Leibnizian Definition Of Consciousness

One DefinitionOfConsciousness not commonly understood is that of GottfriedWilhelmLeibniz, who saw the fundamental mechanism of consciousness as that of representation. Leibniz responded to ReneDescartes' circular "I think therefore I am" (DesCartesPrinciple) with the deductive "I represent that I represent, therefore I represent".

The advantage of this idea is that it enables us to define, not just an arbitrary threshold, but an empirical hierarchy of levels of consciousness:

-- PeterMerel harping a KenHappel riff


Discussion:

(I've removed the thready bits to here assuming they'll develop to the point that the original text is no longer legible --DeleteMe) To me it looks as if all of the critique above is nitpicking at the concrete examples (piezoelectrics, venus fly trap, fish etc.) or on details at the far upper end (details of abstraction, super-abstraction). When I presented this hiearchy to a friend I got similar remarks. This is all nice and in its detail maybe right and interesting, but completely irrelevant to the main point namely that there is a hierarchy of representation (one could also say one of EssentialComplexity). The examples were just that: examples. If you disagree with them, well, it will be no problem to move some of them somewhere else in the hiearchy (e.h. move piezoelectric quartz up one level). This doesn't invalidate the hierachy in the least.

As for the critique of the vagueness of the upper levels: Also maybe right, but the idea of representation hierarchy should have been made clear up to this point. Extrapolating is always difficult and I would expect rather constructive proposals than a critique at this end.

As an example of a critique I would accept (regarding the hierarchy) is the following: Is there really a hierachy or is it a directed acyclic graph? Is it possible that more than one kind of lower representation is needed to form a higher representation? Example: Memory (i.e. storing of data) is not the only way to gain the advantage of compensate-for-changes-over-time, to delay data is another way to do so (i.e. to have sufficiently slow processes, that lowpass-filter signals. On a higher level certain combinations of e.g. delay, memory and other may be needed.

-- .gz


Leibniz was brilliant, even more brilliant than is generally realized. However, it is far too easy to read too much into vague philosophy, especially older writings (see CapraTrap?), and end up adding apologia specifics that were not truly present in the original. I applaud Leibniz, but he was too vague about e.g. what a "monad" is to have really meant much of anything specifically. He had goals, but they were unrealized until Frege and Boole developed some of his notions into implementation.

With reference to the above you may want to start with http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/colloquia/papers/leibniziidraft.pdf.

Hmm, this paper contains Olympic-level question begging, for example:

Leibniz agrees with the Cartesians that a substance can never be without its essential activity (on pain of ceasing to be what it is); a soul can therefore never be without thought.

So, caveat lector.

On monads, an excellent explication in Leibniz's own words has been achieved by NicholasRescher? in G.W. Leibniz's Monadology - An Edition For Students (ISBN 0822954494 ). Rescher's work demonstrates that Leibniz's language, while difficult and neologic, is never vague. The monadology in particular is a marvel of reflective precision; probably the tersest philosophical statement since LaoTse.

The riff above, however, doesn't necessarily touch on monads, and certainly owes more to Happel than to Leibniz in form. As to formality, well, Happel used this as context for deep math discourse. Regrettably NDAs (and good sense ;-) prevent elaboration of that here.

Given an interest in the philosophy of symbolic representation, one might want to check out Ernst Cassirer's 1955 three volume "The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms" (ISBN 0300003536 ).

An example of examining such things much more concretely, based on data: "Cross-Cultural Universals of Affective Meaning" Charles E. Osgood et al, 1975, ISBN 0252004264 . This is the opposite of a riveting read, since it is about statistical analysis of data across many cultures, but that also makes it comparatively unique.

There's also a lot to be said for catching up on modern cognitive science and evolutionary psychology rather than relying on interpretation of centuries-old philosophy. A modern best seller that is widely considered a brilliant must-read is "GunsGermsAndSteel" by Jared Diamond (ISBN 0393317552 ), and Steven Pinker's "HowTheMindWorks" (ISBN 0393318486 ) and "TheLanguageInstinct" (ISBN 0060976519 ). -- DougMerritt

Fodor and Orr have strong critiques of Pinker and they don't fit any of these criteria

True; I got carried away. Paragraph deleted.

On a different note, I don't care much for Fodor nor Orr (who, BTW, criticized "The Blank Slate", and also Daniel Dennett, but not the above books, as far as I know). They come off clever but ultimately somewhat confused, which is more or less what they accuse their critical targets of being.


IMHO forget Leibnitz, as his views are outdated and need correction.

-- A stone being heated up or hit upon by even harder material responds to the external stimuli by either splitting up or melting. In that way, a stone reacts to external stimuli all by itself.

-- Trees also use their leaves to shape the ground around them, eliminating whatever other plants are there. In fact, a tree is the sum of multiple symbiotic beings, especially at its root work with all the fungi and other both animate and inanimate life forms at both its root work way up to its crown.

-- An onion is the fruit of the plant, as such it is both the egg and uterus of the female plant. They also have a purpose and will react to external stimuli such as well.

-- A fish definitely has a memory. And it also responds to external stimuli. In fact, there are fish that also hunt in packs, even if you might not call them mammals. As such they have both memory and also a plan beyond pure instinct. And I remember also having read or heard about fish that do also harvest and gather and keep for future days to come, likewise with birds and other beings such as mammals.

-- Homo Sapiens Sapiens (HSS) should not extrapolate their being unto other beings and derive from this as such that the other beings are less capable or less functional. By saying that "a reptile cannot represent their response to definitions" means that HSS defined to what a given reptile or other being needs to react when testing for it. For most life forms that need to replicate themselves, such as reptiles and their relatives such as birds and other beings, way down to the most singular life forms such as singular cells, and way up back to the HSS, the necessity to function in a body of a community of such life forms is much more important than to actually recognize an HSS defined abstract concept such as "partner". In fact, they do recognize their partners in life, except they do not always have a means to express such kind of relationship other by defending them when it comes to a threat for life or by feeding them or by generally taking care of either family business or community related business. And this is very similar to the ways of the HSS.

-- Primates do have the ability to insult other primates of their kind and presumably other species as well, mostly requiring them to either throw feces or make gestures or faces or noices. In fact, if they would not have that ability, how would there ever be territorial fights lest fights for leadership, aka being the top notch of the hill or tree?

-- As such, there is a consciousness in every being on earth, even earth itself. And, extrapolating that to the solar system and way beyond, especially when considering that original life on earth stems from extraterrestial sources in form of both singular cells, bacteriae and virii, the views expressed by Leibnitz are very inconsiderate and fail to capture the grandest of all pictures.

-- Please, for no gods sake, try to overcome that old style world experience, as it is way beyond reality.

-- CarstenKlein


CategoryPhilosophy

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