How to think about minds in nature? What do they do?

  • Medical
  • Thread starter cosmographer
  • Start date
  • #1
I've recently been researching Argentinian Electroneurobiology. It seems to be an old tradition, based on clinical research. Now I posted specific questions related to the physics used to underpin this view in the quantum subforum, but regrettably the thread was locked (probably because this is far from established science, deploying an unorthodox style at that - I blame it in part on this tradition having evolved in relative isolation from mainstream centers of research, the other part is it's daunting originality). Until that specific thread will be reopened I thought it could be exciting to discuss these perspectives in a setting that is less restrictive in regard to what may count as an appropriate topic of conversation. Indeed the implications for philosophy (also that of physics, biology and cosmology) are profound. A portion of the abstract:

(...)Natural science describes originated realities of two kinds: observers, also called minds, which do not generate time inside them (but may emulate any outer course, an aptitude that may be called xenochronism), and the set of extramentalities, which does it (and interactively assists minds to emulate outer evolutions). While in minds memories persist because they do not exist within a coursing of time that could alter or erase them, extramentalities evolve because the transfers of causal efficiency make a microphysical time course that the inertial mass of some but not all elementary particles extends into sizeable scales. As long as xenochronic minds and time-evolving extramentalities interact, they keep the mentioned palindromic relationship. Sooner or later, however, bodily circumstances break down, rendering their minds unobservable for natural science (death). So science can track minds only until they pass away. (...)

(...) in nature minds and extramentalities enact a unique efficient causality but, in making time courses, this causality's ability to cause further changes becomes extinguished when it affects minds, intonating them into knowable differentiations. Or, minds are not only sources but also sinks of causal efficiency: sensory knowledge – that is, minds' sense-based differentiations or knowable mental contents – consists of efficient causality that has lost its transferability and become no longer able to cause further changes. On the contrary, the minds' purposively directed causal efficiency that minds put to work in the causation-transferring realm cannot be likewise extinguished or exhausted therein. This disparity, in the state of affairs beyond what in the universe goes on through causal transfers, breaks down the mentioned palindromic situation kept in nature. Science can say that at death the mind could not succumb but extramental nature ceases being of assistance. Science's grand picture of reality thereby recognizes that the ontological makeup of the mind of every observer-endowed living organism is where the intrinsic value resides whereby both minds and extramentalities exist. The ontological makeup of the situations arranged by transferable causal efficiency – that is, the time course of extramentalities – just serves to enable genuine freedom in some minds, whose development would be obfuscated should they come directly to grips with the unoriginated portion of reality rather than discoverable regularities. In science's grand picture of reality, therefore, natural scientists' aspiration of "naturalizing the minds' depiction" does not clash with the humanities' recognition of intrinsic value in persons.
http://electroneubio.secyt.gov.ar/a_palindrome.pdf

I don't necessarily want to go as far as discussing the broader cosmological and ethical imaginary Crocco sketches, but would be content to stick with the more immediate understanding of what minds bring to chains of action in the cosmos, i.e. pages 81-100. Now I'm aware that students of physics will already in the bit cited above find something to sink their teeth into: especially the alleged "xenochronism" and "personal uniqueness" (termed cadacualtez in the text) of minds.

For one I am fascinated by the possibility of taking seriously that each mind found in empsyched organisms can be appreciated as a unique personal existence that is inserted into extramental time-courses. We tend to think of cosmic evolution as impersonal, bracketing things like mind and subjective existence, but considering minds as "xenochronic" and "once-in-a-universe unique" we might get a different sense of cosmic evolution as a kind of dance of minds through extramentalities. Minds are a force to be reckoned with in this framing.

Almost needless to say, granting minds their own "ontic consistencies" and even "personal uniqueness" (think of an element found only once in cosmic evolution) might be a deathblow to materialisms that are monist or pluralist (in the sense of endlessly proliferating kinds). Being becomes completely historical, even "personal", as each of mindful action in nature becomes thinkable as a "once-in-cosmic-evolution" kind of intervention. At the same time it is a deathblow to what we sometimes term idealisms, as it sharply individuates each personal existence from an environment in which "only causal efficiency" reigns (as an aside: idealisms are of course a form of monist materialism, the only difference is that the "matter" is reduced to a kind of being that is "ideal" instead of other kinds of building blocks).

To begin with I would like to ask what you make of idea that minds are kinds of realities that uniquely in nature work as "sinks and innovators" of causal efficiency? And: What do you make of the insistence of this tradition on the unique and finite (personal) character of each mind? Comments on my own comment, or the introduction of quotes from the paper are of course welcome.
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
apeiron
Gold Member
2,013
1
I've recently been researching Argentinian Electroneurobiology. It seems to be an old tradition, based on clinical research.
This is some crazy stuff. Before even getting into the "brain fields" aspect, it has to be said it goes against 150 years of psychophysics and neuroscience which shows quite plainly that brain processing takes time. There's no evidence that awareness is in any way instant. There is a ton of literature on the time course of brain activity. It was how psychology got started, with the work of Helmholtz, Wundt and Donders.

Can you even state the core hypothesis plainly here?

It seems to be something like consciousness is instantaneous therefore it cannot be caused by a history of recent neural events. The only way to squeeze all the necessary causality into an instantaneous reference frame is through relativistic time dilation.

But that's just a wild stab because the post and paper are so needlessly opaque.
 
  • #3
This is some crazy stuff. Before even getting into the "brain fields" aspect, it has to be said it goes against 150 years of psychophysics and neuroscience which shows quite plainly that brain processing takes time. There's no evidence that awareness is in any way instant. There is a ton of literature on the time course of brain activity. It was how psychology got started, with the work of Helmholtz, Wundt and Donders.

Can you even state the core hypothesis plainly here?

It seems to be something like consciousness is instantaneous therefore it cannot be caused by a history of recent neural events. The only way to squeeze all the necessary causality into an instantaneous reference frame is through relativistic time dilation.
I think you are pretty spot on with most of this characterization. It can't be caused, but it is of course constantly informed by it. A whole life history of sensations is packed into that "field" to use the third person description, or that "awareness" to use the first person description.

Concerning "relativistic time dilation", is that in any way implausible as an enabling mechanism for the kinds of processes they seem to propose? This is stuff where my understanding as a non-physicist stumbles.


And now in my less elegant attampt to flesh it out:

The physical hypothesis as far is I can tell amounts to locating consciousness, knowing grasp, memories, and semovient action (self-directed mental events, recall, attentional refocusing and so on) at the "bubbling" of force fields "inside the physical instant". This is understood as the interval where no causal transformation could yet have happened (they frequently use the Planck instant as a placeholder for this). That's the xenochronic bit. It does not negate intricate functions played by the biological brain, it only evacuates "mind" from being-the or being epiphenomenal-to the brain. Rather it becomes it's very own kind of ontic existence, with a unique set of capacities not reducible to the biologocal brain.

Sensing happens only via the "intonations" provided via the brain, so knowldge is not viewed as instantaneous, rather these "subjectivities" are "intonated" with the help of what is provided by their neuroprosthesis, the brain. Of course, in this view, that takes time because the immediate "extramentality" is a macrophysical organ providing the most immediate causal pathways feeding the mind with what become sensations. The xenochronism goes only for the very "ontic-ontological" (self-moving, self-knowing) reality they view as minds. Only in that subjective existence does time not elapse. Of course all other transformations happen in time, or rather make time-courses.

I'm not sure, is it "awareness" that takes time? Or is it "becoming aware" that takes time? (If any of the literature you know of has framed the problem in these terms I'd be interested in some recommendations!) I tend to the latter. "Awareness" in my intuition is only redirected, remaining weirdly "present". Of course time elapses for our bodies and everything else we encounter (except perhaps other consciousnesses), so we can easily come to entertain both options: that we are a) also swept up in time-transformations or that b) we remain "instantaneous" witness to time-transformations. a) would be today's common sense assumption, while b) is the wacky one. As I hinted at, it goes against materialisms, also scientific naturalism as people propagate it at the moment. But then again, it's nice to think at the boundaries of knowledge. And I'm sorry about the "needlessly opaque" styles, the paper's and my own. I'm working on writing less dense. Please point out where I lose you if I do.
 
Last edited:
  • #4
706
2
As I hinted at, it goes against materialisms, also scientific naturalism as people propagate it at the moment. But then again, it's nice to think at the boundaries of knowledge. And I'm sorry about the "needlessly opaque" styles, the paper's and my own. I'm working on writing less dense. Please point out where I lose you if I do.


If someone finds the answer to the question - "what remains of reality after death?", materialism will surely reign again(this is an unanswerable question, even if you disgree at first). An adequate answer cannot include any of the following ambiguous statements:

1. wavefunctions(collapsed or uncollapsed)
2. energy(specific or otherwise) - energy can only be poorly defined, usually as the ability to do work
3. geometry
4. relationhips
5. probabilities
6. observations
7. fields
8. existence(this is a possibility but is also impossible to define)

Scientists who reject the existence of minds, seem to be jumping to conclusions to fit the data into their own little theories.
 
Last edited:
  • #5
If someone finds the answer to the question - "what remains of reality after death?", materialism will surely reign again(this is an unanswerable question, even if you disgree at first). An adequate answer cannot include any of the following ambiguous statements:

1. wavefunctions(collapsed or uncollapsed)
2. energy(specific or otherwise) - energy can only be poorly defined, usually as the ability to do work
3. geometry
4. relationhips
5. probabilities
6. observations
7. fields
8. existence(this is a possibility but is also impossible to define)

Scientists who reject the existence of minds, seem to be jumping to conclusions to fit the data into their own little theories.
I like the defiant tone :biggrin: Do you understand "reality" to be "subjective"? In that case I cannot agree, and only point to all the resistances we meet from extra-subjectivities all our lives.

But the point I believe you're trying to make with the list is quite congruent with my own intuitions about what perhaps cannot be invoked in describing "subjectivities" without obliterating beyond recognitions the phenomena we are all witness to. What I like for now in what I've read of Argentinian Electroneurobiology, is the unwillingness to settle for a descriptive scheme that "explains away" any phenomena subjectively experienced.

So what would be the right terminology for describing subjective existence? And how to make a study of a reality possible that is by definition not objectifiable without losing the central quality? Actually I'd say clinical work might be a great point of entry, developing the terminology together with "experiencers". You'd probably have to go with a measuring apparatus that is the conversation situation.

To put it a but provocatively (and as an aside): might science in the face of conscious minds have to learn to ask non-eliminativist questions? To collect more and more descriptions in an additive manner?
 
Last edited:
  • #6
706
2
I like the defiant tone :biggrin: Do you understand "reality" to be "subjective"?

My subjective reality is certainly the only thing i would never doubt. The rest is just an interpretaion based on human intution, gathered tentative facts and some misconceptions.



In that case I cannot agree, and only point to all the resistances we meet from extra-subjectivities all our lives.

Fair enough.


But the point I believe you're trying to make with the list is quite congruent with my own intuitions about what perhaps cannot be invoked in describing "subjectivities" without obliterating beyond recognitions the phenomena we are all witness to. What I like for now in what I've read of Argentinian Electroneurobiology, is the unwillingness to settle for a descriptive scheme that "explains away" any phenomena subjectively experienced.

This isn't unheard of, i'd say explaining away conscious experience is the norm.


So what would be the right terminology for describing subjective existence? And how to make a study of a reality possible that is by definition not objectifiable without losing the central quality? Actually I'd say clinical work might be a great point of entry, developing the terminology together with "experiencers". You'd probably have to go with a measuring apparatus that is the conversation situation.


Science is about what works, not about what IS. What IS is a philosophical question. It's dubious if science in the future will have a say on what IS. "Describing subjective experience" is just another deterministic chain of events, confirmed by current physics. So obviously something's wrong - either with the approach or with the assumptions(or both). Science isn't making progress on the mind issue, because something is fundamentally flawed in our understanding of reality.



To put it a but provocatively (and as an aside): might science in the face of conscious minds have to learn to ask non-eliminativist questions? To collect more and more descriptions in an additive manner?

I don't think i can add multiple descriptions of mind, as i have no idea what it is that's supposed to be described and how it works. There isn't even an approximate model or modelling of minds, nor is there anything resembling a theory of mind. You are out in the cold, completely by yourself on these questions. And the slope is slippery towards "it can't be real" but a closer look reveals that reality refuses to be bound to human notions like "real" or "not real"(hence the never-ending arguments in the qm forum)
 
Last edited:
  • #7
apeiron
Gold Member
2,013
1
I think you are pretty spot on with most of this characterization. It can't be caused, but it is of course constantly informed by it. A whole life history of sensations is packed into that "field" to use the third person description, or that "awareness" to use the first person description.

Concerning "relativistic time dilation", is that in any way implausible as an enabling mechanism for the kinds of processes they seem to propose? This is stuff where my understanding as a non-physicist stumbles.
If this is a scientific hypothesis, how does it account for well-established "it takes time to process" phenomena such as....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutaneous_rabbit_illusion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attentional_blink

If the answer is that it doesn't have to because it is essentially dualism, then we are back to an unfalsifiable "ghost in the machine" story which isn't science.

It isn't philosophy either as we would say, if you want to be a dualist, strip away all the unnecessary materialist baggage of your argument. The mumbo jumbo about time dilation due to some unobserved brain mechanism is not essential to the claim that consciousness is instantaneous. This is an assertion based on a subjective "how it feels" POV, not because of objective evidence. As said, the objective evidence is abundant that this claim of being instantaneous is an illusion that can be broken down.

This is the standard problem for all crank explanations of the mind as a quantum coherence phenomenon or an energy field. Even if it were true, a material mechanism still does not explain why the resulting field or coherent state should be conscious. The hard problem remains and in fact has become much harder (as consciousness has been further reified as a thing in itself, when standard approaches are deflationary about consciousness as a kind of second substance). The usual appeal to panpsychism will be made, achieving the usual result of just pushing the hard problem off to another scale of (un)explanation.

So far as the time dilation goes, the brain is a pretty dense medium (compared to a vacuum) so even an brain-wide EM field would operate at sub-light speeds I would have thought. Again, where is the evidence it exists, or can exist?

But if you are really enthused by EM approaches to consciousness, you might want to talk to Sue Pockett at Auckland U.

http://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/sue-pockett [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #8
If this is a scientific hypothesis, how does it account for well-established "it takes time to process" phenomena such as....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutaneous_rabbit_illusion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attentional_blink

If the answer is that it doesn't have to because it is essentially dualism, then we are back to an unfalsifiable "ghost in the machine" story which isn't science.

It isn't philosophy either as we would say, if you want to be a dualist, strip away all the unnecessary materialist baggage of your argument. The mumbo jumbo about time dilation due to some unobserved brain mechanism is not essential to the claim that consciousness is instantaneous. This is an assertion based on a subjective "how it feels" POV, not because of objective evidence. As said, the objective evidence is abundant that this claim of being instantaneous is an illusion that can be broken down.

This is the standard problem for all crank explanations of the mind as a quantum coherence phenomenon or an energy field. Even if it were true, a material mechanism still does not explain why the resulting field or coherent state should be conscious. The hard problem remains and in fact has become much harder (as consciousness has been further reified as a thing in itself, when standard approaches are deflationary about consciousness as a kind of second substance). The usual appeal to panpsychism will be made, achieving the usual result of just pushing the hard problem off to another scale of (un)explanation.

So far as the time dilation goes, the brain is a pretty dense medium (compared to a vacuum) so even an brain-wide EM field would operate at sub-light speeds I would have thought. Again, where is the evidence it exists, or can exist?

But if you are really enthused by EM approaches to consciousness, you might want to talk to Sue Pockett at Auckland U.

http://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/sue-pockett [Broken]
Thanks, I'll make myself familiar with those "it takes time" phenomena.

I agree that solving the problem is postponed with the approach. Concerning evidence, I don't know of any available english text that goes beyond programmatically sketching the approach. There is a 900plus page book forthcoming, or rather to be republished. "Sensing" by Avila and Crocco. If and how that will produce something that counts as evidence for the rest of science I can't say. If and how they might be working on "harder" evidence I don't know either. I should probably ask them directly.

I could reproduce here for you some excerpts of the physics they posit? Maybe that way I could at least get some answers on if the approach already falls flat because of implausible physics..

As everyone I'm just looking for room to wiggle in this niche we've chased ourselves into. Thanks for the link to Sue Pockett's work. I'll have to digest.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #9
apeiron
Gold Member
2,013
1
I could reproduce here for you some excerpts of the physics they posit? Maybe that way I could at least get some answers on if the approach already falls flat because of implausible physics.
Which implausible physics are you talking about? The view that a relativistic block universe is ontically real (and that a "consciousness field" wouldn't be causally embedded in it along with everything else), or the idea that ions in the brain are coupled by hysteresis to global EM fields, or that there is this extra consciousness field with psychic vector particles?

You seem to have stumbled into a rare academic backwater of crackpottery. Interesting sociologically, but not science nor philosophy.

Some translated stuff here...

http://www.kjf.ca/21-TASZI.htm [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #10
The implausible physics are not my field of expertise, as stated. I'm not trying to defend this tradition if I ever gave that impression. I'm merely trying to understand where they fit in with all the other approaches that lay a claim to having something meaningful to say about consciousness. Crackpottery is a term that sits so loose on this forum. That is also sociologically interesting :smile: (doesn't help that I'm a sociologist either)

Thanks again for a link. I have had that excerpt printed and ready for reading for a while.
 
  • #11
apeiron
Gold Member
2,013
1
The implausible physics are not my field of expertise, as stated. I'm not trying to defend this tradition if I ever gave that impression. I'm merely trying to understand where they fit in with all the other approaches that lay a claim to having something meaningful to say about consciousness.
If you are taking a distanced view of this lacunae in consciousness studies, then I agree that is interesting. And there are of course many other similar approaches which could be contrasted and compared if your interest is mainly sociological.

I think the physics as described is so vague (where it connects to standard stuff like special relativity) and so hypothetical (where it suggests psychic fields) that it falls into the class of "not even wrong". To be implausible, it would have to first be a definite statement that would be capable of plausibility and so provably wrong.
 

Related Threads on How to think about minds in nature? What do they do?

  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
3K
Replies
2
Views
3K
Replies
45
Views
17K
Replies
8
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
6K
Replies
18
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
1
Views
3K
Top