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Theos-World Fwd: JCS: The Hard Problem & Symmetry

Nov 25, 1999 03:56 PM
by LeonMaurer

I think you might be interested in this copy of a letter to JCS-online which 
discusses the hard problem (explaining scientifically the "experience" of 
consciousness)--from Vedanta and Buddhist points of view   
--- Begin Message ---
  Dear Peter,
             Thank you very much for your mail ......I will do my best to answeryour queries and where I don't know I will frankly say so.

>One of the key problems in trying to read Buddhist or Vedantic texts is that
>they have a different vocabulary, different references, and seemingly a
>different set of concepts. For example, in the Vedanta, I find that they do
>not start from the pivotal Cartesian point of dividing the known universe
>into the physical world and the conscious mental world. Instead they group
>together the physical with the functional components of the conscious mind,
>calling this 'prakriti', and then take pure consciousness separarely. So, in
>the Vedantic scheme, there is no clear counterpart to the Chalmerian Hard

 You are right...there seems to be a basic difference between the Indian schools and Prof. Chalmers in the way the subject matter is divided :
 Chalmers divides as :
 1. Phenomenal Mind   2.  Psychological Mind  3. Physical Processing
 Phenomenal mind is that involved in the conscious experience of qualia whereas
 the psychological mind has to do with the functional aspects as verbal report
 physical and verbal reactions to the qualia experienced.Physical processing
  has of course to do with the physical events , nerves firing... and so on 
 right down to the atomic and molecular level. It seems to me ( I may be wrong)
 that in his celebrated book (The Conscious MInd) he does not formally separate
 consciousness from qualia. He does indeed give a list of qualia we generally
 experience (sounds,colour,taste, smells....etc.) , but nowhere does he imply
 that consciousness itself will have to adopt different modes for the experience of different qualia.   Rather 'conscious experience' constituted by both
 consciousness and qualia are taken to be one indivisible whole.

     Whereas for the classical Indians consciousness was clearly and formally
separated from both qualia and the more functional aspects of cognition. In 
their view the division was something like this :

  1.Consciousness     2. Qualia + psychological aspects(in the Chalmerian sense)  3. material or physical processing
  The definition of 'Prakriti' is technically not the one which you have indicat ed in your posting it is used in a slightly different sense in Sankhya where 
 the theory was first laid  out in great detail......but we will go by your
 definition  with some modification. So 2 and 3 constitutes 'Prakriti' whereas
 for Sankhya 1.Consciousness (Purusha) was 'pure consciousness' having the following properties a) Static, immutable, no attribute apart from 'being' conscious
and unchanging. Prakriti on the other hand was dynamic, mechanical and responsible for all the manifested properties of nature whether internal or external.The
  expressions of Prakriti  going all the way down from the ego...intellect
....sense mind(Manas) .....senses.........matter. Note according to the Sankhyas intellect is mechanical and non-conscious being an element of Prakriti yet
 not material..... consciousness being a property only of the Purusha.Therefore in summary Purusha is static, conscious immutable whereas Prakriti evolves yet
 is purely mechanical. The Pure Self or Atman of the vedantins was possibly
 developed out the purusha of the Sankhyas which I believe was the first 
 systematic effort to rationally account for cognition. The Sankhya unlike
 Advaita Vedanta is a dualistic system although their brand  of dualism was of
 slightly different variety from the natural dualism of  Chalmers. Purusha can
 be called pure consciousness but maybe not a 'pure consciousness event'.

 One way of looking at the 'Hard problem' is that it is a problem of linking up
 fundamental entities in a dualism. You will note for monisms whether material
 or spiritual the 'Hard Problem' doesn't really exist as they have reduced their list of fundamental/substantival principles constituting their universe to
 just one. For Chalmers on the other hand the hardest part of the 'Hard Problem' is to explain the relationship whether causal or otherwise between the 
  'phenomenal mind' and physical processing. He suggest that perhaps one can 
 start by trying to relate the 'phenomenal mind' to the 'psychological mind'
 (awareness)and then relate the 'psychological mind' to the physical processing.   This factoring will perhaps will simplify the task then going at one remove
  from the 'phenomenal mind' to neurons firing. The Sankhyas faced a similar   
 problem though in its details there is no 'clear counterpart' to Chalmers the
 essential problem is the same. The Sankhya dualism had two fundamental entities  Purusha whose essence was consciousness alone and Prakriti whose mechanical
  operations constituted  nature in all its modes and moods. There was perfect
  correspondence between Purusha and Prakriti. Yet the Sankhya system had no
  adequate explanation as to how a static Purusha could interact with Prakriti
  to experience her modes. Secondly Prakriti evolves ...what is it that guides
  her evolution ? There are many Purusha's and one Prakriti. How is one Purusha
  individuated from another as all qualitites belong Prakriti the essence of 
  Purusha being only pure consciousness ? Both Buddha and Shankaracharya were
  severly critical of the Sankhya System the hands of the latter the
  system was sytematically torn to shreds.    

   Buddha divided his system on similar lines with Sankhya 

   1.Chitta ( Vinnana ) Consciousness
   2.Cetasik ( Concomitant mental factors includes both qualia and functional
               aspects of mind...verbal report....etc.)
   3.Rupa (physical processing and material events)

>(a) Is Vinnana the same as what has often been referred to as Pure Conscious
>Experience (PCE) in JCS and JCS-Online?

   No emphatically not ! Buddha now made radical moves in which he sharply
deviated from all existing systems. The Sankhyas had got it all wrong he claimed when they made the purusha static and immutable. Vinnana is phenomenal consciou-sness and is always associated with its corresponding qualia. But the qualia
which we experience are dynamic then does that make Vinnana also transient?
 Yes it does. The Vinnana rises with its corresponding Cetasiks and then
  collapses along with it.

>>You wrote that Vinnana is
>A wholly abstract and subjective principle.
>This seems to be a contradiction in terms to me. If you have a subjective
>experience, then it is not abstract.  Surely consciousness is the one thing
>that we know is *not* an abstract principle. If you drop a brick on your
>foot, the pain is not an abstract principle: it is a concrete and
>immediately apprehended objective reality. (The brick itself, on the other
>hand, is an abstract model, just a theoretical construct that ties together
>the sense impressions such as the tactile impressions in your fingers as you
>let go, the visual impressions of the receding red rectangle, and the
>suddenly bursting pain sensation.) 

 Precisely but the pain is not consciousness the pain is a sensation (cetasik)
 which has an associated consciousness classed as
 1. Body consciousness associated with pain. All kinds of pain will have the 
 same consciousness associated with it which is 1 out of 121 consciousnesses.
 Every type of Vinnana or Chitta or consciousness has subjectively observable
 correlates (cetasiks) and objectively observable correlates but is normally
 itself never objectified. It is in that sense 'abstract' and 'subjective'.
 The Sankhyas had blundered again when they proposed the Purusha can exist 
 independent of Prakriti. It is true the citta is distinct from its cetasiks
 but it is not true that it can exist independent of it. Every type of Chitta
 will arise associated with its cetasiks never independent of them.

>(c) You say that Cetasik is 'concomitant'. Well, that says what it does. But
>what *is* it? Does it consistent in mental functions? In qualia?

    It consists of both..........................

 Although Buddha had resolved many of the Sankhyan problems the 'die hard'
 problem of linking up the players Chitta - Cetasik - Rupa remained. To
 this end he proposed a System of Relations consisting of 24 bridging principles establishing the links between his analysis of the fundamental principles
 (Paramarthas) constituting the universe. In  a sense although some of them are
illuminating yet certain difficulties remained. Since they deal with the details of Buddha's system it will be dealt with in another posting dealing with Peter's queries or objections regarding the form and terminology of the CMP's.

 Peter's objection that there is no one - to - one correspondence between Prof.
 Chalmers 'Hard Problem' and the classical problems of the Indians is well made. However if we are a little elastic in our mind look to the spirit rather than
 the letter we find that the 'Hard Problem' relates to a general class of
 problems intrinsic to dualisms. Whenever the number of fundamental realities
 in any system begins to increase we are called upon to link them up espcially
 so when there is obvious interaction between them. These bridging principles
 are non-trivial. Prof. Chalmers faces the daunting task of finding causal
 relationships between the irreducible reality of conscious experience with 
 irreducible realities of physics and chemistry. In his view (if I have under-
 stood him correctly) the concept of information will play a pivotal role in
 this exercize. The Sankhyas attempted to link Purusha with Prakriti and failed
 totally. Buddha's system was the best and the most robust of all the dualisms
 or in his case plurarisms...........yet some questions remain....

                                                   with regards,

List Moderator: Len Maurer <>

jcs-online is a service of the Journal of Consciousness Studies
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