In this post I present the first few hypotheses that I can think for why people insist on a metaphysical aspect to consciousness, and develop one in some detail: a "reality is simulated" hypothesis.

Please contribute your own hypotheses.  Why is there a persistent belief that consciousness is metaphysical?

I offer some hypotheses for why people have the illusion of a metaphysical aspect to consciousness:

  • the lack of spatio-temporal information in our thought processes. We have no idea where thoughts occur since there are few physical sensations in our brain when we think. The sense of "another dimension" to thought might disappear if people grew up with images of different parts of their brain lighting up in different patterns as they thought -- even when they think deep, profound and poignant thoughts.
  • when we think about something, that something can be located anywhere. I can think of a tree on the moon. This may give the feeling that  consciousness is spatially 'infinite'  and non-local.
  • If I think about a tree on the moon, I can make someone else think of a tree on the moon without presenting a tree on the moon. This gives the impression that ideas are put into and pulled out of an omnipresent aether.
  • To some extent in everyday thought, and especially during certain mental states, our thinking actually simulates reality. For example, while dreaming and during so-called "out-of-body" experiences.

Perhaps all of these hypotheses contribute to the impression that consciousness is fundamentally non-physical (outside the physical; meta-physical). It is the last hypothesis that  I would like to expand upon in this post. That we actually simulate reality in our thoughts -- and this simulated reality is the dual reality that dualists speak of.

 


 

 

Reality is Simulated Hypothesis


I know that when I look at my hand, the experience is not as immediate and straight-forward as it seems. It's not me "looking at my hand" -- if by 'me' I mean my conscious self. Instead, my brain is putting together an image of my hand based on sensory information it is receiving from my eye. Nor is it even so simple as "it is me that is aware of a constructed image of my hand". Because the part of me that 'sees' the image is still not my conscious 'me'. What is actually going on is that I imagine 'myself' seeing my hand -- that is, I imagine a 'me' and I imagine this 'me' is seeing a hand. So when I think about it quite carefully, I realize that when I think to myself that I am seeing my hand, this means I am simulating myself seeing a hand.


Level 1: I see my hand. (where I = my brain and my hand = my hand -- this is equivalent to the way a non-sentient creature "sees")


Level 2: I think, "I see my hand". (the I in "I see my hand" = my conscious self-awareness; the  hand in "I see my hand" = an imagined / simulated hand)

This sounds very complicated, but it goes on all the time that we're consciously self-aware. (Without it being consciously observed -- that would be Level 3.)

So my brain constructs an image of a hand. One very closely related to the simulated hand that I see when I imagine myself seeing my hand. So 'I' never see a hand; I only see my simulation of a hand.

I'm describing this at Level 2 but it also happens at Level 1. I'm sure many of us relate to the concern as children whether or not our loved ones 'see' things the same way we do, as this seemed impossible to ever verify. ('What does blue look like to you? How do I know you're not seeing green, but have learned to call it blue?') The conundrum dissolves when you realize that there is nothing behind the experience of 'seeing green' or 'seeing blue' beyond the set of experiences the meaning of those words point to. (Eliezer has posts on this, for example the first two paragraphs here.)


So at the end of the day, my dad and I do reliably have the same concept of the blue box on the table, because what's relevant about our concept of the box is it's weight, color, texture, etc. -- all the empirical things about it.

By now in this post though, if I'm explaining myself clearly, we'll observe that our concept of the box still includes more than all the empirical things about the box. When we consider the blue box, we're still simulating the blue box in our minds; perhaps in a simulation of ourselves seeing the blue box. The simulation of the blue box (the box in our mind's eye) needn't be exactly like the blue box. Indeed, it will be missing any information we don't have about the blue box or don't feel that is necessary to retrieve for that particular simulation. The simulated blue box is an idealization of the actual blue box. A platonic idealization of a Blue Box. Even if I examine the blue box and notice that the corner is chipped, I will then consciously observe that I am observing that the blue box is chipped only by simulating myself seeing a blue box with the chip. A platonic Blue Box With A Chip.


Thus qualia. We never interact with anything else, if 'we' is restricted to mean our conscious self-aware identities.

So that's my thesis: consciousness is the simulation of reality run on the hardware of our brains, and qualia is the Level3+ observation that the reality we perceive is simulated.

Now imagine: when people describe consciousness as being metaphysical, perhaps they are observing that the simulation is metaphysical.

... I would agree that a simulation can be metaphysical. But it's still simulated meta-physicality. I imagine/simulate a platonic Blue Box, but a platonic Blue Box doesn't exist. Not empirically.


Or does it? If empirical is defined as that which we most immediately experience; wouldn't qualia be there, right between ourselves and the observation of reality?

I've observed before (and would be willing to argue in more detail ) that a simulation is just as real as reality if it doesn't need to model the exterior reality to model itself self-consistently. But when consciousness is in the act of observing reality (and thus reality is simulated in our consciousness) the simulation is only used to model reality, so some confusion about which is internal and which is external is understandable. This is the 'eye looking at the eye looking at the eye' sensation that Eliezer describes, somewhere. In any case, I wouldn't say that our experience of qualia is not real (genuine), but that we're only beginning to find the right words for it. I think the word 'simulation' is fine. (I note the meaning of simulation has changed in the last 15 years to accomodate my meaning; it takes time for words to evolve to fill new gaps.)


As evidence (ironic cough) I would like to present a conversation I had recently with someone who said they believed in out-of-body experiences.

Me: Really?
G: Yeah.
Me: What do you see with during these experience? With your actual physical eyes? (Aren't they closed?)
G: Not really, it's like a third eye. (translation: mind's eye)
Me: Could you use this technique to spy on people?
G: No... (some discomfort)
Me: Could you pick up a video camera and video yourself sleeping on the bed?
G: No! It's not like that. (translation: it's not empirical)
     But you can see things in a different way, discover things that you intuitively know. (translation: discover information that might be imbedded in the simulation, like being able to recall that the box was chipped or it belonged to your grandmother before she died)

... kind of Matrix-y, but why not? While simulating our simulations, why not code some extra information in the wall, in a favorite childhood tree, in the image of a horse being whipped?

And now some of the mataphysical stuff I've heard doesn't sound half as crazy after all, if they mean that actual-reality and simulated-reality form a dual universe. I can see how people might feel that the simulated reality is the genuine/ordinant reality: reality cannot be perceived without perceiving the simulated reality, but simulated reality can be perceived without perceiving reality. (For example, I can't see a doughnut without also imagining it, but I can imagine a doughnut without seeing it.) I can also see how dualists would see physical objects as embedded with meaning. "But not physically," they'll say. But yet -- it is the physical object that has the meaning? "Not exactly,"they'll say. Kind of like some platonic entity that is associated with it...

 

 

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Most of the world's dualists are substance dualists who believe in a soul, not property dualists who believe in qualia. Attributes of thought, like the ones that you list, may play a part in cementing the idea that mind is different from matter. But the belief in life after death, and survival of the self despite death of the body, must play a huge psychological role. If you can live on even when your body is gone, then you must be some other thing that still exists. Thus the soul, and thus dualism.

Interesting post. Have you read Being No One? He derives a similar system based on studies of interesting neurological phenomena.

I would offer an additional hypothesis for why humans like dualism: We implement dualism neurologically to compactly model cognitive agents. Hence we perceive mind to be ontologically fundamental. This would have had utility in minimising cognitive resource needed to figure out that the growling cat with extended claws "intends" to eat "you".

So that's my thesis: consciousness is the simulation of reality run on the hardware of our brains, and qualia is the Level3+ observation that the reality we perceive is simulated.

One critique: Your thesis puts qualia as higher level than conciousness. As I see it qualia are the neurologically basic distinguishable stimuli; they allow reality to be compressed and conversely error-corrected. Hence we see in colour in spite of being unable to perceive colour across most of our visual field, and can't reproduce stimuli as well as we can distinguish them (disregarding savantism).

I agree in broad terms with your assessment of conciousness as self-simulation. That puts the two things as largely orthogonal; neither requires the other. In practice, I'd assert qualia came earlier - simulating other minds (and your own) being far easier once you're already compressing reality; as these simulations just temporally compress actions.

Your thesis puts qualia as higher level than conciousness. As I see it qualia are the neurologically basic distinguishable stimuli;

I don't think that this is a real disagreement, but that we're just talking about different things. I don't mind which one we assign the word 'qualia' to. What I was talking about I believe must be at higher level than consciousness because it can be consciously manipulated. (For example, imagine a circle and then slowly deform it into an ellipse. By this having a 'quality', I mean that it is an abstract imagined 'thing' -- it seems to have a presence in my mind.)

You're lucky I'm not one of those without abstract imagined mental imagery, which would weaken your point somewhat. The fact that you can imagine a given stimulus, for example pure blue or a circle, does not imply that conciousness precedes the stimuli or the compact representation of it.

What it implies is that you can plan, reason counterfactually, conceive of what is not. Call it what you will. I'm not suggesting that neurological compression (my qualia) are required for conciousness, only that they likely came earlier. Your internal processes are not a hierarchy of cognitive processes; it's parallel processing run riot. Being able to hacking the more basic sensory compressors and reasoning systems doesn't make conciousness prior to them, any more than the ability for concious control of breathing makes conciousness prior to that.

It would be interesting to know whether those without abstract imagined mental imagery are always non-dualists. I already strongly suspect that the intractability of the dualist/monist debate points to different types of minds. It's not that monists understand dualists and disagree with them, it seems that often monists don't even know what dualists are talking about*.

I further think there are different minds among dualists, because there doesn't seem to be a consistent notion of what they mean by 'qualia'.

*On the other hand, their sense of self may still interact with a simulation of reality, just one that isn't image-based.

The visualisation (of abstract things) seems to be the important point; inability to interact with simulations of reality would preclude planning or memory, and would be pathological.

As a monist I think I understand the words uttered by dualists, and even the phenomena being described. What I do not know is why these things are perceived to be fundamental things. It does not bother me overmuch to recognise that my senses need not project out into the world. I will note that mathematics deals in the properties of unseen abstract things, which may make it easier to conceive of representations that aren't fundamental in themselves.

First, yes, our conscious experience may be of a simulated reality. This is a little surprising, because there are so many topographic representational maps in the brain. I heard a lecture on a type of brain disease which removes a person's perception of moving objects. A woman with this disease explained that she only sees things when they're not moving. So, if she's at a party, and someone walks up to her to talk to her, she doesn't see the person at all until they stop in front of her, when they suddenly appear in front of her and startle her so much that she doesn't go to parties anymore.

If we had conscious access to the topographical representations of our visual field, she would see something in that area of her visual field obstructed by the person.

However, the larger purpose of your post is, I think, a rebuttal to Mitchell Porter's previous post (and you should link to it if it is), which I don't think you understood. (And, judging by its current rating of -4, you're not alone.) You don't want people to say consciousness has a "metaphysical" aspect. I think that you think "metaphysical" is a synonym for "magical", and that the admission of the metaphysical is a denial of Reason and Science.

Newton's theory of gravity was one of the key paradigm-changing developments that gave us science in the first place. But at the time, a lot of people objected to Newton's notion of gravity because it is metaphysical. "Physical" here refers, at any moment, to the set of behaviors explained by your beliefs and intuitions about the physical world. For most of us, the physical is basically kinematics and optics at human scale, and chemistry.

Gravity posited action at a distance. And not a repelling force, which would have been a little more accessible by way of analogy to things like wind or air pressure; but an attracting force.

(I said gravity is metaphysical, not was metaphysical, because IMHO gravity is still not explained by our physics. We have equations that let us make predictions, but our familiarity with them has made us forget how deeply weird gravity is. Using equations to make predictions involving gravity is not very different from using matrix mechanics to make predictions involving quantum mechanics. The fact that you can write F = GmM/r^2 doesn't mean that the force involved fits into your existing ontology. Yes, people say that gravity doesn't act at a distance because things are actually responding to the local curvature of spacetime; or that the gravitational force is communicated by particles called gravitons, which somehow pull things back the way they came from. I don't understand that bending spacetime stuff. It's voodoo to me. I'm not convinced anyone really understands why gravity exists.)

Radioactivity was also, initially, metaphysical. It was a new source of energy that did not fit into the existing physics. Electricity and magnetism were also metaphysical. (As with gravity, I'm not convinced that anybody understands them even today. I gather that they have been reduced to quantum physics by attributing their effects to the interactions of subnuclear particles. That reduces the number of mysterious concepts, but doesn't solve the mystery.)

When someone says that consciousness is metaphysical, all they are saying - all they can be saying; there is no other coherent way to interpret the statement - is that they involve some process not described in our textbooks.

It seems to me at least as likely that there exists something undiscovered that is needed to explain consciousness, as that we can explain it with our existing concepts. If you're going to insist today that we can understand everything without adding any more fundamental concepts of physics, then I conclude you would have also stood against Newton, Gilbert, and Boyle.

Do you put electrostatic action at a distance in the same basket as gravity?

It's mysterious spooky stuff to me, yes. But the important thing isn't whether or not I personally, or anybody else, now has a complete understanding of it. The important thing is that, for at least 300 years after its discovery, it was a deep mystery; but the people investigating it did not dismiss it as metaphysics.

I don't understand that bending spacetime stuff. It's voodoo to me.

Ye olde rubber sheet analogy doesn't do it for you?

If someone pushes down in the middle of a sheet of rubber, it isn't mysterious to me why the rubber sheet gets distorted in other places.

Objecting to "non-physical" explanations means objecting to explanations that we don't understand. And yet huge swaths of science are things that we don't understand. Here's an example to distinguish between understanding and mere curve-fitting:

  1. Thermodynamics: You say that heat is actually the kinetic energy of moving particles. Heat is communicated by particles bouncing off other particles and imparting momentum to them. Now you understand heat! You can use this understanding to construct equations that will let you predict how heat flows.

  2. Gravity: You observe a lot of objects rising and falling. You observe the orbits of planets. You take all this data, and find some equations that fit it. You can now predict the influence of gravity. But you don't understand gravity.

In response to the comments in this thread that seem to argue that our understanding of gravity as just as good as our understanding of rubber deformation or in some way good enough, I would agree with the parent that our non-understanding of gravity is quite starkly different from our understanding of the deformation of rubber.

We really do understand the deformation of rubber in terms of local molecular interactions. Not in analogies but in actual detail of what the molecules are doing. The partial differential equations that give us the computational short-cut to solve the shape of the rubber can nevertheless be derived from first principles, and computed using local mechanisms that model exactly what the universe does.

In the case of gravity, we know the shape of the field, but we have no idea what local interactions are yielding them.

I don't see the differences between our understanding of either.

We really do understand the deformation of rubber in terms of local molecular interactions. Not in analogies but in actual detail of what the molecules are doing.

Yes, but what are molecules? Why do they exist and have the strong/weak/electric forces? And why do those forces ...?

No matter how many levels you go down and say, "Ah, X results from the effects of Y", you're still doing the exact same thing you (and PhilGoetz) claim is going on with gravity: you're "passing the buck" to another hypothetical entity.

I don't believe this distinction is useful. Rubber is no more explained when you know it's "really" just molecular forces writ large, than when you merely knew how it works.

The only way to have a terminating procedure to determine when you understand it is when you can predict your observations of it in a model that connects to your model for everything else. Positing the existence of molecules only helps you to the extent that helps generate such a model.

So, I think that both gravity and chemicals are equally well explained: we have a model that works for both.

Perhaps we have different underlying philosophies in what it means to understand something. I feel like I understand something when I know the mechanism for it. And then I can abstract that mechanism, so that I understand other systems that rely on that same mechanism.

For example, in the case of rubber deformation, once I understand the deformation of rubber, I understand the deformation of any elastic, non-compressible material. (Forgive me if I’m cloudy on the full number of necessary assumptions required – I’d have to pick up a textbook on this topic since it’s been a few years.) But I have a mental picture of a network of “molecules” connected by springs that deform and relay pressure. Thus I understand anything that works like this – regardless of what the “molecules” are.

But is this how gravity works? Not necessarily; many different mechanisms can result in the same pattern. Without knowing the mechanism for gravity, I can’t say I understand it.

But I have encountered persons who feel that prediction is understanding, which is what I meant by us possibly having different philosophies about understanding.

Perhaps we have different underlying philosophies in what it means to understand something. I feel like I understand something when I know the mechanism for it. And then I can abstract that mechanism, so that I understand other systems that rely on that same mechanism.

I don't disagree. That's why I put in this part:

The only way to have a terminating procedure to determine when you understand it is when you can predict your observations of it in a model that connects to your model for everything else.

That "connecting with the rest of your model" corresponds to what you might call "knowing the mechanism in such a way that it generalizes to other systems". For example, if your model uses the concept of a "floobel", then floobels must coherently and consistently fit in with explanations for other things.

So I agree that to understand something, you must not only be able to predict the observables, but do so using concepts that are common (causally connected) to the rest of the model and not just created ad-hoc for one specific problem. (If you could only do the former, that would certainly be a noteworthy success, but doesn't count as understanding. Rather, it's something like the guy in the Chinese room -- the person, of course, not the person+room+rulebook system!)

So I really overreached when I said:

Rubber is no more explained when you know it's "really" just molecular forces writ large, than when you merely knew how it works.

And I apologize for that, because it glosses over what was really the crucial point of contention. I would say that the involvement of molecules can count as having more explanatory powers, so long as your suppositions about "molecules" have implications beyond just rubber stretching. (Which they do in standard scientific usage.) What I meant by the statement above is that if you invent something called molecules just for rubber stretching, your understanding hasn't increased. The understanding happens when you identify the general mechanism behind both molecules and other phenomena, and identify how the rubber properties fall out as an implication.

So let's look back at gravity now: does our understanding of its mechanism generalize beyond just gravity? I say it does, though I could be corrected on this since I'm no expert on relativity. Our description of gravity's behavior relies on concepts like mass, the speed of light, and wave propagation, which are extensively used, with the same values, in contexts where gravity is insignificant or ignored. So it does involve more general concepts and mechanisms.

Perhaps what you mean is that gravity generalizes to a much narrower area than quantum mechanics, making it appear ad hoc relative to quantum mechanics?

But I have a mental picture of a network of “molecules” connected by springs that deform and relay pressure.

But rubber molecules don't actually have springs. It is a structural analogy. The same kind of structural analogy as comparing space-time to rubber. I do think these analogy are a little specious but they're ubiquitous.

But rubber molecules don't actually have springs

Rubber molecules are springs, approximately, which can be verified experiments.

(Not 'spring' in the sense of a metal coil, but spring in the sense of Hooke's law.)

A rubber band behaves according to Hooke’s Law.

That is .... ideally. I guess if you examine the details, natural rubber isn't so accurately a Hookean material.

Rubber is generally regarded as a "non-hookean" material because its elasticity is stress dependent and sensitive to temperature and loading rate.

But the point isn't whether I'm an expert in the properties of real rubber (I'm not) but whether 'we' (modern science) understand the deformation of rubber, and we do, especially if we mean for some simplified, idealized concept of rubber. (You can google scholar 'rubber deformation', but already Wikipedia is convincing.) There are definitely boundaries to this understanding -- we don't understand everything about it, but it's much more than just understanding an analogy.

I see. I guess then my question is: why should we think that gravity needs more of an explanation? We can understand material elasticity in terms of their molecular bonding but why should we think there is an equivalent means of explanation for gravity? Maybe there is nothing left to reduce it to. If thats the case then I don't think it makes sense to say we don't understand enough about gravity- we'd understand all that anyone could.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

micro <=> macro
statistical mechanics <=> thermodynamics
understanding of molecular interactions <=> large-scale equations for rubber deformation
??? <=> gravity per General Relativity

ETA: Naw, strike the above.

I (believe I) gained insight from reading your comment.

I don't think curve-fitting is quite the right idea in reference to general relativity -- the equivalence principle is parameter-free. But the principle does take the fact that masses attract as given, and the rubber sheet analogy doesn't help explain why it should be so. In the end, I think you're right (to the degree that you concur with byrnema's excellent comment).

Seems relevant: Feynman on understanding.

"But I really can't do a good job - any job - of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else that you're more familiar with, because I don't understand it in terms of anything else that you're more familiar with."

What do we mean by "understanding"? Things are always understood in terms of other things already familiar to you. Sometimes the distance between everyday experience and a given idea is too big for immediate explanations, but even otherwise grounding the idea in everyday experience may be cheating, since everyday experience may result from the phenomenon that you are trying to understand this way in the first place!

Gravity is the macro-scale effect of non-euclidean space Balls rolling in curves on rubber are the macro effect of the rubber not being flat.

Space has a tensor field of the locally correct lorentz transform. Rubber has a vector field of the local gradient. Both are derivatives; the fact they aren't constant implies non-eulcidean geometry

The laplacian (second derivative) of space appears made discontinuous only by mass-energy Ditto rubber.

If it isn't mysterious why rubber sheets get distorted, then it shouldn't be mysterious why space is distorted. Both are minimising the deviation of second derivative from a specified forcing, and have dynamics for the forcing over time. They are identical processes.

I agree that I think metaphysical means non-physical in the sense: magical.

There are two problems with defining metaphysical as merely "non-physical". First, people will disagree about what is non-physical (in your most recent post you suggest lack of conservation, I suggest any evidence of non-locality) and second, there's a problem that anything that actually is discovered will be defined as physical, so we render metaphysics as impossible be definition.

I think I have a good definition of metaphysical that avoid these problems. I defined it in detail here but I'll summarize:

Suppose we live in reality X, which includes everything that we experience and can conceivably observe. If it is possible to model X completely within X (that is, without appealing to any mechanisms outside X), than reality has no metaphysical component.

Thus I define define dualism as as assertion that reality is not self-consistently closed or complete.

When dualists say the metaphsyical exists, I do wonder what they mean, but I am confident I could convince them their definition is isomorphic to mine, or that they are physical materialists after all.

(Also) Your definition of metaphysical seems to be, "beyond our current physics".

I wouldn't use this definition. I wouldn't even use the definition 'beyond possible physics', because with information getting lost or being inaccessible, we might not be able to figure out everything. With it's link to "dualism" (that is, asserting there is something else besides X, alongside or containing X) I think metaphysics really needs to imply something stronger: that X cannot be complete; that X cannot be closed.

Your use of "metaphysical" confuses me. I assume you mean "non-physical", where "physical" is shorthand for "explainable in terms of our theories of physics such that every aspect of the phenomenon can be accounted for".

The observations in your first three hypotheses seem accurate enough. When I ask myself "Where is this thought", what it feels like is that it has a definite location (I can't bring myself to feel as if the thought is located in a different body part than my head), but no definite extent. (Perhaps because it's a small thought. I seem to remember thoughts - insights - that felt bigger than that.) I can think, and apparently make others think, of things that are anywere.

We sometimes simulate reality (e.g. I can imagine getting up from the computer and leaving the room, and even envision consequences of doing that) but I would deny that this is what's going on when I look at my hand, or (since I can no longer now look at my hand in a way that I ordinarily look at it - you have effectively bumped me into simulation mode) an everyday object.

I've just looked at my Mac's menu bar to tell the time - I wouldn't say that I have simulated my computer for the sake of knowing the time.

We sometimes simulate reality (e.g. I can imagine getting up from the computer and leaving the room, and even envision consequences of doing that) but I would deny that this is what's going on when I look at my hand, or [...] an everyday object.

I wonder if I could convince you that "you" only see a simulation? First, to clarify: by 'only seeing a simulation' I mean 'only seeing a Platonic representation of the object'. Throughout the day as you type on your computer you 'see' your monitor without really carefully looking at it. You look at it enough to locate where it is, and you might notice if anything changed about it, but for the most part you don't study it in any detail and reply on a Platonic representation of it when you observe that 'you are looking at your monitor'.

In contrast, if you were someplace where it would be strange to see a monitor, you would spend some amount of time longer looking at the monitor (time spent really actually looking at it) before assigning it the Platonic representation: Monitor.

The situation of looking at the menu bar is really quite different -- because then you really need to look in order to read the time. You can't rely on your Platonic representation of the menu bar to provide you the time. But by the time you know the time, I contend the experience has been assimilated as a simulation.

I know that when I look at my hand, the experience is not as immediate and straight-forward as it seems. It's not me "looking at my hand" -- if by 'me' I mean my conscious self. Instead, my brain is putting together an image of my hand based on sensory information it is receiving from my eye. Nor is it even so simple as "it is me that is aware of a constructed image of my hand". Because the part of me that 'sees' the image is still not my conscious 'me'. What is actually going on is that I imagine 'myself' seeing my hand -- that is, I imagine a 'me' and I imagine this 'me' is seeing a hand. So when I think about it quite carefully, I realize that when I think to myself that I am seeing my hand, this means I am simulating myself seeing a hand.

Since I have been putting a lot of time into learning about what people like to call consciousness this part of the post really leapt out at me.

What am I if I am not the processes that constitute both the physical matter of the brain and the physical patterns that allow the various senses to both operate and combine to produce a model of the outside world (and place me within that model)?

This quote seems to beg this very question. Both Douglas Hofstatder's I am a Strange Loop and Jeff Hawins' On Intelligence maintain that our consciousness is the sum total of the operations that take place in the brain, and that the I that is observing your hand, is just the result of recursive patterns within one's brain.

So, this quote seems to be a strange observation to make for a monist point of view.

This quote reminds me of comments by Searle on how Computationalist or Connectionist theories of mind assert a form of Strong Dualism that really fails to be a criticism of these stances, due to a false implication that these stances are somehow cartesian.

Both Douglas Hofstatder's I am a Strange Loop and Jeff Hawins' On Intelligence maintain that our consciousness is the sum total of the operations that take place in the brain, and that the I that is observing your hand, is just the result of recursive patterns within one's brain.

But I would agree with this. Consciousness is the sum total of the operations (or most operations -- things go on when you're unconscious) while my self-awareness is some subset. 'Rercusive patterns within one's brain' and 'simulations of reality' sound like they could be the same thing to me.

Later edit: Aha! I think I understand your point. I didn't intend to define consciousness in any limited way.

It's not me "looking at my hand" -- if by 'me' I mean my conscious self.

Place much more emphasis on the word 'self' than 'conscious'.

That is, my conscious sense of self never gets to look directly at a hand -- it only gets to experience a simulation of me looking at a hand.

This quote reminds me of comments by Searle on how Computationalist or Connectionist theories of mind assert a form of Strong Dualism that really fails to be a criticism of these stances, due to a false implication that these stances are somehow cartesian.

This sounds interesting but I don't know what any of the words mean. Could you clarify please if you are tactfully/mildly suggesting in your comment that my hypothesis for dualism is dualist? (If so, I'll be more interested and motivated to research those terms.)

Searle asserts that Computationalism or Connectionism explicitly suggests that the mind and body are different, because if all a mind happens to be is a collection of symbols being computed, (or connections of patterns) then the mind would just be the program (or diagram of the patterns), and this could be written down on a hard copy.

Yet, Searle fails to take into account that the mind isn't the hard copy, but it is only the hard copy of an instance of the program in operation.

Searle also denies that there can be multiple instances of the same mind (and, he is both right and wrong about that, but like most of his philosophy of mind, he really fails to follow through with his description of why this is the case).

Which led to my question: What am I if I am not the processes....

Now, if you are a dualist, which I was rather caught by... Then my reply is rather pointless.

I don't understand it, but I don't think it can be understood. He says that a theory X assert a form of the theory Y that fails to be a criticism of the theory X. Nobody holding theory X would assert theory Y, and want theory Y to be a criticism of theory X. So this can't make any sense, no matter what the words mean.