X-Message-Number: 3355
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 1994 02:46:55 -0400
Subject: CRYONICS Stodolsky continued

I have said that FEELING (the subjective condition, the requirement for
 consciousness) is the main feature of our existence, and in fact can be said
to define our existence. (At the least, it is a necessary condition.) Hence I
have called it the ground of being. It is therefore the most important of
scientific objects or fields of study (even if we do not yet know how to
study it directly, since we don't know what it is in terms of the
anatomy/physiology of the brain).

David Stodolsky thinks my terms may be ill-defined to the point of
uselessness, and in particular thinks that the term "feeling" may not prove
meanaingful. I strongly disagree. 

As far as I am aware, there is no term whatsoever in any language that is
defined with complete rigor and sharpness--everything is blurry at the
edges--but that doesn't prevent a lot of useful communication from taking
place. I am confident that every reader, including Dr. Stodolsky, shares a
pretty good idea of what most people usually mean by "feelings" of pleasure
or pain, hunger or thirst, desire or dread, on and on. 

It is not a contradiction that some people may desire what others dread. It
is a pretty puzzle, but not a reductio ad absurdum, that some people seem to
find pleasure in pain--in fact, it simply underscores the difference between
qualia and sensory stimuli.  That is precisely the challenge--to determine
the objective (outwardly observable) indices of subjective states.

And the proffered example, purporting to show that "the same physiological
state could be labelled as different 'feelings,'" depending on environmental
influences, seems to me an obvious misunderstanding. If the "physiological
state" being monitored gave rise to different reported feelings in different
environments, then the most obvious explanation is that that "physiological
state" (level of epinephrine?) was not the only determinant of the
concomitant subjective condition. In other words, the COMPLETE and RELEVANT
physiology was not being addressed. It goes without saying that subjective
conditions can be extremely subtle and respond to extremely subtle

Dr. Stodfolsky asks if my statement is falsifiable (that feeling is the
ground of being etc.), and notes that what is "self evident" (to some) is not
necessarily true.

Of course that latter is correct; the most deeply and fervently held
convictions, and the apparently most obvious, can be wrong. Even so, it
sometimes makes sense to appeal to someone else's supposedly common ground.
In this case, the appeal seems to have failed (so far). All right, what about

One can be trapped by slogans.  A byword of scientists is that a statement or
hypothesis is meaningless, or at least not susceptible of scientific
investigation, if it is not falsifiable--if there is in principle no evidence
or observation that could contradict it.

But in fact this byword is itself meaningless if the context is sufficiently
broad or sufficiently basic. Consider the "hypothesis" that  space exists. As
far as I can see, there is no  way to falsify this--the most one could do is
alter ways of looking at it, e.g. talking of space-time instead of space, or
bringing in more dimensions, etc. That SOMETHING exists that usually fits
what we mean by the common language can scarcely be denied--ever--as far as I
can see.

The situation is similar for "feeling."  Regardless of subtleties,
complexities, and possible future changes and sharpening of labels, there
certainly is something that we ordinarily call "feeling" and the ordinary
language is far from useless.  

Once more: Everyone feels. Our feelings in the end are the ONLY things that
are important to us. Eventually we will learn the physiology corresponding to
feeling and feelings. The implications are profound, including criteria of
survival and affecting world view and life goals. If the neuroscientists and
psychologists (and physicists?) don't go after it directly or immediately,
they will stumble on it sooner or later. It might speed things up a bit if
the objective were explicit. 

I am also accused of inconsistency in talking about a Turing test for a
reconstructed person, while denying that a Turing test can reveal the
presence or absence of feeling. Again, a misunderstanding, probably my fault
(although these postings are only notes, not essays).

If the programmed hologram passes a Turing test, that is only a necessary
condition of success, not a sufficient condition. But if this sucessful
Turing test is combined with the many other known and relevant data and
conditions, including the physical condition of the reconstructed brain, then
we might have a pretty good bet--although not a guarantee--that the person
really survived.

As for the teaching in some Eastern philosophies that "self" is an illusion,
one need merely ask: Who or what is experiencing this illusion? Maybe I am
Eurocentric, but this is drivel.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute

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