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entirelyuseless comments on Steelmanning the Chinese Room Argument - Less Wrong Discussion

5 Post author: cousin_it 06 July 2017 09:37AM

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Comment author: entirelyuseless 17 July 2017 01:41:36PM 1 point [-]

But what is watching someone sitting, and what is "getting an idea of what sitting is"? Those aren't things which are easy to watch.

And if you say you can notice yourself watching someone sitting and notice yourself getting an idea of what sitting is, then you can notice yourself being conscious. So there shouldn't be any difficulty figuring out whether you are conscious. The difficulty (if there is one) would be figuring out whether someone else is conscious. And it is equally difficult to know whether someone else has an idea of what sitting is.

Comment author: Jiro 17 July 2017 07:11:58PM 0 points [-]

I think maybe I'm not being clear.

If you want to tell me what a chair is, you can point to a chair and its characteristics and I can look at it. I can then notice that when I look at that chair, and when I look at an object inside my house, they look pretty much the same. So I conclude that the object inside my house seems to be what you would call a chair. (Of course, you'd probably describe a chair in a more complicated way, but it would come down to a lot of instances of that.)

If I try to do that for consciousness, one of the intermediate steps is missing. I can't look at your consciousness, then look at mine, and say "hmm, they seem to be the same sort of thing". Each one is (or is purported to be) only visible to one person.

The fact that I can "notice myself being conscious" doesn't change this. I can't compare consciousnesses. While it's true that I can't directly compare my idea of sitting to your idea of sitting, I can go through the intermediary of asking you to sit, then comparing what I see when you sit to what I see when I sit.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 18 July 2017 02:27:12AM 0 points [-]

I can then notice that when I look at that chair, and when I look at an object inside my house, they look pretty much the same. So I conclude that the object inside my house seems to be what you would call a chair.

If you notice when things look pretty much the same, then I can explain what I mean by consciousness, without you having to see what my consciousness is like. In fact, we can assume I have no consciousness and you are the only one who has it: we can talk about it anyway.

First, notice that things look pretty similar at all the times when you are awake, compared to times when you are sleep. That is like noticing that two chairs are alike. Then, notice that when you are asleep and dreaming, that is also similar, although less similar, to the times when you are awake, and dissimilar to the times when you are asleep and not dreaming. Then, suppose there are also some times when you sleepwalk, but without dreaming. Those are noticeably similar to times when you are asleep without dreaming but doing nothing -- in fact those times seem exactly alike until later when you judge them by other evidence.

Now when I say "you are conscious," I am talking about the similarity between the times when you are awake and the times when you are dreaming, in contrast with the times when you are asleep and not dreaming.

Comment author: Jiro 18 July 2017 09:50:44PM *  0 points [-]

Now when I say "you are conscious," I am talking about the similarity between the times when you are awake and the times when you are dreaming, in contrast with the times when you are asleep and not dreaming.

You don't have a separate word which means "Jiro's consciousness" and nothing else. You have a single word which is used both for mine and yours, which implies that they are the similar. What you've just described fails to imply that similarity, so it doesn't match the way you are using the word.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 19 July 2017 01:09:15AM 0 points [-]

I deliberately failed to imply the similarity, since I said that we would define consciousness in that way even if I were not conscious.

However, you are quite right that I would not actually know about consciousness if I were not. And indeed, I notice the similarity between being awake and dreaming sleep, as opposed to dreamless sleep, in the same way that you do. So I quite rightly talk about consciousness being the same in you and in me.