Archive for March, 2008

A responsive indicator of what is here

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly Assignments on March 31, 2008 by stevegal

Emotion is not a sufficient condition for consciousness because there are other essential elements required for consciousness to exist. For example there must also be the ability of sense or we would not have experience; and experience is an important quality to determine whether we are conscious. The reason this is the case, is because without experience we would not know what things are and whether they have meaning (a world without meaning is not an environment for consciousness). Nevertheless, emotion is a necessary condition for consciousness, because without it we are left in a situation where we are unresponsive to what we experience (remember experience is essential for knowing whether or not we have consciousness). Emotion is both necessary and sufficient for cognition, it is our response to the way we learn, perceive and make concepts for anything in the world (at the very least it is influential in the way of being both necessary and sufficient—for what we know about cognition anyways). The issue here is that we do not know enough about our cognition to determine whether we can respond without any sense of judgment (emotions drive our judgments). However, if I ignore this assumption and assume that emotion is not necessary or sufficient for cognition, then I am assuming that unresponsiveness means that I am cognitively awake. This cannot be, because only dead/coma people are in this state. Even when we are dreaming, even if we think that we are conscious and hold emotion, it is taking place in a fake state. In this case emotions will not hold as a necessary and sufficient condition, merely because in our dreams nothing matter even if we think we have emotions/responsiveness to what we think we experience (sort of like a brain in a vat example). As long as we are in the real world (which we cannot be accurately sure about because of the brain in a vat example) emotions have to remain as a necessary and sufficient condition for our cognition.

The functions of our emotions are to give us a response to our experience (in a way letting us indirectly know what kind of experiences we have). For example: I will be angry if someone punched me in the face. I think building robots with real emotions, or designing them to simulate emotions will change the nature of human emotions because what we classify as human emotions (i.e. the response to experience) is how we know our consciousness in general. Now if this quality is imitated or recreated artificially, that will change the high standard of how we view ourselves as conscious people. Therefore, less passion will be attached to the emotions we once held. If this is the case then our judgments will not be as dependent on our emotions as before. If this is the case, I believe that our very actions will be purely Utilitarian-based where only the consequence matters. (i.e. Therefore I will not care if shove a fat man in front of a trolley if his mass stops the trolley from running over what I consider to be my more valuable chickens).

I Am the King, and the Emotional Minister Reports to Me.

Posted in Weekly Assignments on March 31, 2008 by rzahavi

            The mental states of a consciousness include three items: sensations, perceptual experiences, and occurrent thoughts (“Consciousness” MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science). An example of a sensation would be the pain of being slapped in the face, an example of a perceptual experience would be the visual experience of a sun setting at the edge of the horizon, and an example of an occurrent thought would be an idea that just popped into my head about how to fix the leaky faucet. Emotions seem to be a very specific slice or facet of conscious mental states, being the feelings that surge through us in response to various stimuli. “Feelings of pleasure and displeasure, of interest and excitement, [are] bound up with mental operations … Bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of [an] exciting fact, and … our feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion (http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/James/emotion.htm).” Accordingly, emotions are a fundamental part of our mental capacities, which meaningfully shape our conscious mental states; however, while emotions may be inescapably entangled in our consciousness and inevitably displayed in our behavior, I see nothing to suggest that they are sufficient for consciousness or cognition, generally speaking. As our definition for consciousness above explains, many other pieces of the consciousness puzzle, namely sensations, perceptual experiences, and occurrent thoughts, are necessary for a conscious mental state. As such, emotions cannot possibly present a characteristic or function sufficient for the establishment of a mental state. On the other hand, perhaps emotion is necessary for the conscious mental state of a human being, a creature who seems inescapably bound to the constant sway of emotional tides. If a human being is simply incapable of ever separating him or herself completely from emotional states, then maybe emotional influence has been imbued in our functioning as a result of the evolutionary process because they aid in our ability to discern the nature of our environment as well as in judging what is appropriate to do in our environment.

            I think emotion has a very important role in the functioning of human beings. All human decisions in life are the culmination of significant conscious and subconscious deliberation. We reflect on our own personal experiences as they may relate to a current decision. We consider the factual knowledge we have stored in our brains from formal academic schooling. We use our physical senses to gauge the situation, using eyesight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing to determine the current disposition of the environment in relation to ourselves. If each of these methods of determining the current state of affairs in my world is analogous to a minister reporting to a king (clearly being my soul or the ultimate decider of all things related to me), then similarly, emotion would simply correspond to another minister reporting to me in my head about the situation I find myself in. If I find myself playing baseball, being up at bat, I would use my eyes to tell me where the baseball is heading and where to swing the bat. I would use my acquired knowledge to let myself know, OK, so you hit the ball, super, now run to the right toward first base. Yet, at the same time, I would use emotion to tell me that I am excited to be playing baseball because I love playing baseball, or that I should be dejected that my team lost the championship game by a million points. Emotion is just another piece of my mental barometer, telling me about the emotional aspects of a situation as they relate to me.

            Concerning robots and emotions, I believe that if humans could possibly build a robot with an emotional capacity and free will, it would inevitably change the nature of human emotion. If a robot could freely explore and express emotional states, it would be itself and express itself in its own unique way, which would not necessarily be a human way, thereby bringing new emotional qualities and mannerisms into our own world, which would certainly change our own emotional outlook.

For all parties interested

Posted in Weekly Assignments on March 13, 2008 by wazdingo

For all people interested in trying out my powerpoint test of whether or not something deserves human rights, the download is linked to this post. Please comment as much as you like! I will try to reply to as many as possible.

MMP Midterm

Thoughts on Animal Consciousness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2008 by crodan2

Just the other day as my brother and I drove home from the supermarket, we discussed whether it is any worse to kill a cow than it is a chicken. This prompted an investigation concerning levels of moral status in terms of transitive relations between human and animals. A key part of the dialogue was the metaphysics of consciousness – if relative “levels” can be compared between different species, and what the implications are for ethical considerations.I’ve done some thinking on this issue, as related to the field of bioethics, and have devised a metaphysical hypothesis as a way of thinking about animal consciousness. I’m not claiming that this is the way the world actually IS, but merely offering a suggestion concerning a possible causal system, which contains a hiearchy of living beings.I think it is plausible to assume that the planet Earth is surrounded by a “life force” that can be thought of as cosmic goo. At any given time period, this unperceivable substance can have a finite, determinable quantity (for simplicity’s sake, I am assuming absolute time – that Earth is approximately 5 billion years old, and has about 5 billion more years before it will be destroyed by the sun’s explosion). However, the quantity of this life force cannot be measured in physical terms (such as a liter or other metric term), but instead based on the amount of lives it can support at any given time; where a life is defined as any living organic being. I assume that humans have a higher level of consciousness than animals by virtue of the fact that their bodily systems are more physically complicated. I think it is also reasonable to assume that humans require a much larger amount of “life force” to sustain their existence.I argue that animals are conscious, because consciousness is required for existence of a biological organism. I think it is hard to examine any animal through the spectrum of knowledge posessed by a human being. By asking if it has self-awareness or knowledge, we are effectively anthropomorphizing, and will probably get an inherently subjective answer. However, as it is possible to measure an animal’s  level of intelligence in relation to ourselves as well as other animals, I think we see more intense emotions attached to animals that are more biologically complex, and closer to our own level of biological sophistication. 

Animal Consciousness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2008 by wkoller

I don’t know if so broadly I can say that animals are conscious. It would be like saying that because humans are considered conscious, all mammals are conscious. It is perhaps more likely that there is a spectrum of consciousness, and some animals are more developed than others. I have had dogs and cats my whole life, and as some of my pets have died we have gotten new ones. In particular with my dogs, while part of their training is based on conditioning and using rewards to have them perform a desired task, I have noticed that different dogs of mine have learned both faster and even things I never intentionally taught them. For example my first dog Appy was able to open doors (with a handle not a knob) and let herself outside when she wanted to go out, however my two dogs now (Sunny and Bogie) bark helplessly at the door and will continue to do so until they are let outside. Even more fascinating to me was Appy’s emotional reaction to things, whenever I was a kid and i fell down or hurt myself she would come over to console me and stay by me until she was convinced that I was better, the reaction would be similar if she saw anyone cry. Sunny and Bogie however don’t seem to notice people’s emotional state’s so accutely. They can tell when you are happy, which makes them happy, but Appy did this and more. I think this shows a difference in intelligence between Appy and Sunny/Bogie, which to me makes sense because just as people can have varied intelligence it makes sense to me that dogs also can be more or less intelligent in relation to one another. Appy in particular I feel shows that a dog at least can have some emotional capacity, which perhaps is related to her intelligence somehow.

As far as pain goes I think most animals have some reaction to pain. My dogs are aware when they are in pain, Bogie has hip problems and when he has bad days he won’t want to get up and move. This is more likely an instinct though in people and animals and does not necessarily determine consciousness. Perception in general is interesting when it comes to animals because I think they can perceive things that we cannot. It can be a perfectly sunny day and my dogs won’t go outside, and sure enough a storm shortly follows. This also my be an instinct to find shelter in animals, and I feel that with regards to most aspects of animal consciousness it may be hard to determine what is just instinct. My dogs do seem to know things without being taught though, their names (while they were conditioned to respond to them) for one, but also the names of people and of other dogs in the neighborhood. I can ask if they would like to go visit Barney and they seem to know what that means because when they are put on their leashes they lead the way and go to Barney’s house rather than another dog’s house. Another example would be my mom telling them to wake me up, or my sister, and they’ll run upstairs to the right room and wake whomever up. In this sense they have knowledge of us as individual things. They also seem to have some kind of self-awareness, although not as defined as a person’s. This seems to have grown over time, when they were young they would bark at their own reflections in a mirror, but now they ignore it entirely as if they realize it is just them (this is hard to differentiate from conditioning however).

Language in particular seems to be a complicated field for discussion. Again I think different animals have different capacities in general, but especially for language. Gorillas for example are able to learn to an extent, sign language. While it is very simple and doesn’t conform to proper grammar or sentence structure, they are still able to communicate basic needs and wants such as food. I don’t suspect my dogs would be able to use sign language even if they had hands instead of paws just because I think that they probably aren’t smart enough for that. All animals do have a way to communicate between one another, but it isn’t anything like a developed language.

As far as animals deserving rights I think at least certain ones do. It becomes really complicated however when its time to decide which animal deserves what rights based on its qualities. Gorillas are easily more intelligent than my dogs, who are probably more intelligent than a mouse, and I think in that order they have some sort of emotional capacities as well. Animals in a way do have rights, but its only if they are owned by a person, and in a sense thats really only the person’s rights over their property. As individual beings I think they shouldn’t be ignored and treated as necessarily lesser than people are. They obviously probably shouldn’t have the right to vote or anything, but I think the right to life would be one that could be acceptable for animals. We shouldn’t just be able to move into an area and cut down all the trees and destroy the habitat in which animals live so easily.

creatures of the brain

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly Assignments on March 11, 2008 by stevegal

Animals are conscious creatures in the sense that can experience life in regards to physics (the most basic form of science in this real world). However, this sort of consciousness is only apparent in what is alive (i.e. such as insects). Even though animals may show resemblance to human emotion in regards to their caring behavior and instant reactions towards things, it is not like human consciousness. Human consciousness holds qualities that are way different from other creatures, such as our visual perception and our ability to distort what we see through mental control. The human mind is what differentiates us from any other organism. The mind, even though thought that it may hold mentalese, which may give us a similarity to other animals in that regards; it is possible that mentalese is just our substitution for the “X variable in the equation that distinguishes us from other creatures.” Well then what about intelligence, pain, perception, knowledge, self-awareness, reflection, emotion and language? These qualities are the same and may be thought to be part of the mentalese characteristic that nativists like Fodor give to reason through how the mind works. However, we can deny this mentalese idea and say that these characteristics are purely instinct and created from the stimulus from the mind. So do any animals deserve any particular rights in virtue of these capacities or skills? Obviously, no, because it is part of the productory characteristics of the brain of all creatures. And all animals are the same, through our understanding, therefore we can say nothing of animals except that they are blank-minded organisms.

Animal Consciousness

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2008 by mpcarino

I find it very hard to state that only humans have consciousness, especially with how loosely the concept of consciousness is defined. I will however say that various animals have degrees of consciousness. One would be quick to want to order these animals in terms of animals with the least conscious thought to the animals with the most conscious thought, however while this task is theoretically not impossible it is incredibly difficult when people have differing opinions as to the most important aspect of consciousness and how to include conscious behaviors that humans don’t experience. For instance the sense of electromagnetic fields that fish have or the primal sense of danger that animals seem to be aware of. These are senses that cannot be compared to humans as we simply do not process and take in information in that way.

Anyone with a dog or cat would he crazy to say that animals don’t have conscious thought or bahaviors. Watching my dog react to the sound of my voice, seeing it get happy simply by me holding up a ball. Is the dog not giving meaning to my presense? It certainly must be making assumptions about my intention to throw the ball for it to chase. It even makes assumptions about the ball leaving my hand when I throw it forward, even if it doesn’t see the ball leave (everyone has had fun fooling the dog in this manner). How could a dog do these functions without some semblence of consciousness? If it is able to apply motives and intentions on me and understand them, then it must also have it’s own motives and intentions when going about tasks. It can’t simple “live in the moment”.

Furthermore, it is hard to say animals don’t have a sense of morality. The whole act of housebreaking is teaching a puppy that it is “bad” to go to the bathroom on the floor and instead must wait to be let outside. If the puppy had no sense of morality, no ability to judge what should and should not be done then the act of trying to teach it would be impossible. Some may say that the dog is simply acting in it’s own interests out of fear of punishment, and I argue that that is how we as humans learn as well.

I don’t do calculus homework because it is fun and I am learning new and interesting theories of mathmatics. I do it because if I don’t I will fail the course and my father will beat me. The difference is consequences don’t have to be physical, I might do my calculus homework for self-enrichment. Similiarly a dog might learn to go to the bathroom outside because it takes joy out of making its master happy.

Of course other animals, much lower on the evolutionary ladder still have consciousness. Worms are still motivated by the desire to live, the will to eat and procreate. These may not be in the least complex, but it is hard to say that a worm has as little consciousness as mayonase or a rock. All animals at least have the ability to think. It’s what makes them animals. Now I don’t expect a cat to multiply imaginary numbers, or for a worm to write a sonnet, but these are higher order levels of consciousness.

As for giving rights to animals, they have a lot right now. I can’t just take my dog and beat it to death, I’ll be charged with animal cruelty. I say animals have just as much rights as they need right now. They are protected, and maybe we rely on animals to fulfill our needs a little too much, but that seems to be the nature of all animals not humans in particular. When a lion jumps on a zebra it does not ask itself whether the zebra has a right to live. It just knows it has a right to feed itself and its pride. When I look at the needs that animals help me fulfill I don’t think I am being heartless when I think of my needs first. The same thing applies to humans as they react to other humans. You might have the right of ownership to the money in your wallet, but get me hungry enough and I might relieve you of some of that money for my personal use.