalent. One description has spacetime variables, while the other has quantum mechanical observables. This is the duality between unitarity of quantum mechanics and the equivalence principle of general relativity.

The application of this is not so clear. I suspect the quantum mechanical variant that upholds unitarity is compatible with string theory. The description with the equivalence principle might be some form of loop variables with something like Penrose's R-process for collapse. I have yet to get to this phenomenological aspect of things.

Currently I am finding the RT formula has information theoretic properties analogous to chaotic and open thermodynamic (Prigogine etc) systems. That is what currently I am finding interesting.

Cheers LC

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 6, 2018 @ 04:56 GMT
Dear Laurence Hitterdale

Just letting you know that I am making a start on reading of your essay, and hope that you might also take a glance over mine please? I look forward to the sharing of thoughtful opinion. Congratulations on your essay rating as it stands, and best of luck for the contest conclusion.

My essay is titled

“Darwinian Universal Fundamental Origin”. It stands as a novel test for whether a natural organisational principle can serve a rationale, for emergence of complex systems of physics and cosmology. I will be interested to have my effort judged on both the basis of prospect and of novelty.

Thank you & kind regards

Steven Andresen

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Narendra Nath wrote on Feb. 6, 2018 @ 15:52 GMT
In our essay here we have touched on the concept of Consciousness. We take that cinsciosness ned not be restricted to human experiences. Natyre too experiences what we humans ad other kiving structures do to it. It shows its reactions by way of storms, tonedos, earthquakes and what not. Technology appeared to have affected the Nature in some adverse ways and we see humanity suffer from the consequences. Thus, consciousness can be considered a trait of nature too. It thus becomes inanimate too! In fact by a hunch i may say that consciousness is pre-existent to matter and the ceration of the Universe as logic of creation shows remarkable intelligence and if i may so, wisdom of superhuman quality. What you feel aout such stipulations? May i request you to try going through our essay and question us critically!

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 6, 2018 @ 18:06 GMT
Laurence,

Thanks for your kind comments. Seems to be sparse reviewing and rating in this essay contest so far. I am revisiting those I have reviewed and see if I have scored them before the deadline approaches. I find that I have not scored yours and will remedy that today.

Jim HOover

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James Lee Hoover replied on Feb. 6, 2018 @ 18:07 GMT
Laurence,

I need to correct myself. I did rate your essay on 1/23.

Jim

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Narendra Nath wrote on Feb. 7, 2018 @ 02:36 GMT
Without con.sciousness we can not become conscious about anything. Thus, it is an entity that pre-exists in nature and pre-exists creation of the universe. It has created our material universe being itself not material. Nothing created everything and it is a fact of existence! Science is a mere discipline of Philosophy as man came on the scene with his thinking and thoughts. Similarly, the Creator though invisible, has created the universe with super-human logic that compelled man to think of God!

When i went through the essay and the comments made there-on, i could note how we the people play with words that too we generated and gave their meanings. Thus, we generated our own playground and rules of the play and then we start judging the result of the game we are playing. It is a kind of a run-about, we built at cross roads in order to avoid collisions! Now we generate overpass and under-pass and may be we will build airways and make our machines fly in the atmosphere. Are we heading the technology through our fanciful mind. Will mind control our actions, leaving the life force, viz. our soul no role to discriminate. There comes the consciousness of the cosmos Nature that! has built our habitation!Philosophy provides us free thinking but it so free that we start playing with Nature the way we fancy. Let us build disciplined laws through disciplined minds of ours. We need to enrich humanoty and temper out technology accordingly. Otherwise the 'Monstor' we created will ensure our disappearnce from the gloe we call Earth!

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Feb. 11, 2018 @ 19:17 GMT
Laurence,

One logical attribute of fundamental is that it is not fully definable within the confines of its emergent properties. Which would seem to be one of the problems of understanding consciousness.

The logical fallacy of monotheism is that a spiritual absolute would be an ideal of knowledge and judgement from which we fell, yet the fact is that it would be the opposite: The...

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Avtar Singh wrote on Feb. 12, 2018 @ 18:21 GMT
Dear Laurence

Your statement - ".....belief in the non-fundamentality of consciousness does not fit comfortably with the subjective experience of being conscious." is vindicated by my paper - “What is Fundamental – Is C the Speed of Light”. that describes the fundamental physics of antigravity missing from the widely-accepted mainstream physics and cosmology theories resolving their current inconsistencies and paradoxes. The missing physics depicts a spontaneous relativistic mass creation/dilation photon model that explains the yet unknown dark energy, inner workings of quantum mechanics, and bridges the gaps among relativity and Maxwell’s theories. The model also provides field equations governing the spontaneous wave-particle complimentarity or mass-energy equivalence. The key significance or contribution of the proposed work is to enhance fundamental understanding of C, commonly known as the speed of light, and Cosmological Constant, commonly known as the dark energy.

The paper not only provides comparisons against existing empirical observations but also forwards testable predictions for future falsification of the proposed model.

I would like to invite you to read my paper and appreciate any feedback comments.

I am also attaching another paper - "A Universal Model Integrating Matter, Mind, & Consciousness Resolves the Hard Problem & Cosmic Conundrum." that vindicates your approach to consciousness. I would appreciate any feedback on this paper if possible at avsingh@alum.mit.edu.

Best Regards

Avtar Singh

attachments: Manus_Sc_of_Consciousness_SD_2017_A_Universal_Model.pdf

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Narendra Nath wrote on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 16:09 GMT
Laurence, may i request you to atleast respond to the many comments made on your essay here, not a word from you here though you did comment on our essay with compliments for us!Your personality appears to be unique and winning one for i can see quite a bit common among us being about the same age group, i am just past 85! After 90 i may really become senile and useless for the society at large!

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Author Laurence Hitterdale replied on Feb. 17, 2018 @ 20:18 GMT
Narendra, you are correct that I have used the time available for comments to discuss other essays rather than my own. I think this is the most useful approach that I can take, and I plan to continue with this practice. However, I can say something here specifically about what you and some others have said about my discussion of consciousness. In my essay I do not take a position on the mind-body problem, nor do I take a position on the hard problem of consciousness. Instead, I consider a related but somewhat different issue. I can explain the issue in the following way. Suppose that we start with the question for this year’s contest, “What is ‘fundamental’?” We then accept that some truths about the world are fundamental, while other truths are derivative. The next step is to assume that the fundamental truths contain nothing pertaining specifically to consciousness. In other words, all truths about consciousness are derivative. We then ask what the implications of this assumption are. I argue that the implications include some which assign consciousness perhaps a minor role among the phenomena of nature. If this is the actual status of consciousness, then we cannot change the truth, and we must face the truth as it is. Nonetheless, this truth might not be completely welcome, because we are conscious and because the content of our conscious experience is perhaps too often not what we would like it to be. Acceptance of a particular view about the status of consciousness does not combine well with the ongoing content of conscious experience. The essay is about this combination. Perhaps these remarks will clarify the theme of the essay.

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Steven Andresen wrote on Feb. 23, 2018 @ 13:21 GMT
Dear Laurence

If you are looking for another essay to read and rate in the final days of the contest, will you consider mine please?

A couple of days in and semblance of my essay taking form, however the house bound inactivity was wearing me. I had just the remedy, so took off for a solo sail across the bay. In the lea of cove, I had underestimated the open water wind strengths. My...

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Member Marc Séguin wrote on Feb. 25, 2018 @ 05:01 GMT
Dear Laurence,

I really appreciated your entry in this year’s contest. You chose to explore an unusual and very original angle: what if consciousness is an ordinary, merely weakly emergent epiphenomenon, without any claim to fundamentality, hence, without “honor” (or “metaphysical clout”) — it then makes the burden of consciousness even more annoying, because not only must we experience the aches and pains of conscious life, but the whole damn thing is a pointless side-effect of mindless physics (and/or mathematics)!

Reading you essay made me recall one of my favorite scenes in the British TV series Doctor Who: in the episode “Forest of the Dead”, the Doctor’s companion Donna has been experiencing a relatively ordinary life for the past few years (subjective time), without knowing that she was living in a virtual body, within a virtual environment in a vastly speeded up virtual world. Finding herself back in her real body after exiting the simulation, and learning the truth, she erupts: “But I’ve been dieting!”

It is surprising that very few essays in this year’s contest have dealt with the issue of the fundamentality of consciousness. Your essay certainly acknowledged the significance of the question, no matter what the truth of the matter turns out to be.

For my part, I think that consciousness is an unavoidable (hence fundamental?) aspect of any world, because it is only by virtue of containing conscious observers that any universe can be said to be physically real (as opposed to a mere mathematical structure within the ensemble of all abstractions). For better or for worse, there is no escaping consciousness --- within the infinite branching multi-level paths of the Maxiverse, even death is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. ;)

All the best,

Marc

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