> Neil (2): My inclination is to say that a bee is aware, but to be
> skeptical as to
> whether it is conscious.
> Me (2): Here you clearly distinguish between "awareness" and
> "consciousness" which I have concluded is not correct. Thus, I think
> it's now incumbent on you to say what the difference is.
We have to keep in mind that both "consciousness" and "awareness" are
vague terms. They are not specific enough that we can identify
empirical criteria that would say whether a bee is aware, or whether a
bee is conscious. The meaning of these terms may change, over time, as
we come to better understand cognition. So, if you like, I as saying
that the meanings are more likely to change enough for people to say
that the bee is aware, than they are to say that the bee is conscious.
It's my impression that, at this time, there are many people who would
deny that a dog is conscious, but there are few who would deny that a
dog is aware.
(on automobile awareness)
> Me (2): No, because any physical thing will respond in certain ways when
> certain forces are applied to it in certain ways. Although these
> responses may not always be predictable to us in the circumstance, they
> are at least in principle predictable if we have enough information
> about the pure physical forces. But living things with at least a
> certain level of awareness will have the capacity to direct their own
> behavior in response to some stimulus (even if we have the ability to
> predict some or perhaps even all of the responses -- in THAT case we are
> predicting based on what we have learned of these entity's dispositions
> to respond, not on what we know of the physics as is the case with an
It seems to me that you are making a clear distinction between living
things and mechanistic things. I agree with this, but it seems to be a
change from some of what you had posted in earlier threads.
> Neil (2):I would say that your cat is thinking. Of course, the cat does
> not havea language, and so won't be thinking in the way that we do. But,
> in a sense, it probably is thinking about getting ready to pounce. That
> goes back to a comment in an earlier post, where I somewhat agreed with
> the behaviorist view that thinking is behavior, and that thinking is
> about motor actions. In our casethe motor actions involved in speech are
> particularly important to us, and we tend to overlook the motor
> component of that.
> Me (2): Here it seems to me we get into competing characterizations. Is
> my cat thinking? Well I think it's pretty clear she has awareness at
I would say that she is aware of things in the world. She also has some
degree of self-awareness. In particular, she is aware of her readiness
to act (as in pouncing on the bird).
> But just having awareness need not constitute thinking. A snail
> crawling in my garden has awareness since, if I prod it with a twig, it
> withdraws into its shell.
I would be careful about saying that. It seems awfully close to
identifying awareness with reactivity, and you had just denied that a
few paragraphs back. If you are going to say a snail has awareness,
then will you also say that an amoeba has awareness - even though it has
> the fact that my cat observes a bird enough to suppose that, as the cat
> sits observing, it is having thoughts about bird and what it might like
> to do to it?
No, it isn't just the observing. Rather, while observing, the cat seems
to tense its muscles as if planning to pounce, and seems to be
attempting to judge the time and force needed. That seems to fit my
view of what thinking amounts to.
> Me (2): One man's "handwaving" may just be another's missed point. I am
> not saying it is necessarily easy to make things like this clear in
> language. In fact I'm inclined to think it's not though I keep trying.
> But it seems to me that the point of philosophy must be to try, if there
> are difficult thoughts to be explicated. On the other hand, accusations
> of "handwaving" are the easiest thing in the world to make.
It was a comment, not an accusation. Your account of awareness does not
give me anything that I could test empirically. And you might say the
same about my version of what awareness is.
>> Neil: But what does "merely physical" mean here?
>> Me: I thought I made that pretty clear!
> Neil (2): It's not clear to me. If "physical" means "composed of atoms"
> then we
> are not physical.
> Me (2): Of course I didn't say that, did I?
Well that make it significantly clearer than it was. It's the sort of
thing I was looking for when I asked what "merely physical" might mean.
> Me (2): I wasn't alluding either to idealism or realism. You brought
> these isms into this. As to lack of distinguishability, I think it's
> pretty clearthat idealism is distinguishable from physicalism in the
> metaphysical sense.
My comment was intended to be on difficulty of distinguishing them
> Neil (2): I am typing, and forming representations, because to do so is
> useful to me. It is not useful to the computer. The computer just
> follows mechanical rules that it applies to the representations it
> receives, with no consideration of usefulness.
> Me (2): In this you give a teleological account that already implies
> awareness, i.e., usefulness is a concept that, to be intentionally
> implemented, must already presume awareness of things (of objects and
> objectives and of what could secure either of these for the
I was not intending anything teleological.
> Granted living organisms pursue self-preservation and
> self-perpetuation and don't need to be aware they are doing that.
That's all I need to talk of usefulness. I see that as a sufficient
starting point from which awareness can grow.
> Neil (2): Note that this is what got me kicked of the ai-philosophy
> group. My position is that we are not receivers and processors of
> representations. Rather, we are creators of representations. And that's
> what I see as making AI problematic.
> Me (2): How can we be creators if we don't already operate in a milieu
> of representations? Can we create what is not part of what we are?
I'm not sure that "milieu" is quite the right word there, but I'll use
it. Roughly speaking, we have to create that milieu for ourselves. And
I think it is part of what we are, to be able to create that.
To put that in perspective, we see science creating such a milieu of
scientific representations, and then creating representations within
that milieu. And "milieu" is a reasonable word for that with science,
since that is very much a social activity. But infants must do it
individually (so "milieu" is not quite the right word) before they can
even be aware that we are part of a society.