Does Neuroscience Challenge the Existence of Free Will?

In summary, Benjamin Libet's work suggests that our decisions to act occur before our conscious awareness of them. This problem for the idea of free will is that it seems to imply an either/or battle between determinism and free will. Some people might try adopting the approach that the neurological correlates of free will are deterministic (if one does wish to adopt a kind of dualistic picture where all that is physical is deterministic and free will is housed in some extra-physical seat of conscious choice). Others might look critically at the very assumption that physically identifiable processes are deterministic in some "absolutely true" way, such that they could preclude a concept of free will.
  • #351
Thanks for the reply Ken G. I wish to add that I am not entirely "committed" to viewpoints as much as it may seem, though I suppose I am simply trying to look at it from a different view. First, yes you were fairly right when you said:

[...]what is a conception of consciousness devoid of its relation to a physicalist description of the brain? And that is, what I would say, the $64,000 question right there. What do we learn about consciousness (or free will) by taking a physicalist perspective, and what do we lose by doing that?

I suppose it it may be simply un-intuitive for me to regard consciousness as a substance. I don't have a problem with relationalist views, simply the seemingly simplistic idea of consciousness as some substance with properties we predicate to it. In fact, given the advent of Modern Physics, I would say that the simplistic notion of matter as being some substance which we attribute properties to as being overly simplistic.

I could quite possible say that my problem is that the positing of some substance called consciousness seems to me to be the superflous positing of an entity. Whereas you might point out that it is only superflous insofar as I start with a physicalist ontology, at which point the dualism becomes ad hoc.

Ultimatley, I am not prepared to make a compelling argument for I cannot argue that my position must necessarily be the case, I can only argue that given the acceptance of some set of assumptions it must be the case. We are not accepting the same basic assumptions, and therefore I can't argue as to what necessarily must be the case.

If there is one thing that I realize, it is that in philosophy (life) there are aspects of reasoning which are not dictated by logic or reason alone. As William James stated, there are "tender-minded and hard-minded philosophers" and it is epistemologically the case that we can never establish definitively the ontological primacy of the physical or the mental. I suppose this is what seems to motivate a phenomenological project, based around situated ontologies viewed from the inside where we bracket our ontological assumptions and simply treat the world of phenomena. This may be (excuse me for extrapolating) close to the type of epistemological position you tend to take. Namely, that the Scientific project does not require ontological commitment to a physicalism. Regardless of my state of belief towards that proposition at the present time, I accept it as true.

My contention is essentially the same as Berkeley's argument against materialism (nowhere near his original words): "How can we abstract away all properties of matter which relate themselves to our experience and define that as the material substratum, when we only know matter through its appearance in our experience". Replace "matter" with "consciousness" (or it seems any x with matter) and this is the argument I am presenting
You may rightly point out, though, that as I myself brought to the forefront, the argument applies equally to matter as well as consciousness. It would seem the idea that matter can be more easily defined and abstracted away from is simply a socio-cultural contingency more so than a philosophical necessity. This may be your point.

Also, excuse me for possibly erroneously extrapolating, but it doesn't seem as though you are a solipsist. It doesn't seem you deny the existence of things in the absence of your presence, simply that distinctions must be drawn between the world of phenomena and the concepts we form thereof, and that we can speak about "independantly existing" reality only if we are here to experience it. You are making an epistemological claim, not an ontological one.

With regards to the information discussions, it seems as ferrisbg pointed out that you are not sticking to the technical scientific definition of "information" so much as pointing out that information is a label we apply to some phenomena in the creation of cognitive tools for the understanding of reality. Kind of reminds me of this:

"Before you have studied Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; while you are studying it, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers no longer rivers; but once you have had Enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and rivers are rivers"

First, I have taken this radically out of context as it is evidently not being applied to personal practice and "no-mind", regardless some insights may yet still be gained.
The point, which seems in my interpretation close to what your point sometimes is, is that reality simply is. Reality is, and reality occurs regardless of what labels we apply to the various phenomena in our relatively arbitrary divisions we create. The "information" is there in the sense that the anteater follows "it" and "it" is "real", but the "information" is not necessarily there, for the anteater will do what he does regardless of the appellation "information", which has a specific theoretical background and interpretational structure behind it. This may be able to be argued even from a Quinean Indeterminacy of translation perspective. Given observations of some animals behavior we can not ever say, that the specific "information" within our theoretical framework is uniquely determined by the animals behavior. There exists a number of other ways to define and coneptualize the animal's behavior and we could argue that given some equivalent theory P' the interpretation given to that behavior under that theory "exists" and is "corroborated" by the behavioral predictions. Even if the underlying ontology is radically different. Nothing determines what translation and ontology must be supplied to a given formalism

It is also interesting to note that the above quote may be similar to Einstein's physical/philosophical development, for he openly acknowleged that scientific theories are "free constructions of the scientist's mind" and that science does not describe phenomena as they must be but provides a "window on nature". So far as I can tell, his qualms with QM were based off of what he considered as necessary conditions for any successful explanation of nature, namely a principle of spatial individuation.

However, if one renounces the assumption that what is present in different parts of space has an independent, real existence, then I do not at all see what physics is supposed to describe. For what is thought to by a ‘system’ is, after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about the parts.

also, seemingly of relevance

“The physical world is real.” That is supposed to be the fundamental hypothesis. What does “hypothesis” mean here? For me, a hypothesis is a statement, whose truth must be assumed for the moment, but whose meaning must be raised above all ambiguity. The above statement appears to me, however, to be, in itself, meaningless, as if one said: “The physical world is cock-a-doodle-doo.” It appears to me that the “real” is an intrinsically empty, meaningless category (pigeon hole), whose monstrous importance lies only in the fact that I can do certain things in it and not certain others. This division is, to be sure, not an arbitrary one, but instead ….

I concede that the natural sciences concern the “real,” but I am still not a realist

(btw those were taken from this article for all who are interested http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/einstein-philscience/#ReaSep)
 
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  • #352
As a side note, it seems that when others say QM doesn't require an intelligent observer and you say it does, you are both right to some extent. QM definatley does NOT require a conscious observer. It is not in the formalism, nor is it the most parsimonious interpretation. However, as an epistemological statement, QM does require an intelligent observer to "make measurements", "record information" and "calculate a wave function", the clincher is that this is trivially true to the extent that it is just as true for classical mechanics or any other scientific theory and so bringing "intelligent observers" into discussions of QM is misleading, unless you are arguing for some "consciousness causes collapse" interpretation.
 
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  • #353
nismaratwork said:
That is not what is meant by an observer in QM; a photon interacting with a system is permutation enough.
No, that is exactly what is meant by an observer in QM. An observer in QM is always a kind of "mini me", it is given meaning entirely by how we perceive and interact with our environment. That is why the observables of the quantum realm are the same as the observables of the macro realm, they just function differently in that realm. The way I put this is, if electrons could think, they wouldn't do quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is always the way we relate the quantities that make sense to us to a realm that does not make sense to us. There is an amazing abstract mathematical structure behind that relating, but it is a relating all the same.

Solipsism is fine, but you still need to keep your physics facts in order; observer as in "intelligent observer" is only ever used in "Interpretations" of QM, not the formalism, or information theory.
My quantum facts are just fine. There is not one single shred of any formalism of information theory that does not directly refer to how humans think. Indeed, there is simply no alternative to this. It's just that we often push this fact under the rug-- which is not the same thing as it not being a fact.
Hawking Radiation appears to violate unitarity, as it causes a loss of certain information relating to what "went in", regardless of whether people or ants or gods are around to see.
Violating unitarity is trivial-- any measurement of a non-eigenstate does it. That's why many-worlds are invented to restore the unitarity, but that's their sole reason for existing-- they have no effect at all on any of our observations, they are a fiction of our desire to see unitarity when our observations do not. It is an effective device, I don't reject using the pedagogy-- only the interpretation that we somehow can know this is what is really happening despite not being able to observe it.
If your argument is based in intelligent observation, that's really just a flavour of Solipsism, and while I can't say you're wrong, there's nothing to discuss.
On the contrary, it is all about understanding what information actually is, which is a crucial topic in physics. More and more, we cannot escape an accurate portrayal of what information is, and the role of how we think in our physics. That was a key lesson of both quantum mechanics and relativity, actually-- not pointless solipsism, far from it. It is all too easy to label these cautionary tales as "solipsism" to avoid having to deal with the lessons reality is giving us.
 
  • #354
Ken G said:
No, that is exactly what is meant by an observer in QM. An observer in QM is always a kind of "mini me", it is given meaning entirely by how we perceive and interact with our environment. That is why the observables of the quantum realm are the same as the observables of the macro realm, they just function differently in that realm. The way I put this is, if electrons could think, they wouldn't do quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is always the way we relate the quantities that make sense to us to a realm that does not make sense to us. There is an amazing abstract mathematical structure behind that relating, but it is a relating all the same.

My quantum facts are just fine. There is not one single shred of any formalism of information theory that does not directly refer to how humans think. Indeed, there is simply no alternative to this. It's just that we often push this fact under the rug-- which is not the same thing as it not being a fact.
Violating unitarity is trivial-- any measurement of a non-eigenstate does it. That's why many-worlds are invented to restore the unitarity, but that's their sole reason for existing-- they have no effect at all on any of our observations, they are a fiction of our desire to see unitarity when our observations do not. It is an effective device, I don't reject using the pedagogy-- only the interpretation that we somehow can know this is what is really happening despite not being able to observe it.
On the contrary, it is all about understanding what information actually is, which is a crucial topic in physics. More and more, we cannot escape an accurate portrayal of what information is, and the role of how we think in our physics. That was a key lesson of both quantum mechanics and relativity, actually-- not pointless solipsism, far from it. It is all too easy to label these cautionary tales as "solipsism" to avoid having to deal with the lessons reality is giving us.

You seem stuck where Dirac was... and no, I don't think that MWI is necessary to resolve the BH Information Paradox, it would seem that Hawking is trying to circumvent the need. Granted, the math is far beyond me, but I'm more impressed by "shut up and calculate" than endless iterations of omphaloskepsis. The idea that the observer must be human, as opposed to a filler for permutation of a system is not palatable to me, and frankly seems unreal in the light of DCQE.

Your relation between the math and your philosophy strikes me as tenuous, but then, maybe you have a very deep understanding of the math.
 
  • #355
JDStupi said:
Thanks for the reply Ken G. I wish to add that I am not entirely "committed" to viewpoints as much as it may seem, though I suppose I am simply trying to look at it from a different view.
I wasn't really aiming that comment at you, it was more of an aside about my reactions when I hear philosophers use the expression "I am committed to..." . I know why they do that, it is to say "by proclaiming my allegiances, I can save myself 90% of the arguments I would need to put forward, because you will already know them based on the history of those allegiances." But the same can be accomplished just by saying "I am currently swayed by such-and-such a position", or "I am now interested in pursuing the ramifications of such-and-such an ism." That's in the spirit of a hypothesis, rather than a stultifying belief system, and certainly not a commitment.
I suppose it it may be simply un-intuitive for me to regard consciousness as a substance. I don't have a problem with relationalist views, simply the seemingly simplistic idea of consciousness as some substance with properties we predicate to it.
But if you look up a definition of consciousness right now, will it not look much more like a set of predicated properties, rather than a process of emergence? The definition list properties, so it is already a kind of substance-- the idea that it emerges from something else is added on top of that, rather belatedly, and without much in the way of solid evidence. When you note that an awake person is more conscious than a sleeping person, it is not because you sense the presence or absence of a process of emergence, it is because you either detect or do not detect the properties that define the substance itself.

Now, it is not necessary to consider consciousness to be a physical substance like a planetary nebula, I did not mean to carry the analogy that far. I reject physicalism on the grounds that it has not made its case, it is just a convenient assumption that many like to make to simplify their reasoning. That makes it a hypothesis, not a belief system, when used responsibly. So we can hypothesize that consciousness cannot be a substance because it doesn't seem to make much sense to give it physical characteristics (rather than experiential ones), or we can hypothesize that consciousness is an experiential substance (like a qualia) that is nonphysical, but that is nevertheless defined by its properties and does not need to be created by a brain, it can just be interfaced with, interacted with, detected, or stored by a brain-- perhaps like a glass in the rain collects water without generating the water. But it must begin with allowing the possibility of interactions between what we count as primarily physical with what we count as primarily nonphysical, or more accurately, the recognition that the concepts of physical and nonphysical are not fundamental aspects of reality, they are polar modes of thought that we subject reality to.

In fact, given the advent of Modern Physics, I would say that the simplistic notion of matter as being some substance which we attribute properties to as being overly simplistic.
Agreed, another reason to be suspicious of physicalist idealizations. When it is hard to even define what "physical" means, we have a hard time claiming that everything is it. Fields, virtual particles, extra dimensions, multiverses-- "physical" just ain't what it was cracked up to be in Newton's day.
I could quite possible say that my problem is that the positing of some substance called consciousness seems to me to be the superflous positing of an entity. Whereas you might point out that it is only superflous insofar as I start with a physicalist ontology, at which point the dualism becomes ad hoc.
Yes, that is just what I might say.

Ultimatley, I am not prepared to make a compelling argument for I cannot argue that my position must necessarily be the case, I can only argue that given the acceptance of some set of assumptions it must be the case.
If that kind of honesty was characteristic of physicalist perspectives, I'd have no problem with them.

We are not accepting the same basic assumptions, and therefore I can't argue as to what necessarily must be the case.
The issue is not which assumptions we should accept, it is the whole question of whether we need to "accept" assumptions at all. It gets back to the basic issue of, is the purpose of philosophy to generate a personal belief system, or is it just to see where certain assumptions lead. I'd have no problem at all with the statement "the assumption that consciousness emerges from a strictly physical system leads me to conclude that X would then be true about consciousness", especially if X was something different from the very assumptions that are being adopted (which so far I really haven't seen). That's the challenge, to create an argument like "assumption A leads to conclusion X", not "assumption X leads to conclusion X", which is all I really see from physicalist arguments. Note I am not talking about using physical models of the emergence of consciousness, that's just making a model, I'm talking about physicalism-- the claim that nothing else exists or could ever matter, the claim that there could not be any value in any nonphysical perspective. It's institutionalized lack of imagination.

If there is one thing that I realize, it is that in philosophy (life) there are aspects of reasoning which are not dictated by logic or reason alone. As William James stated, there are "tender-minded and hard-minded philosophers" and it is epistemologically the case that we can never establish definitively the ontological primacy of the physical or the mental. I suppose this is what seems to motivate a phenomenological project, based around situated ontologies viewed from the inside where we bracket our ontological assumptions and simply treat the world of phenomena. This may be (excuse me for extrapolating) close to the type of epistemological position you tend to take. Namely, that the Scientific project does not require ontological commitment to a physicalism.
Yes, that's just what I'm saying. It seems to be an almost invisible prejudice that physicalism can be equated to science, but there's just no such equation when the demonstrable goals of science are at the forefront.
My contention is essentially the same as Berkeley's argument against materialism (nowhere near his original words): "How can we abstract away all properties of matter which relate themselves to our experience and define that as the material substratum, when we only know matter through its appearance in our experience". Replace "matter" with "consciousness" (or it seems any x with matter) and this is the argument I am presenting
But that sounds more like what I'm arguing to me-- that it makes little sense to conclude that consciousness is fundamentally emergent from the physical, when our most direct connection with consciousness is the nonphysical experience of it. Instead, I prefer the stance that although we know perfectly well that consciousness is not emergent from the physical, all the same we anticipate progress in understanding consciousness by adopting a physical approach. That more or less sums up the Scientific project.
You may rightly point out, though, that as I myself brought to the forefront, the argument applies equally to matter as well as consciousness. It would seem the idea that matter can be more easily defined and abstracted away from is simply a socio-cultural contingency more so than a philosophical necessity. This may be your point.
Then I needn't say it!
Also, excuse me for possibly erroneously extrapolating, but it doesn't seem as though you are a solipsist. It doesn't seem you deny the existence of things in the absence of your presence, simply that distinctions must be drawn between the world of phenomena and the concepts we form thereof, and that we can speak about "independantly existing" reality only if we are here to experience it. You are making an epistemological claim, not an ontological one.
Yes that's true, I'm not being solipsistic in the sense that I'm claiming reality lies on "our side" of the observer/observed duality, I'm solipsistic only in the sense that I'm claiming we have no idea what reality is, but we have a means of gaining knowledge about reality via the observer/observed duality. Just as you say, it is an epistemological stance, not an ontological one.
The point, which seems in my interpretation close to what your point sometimes is, is that reality simply is. Reality is, and reality occurs regardless of what labels we apply to the various phenomena in our relatively arbitrary divisions we create. The "information" is there in the sense that the anteater follows "it" and "it" is "real", but the "information" is not necessarily there, for the anteater will do what he does regardless of the appellation "information", which has a specific theoretical background and interpretational structure behind it.
I see more the weight of the latter part of this reasoning. Let me give an example-- when I say that physics began with physicists, it is normal for people to ask "are you saying that the laws of physics didn't apply prior to human appearance on Earth?" And of course I am not saying that-- I am saying that physics, once it appeared, applied retroactively, because that is a constraint on physics-- it has to apply retroactively, it has to apply over all times.

This may be able to be argued even from a Quinean Indeterminacy of translation perspective. Given observations of some animals behavior we can not ever say, that the specific "information" within our theoretical framework is uniquely determined by the animals behavior. There exists a number of other ways to define and coneptualize the animal's behavior and we could argue that given some equivalent theory P' the interpretation given to that behavior under that theory "exists" and is "corroborated" by the behavioral predictions. Even if the underlying ontology is radically different.
Yes, I think that's an astute point.

It is also interesting to note that the above quote may be similar to Einstein's physical/philosophical development, for he openly acknowleged that scientific theories are "free constructions of the scientist's mind" and that science does not describe phenomena as they must be but provides a "window on nature". So far as I can tell, his qualms with QM were based off of what he considered as necessary conditions for any successful explanation of nature, namely a principle of spatial individuation.
Yes, I agree with Einstein on the "window on nature" perspective, that language seems very appropriate. And I side with Bohr on the issue of what are necessary conditions for explanations of nature-- the "stop telling God what to do" perspective. We are here to learn the lessons of nature, as they intersect with our ability to perceive and reason, not to tell nature how she must behave, or even that she has to be "physical."
 
  • #356
nismaratwork said:
The idea that the observer must be human, as opposed to a filler for permutation of a system is not palatable to me, and frankly seems unreal in the light of DCQE.
And who came up with DCQE? Oh yeah, humans.
 
  • #357
Ken G said:
And who came up with DCQE? Oh yeah, humans.

You're ignoring the implications of the experiment in favor of the experimentor? Come on Ken...
 
  • #358
nismaratwork said:
You're ignoring the implications of the experiment in favor of the experimentor?
I am doing no such thing-- I am simply stating that the experiment and the experimenter are not separable in the way you imagine. The experiment can still be very important-- within the context of unity with the experimenter, not in any other context, because that is the only context that is demonstrably true. Should science not exist in the realm of what is demonstrable?
 
  • #359
Ken G said:
I am doing no such thing-- I am simply stating that the experiment and the experimenter are not separable in the way you imagine. The experiment can still be very important-- within the context of unity with the experimenter, not in any other context, because that is the only context that is demonstrably true. Should science not exist in the realm of what is demonstrable?

Yes, but you're not respecting the language of QM. Observer doesn't mean the same thing as the laymen's observer. It has a meaning specific in QM.

You're talking about a different subject (as humans observe, their skewed perspective is somewhat an invention of reality) which frankly, is philosophy 101. When we teach undergrad physics or write journal articles, this basic philosophical concept is well considered.

We move past that. Our world view is called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism#Scientific_usage", but I would have thought you already knew that. I don't understand why you keep teaching us 100 level philosophy.
 
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  • #360
Pythagorean said:
Yes, but you're not respecting the language of QM. Observer doesn't mean the same thing as the laymen's observer. It has a meaning specific in QM.
Yes, and it is precisely that meaning I am using. The mathematics of quantum mechanics has observables corresponding to operators in a Hilbert space, and the bilinear forms they generate but I'm talking about what that mathematics means. Operators and bilinear forms exist independently of quantum mechanics, they are formal abstractions only. What makes them relevant to physics is how they relate to the interaction of an observer with the observed. Yes, even in quantum mechanics.
You're talking about a different subject (as humans observe, their skewed perspective is somewhat an invention of reality) which frankly, is philosophy 101. When we teach undergrad physics or write journal articles, this basic philosophical concept is well considered.
Yes, that is why it is so surprising you are using the language you are using to talk about quantum mechanics. Your language is not consistent with those basic philosophical lessons. That is also why I am not quoting sources-- what I am saying is inescapable and elementary, and frankly, people really have no business not recognizing the importance of an observer in an observation, even if the observer is a hypothetical extrapolation of a real observer.
We move past that. Our world view is called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism#Scientific_usage", but I would have thought you already knew that.
Empiricism, above all, does not escape the role of the observer. The role of the observer, and the way the observer perceives and processes information (i.e., their mind, see the catch?), is paramount to empiricism. But you should already know that.
 
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  • #361
Ken G said:
Empiricism, above all, does not escape the role of the observer. The role of the observer, and the way the observer perceives and processes information (i.e., their mind, see the catch?), is paramount to empiricism. But you should already know that.



And the fact is they have no idea what a mind is. Nor what an observer is and neither do they know what the environment is. It's all just a fight between(likely wrong) philosophies to keep the current prevelent but inconsistent views of existence. In a way, we have to teach our children stuff we know is flawed on many levels, just to keep the balance and their own sanity.
 
  • #362
Ken G said:
Yes, and it is precisely that meaning I am using. The mathematics of quantum mechanics has observables corresponding to operators in a Hilbert space, and the bilinear forms they generate but I'm talking about what that mathematics means. Operators and bilinear forms exist independently of quantum mechanics, they are formal abstractions only. What makes them relevant to physics is how they relate to the interaction of an observer with the observed. Yes, even in quantum mechanics.
Yes, that is why it is so surprising you are using the language you are using to talk about quantum mechanics. Your language is not consistent with those basic philosophical lessons. That is also why I am not quoting sources-- what I am saying is inescapable and elementary, and frankly, people really have no business not recognizing the importance of an observer in an observation, even if the observer is a hypothetical extrapolation of a real observer.
Empiricism, above all, does not escape the role of the observer. The role of the observer, and the way the observer perceives and processes information (i.e., their mind, see the catch?), is paramount to empiricism. But you should already know that.

By the same token, there is no privelaged observer.
 
  • #363
Maui said:
And the fact is they have no idea what a mind is. Nor what an observer is and neither do they know what the environment is. It's all just a fight between(likely wrong) philosophies to keep the current prevelent but inconsistent views of existence. In a way, we have to teach our children stuff we know is flawed on many levels, just to keep the balance and their own sanity.

I'd say we teach it as a theory, which is always conditional, explain the conflicts AND the fact that both are marvelously predictive. It's not for lack of trying to be rid of it that we're saddled with QM!
 
  • #364
Maui said:
And the fact is they have no idea what a mind is. Nor what an observer is and neither do they know what the environment is. It's all just a fight between(likely wrong) philosophies to keep the current prevelent but inconsistent views of existence. In a way, we have to teach our children stuff we know is flawed on many levels, just to keep the balance and their own sanity.
There may be something to that-- do we do philosophy to establish truth, knowing we will probably fail, do we do it to obtain a soothing illusion of truth, knowing it is probably self-delusion, or do we do it because we simply would like to explore the territory, like a kind of mental nature walk?
 
  • #365
Ken G said:
There may be something to that-- do we do philosophy to establish truth, knowing we will probably fail, do we do it to obtain a soothing illusion of truth, knowing it is probably self-delusion, or do we do it because we simply would like to explore the territory, like a kind of mental nature walk?

I vote nature walk.
 
  • #366
Me too.
 
  • #367
ah, nature walking amongst itself, pretending to be something else. A provocative sight!
 
  • #369
Pythagorean said:

I wasn't impressed by her work before her incident, nor are any I know at BI: Deaconnes, Mass General, or Harvard Med. Her work after is even less impressive, although like a smoker with a laryngectomy... long on impact, short on news.

What, smoking is bad for you? I never would have guessed!

Partial hemispherectomies are not new, and the plasticity involved (see work being done at BI: Deaconness, Mass General and Harvard), also studied in tandem with the effects of exercise on neural plasticity in Alzheimers patients. Frankly, this isn't good, or bad, just blaaaah.
 
  • #370
nismaratwork said:
I wasn't impressed by her work before her incident, nor are any I know at BI: Deaconnes, Mass General, or Harvard Med. Her work after is even less impressive, although like a smoker with a laryngectomy... long on impact, short on news.

What, smoking is bad for you? I never would have guessed!

Partial hemispherectomies are not new, and the plasticity involved (see work being done at BI: Deaconness, Mass General and Harvard), also studied in tandem with the effects of exercise on neural plasticity in Alzheimers patients. Frankly, this isn't good, or bad, just blaaaah.

You're absolutely welcome to that view, but you might appreciate that ad hominem, appeals to authority and expression of distaste aren't going to convince me of anything. I would love to learn rather than hear fallacies. You sound informed, why not share?
 
  • #371
Pythagorean said:
You're absolutely welcome to that view, but you might appreciate that ad hominem, appeals to authority and expression of distaste aren't going to convince me of anything. I would love to learn rather than hear fallacies. You sound informed, why not share?

I'm less informed than I sound, and really feel little desire to go further with this particular woman's views than contempt and ad hominem. Above all, her own style is an appeal to her own authority in several ways, offering little in the way of understanding how the brain adapts.

The exercise bit... I'm forgetting the last name... is Art... something. I'll talk to a guy at BI:D on thursday and get the name. Until then, I don't think I can properly address her fallacies... my knowledge is not so deep that I can pass the "teach it to anyone" test,a nd I'd rather not make a greater fool of myself and I already am.
 
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  • #372
Pythagorean said:
You're absolutely welcome to that view, but you might appreciate that ad hominem, appeals to authority and expression of distaste aren't going to convince me of anything. I would love to learn rather than hear fallacies. You sound informed, why not share?

You pasted a link to a video seminar that would not pass muster if it had been a peer-reviewed paper. Utter crank stuff. So what is the point you are attempting to make here?

Do you expect this to be taken seriously as evidence for something? What exactly?

If you want a neuroscientific explanation of her symptoms, that isn't hard to supply. A general state of disinhibition has this everything happening/nothing happening quality of raw potential experience. Attentional states are needed to suppress activity, creating a state of meaningful activity. The left brain is the lead player in creating focal attentional states.

Yes, there is a strong dichotomy expressed in the left~right brain. It is focus and fringe, event and context. A processing dichotomy. Left zooms in, the right pans out. But this woman soars way off into la-la land when it comes to a scientific view of what is going on.
 
  • #373
apeiron said:
You pasted a link to a video seminar that would not pass muster if it had been a peer-reviewed paper. Utter crank stuff. So what is the point you are attempting to make here?

Do you expect this to be taken seriously as evidence for something? What exactly?

If you want a neuroscientific explanation of her symptoms, that isn't hard to supply. A general state of disinhibition has this everything happening/nothing happening quality of raw potential experience. Attentional states are needed to suppress activity, creating a state of meaningful activity. The left brain is the lead player in creating focal attentional states.

Yes, there is a strong dichotomy expressed in the left~right brain. It is focus and fringe, event and context. A processing dichotomy. Left zooms in, the right pans out. But this woman soars way off into la-la land when it comes to a scientific view of what is going on.

She was that way before she lost of a chunk of her brain; who'd have guessed that radical neurosurgery wouldn't have improved her grasp of reality?
 
  • #374
nismaratwork said:
She was that way before she lost of a chunk of her brain; who'd have guessed that radical neurosurgery wouldn't have improved her grasp of reality?

She said she had a blood clot pressing on the language areas. And had that removed. So she may not have lost a lot of gray matter. On the other hand, her style is a bit wild...

I have to say I did very like her account of the stroke itself. That did seem accurately observed. It is the cartoon version of neuroscience - the right brain in tune with the cosmos, the left brain standing for the selfish self - which makes it invalid as a PF citation here.
 
  • #375
apeiron said:
She said she had a blood clot pressing on the language areas. And had that removed. So she may not have lost a lot of gray matter. On the other hand, her style is a bit wild...

I have to say I did very like her account of the stroke itself. That did seem accurately observed. It is the cartoon version of neuroscience - the right brain in tune with the cosmos, the left brain standing for the selfish self - which makes it invalid as a PF citation here.

Agreed.
 
  • #376
apeiron said:
So what is the point you are attempting to make here?

Do you expect this to be taken seriously as evidence for something? What exactly?

This:

If you want a neuroscientific explanation of her symptoms, that isn't hard to supply. A general state of disinhibition has this everything happening/nothing happening quality of raw potential experience. Attentional states are needed to suppress activity, creating a state of meaningful activity. The left brain is the lead player in creating focal attentional states.
Yes, there is a strong dichotomy expressed in the left~right brain. It is focus and fringe, event and context. A processing dichotomy. Left zooms in, the right pans out. But this woman soars way off into la-la land when it comes to a scientific view of what is going on.

It's not a scientific view... how can you think that? It's a phenomenological view. The assumption was that we already knew the neuroscience. Nismar was commenting on what people felt and experienced. We were talking about subjective experience.

I was demonstrating how the subjective experience of self that binds you to one location in your head requires functioning neural circuitry.
 
  • #377
Pythagorean said:
I was demonstrating how the subjective experience of self that binds you to one location in your head requires functioning neural circuitry.

So please when you post links, make it clear what it is we are supposed to notice.

And you still don't make sense as she was talking about her emboddied experience. Subjectively she never felt located in a side of her head. But she did find her own hands and body start to feel alien. And then her own presence swell and break the physical bounds of her body.

If you wanted to talk about the psychophysics of body image, there is a ton of peer-review papers you know.

A recent one...
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/4082/full
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #378
apeiron said:
So please when you post links, make it clear what it is we are supposed to notice.

A fair request.

It was in the heat of a discussion between nismar and I (the collective conscious vs. self discussion) that transcended a couple threads, so I had already habituated to the context and failed to continue to declare it.
 
  • #379
JoeDawg said:
No. All it really tells us, is that the decision making process is distinct from the self-reflective process. It actually makes sense that the latter would require more processing. Compare how much more difficult it is to learn to drive a car... than it is to drive one after you have learned. In the former case, you have to 'be aware' of everything you are doing. In the latter, your decisions seem 'more unconscious', even though a truly unconscious driver would be in a lot of trouble. The real problem is that the conscious/unconscious dichotomy is overly simplistic. We're only scratching the surface of what consciousness actually is, so this is not surprising.

my sensei says we train so we do not have to think. when we fight from "no-mind" we will always be faster than some one who has to process information and decide. when i learn and train a new technique i am making the decision then and there to use it if the situation ever arises.
 
  • #380
Yes, I think there are (at least) two kinds of being conscious-- one which is very self-reflective, possibly even internally verbal (like analysis of one's situation), and the other that is less verbal and more animalistic-- "in the zone", if you will. We might err to jump to the conclusion that the higher form of consciousness is the former because it is the more separate from animals-- the "in the zone" form actually feels like a higher consciousness, we feel more in tune with our surroundings and more able to act (and act faster, as we heard just above). I don't say that animals are "in the zone" the way people are-- it seems more like a person coming full circle to a kind of animalistic state of mind is still a higher or more complete self-awareness than what animals might experience. Perhaps the goal should not be to take our greater intelligence and achieve a state of mind as different from animals as possible, but rather, to take our greater intelligence that separates us from animals and find the road back that allows us access to both worlds.

In relation to the thread, if this is true, it means that what we mean by "free will" could be more than just one thing, so we should not study it as though we were studying just one thing.
 

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