Survival value of Consciousness

Any topics primarily focused on metaphysics can be discussed here, in a generally casual way, where conversations may take unexpected turns.

Moderator: Soul_of_Shu

Shajan624
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:07 am

Survival value of Consciousness

Post by Shajan624 »

‘Survival’ is the cornerstone of Dawinian theory of evolution. Organisms struggle to survive and reproduce. Conscious experience must have some survival value, otherwise consciousness couldn’t have evolved.

This is a strange way to understand life. I can’t be sure about other organisms, but at least for humans, ‘survival’ and ‘conscious experience’ doesn’t seem to follow the evolutionary model.

It appears human beings struggle to ‘experience’ rather than merely ‘survive’. Darwinian struggle for survival is actually the struggle to experience. Survival is valuable only because it prolongs the state of conscious experience. Try imagining survival without conscious experience. Is it worth the struggle?

It could be true for apes as well.
mgjohnson2552
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2021 3:04 am

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by mgjohnson2552 »

Have you read David Chalmer's paper on the "Hard Problem of Consciousness"? For any activity in consciousness (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, intentions, etc.), there is, in theory, a "neural correlate" in the "physical" substrate of the brain. There is no clear reason why this physical mechanism (the neural correlate) need be accompanied by subjective experience. These neural operations could, conceivably, go about their business just as effectively "in the dark". Any purposed function of consciousness faces this problem. The hypothesized "function" of consciousness can be reduced to its physical, neural correlate, and there is no reason why this neural correlate need be accompanied by subjective awareness. Consciousness is an add-on... a mysterious extra ingredient.

I personally do not think consciousness "evolved". Here are my speculative thoughts: Perhaps consciousness is an awareness "overlay" that was given to us from an outside source at some point in our evolution (I'd guess quite recently, at the emergence of early homo sapiens). Having reached a suitable level of cognitive complexity, consciousness choose to indwell the human animal. Consciousness is, perhaps, God's discretized awareness of us. We are its "host". We are a pairing of the physical body with God's awareness. Prior to this, it may have been the case that our ancestors were mere "philosophical zombies"--increasingly intelligent, to be sure, but nonetheless unconscious animals. Modern animals too, while intelligent, may not be "conscious" as we are. There may be varying degrees of consciousness among human beings today, with some more conscious and some less conscious. Perhaps illusionists like Daniel Dennett are only able to claim that consciousness is an illusion because they themselves are, while intelligent, only minimally conscious.
Ed Konderla
Posts: 86
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:37 pm
Location: 3°18'41.8"S 79°12'21.0"W

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by Ed Konderla »

Wow, it's been a long time since I've read something on this site I felt compelled to comment on. What you are proposing feels right to me. So much of the discussions presented here seem to be endless observations about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, what tune they are dancing to, and are they doing a jig or ballet. And even the people that accept the concept that consciousness is fundamental, that we are all examples of obfuscated consciousness feel compelled to believe they bring a perspective and ability to describe something in great detail that is indescribable and unprovable. In my mind there is no harm in this but it causes me to think back to a time forty years ago when I was on a gold mining expedition in Alaska. Being so overwhelmed by the experiences I was having and the incredible beauty of the Alaskan wilderness there was compulsion on my part to document that experience through photography. So I was constantly fussing with equipment, framing shots, worried about lighting and lamenting the last shot that got away. Then one day I realized that all of this fussing was greatly diminishing my ability to savor and experience the here and now. I feel many people may be making that same mistake. Their heads are so wrapped up in characterizing the uncharacterizable as if it was something outside themselves they were observing when in reality they are the observer and the observed.
User avatar
AshvinP
Posts: 2914
Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2021 5:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by AshvinP »

Shajan624 wrote: Sun Aug 29, 2021 1:48 pm ‘Survival’ is the cornerstone of Dawinian theory of evolution. Organisms struggle to survive and reproduce. Conscious experience must have some survival value, otherwise consciousness couldn’t have evolved.

This is a strange way to understand life. I can’t be sure about other organisms, but at least for humans, ‘survival’ and ‘conscious experience’ doesn’t seem to follow the evolutionary model.

It appears human beings struggle to ‘experience’ rather than merely ‘survive’. Darwinian struggle for survival is actually the struggle to experience. Survival is valuable only because it prolongs the state of conscious experience. Try imagining survival without conscious experience. Is it worth the struggle?

It could be true for apes as well.

Shajan,

Your proposal makes sense. I think it can be elaborated further as the survival of living ideas. So there is deep evolutionary impulse to not only experience, but to know what is experienced in ever-finer and rich meaningful detail (not simply the dead concepts of reductionism). If MAL differentiated under an impulse to experience without knowing (somehow), it would be returning to the exact same state it began from, which makes little sense, either as an inner telos or in light of our own immanent experience of life, in which all previous states integrate within the present. The broader evolutionary timescale we view this process in, the more undeniable that becomes.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
Shajan624
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:07 am

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by Shajan624 »

mgjohnson2552 wrote: Sun Oct 10, 2021 7:22 pm Have you read David Chalmer's paper on the "Hard Problem of Consciousness"? For any activity in consciousness (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, intentions, etc.), there is, in theory, a "neural correlate" in the "physical" substrate of the brain. There is no clear reason why this physical mechanism (the neural correlate) need be accompanied by subjective experience. These neural operations could, conceivably, go about their business just as effectively "in the dark". Any purposed function of consciousness faces this problem. The hypothesized "function" of consciousness can be reduced to its physical, neural correlate, and there is no reason why this neural correlate need be accompanied by subjective awareness. Consciousness is an add-on... a mysterious extra ingredient.
True, consciousness need not have evolved if we accept natural selection as an adequate explanatory mechanism for evolution. The reality of consciousness becomes a puzzling ‘hard problem’ because we don’t yet have a complete understanding of evolutionary process, IMO.

Darwinism links evolutionary fitness to physical survival and reproductive success. Indeed, this is how biological evolution appears from the detached view point of science. But what if ‘survival’ is not the key to understand evolution?

I think the possibility of consciousness having a causal role in evolution must be taken seriously. Consciousness is central to our existence. Physical survival is valuable to us only as a means to continue experiencing. What is the value of surviving in a state of coma for 100 years?

The possibility of conscious experience seems to be our driving force to struggle and survive. If this is true for humans, it could be very likely the case for other forms of life as well. We may have to think of organisms as ‘units of experience’ rather than ‘units of survival’.
mgjohnson2552 wrote: Sun Oct 10, 2021 7:22 pm I personally do not think consciousness "evolved". Here are my speculative thoughts: Perhaps consciousness is an awareness "overlay" that was given to us from an outside source at some point in our evolution (I'd guess quite recently, at the emergence of early homo sapiens). Having reached a suitable level of cognitive complexity, consciousness choose to indwell the human animal. Consciousness is, perhaps, God's discretized awareness of us...
You are using the word 'consciousness' to mean ‘self-awareness’ or ‘meta-consciousness’ if I understand correctly. We could say meta-consciousness came from an outside source/God, but isn’t it replacing the hard problem with an even harder one?
Shajan624
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:07 am

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by Shajan624 »

Ed Konderla wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 2:18 am Then one day I realized that all of this fussing was greatly diminishing my ability to savor and experience the here and now. I feel many people may be making that same mistake. Their heads are so wrapped up in characterizing the uncharacterizable as if it was something outside themselves they were observing when in reality they are the observer and the observed.
I can resonate with your thoughts. We should pause and try to understand the reasons behind this never ending push to 'characterize the uncharacterizable'.
Shajan624
Posts: 34
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:07 am

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by Shajan624 »

AshvinP wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 12:38 pm
Shajan624 wrote: Sun Aug 29, 2021 1:48 pm
If MAL differentiated under an impulse to experience without knowing (somehow), it would be returning to the exact same state it began from, which makes little sense, either as an inner telos or in light of our own immanent experience of life, in which all previous states integrate within the present. The broader evolutionary timescale we view this process in, the more undeniable that becomes.
Ashvin,

Yes, we could say this of long journey of instinctive pushes and pulls is leading towards a state of 'meta-conscious knowing'...
User avatar
AshvinP
Posts: 2914
Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2021 5:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Survival value of Consciousness

Post by AshvinP »

Shajan624 wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 2:54 pm
AshvinP wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 12:38 pm
Shajan624 wrote: Sun Aug 29, 2021 1:48 pm
If MAL differentiated under an impulse to experience without knowing (somehow), it would be returning to the exact same state it began from, which makes little sense, either as an inner telos or in light of our own immanent experience of life, in which all previous states integrate within the present. The broader evolutionary timescale we view this process in, the more undeniable that becomes.
Ashvin,

Yes, we could say this of long journey of instinctive pushes and pulls is leading towards a state of 'meta-conscious knowing'...

But not only "meta-conscious" in the sense of abstract representational reasoning, which is how BK and many others use it. If we really pay close attention to the evolutionary development of human cultures, as reflected in everything from myth to art, philosophy, and science-technology, as well as our own individual development, there is a clear dialectical process (these-antithesis-synthesis) at work in our knowing faculties which does not arbitrarily unfold or cease unfolding. Many people have a modern habit of assuming this evolutionary process has completely leveled off now for some unknown reason (unknown to the people assuming it), or that significant changes can only take place over the billions and millions of years of materialist accounts (which is now even challenged by completely secular science). Such an assumption defies all experience and logic.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
Post Reply