# Materialist vs. Dualisms

Stratosphere
I understand before posting this that most people on this forum are materialist. I however am on the fence on which is true. I have come to an argument were I THINK I have a reason for the existence of a soul to be probably. The main difference from humans and other animals that are very close to humans such as other primates is that humans have a culture. Animals do not, I have figured that the soul may be a requirement for culture; I find it hard to believe that animals share the am level of consiness as I do. I was wondering if you guys could provide me with arguments for or against dualism so that I may make a better informed conclusion. (Also I could be completely wrong with my reasoning here, but if I am I would like to know why.However I do favor dualism, because if materialism is true it makes life meaning less and means that although I have a sense of self I would really not exist. Materialist say that dualist are afraid of mortality but the materialist are afraid of the unknown.)

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Gold Member
A satisfactory materialist story on the animal/human difference can be found in Vygotskean psychology and social constructionism.

Humans developed language. Language then scaffolds new mental possibilities like recollective memory, logical thought, self-regulation and self-awareness.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I understand before posting this that most people on this forum are materialist. I however am on the fence on which is true. I have come to an argument were I THINK I have a reason for the existence of a soul to be probably. The main difference from humans and other animals that are very close to humans such as other primates is that humans have a culture. Animals do not, I have figured that the soul may be a requirement for culture; I find it hard to believe that animals share the am level of consiness as I do. I was wondering if you guys could provide me with arguments for or against dualism so that I may make a better informed conclusion. (Also I could be completely wrong with my reasoning here, but if I am I would like to know why.However I do favor dualism, because if materialism is true it makes life meaning less and means that although I have a sense of self I would really not exist. Materialist say that dualist are afraid of mortality but the materialist are afraid of the unknown.)

Hi Stratosphere,

So is your definition of "soul" synonymous with "a certain level of consciousness"? If so, what special mental capacities does that "level of consciousness" entail? I think if you can unpack that, it might help you get what you are after.

Also, what is your definition of culture? Mine is very simple - maybe too simple. I just see it as unique behaviors/practices or social rules of a group that are passed from one generation to the next (either offspring or neophytes coming into the group). It could be difficult to exclude some animals from this, particularly some non-human primates.

p.s. I was just going through my bookshelf and thinking that a book that you might like that gets into some of your questions is "Introducing Persons" by Peter Carruthers.

TheStatutoryApe
I would echo MIH. I have a similar definition of culture and believe that many species of animals possesses a primitive or simple version of culture.

I read an interesting paper a while back, I doubt I could find it again, that proposed "consciousness" is connected to self awareness and that animals in general are not self aware. The paper even went so far as to suggest that self awareness is a fairly recent development among humans citing a lack of self referencial words and phrases in early liturature. Words like "I" "Me" "My" ect. The author made a lot of strange claims, which seems common among cognitive scientists, among them I believe was the idea that humans do not think. According to him we only act on preprogrammed sets of procedures. Something I disagreed with quite a bit.

JoeDawg
I understand before posting this that most people on this forum are materialist.
In philosophy materialism refers to the ontological stance on 'matter', or more simply the idea that physical things exist. Dualism doesn't refute materialism, but more accurately adds a separate category that describes the substance separate from matter, or the existense of consciousness as non-material.

One of the big problems with dualism is that if these are truly separate things, how do they interact and affect each other?
If the soul has no physical component, then how does it have any effect on the physical world?
And this is a serious problem if you think culture is produced by the soul.
How does it get from the soul to the material world?

In fact, 'the soul', apart from its theological significance, is mainly just a placeholder for what we refer most often to, in a modern context, as the mind. Mind/body dualism is still a confounding problem to philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists.

But its a problem because we don't know what consciousness is. It seems to have an essential difference in quality from physical bodies, but we don't really know what it is. So unless you are going to state what exactly the soul is, and then show how the soul creates culture, and how the body is not capable of this on its own, your argument amounts to:

x must exist, because I can't explain y without it.

Soul, by this definition has little if any meaning.
Its just an unknown variable, used for what you don't know.

Another point of view on this problem is that 'the mind' may not have actual substance in the same way physical things do, but is rather a process. This would be what I would call functional dualism, or the idea that soul/mind/consciousness is not a 'thing', but rather an activity.

However I do favor dualism, because if materialism is true it makes life meaning less and means that although I have a sense of self I would really not exist.

Dualism and materialism are descriptive in an ontological sense, neither implies meaning or meaninglessness.

Materialist say that dualist are afraid of mortality but the materialist are afraid of the unknown.)

Actually most of the materialists I know, are fascinated by the unknown and actively pursue investigations of the unknown. People who claim to believe in souls, in my experience, don't know much if anything about what a soul actually is, and don't much care to investigate them. Soul for them is 'the answer' they are looking for. Its where they stop. I can't imagine being satisfied with such a empty and ill defined idea.

Sorry!
Agree with what JoeDawg has already pointed out.
However I just wanted to point out that even though dualism doesn't refute materialism/physicalism. Vice versa doesn't hold true. So you can't be a physicalist and believe in dualism. However if you are a dualist you can and probably do follow materialist/physicalist philosophies.

Actually most of the materialists I know, are fascinated by the unknown and actively pursue investigations of the unknown. People who claim to believe in souls, in my experience, don't know much if anything about what a soul actually is, and don't much care to investigate them. Soul for them is 'the answer' they are looking for. Its where they stop. I can't imagine being satisfied with such a empty and ill defined idea.

I was going to say something about that comment the OP made. But again joe beat me to it lol. I myself would consider myself a physicalist and I investigate a lot deeper into any subject area than anyone I know who I would consider a dualist (they posit the existence of a soul).

A simple way to decide which you can believe in is by using inferrence to the best solution.

Something that I have noticed among dualist is this:
They claim soul exist because it can explain x-occurence and physicalists have no explanation.
If however you question them how the SOUL does through us ANYWAYS they just DONT know.
To them saying that the soul does it seems to be a satisfactory answer. This however is not inferrence to the best solution. Both are merely holding promises for an answer. So in these cases I consider it a tie so to speak. Most of these have to do with the mind and emotional experiences. Like tasting apples or getting punched in the head. I think though that in the dualist view it would ALWAYS be held as a 'promised' answer. I don't see how someone can ever go about proving how something 'immaterial' effects us and the way it does effect us... Good luck.

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Homework Helper
Gold Member
The main difference from humans and other animals that are very close to humans such as other primates is that humans have a culture. Animals do not, I have figured that the soul may be a requirement for culture; I find it hard to believe that animals share the am level of consiness as I do.

Animals are surely conscious, they just do not much formulate or conceptualize their consciousness as we do. I think it has been shown that some intelligent animals like dolphins and monkeys do practically realize that they are individuals and that others of their own species are individuals like them with their own consciousness.

(Whether this has anything to do with a 'soul' seems to me a different matter.)

gabrielh
However I do favor dualism, because if materialism is true it makes life meaning less and means that although I have a sense of self I would really not exist.

Even if the soul doesn't exist, it doesn't render existence pointless. Sure, there was no real purpose for the genesis of life, but the meaning in life comes from the beauty of discovering the world around us and gaining an understanding of ourselves.

I fail to see how a soul would add anymore meaning to life anyway. The existence of a soul would certainy imply the existence of a god and an afterlife of some sort, but being here because an egostatistical god created us for the sole purpose of worshiping and serving him/her/it, doesn't seem like much of a purpose to me.

I would suggest reading Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins. It's a beautiful book written from an atheist's point of view about the beauty of life and the natural world as revealed through scientific discovery.

To conclude, your comment about you not really existing if you do not have a soul troubles me. I'm not quite sure how you came to that conclusion.

I don't get how anyone can deny the existence of mind. You can start from "I think therefore I am" and then decide whether or not you believe that an objective material world exists. But how can you start from an objective material world exists and then deduce that your mind doesn't exist? I can't see consciousness as being explained in an entirely materialistic framework.

Sorry!
I don't get how anyone can deny the existence of mind. You can start from "I think therefore I am" and then decide whether or not you believe that an objective material world exists. But how can you start from an objective material world exists and then deduce that your mind doesn't exist? I can't see consciousness as being explained in an entirely materialistic framework.

First things first I would like to point out that to me soul = immaterial and the mind = unknown functions of our body.

This is the problem with dualist. How does the soul explain the mind? 'It just does,' well how about instead of positing the soul, which is currently unnecessary, we just leave it as it is? Having a soul does not explain off us having a mind, or being concious, or self-aware, or anything at all. It's just a placeholder, a promise, of an explanation. One in my opinion that will never come.

Saying that physicalist DON'T KNOW AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME does not amount to PHYSICALIST DENY THE EXISTENCE OF THE MIND.

I will explain the physicalist view here I guess. So bodies exist in this material world. All bodies are different and have different functions. For instance a chair has the function of sitting on it, you can paint it, you can break it apart etc etc. Thats a very simple body.

A cell phone on the other hand is still just a body but has many more, and sufficiently complex, functions. Such as making phone calls to people overseas via satellites, going on the internet, taking pictures, etc. Would you posit the existence of a soul to explain this?
No because all these functions can be explained by the components of the body that holds the functions.

The mind is the same thing, it is just the 'placeholder' for unknown functions of our body. Such as thinking, conciousness, etc. They don't say that it doesn't exist. Merely that we don't know why these functions occur just yet.

JoeDawg
But how can you start from an objective material world exists and then deduce that your mind doesn't exist?

Saying that minds have a physical basis is not the same as saying minds don't exist.

Stratosphere
If animals did have a conscious mind would they not want to have a culture such as humans? Why would they want to live like that when they could live in a better way? Why are humans the only organism on Earth to evolve to use language?

TheStatutoryApe
If animals did have a conscious mind would they not want to have a culture such as humans? Why would they want to live like that when they could live in a better way? Why are humans the only organism on Earth to evolve to use language?

There are other animals, such as dolphins, that have vocal communication skills.

What characteristics exactly would you attribute to your definition of culture? Note that most animals are physically incapable of things that are generally considered primary parts of human culture so if they do possesses culture it can not be held to quite the same standards as human culture.

Edit: Also that paper I mentioned may be by Daniel Dennet who actually does not believe in "consciousness" apparently. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the paper yet though.

Stratosphere
There are other animals, such as dolphins, that have vocal communication skills.

What characteristics exactly would you attribute to your definition of culture? Note that most animals are physically incapable of things that are generally considered primary parts of human culture so if they do possesses culture it can not be held to quite the same standards as human culture.

Edit: Also that paper I mentioned may be by Daniel Dennet who actually does not believe in "consciousness" apparently. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the paper yet though.
By culture I mean the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of something. Although some animals have devolped communication skills like you pointed out, none actualy have a very structured and expansive way of communicating. Animals (although I cannot prove this) don't seem to transfer ideas of growth that hums HAD to in order to get were we are today.

P.S Although this is sort of off topic, I was wondering what humans actualy evolved from, we share a common ansester with other primates (such as apes) but humans didn't evolve from the apes right?

Gold Member
By culture I mean the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of something. Although some animals have devolped communication skills like you pointed out, none actualy have a very structured and expansive way of communicating. Animals (although I cannot prove this) don't seem to transfer ideas of growth that hums HAD to in order to get were we are today.

P.S Although this is sort of off topic, I was wondering what humans actually evolved from, we share a common ansester with other primates (such as apes) but humans didn't evolve from the apes right?

Well, we share a common ancestor with the other apes. Although that ancestor looked (and probably behaved) more like our cousins than us (it had fur etc).

Also, there are examples of quite large -what can be considered cultural- differences between e.g. primates living in different areas. I saw an article a while back that dealt with wars between chimps, it is apparently quite common in some areas in Africa while being virtually unknown in others. The reason for this difference is not clear, but it quite a striking demonstration of differences in organized (and chimps going to war ARE organized, there is nothing random about it) collective behaviour between different groups of the same species.

Another nice demonstration is a flock of wild baboons living in Texas (they live in a very large enclosure) which over the years have adapted to their new environment by developing new behaviours; one example being that they now have warning sound for dangers that did not exist in their original environment (rattlesnakes etc)

TheStatutoryApe
By culture I mean the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of something. Although some animals have devolped communication skills like you pointed out, none actualy have a very structured and expansive way of communicating. Animals (although I cannot prove this) don't seem to transfer ideas of growth that hums HAD to in order to get were we are today.

P.S Although this is sort of off topic, I was wondering what humans actualy evolved from, we share a common ansester with other primates (such as apes) but humans didn't evolve from the apes right?

Animals have practices and social behavior. You might even consider some of their social interactions as customs. Really if you look at humans as animals you are much more likely to see a resemblence than if you are to hold other animals to an anthropomorphic standard. In this way human activity starts to look like a more complex version of animal behavior. "Beliefs" is where we really start to diverge though. Animals tend to think in a more utilitarian sense, as far as I know. Apes have shown the ability to learn our language (sign language). I am uncertain if they have ever shown much ability to understand concepts that are "higher" than utility and emotion. The ability to develop advanced culture would be dependant upon "higher" cognitive function. To be more like humans animals would have to evolve more, they can not necessarily choose to evolve. If we were to teach several apes how to speak sign language and reintroduce them to the general population of apes then they may begin to learn from one another and sexual selection may begin to favour "speaking" apes over "nonspeaking" apes. Whether or not they would be more likely to survive is another matter.

Humans are evolved apes. Modern humans and modern apes likely have a common ancestor that was part of the ape family.

I can see that there is a correspondence between brain functions and mental experiences. I wouldn't necessarily say that the brain causes the mental experience any more than I would say an electron "causes" its charge. What I don't understand is how someone can believe that the mind is no more than the brain. My experience exists whether or not my brain does (coming from the "I think, therefore I am" starting point), hence my experience is not my brain. So if a physicalist simply means that there is a correspondence between brain activity and subjective experience then I agree. However if they mean to say that subjective experience actually is brain activity then I cannot understand their viewpoint.

JoeDawg
I can see that there is a correspondence between brain functions and mental experiences. I wouldn't necessarily say that the brain causes the mental experience any more than I would say an electron "causes" its charge.

Causation can be a tricky thing. But applying it to attributes doesn't really make sense because there is no linear progression. Charge is an attribute of an electron, not an effect.

Mental experience is somewhat different, but even more complex. With fMRIs we can observe brain function that leads to sensation and decision making. So yes, Neurons firing do cause mental experience. The big controversy these days is, does it work the other way. Can a mental event cause neurons to fire, or is the mental event simply neurons firing?

When you get into complex systems like the brain, simple formulations of causation tend to fall apart.

What I don't understand is how someone can believe that the mind is no more than the brain. My experience exists whether or not my brain does (coming from the "I think, therefore I am" starting point), hence my experience is not my brain.

You're misusing Descartes. "I think therefore I am" says nothing about what exists. It was designed to deal with the certainty of knowing something. Descartes believed in dualism for other reasons. He thought that the mind was distinct enough from the body that it represented a different kind of substance, and he was in agreement with the idea of soul, which is an ancient idea. Now, to be fair, he would have also been burned at the stake if he denied the soul existing...

The reason people will equivocate brain/mind is by basing this on the modern computational model. The 'mind' is not a 'thing', we can describe it as such, because language is flexible, but the mind is no more a thing than a baseball game is a thing. You can reduce a baseball game to individual human action and its just a bunch of guys standing around on a field, watching one guy throw a ball. The baseball game only occurs when you take into account all of the action of the game as a whole. The pitch doesn't determine the game, the statistics of many pitches and runs... plus the rules etc... add up to a game.

We don't say the game doesn't exist, simply because its not a physical thing. Its a series of actions held together by a conceptual framework.

So if a physicalist simply means that there is a correspondence between brain activity and subjective experience then I agree. However if they mean to say that subjective experience actually is brain activity then I cannot understand their viewpoint.

In this sense the mind is simply a concept that describes the action of the brain. Its giving action a distinct 'thingness'. Quite a lot of philosophy is word problems, incidence where our use of language which works well in some cases gets overused or used in contexts which create confusion or paradox.

The important part is that no one is saying that 'the mind doesn't exist', they are just conceptualizing and describing it differently. And this is important because when people use language they can turn nouns into verbs and back again, with ease. But this can cause huge problems with definitions.

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Gold Member
The 'mind' is not a 'thing', we can describe it as such, because language is flexible, but the mind is no more a thing than a baseball game is a thing..

Not quite. In our modelling, we dichotomise towards two different and complementary kinds of "thing" - substance and form.

So this is a legitimate duality! They are two extreme vantage points from which to model. Though the world in itself would always be composed of both form and substance of course (as we are only modelling, and modelling also handles the Cartesian doubt issue).

So when people talk about mind, they are emphasising the organisation form they want to describe - the game being played.

Then you have category mistakes that follow. Strong AI proponents for example would argue that a mind should be implementable with any kind of material/substance. Which is dualistic in spirit.

But substance and form are two complementary/asymmetric aspects of reality. We can treat them both as fundamental essences or "things".

JoeDawg
Not quite. In our modelling, we dichotomise towards two different and complementary kinds of "thing" - substance and form.
I agree, but that's just the way we categorize. Classic dualism, however, implies that you are dealing with two entirely different substances.
So this is a legitimate duality! They are two extreme vantage points from which to model. Though the world in itself would always be composed of both form and substance of course (as we are only modelling, and modelling also handles the Cartesian doubt issue).
This is what I would call functional dualism, since it doesn't involve different substances, but rather different ways of categorizing. When Descartes talked about mind, he was talking about mind being entirely separate from body. So I don't think he would agree with what you are saying.
Strong AI proponents for example would argue that a mind should be implementable with any kind of material/substance.
Thats an ongoing argument. We won't really know until we build it, and even then we might not be able to tell... P-zombies, chinese room... etc...
But substance and form are two complementary/asymmetric aspects of reality. We can treat them both as fundamental essences or "things".
We can, language permits all kinds of things, but we have just as much reason to believe they are not so distinct in any ontological way. We have no real reason to think that consciousness is anything more than an emergent property of brain matter. That is, the result of a complex system. We just don't know.

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Gold Member
I agree, but that's just the way we categorize. Classic dualism, however, implies that you are dealing with two entirely different substances.
.

That is certainly the error in most of modern dualism. The really classical dualism of ancient Greece did recognise substance vs form as ontic categories. And even Plato had his chora as well as his forms.

This is what I would call functional dualism, since it doesn't involve different substances, but rather different ways of categorizing. When Descartes talked about mind, he was talking about mind being entirely separate from body. So I don't think he would agree with what you are saying.

Yes he did suggest an animating spirit acting through the pineal gland. And soul/spirit is substance ontology. And even the greeks felt the nous or rationality was a spirit substance, not a form or a matter of organisation.

So while the substance/form dichotomy is ancient, the ancients did not have a sophisticated story on mind being a "form".

Thats an ongoing argument. We won't really know until we build it, and even then we might not be able to tell... P-zombies, chinese room... etc...

But that applies to you and me anyway. So it does not specifically address the key question - is mind so purely a form that it could be implemented in any kind of substance?

However that is not the useful point. The actual point is that framing the scientific task in this fashion - a theory of mind will capture its essential form: how exactly? - is a way to focus people.

We can, language permits all kinds of things, but we have just as much reason to believe they are not so distinct in any ontological way. We have no real reason to think that consciousness is anything more than an emergent property of brain matter. That is, the result of a complex system. We just don't know.

My own non-dualistic position is that substance and form are not going to be distinct. Rather, they are - as modeled concepts - the limits towards which we can dichotomise our descriptions.

So not only am I making a modelling point - that monadism, dualism, triadicism are assumptions, free choices, to allow descriptive reduction - but I am arguing something specific about the nature of the modelling.

To unpack: most people assume reality to be monadic - made of one kind of stuff. Yet look closely and every description is always a symmetry breaking, a dichotomy. You always have one extreme, and then its mutally exclusive opposite.

So the greeks came up with chance and necessity, stasis and change, substance and form. And the definitions are mutually exclusive. Substance is chora, stuff without any trace of form. And form is shape or pattern or organisation - logical arranagements - without any shred of substance.

The fake problem that was created out of this intelligent separation was the idea that reality was separated (actually dual) rather than one complex thing separated into two mutually exclusive modes of description.

Christianity took this as its theological position which is why it has become so hard to shake. Why this embedded cultural "truth" is endlessly debated on forums like this.

So something like dualism is true. But it is not about ontic separations just the epistemic act of separating. Two very different things!

JoeDawg
So something like dualism is true. But it is not about ontic separations just the epistemic act of separating. Two very different things!

Not sure about some of the things you said, but if this is the gist of it, then we agree.

Causation can be a tricky thing. But applying it to attributes doesn't really make sense because there is no linear progression. Charge is an attribute of an electron, not an effect. Mental experience is somewhat different, but even more complex. With fMRIs we can observe brain function that leads to sensation and decision making. So yes, Neurons firing do cause mental experience.

This is where I disagree. MRIs show that something is happening in the brain while a subjective experience occurs, this does not imply a causation but a correspondence. You misunderstand my point about Descartes, "I think, therefore I am" does assert something about what exists. It asserts that my subjective experiences and thoughts exist. They are the only thing that I know exists, and from them I can choose to infer the existence of an external physical world. Otherwise, I could choose to believe that the world does not exist independently of my senses. Either way, my subjective experiences exist fundamentally, and cannot be explained away as neural processes. I can see a conceptual difference between me with all my thoughts and experiences, and a person who appears exactly the same from the outside, but has no self awareness or inner experience.

I'd like to add that I am not referring to any "soul". I'm simply arguing that subjective experience is not explained fully in terms of physical interactions, even if a correspondence (or even causation) can be observed.

Gold Member
I'm simply arguing that subjective experience is not explained fully in terms of physical interactions, even if a correspondence (or even causation) can be observed.

That's not too consistent a position as the same doubt would apply to anything outside your subjective awareness. So you have to take the next step to talk about modelling. You've restated epistemology 101, first term, now move on.

Or if you are saying it can be explained partially, just not fully, this is then a different position and you now have to justify why that almost, but not quite, quibble is valid. Why should I believe that you can have partial yet not full? I don't follow any logic there.

The hard problem or ontic dualism is easy to assert, easy to believe. But is not actually a robust story. You will have to work harder on the supporting argument.

I don't get your point about the same doubt applying to everything. Physical phenomena are explained in terms of physical interactions. But even if I had a full explanation of what happens in the brain when I am perceiving the colour red, I would not find the experience of redness (qualia) anywhere in that explanation.
I am saying that the physical aspects can in principle be explained fully, but that the mental aspects remain unexplained. I'm not trying to reduce everything to solipsism (restate epistemology 101 as you say). I used this as an argument that I would sooner doubt the existence of material phenomena than I would doubt the existence of mental phenomena. This is why I can't subscribe to a fully materialist (or physicalist) view.

JoeDawg
This is where I disagree. MRIs show that something is happening in the brain while a subjective experience occurs, this does not imply a causation but a correspondence.
Actually, some of the latest research indicates that the brain activity precedes the 'experience' in a very causation indicative way. One could always argue that it doesn't prove causation, but one can always argue that about anything.
You misunderstand my point about Descartes, "I think, therefore I am" does assert something about what exists. It asserts that my subjective experiences and thoughts exist. They are the only thing that I know exists, and from them I can choose to infer the existence of an external physical world.
In terms of existence, its little more than a tautology.
The real power behind the quote is Epistemic.
Descartes wasn't trying to prove things exist, he was trying to show something he could be certain of. So you're using the quote out of context.
Either way, my subjective experiences exist fundamentally, and cannot be explained away as neural processes.
That doesn't follow. Neural processes are an explanation of where experiences come from. It doesn't conflict at all with experiences existing, or the physical world being an inference. Its just less certain. This is the epistemic value of: I think therefore I am.
I can see a conceptual difference between me with all my thoughts and experiences, and a person who appears exactly the same from the outside, but has no self awareness or inner experience.
Standard p-zombie stuff, but the fact you can conceptualize something doesn't mean its valid or accurate.
I'm simply arguing that subjective experience is not explained fully in terms of physical interactions, even if a correspondence (or even causation) can be observed.
Well I certainly agree we haven't explained it, but that doesn't mean it can't be explained in terms of physical interactions. Neuroscience is really in its infancy, concluding that the mind is non-physical is hugely premature.

Sorry!
This is the type of stuff I was talking about in my earlier posts:

Standard p-zombie stuff, but the fact you can conceptualize something doesn't mean its valid or accurate.

Well I certainly agree we haven't explained it, but that doesn't mean it can't be explained in terms of physical interactions. Neuroscience is really in its infancy, concluding that the mind is non-physical is hugely premature.

You just can't posit a soul to fill in SOME blank in physicalist views and then claim that dualism is correct because physicalist have no answer for the blank spot. This is NOT inferrence to the best solution.

And as far as descartes goes Joe is right again, the famous "Cogito, ergo sum" argument.
It would be better to use the PROPER Descartes argument for positing the soul.

I believe the Descartes argument for the soul is like this:

It is possible to imagine my mind without my body.
Descartes concluded that since you can IMAGINE your mind separate from your body they must be separate entities. Your mind can't be your body. Because if you imagined yourself without your body you would also be imagining yourself without your mind.

I think it's pretty clever. When taking this into consideration though you have to go into what it means and not just skim the surface.

I attribute the workings of this argument though to the mere power of the human imagination.
For instance it's POSSIBLE to imagine a world in which the evening star exists and the morning star doesn't exist. Using this Cartesian argument one would conclude they are separate bodies. In fact they aren't they are both the same heavenly body.. which isn't even a star but Venus.

Stratosphere
When I speak of the soul I am saying something that takes the neurological thinking in the brain and interprets it. This is why I said I don't think animals have the same type of conscious thought as us. I imagine them as robots, they have command modules but they don't actually think nor have a feeling of self such as humans. I am NOT saying that the soul is something in it self that directly controls the body, that would be ridiculous.

Gold Member
I don't get your point about the same doubt applying to everything. Physical phenomena are explained in terms of physical interactions. But even if I had a full explanation of what happens in the brain when I am perceiving the colour red, I would not find the experience of redness (qualia) anywhere in that explanation. .

The basic question here is what would be a scientific explanation of consciousness?

Science is about the modelling of reality. There are a well understood set of epistemological issues such as the epistemic cut that needs to be made between the observer and the observed - especially a problem if the observer is the observed! And what we require is a brand of modelling that can then apply consistently across all modelling efforts.

I say this quickly to jump the discussion up to where things might get interesting. You can piddle about forever discussing Descartes and Berkeley, or you can join things in the 21st century.

Now think about this expectation of yours that a theory of mind would deliver to you a feeling of "what it is like" to be experiencing some particular mental state. This is to misunderstand what modelling is about. Do you expect good and useful physical theory to give you a "what it is actually like" experience of photons and quarks?

Yes, you may get some sort of mental imagery from explanations in terms of little balls, little waves, or whatever. But you are fooling yourself if you then think you are experiencing what it is actually like to "observe" reality at that scale.

Actual theory of physical reality is instead a bunch of formal apparatus that allows predictions - control over measurements, control over outcomes. It is all very utilitarian. And good theory is actually about the reduction of information - simplifying by getting rid of the complexity that is reality and imagining instead in terms of balls and waves, or even better, points and paths.

So now what should a theory of mind look like if it was also scientific, consistent with the general way things are done?

Well you would want to be getting away from particulars, such as some particular mental reponse like seeing red, and moving towards the most general or universal principles - a model of mindfulness, rather than a model of mind.

And there are various related mathematical approaches along these lines - pansemiosis, systems science, hierarchy theory, complex adaptive systems, second order cybernetics, autopoiesis, etc.

Rather a rag bag of approaches at the moment. But in various ways, they are trying to model the essence of mindfulness. Knowing form. Anticipatory systems. Holistic organisation.

So then to get back to your demand/expectation that a good theory of mind would have to deliver up a sense of "what it is like" to experience redness. Perhaps you can see that first, this would not be the prime direction in which modelling would develop. Modelling would head towards the general by moving away from such specifics. That is the way modelling operates, by shedding local particulars to gain global "truths".

However, models can then generate useful predictions - they construct local specifics. So now you might say I want a general model that can predict when some system is experiencing red. Or even a good enough model so I know how to build some machine that will experience red.

Say that is just too difficult a job, Would that invalidate some more general model of mindfulness which did successfully give you more general levels of predictive control over reality? We don't say physics fails because we only have these obvious mental constructs like waves and balls, not yet a view of the thing in itself. So where is the justification for imposing a priori failure on theories of consciousness that are "only" more general theories of mindfulness.

So yes, it does seem hard to imagine that an abstract body of theory will deliver to us a subjective impression of something as it really is. But we never actually see things "as they are". Either fundamental particles or even our own mental states.

You think you know what it is to "see red"? Well that is already a theoretically constructed experience you are having. It is not in fact the thing in itself but a way you have culturally learned to frame an experience. You will see it as a qualia - an isolated and distinct mental response. You will say red is red, something naked and pure, not in-betweeny like pink, orange or puce. You will be able to imagine matching your sense of red with my sense of red as if we each had a secret set of crayons that could be objectively compared for tone. There is a bunch of hidden assumptions which are modelling rather than naked experience.

Of course there is some core mental response to cling on to as explanandum. But to flourish "seeing redness" as an obvious hurdle too high for "materialist" theory is both to mistake the nature of modelling (gaining general principles by shedding local particulars) and also the nature of subjective awareness (that it is naked and uncontexted pixels of raw experiencing). Both the method and the target.

Finally, you probably have to study visual neuropsychology before you completely dismiss progress towards theories of redness. For instance, tetrachromacy throws an interesting light on what it is like. As does color-opponent channels.

Or take the experience of seeing brown. Why does it not look like blackish yellow (which it is) when I can see that forest green is blackish green, scarlet is blackish red and navy is blackish blue? I can actually see black in three colours yet not the fourth. Yet well understood materialistic accounts in terms of the processing paths explain exactly why I have this particular subjective response.

Now I do not yet feel satisfied that theory delivers and understanding of why brown looks like brown. But I do feel happy about the reason I don't experience it as yellow tinted black.

And if my goal was to produce a colour experiencing machine, I would have an idea how to build the same "glitch" into the system. Or instead remove that problem.

(BTW: The reason is to do with the way yellow experience is manufactured as a "virtual" colour opponent channel to blue).

Anyway, perhaps you can see why seeing red makes me see red! It is what philosophical bumpkins like Chalmers like to throw up as obvious and unarguable hurdles to theories of mind. But these guys haven't actually made much effort to master the scientific understanding that already exists.

swat4life
. I'm simply arguing that subjective experience is not explained fully in terms of physical interactions, even if a correspondence (or even causation) can be observed.

Precisely. Hameroff's work at the University of Arizona addresses this issue wonderfully. He elucidates the following points which I'll restate here:

The Problem of Consciousness

Conventional explanations portray consciousness as an emergent property of classical computer-like activities in the brain's neural networks. The prevailing views among scientists in this camp are that 1) patterns of neural network activities correlate with mental states, 2) synchronous network oscillations in thalamus and cerebral cortex temporally bind information, and 3) consciousness emerges as a novel property of computational complexity among neurons.

However, these approaches appear to fall short in fully explaining certain enigmatic features of consciousness, such as:

* The nature of subjective experience, or 'qualia'- our 'inner life' (Chalmers' "hard problem");
* Binding of spatially distributed brain activities into unitary objects in vision, and a coherent sense of self, or 'oneness';
* Transition from pre-conscious processes to consciousness itself;
* Non-computability, or the notion that consciousness involves a factor which is neither random, nor algorithmic, and that consciousness cannot be simulated (Penrose, 1989, 1994, 1997);
* Free will; and,
* Subjective time flow.

Brain imaging technologies demonstrate anatomical location of activities which appear to correlate with consciousness, but which may not be directly responsible for consciousness.

http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/presentations/images/slide4.jpg [Broken]
http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/presentations/images/slide5.jpg [Broken]

---
How do neural firings lead to thoughts and feelings? The conventional (a.k.a. functionalist, reductionist, materialist, physicalist, computationalist) approach argues that neurons and their chemical synapses are the fundamental units of information in the brain, and that conscious experience emerges when a critical level of complexity is reached in the brain's neural networks.

The basic idea is that the mind is a computer functioning in the brain (brain = mind = computer). However in fitting the brain to a computational view, such explanations omit incompatible neurophysiological details:

* Widespread apparent randomness at all levels of neural processes (is it really noise, or underlying levels of complexity?);
* Glial cells (which account for some 80% of brain);
* Dendritic-dendritic processing;
* Electrotonic gap junctions;
* Cytoplasmic/cytoskeletal activities; and,
* Living state (the brain is alive!)

A further difficulty is the absence of testable hypotheses in emergence theory. No threshold or rationale is specified; rather, consciousness "just happens".

Finally, the complexity of individual neurons and synapses is not accounted for in such arguments. Since many forms of motile single-celled organisms lacking neurons or synapses are able to swim, find food, learn, and multiply through the use of their internal cytoskeleton, can they be considered more advanced than neurons?

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Gold Member
Hameroff is precisely one of those who wants to treat consciousness as a local substance rather than a global form.

Some say consciousness is just an emergent state (Koch, Crick, etc).

Some say consciousness is just a material property (Hameroff, Penrose, Chalmers, ect).

Both are confused positions as they are dualistic (we have two kinds of thing) and try to conflate the two via some monadic twist (QM decoherence, oscillation coherence).

Neither are systems approaches in which substance and form are taken as two aspects (which can be modeled separately) of whole systems.

So while Hameroff likes to think of himself as unconventional, it is a deeply conventional line he peddles.

It is just that some reductionists see consciousness popping out up here (at some particular level of neural complexity, resonant harmony, mirror neuron activity, whatever) while others say no, it pops out way down here at the small scale (gravitational collapse, microtubule amplification, whatever).

When things pop out, this is when you know the model is not really working. Rabbits come out of hats. That is entertainment but not science. Which could also be Hameroff's tagline. He is amusing. Just not in a good way.

swat4life
That is entertainment but not science...

Ok...

As Mssr. Voltaire said, opinions are like A%&...s - everyone has one...

Or perhaps it was Swedenborg? Eller Nej?

No. I'm sure it was Herodotus - definitely Herodotus.

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Gold Member
Hey mr cut 'n paste, perhaps my opinion might be like, informed? It kind of helps that I have studied the relevant literature, talked and debated with the folk mentioned. But if you can tell me where my analysis is inaccurate, then go for it.

swat4life
Hey mr cut 'n paste...

Is there a point to this comment? I said quite clearly in the original post:

Precisely. Hameroff's work at the University of Arizona addresses this issue wonderfully. He elucidates the following points which I'll restate here:

The definition of restate is:
Verb

* S: (v) repeat, reiterate, ingeminate, iterate, restate, retell (to say, state, or perform again) "She kept reiterating her request"

In other words,
a) I gave the original author the credit
b) I mentioned quite clearly the organization with whom he's associated
c) I mentioned that I was simply presenting an analysis proffered by said source.

"It kind of helps that I have studied the relevant literature".

You're assuming of course that no one else has as well - a slightly supercilious supposition don't you think?

Further you make a bold claim that Hameroff's work is
"entertainment not science...".

What evidence - beyond your own biased opinion - did you present to the reader to substantiate this statement?

Whenever I read any analysis/arguments where the writer weaves unbridled subjectivity amidst what he contends are brute facts, my reticular activating system goes into hyper drive and inclines me toward filing said information way, way down the cognitive totem pole.

But hey mate, that's just me...

Gold Member
But I wasn't assuming everyone else knows as little as you about what you chose to cut 'n paste...

Have you actually met Hameroff? Watched one his presentations? You would understand why I would say he is indeed just a showman. Putting it politely.

I could be as specific as you like about his bogus ways.

Here is a starter for you, the kind of thing he throws into his slide shows, where the casual listener wouldn't know whether he is talking fact or speculation.

http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/penrose-hameroff/consciousevents_files/fig04.gif [Broken]

A tubulin dipole. Perhaps you could give us your opinion of whether this is fact or speculation.

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