The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The World of Objects

Another aspect of common sense is that it deals with quantities and objects which are a tiny subset of what science deals with (or is capable of dealing with).

 The laws of the physical world are relatively simple and few. The daily  world of humans is made of a finite set of solid objects that move in space and do not overlap. Each object has a shape, a volume, a mass distribution. For an adequate representation of the physical needs we can get by with Euclides' geometry, an ontology of space-temporal properties and a set of axioms about the way the world works.  We need none of the complication of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity Theory. We need no knowledge whatsoever of elementary particles, nuclear and subnuclear forces, and so forth. Life is a lot easier for our senses than it is for laboratory physicists. What we need to know in order to survive is actually a lot less than what we need to know in order to satisfy our intellectual curiosity. We never really needed to know the gravitational laws in order to survive, as long as we were aware that objects tend to fall to the ground unless we put them on a table or in a pocket or hang them on a wall. We never really needed to be informed of the second law of Thermodynamics, as long as we realized  that they can break, but they do not fix themselves.

The US computer scientist Ernest Davis compiled a list of common sense domains. First, we have physical quantities, such as weight or temperature. They have values. And their values satisfy a number of properties: they can be ordered, they can be subdivided in partially ordered intervals, they can be assigned signs based on their derivatives, their relations can be expressed in the form of transition networks, their behavior can be expressed in the form of qualitative differential equations. Then we have time and space. Time operators usually operate in a world of discrete, self-contained situations and events. Space entails concepts of distance, containment, overlapping, boundaries. Physics, in the view of common sense,  is a domain defined by “qualitative” rather than quantitative laws, which express the behavior of physical quantities in the context of those temporal and spatial concepts. To this scenario one must add propositional attitudes (specifically the relationship between belief and knowledge), actions (the ability to plan) and socializing (speech acts).   Equipped with this basic idea of the world, an agent should be able to go about its environment and perform intelligent actions.

 


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