John K Clark (
Wed, 8 Jul 1998 22:15:01 -0700 (PDT)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE----- On Tue, 7 Jul 1998 Wrote:


>it's entirely possible that there could exist objects that look, and
>act, just as you do, but possess none of the internal mental content
>that you do.

Yes, and it's entirely possible that I'm the only conscious being in the universe, the two possibilities are related and have equal probability of being true.

>>although our internal mental states and emotions may be priceless
>>to us they are of interest to evolution only as they effect
>>behavior, and if they don't then there is no way random mutation and
>>natural selection could have produced it for us to enjoy. Yet we
>>have it, or at least I do.

>Could be a side-effect.

Exactly. If evolution is correct and if other people really are conscious then sentience must by a side effect of intelligence. You could perhaps argue that there are other longer routes and that consciousness is just a short cut to intelligence and that's why evolution picked it, but that would mean it would be harder for us to make an unconscious intelligent robot than a conscious one.

>I think that the facts that we are all very similar creatures
>physically, that we developed via evolution, and a number of other
>facts could lead one to make the strong case that the exisence of
>consciousness in other beings provides the best explanations of
>their behaviors.

Yes you can make a case for it, and I even think it's true, I just can't prove it, I can't show that an even stronger case for something other than consciousness won't be found that explains behavior even better.

>>As I said, a language with an infinite number of letters is

>Not if the function of each succeeding letter were defined, after a
>first number of letters in a sequence

What does cat mean? What does cap mean? what does ca~ mean? What does ca& mean? If there are an infinite number of letters you can't define them all.

I'm having difficulty understanding your position, first you propose a rule of thumb that I think is both practical and reasonable:

>If mental content provides the best explanation for the object's
>behavior, however, then I agree that we should consider it as having
>mental content.

Agreed. I experience my own mental content directly but behavior is the only way to deduce it in others. The trouble I'm having is that later you say:

>I don't think that we can deduce meaning from behavior,

If so then we can't deduce meaning from anything and we should stop using the word in relation to anyone or anything except ourselves.

                                              John K Clark

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