Mind-body problem-Chomsky/Nagel

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  • #26
apeiron
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I am sure it is so about the compulsive behavior. I never had doubts that determinism and causality play an important role in reality and human behavior. However, I do have trouble believing that all of human behavior and self-awareness can and will ever be attributed to causal relations. There is nothing compulsive about the thalamus, caudate nucleus and orbitofrontal cortex that required that you perceive, contemplate, understand and relay your acquired knowledge and deep insights to other systems in this particular thread.
But what is the basis of this doubt? How can all the known facts of biology, neuroscience and social science be dismissed as entirely inadequate, not even touching the sides of the hard problem, without an examination of those facts?

You talk as if a glass that is not yet completely full is therefore "completely empty".

Now I happily accept that there is likely to be always some final residue that feels impossible to explain (lacking an adequate model) when it comes to the mind. So for example, the redness of red. We can know all the facts of visual processing but in the end, why red is experience as that hue and not some other hue (gred, rud, etc) becomes inexplicable.

But this is due to a lack of counterfactuals. And that is a problem for any theory. It is a limit on explanations of material reality also - existence itself becomes an irreducible fact because no "other" can be imagined. Facts need other facts to relate to. There must be an explanatory context to have some sense of why (and why not).

So the hard problem only has bite if you can argue a very large part, or some completely critical part, is not explained by known facts, existing theory.

When people say a large part is still missing - the glass is almost completely empty - well that usually means they personally have not filled their glass with the available knowledge. They are misrepresenting how much is actually known by those who study these things.

And if they say a large amount is known, but a critical part is missing, then that is where they need to provide the specifics. What exactly is missing? More than would be missing in any theory once you zoom down to the level where there are no longer any counterfactuals?

Yes, there is clearly something missing in reductionist models of causality because it seems to be a fact of consciousness that it is in control of the body. But reductionism does not believe in downward causation. It provides no model of formal and final cause, just material and efficient cause. That was exactly how Bacon defined it, and how it has been applied.

But what does that mean apart from that we need to consider expanded models of causality again? Models that fix that critical part.

Which is what they do in theoretical biology, and have started to do in neuroscience (though neuroscience, being a branch of medicine for so long, is still very attached to reductionist, and therefore computationalist, causal models).
 
  • #27
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But what is the basis of this doubt? How can all the known facts of biology, neuroscience and social science be dismissed as entirely inadequate, not even touching the sides of the hard problem, without an examination of those facts?
Those facts are mostly descriptive. There's nothing there that one can call deep understanding or scientific explanation as in physics. Also, there's no hint of how one can get subjectivity out a complex network of neural connections, etc. The gap between mind and matter seems immense. They just don't seem to mesh. Consciousness seems to “provide us with a kind of ‘window’ on to our brain, making possible a transparent grasp of a tiny corner of a materiality that is in general opaque to us" but we haven't the slightest clue of how to mesh it together with what we presently call "matter". I found this Lockwood passage interesting:

Do we therefore have no genuine knowledge of the intrinsic character of the physical world? So it might seem. But, according to the line of thought I am now pursuing, we do, in a very limited way, have access to content in the material world as opposed merely to abstract casual structure, since there is a corner of the physical world that we know, not merely by inference from the deliverances of our five sense, but because we are that corner. It is the bit within our skulls, which we know by introspection. In being aware, for example, of the qualia that seemed so troublesome for the materialist, we glimpse the intrinsic nature of what, concretely, realizes the formal structure that a correct physics would attribute to the matter of our brains. In awareness, we are, so to speak, getting an insider's look at our own brain activity.


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neutral-monism/#7.2
 
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  • #28
apeiron
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Those facts are mostly descriptive. There's nothing there that one can call deep understanding or scientific explanation as in physics.
Sure, it is easy to claim this. But now let's see you demonstrate it.

So for example, what about this mainstream hypothesis is just descriptive and not a deep explanation founded on physical (and systems) principles?

http://www.fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk/~karl/The free-energy principle A unified brain theory.pdf

I found this Lockwood passage interesting:
But Lockwood - a quantum mysterian - goes wrong straight away in presuming introspective awareness to be an automatic part the basic natural process. And we know from science that human introspection is a socially constructed, language based, habit of thought.

So this passage makes no sense from a scientific perspective. There is no direct awareness of awareness, only a mediated awareness of awareness.
 
  • #29
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But what is the basis of this doubt? How can all the known facts of biology, neuroscience and social science be dismissed as entirely inadequate, not even touching the sides of the hard problem, without an examination of those facts?


What facts in particular are you referring to here? There are no facts AFAIK explaining conscious behavior like choice, intelligence, thought, reason, meaning and all that subjective mental part of life.



You talk as if a glass that is not yet completely full is therefore "completely empty".

I think you are getting a bit dellusional about progress on consciousness. There is absolutely ZERO progress on self-awareness and i really mean 0. And of course, you know this quite well! The claim you made earlier that introspection(self-awareness) is a kind of habit is rediculous.



Now I happily accept that there is likely to be always some final residue that feels impossible to explain (lacking an adequate model) when it comes to the mind. So for example, the redness of red. We can know all the facts of visual processing but in the end, why red is experience as that hue and not some other hue (gred, rud, etc) becomes inexplicable.


Deterministic, causal scientific explanations are ridden with paradoxes. There is hardly anything to be known from science as it concerns the philosophical questions.




But this is due to a lack of counterfactuals. And that is a problem for any theory. It is a limit on explanations of material reality also - existence itself becomes an irreducible fact because no "other" can be imagined. Facts need other facts to relate to. There must be an explanatory context to have some sense of why (and why not).



Yes, i agree with your frequent reference to dichotomies. This has to be a fundamental trait of the architecture of the brain.




So the hard problem only has bite if you can argue a very large part, or some completely critical part, is not explained by known facts, existing theory.

When people say a large part is still missing - the glass is almost completely empty - well that usually means they personally have not filled their glass with the available knowledge. They are misrepresenting how much is actually known by those who study these things.


So what is self aware? You are touching on a rather profound issue, namely that of existence with a very primitive instrumenarium and the wrong attitude. You are misrepresenting how much is actually known by those who study these things.



And if they say a large amount is known, but a critical part is missing, then that is where they need to provide the specifics. What exactly is missing? More than would be missing in any theory once you zoom down to the level where there are no longer any counterfactuals?

Yes, there is clearly something missing in reductionist models of causality because it seems to be a fact of consciousness that it is in control of the body. But reductionism does not believe in downward causation. It provides no model of formal and final cause, just material and efficient cause. That was exactly how Bacon defined it, and how it has been applied.

But what does that mean apart from that we need to consider expanded models of causality again? Models that fix that critical part.

Which is what they do in theoretical biology, and have started to do in neuroscience (though neuroscience, being a branch of medicine for so long, is still very attached to reductionist, and therefore computationalist, causal models).


This is a wonderful narrative, but it appears you have been trying to kill an influenza virus with an ever more elaborate knife. You are almost there, but not just yet.
 
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  • #30
apeiron
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There is absolutely ZERO progress on self-awareness and i really mean 0.
You claim this on what authority? Are you qualified to make such sweeping statements?

You are misrepresenting how much is actually known by those who study these things.
Who are these people you are thinking of? Please name a few.

And are you making the ad hominen that I have not studied these things?
 
  • #31
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Apeiron, I'd love to dive in to this pool more deeply but alas don't have time. I'll simply note, going back to our in-depth conversation a few months ago, that a systems theory cannot in principle explain consciousness at all if its constituents are wholly lacking in consciousness. That is, if your systems theory is a system of physical things without an iota of consciousness, it is no explanation at all to suggest that the RIGHT kind of system produces consciousness. That's sheer magic, as Sewall Wright observed in 1977. Panpsychism is not incompatible with a systems theory - it seems that any theory that tries to explain complex phenomena is deserving of the name systems theory - but a systems theory that hopes to explain consciousness must explain how mind relates to non-mind. And unless you are fine positing the miracle of emergence from your preferred systems you haven't really explained anything.
 
  • #32
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You claim this on what authority? Are you qualified to make such sweeping statements?

Appeals to authority are a known fallacy. I have yet to see a model of what consciousness might be, proposed by neuroscientists that is not based on inferences from mentally ill people with severe disorders. Those "models" say nothing why a certain neural circuitry works to produce deep self-analysis/analysis of the world or why it's able to mentally penetrate the big secrets of this vast universe. Thoese model say nothing on how the self comes about, except that the self might be a particular happenstance, based on how schizophrenics behave.
Your over-confidence appears to blind you to the fact that what neuroscience does, like with all other sciences, is opeing new Pandora's boxes. While those models might have a good number of practical applications in medicine, they are just models, and like everything we have seen so far, they will remain such. I don't see the explanation gap as narrowing, many more questions are arising with every new discovery and the good questions are pushed futher away from our reach.





And are you making the ad hominen that I have not studied these things?



On the contrary, it's obvious you have studied/read a lot on this topic. We disagree on the global conclusions you are drawing.
 
  • #33
MarcoD
I agree with Maui. The fact that we know 'more' of the physical world has largely no effect on fundamental philosophical discussions. There has been no progress.

For example, the medieval question whether God build the world as a clockwork, and has abandoned us, and whether that clockwork is deterministic, and whether we have free will is essentially the same discussion as to whether QM allows for free will.

Nothing changed, except for that we know a 'little bit more' and don't go for mystic explanations, and prefer to leave religion out of it. Some people will argue that the latter is even a step back, instead of a step forward.
 
  • #34
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The "ignorance" hypothesis above though argues that we are in fact, so ignorant of the nature of the the "physical" that we have no basis to formulate the mind-body problem. So this is considered progress, in some sense. As Strawson puts it:

It may be added, with Russell and others, that although physics appears to tell us a great deal about certain of the general structural or mathematical characteristics of the physical, it fails to give us any real insight into the nature of whatever it is that has these characteristics-apart from making it plain that it is utterly bizarre relative to our ordinary conception of it. It is unclear exactly what this last remark amounts to (is it being suggested that physics is failing to do something it could do?) But it already amounts to something very important when it comes to what is known as the "mind-body problem." For many take this to be the problem of how mental phenomena can be physical phenomena given what we already know about the nature of the physical. And this is the great mistake of our time. The truth is that we have no good reason to think that we know anything about the physical that gives us any reason to find any problem in the idea that mental or experiential phenomena are physical phenomena. ...

How can consciousness be physical, given what we know about what matter is like?" If one thinks this then one is, in Russell's words, "guilty, unconsciously and in spite of explicit disavowals, of a confusion in one's imaginative picture of matter". One thinks one knows more about the nature of matter-of the non-experiential-than one does. This is the fundamental error.


http://cognet.mit.edu/posters/TUCSON3/Strawson.html [Broken]
 
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  • #35
Q_Goest
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What do we mean when we say something is physical?

1) We conceive of physical things as having mass, velocity, momentum, energy, and forces between them that cause one physical thing to act or react in some way relative to another physical thing. So physical generally indicates something that is objectively measurable or causes something to occur that is measurable. And we know in principal at least how the matter out of which our brains are made, interacts. We may not have a complete description of all the ways molecules interact (such as a complete description of how all proteins fold for instance) but we understand that any complete description will simply tell us more about those objectively measurable interactions.

2) Generally we would say that mental properties and events are supervenient on the physical so from that aspect, mental properties and events such as qualia are physical. We might liken mental properties to a higher level physical description just as weather patterns or some other higher level description can also be described by observing the lower level interactions. The lower level interactions are closer to the ultimate cause of what occurs and we call this reductionism. That’s why we test individual neurons the way we do for example.

3) Unfortunately, mental properties and events such as qualia are not objectively measurable and generally aren’t believed to “cause” anything objectively measurable. Rather, physical interactions at the molecular level and neuronal level are believed to be the cause of all physical interactions in the brain. We understand the basics of molecular interactions and we believe these phenomena are sufficient to describe everything that occurs within a conscious brain. Thus, we often conclude that mental phenomena are caused by the supervenient physical base but that these phenomena are epiphenomenal on the physical.

There are numerous logical dilemmas that arise when we try to explain what consciousness is and what physical things are. Perhaps part of the problem is in how we define what is physical. If a phenomena is not described by describing the physical basis on which the phenomena supervenes and further, that phenomena is not objectively measurable, I would humbly submit that we have a very serious problem with our concept of the physical.

To give an example of what the problem with our concept of physical seems to be, let’s say we have a phenomena that occurs such as weather. We can define weather in all sorts of ways by measuring the objectively measurable phenomena such as barometric pressure, frontal boundaries, temperature, wind velocities, etc… These are all measurable phenomena that are supervenient on the underlying air and water molecules and the various other bits of ‘stuff’ in the air such as aerosols, pollen, dust and so on, and also the various fields that stuff is subjected to such as gravity and the EM spectrum that warms and cools the air. But if we suggested there was some other phenomena created within the weather system that wasn’t objectively measurable, something let’s call the gookiness, we might ask why we should even concern ourselves with any such property. And the answer would be that the weather was having this subjective experience, and that it was telling us about this experience through the wind and rain, the hot and cold, etc… Just because we don’t speak the language that the weather does, shouldn’t automatically exclude it from having a subjective experience, should it?

I think we use the term physical as if everyone knows what we’re talking about. If we accept that subjective phenomena are physical because they supervene on physical things, that shouldn’t raise any issues. But if we mean that physical things are those things that are objectively measurable then we seem to have a problem already. I think that’s where you’re getting to regarding the “http://sussex.academia.edu/TomMcCle...sis_A_Hybrid_Account_of_Phenomenal_Qualities"”, that this new physical description of nature must somehow describe the properties of our mental experiences. I’ve heard that suggested before but don’t see any way that could be done given how much we know about physical interactions today. Seems to me we’ve already painted ourselves into the proverbial corner by the way we’ve conceived of what is physical.
 
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  • #36
Pythagorean
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Appeals to authority are a known fallacy. I have yet to see a model of what consciousness might be, proposed by neuroscientists that is not based on inferences from mentally ill people with severe disorders.
Do you see the problem with your statements here? You're dismissing apeiron calling you out on your ignorance, but then you use your ignorance as a defense. Frankly, you're speculating wildly:

Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes
Christof Koch and Naotsugu Tsuchiya
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-22

A free energy principle for the brain.
Friston K, Kilner J, Harrison L.
J Physiol Paris. 2006 Jul-Sep;100(1-3):70-87.

The brainweb: Phase synchronization and large-scale integration
Francisco Varela, Jean-Philippe Lachaux, Eugenio Rodriguez & Jacques Martinerie
Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2, 229-239 (April 2001)

Further, if you had at least some authority in the subject, you'd recognize what a powerful tool lesion studies are. If you make topology changes to a network and you monitor the resulting functional manipulations, you can begin to build an understanding of how brain structure and dynamics relates to brain function. If there were no ethical concerns, this is exactly what we'd do.

Unfortunately for progress in science (but fortunately for humanity) there are large ethical concerns (in fact, in the lab, we have to decerebrate vertebrates before we can connect them to the electrodes so that they don't experience pain) so instead of carving up humans to do the studies, we wait for nature to carve them up (change network topology) or alter network parameters (such as genetic diseases and foreign molecules can cause).
 
  • #37
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Do you see the problem with your statements here? You're dismissing apeiron calling you out on your ignorance, but then you use your ignorance as a defense. Frankly, you're speculating wildly:

Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes
Christof Koch and Naotsugu Tsuchiya
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-22


I took a look at the first paper and the pages you listed say:


"On the other hand, one might hold the view that the conscious process of attending to
something consists in attending to something while being aware of yourself attending to that thing. According to this second idea consciously attending to something is in part
different from simply attending to something because in the case where attention is
conscious we are aware of our own attending."




Also:

"How could one explicate the non-attributive aspect of the phenomenology of
attention? I believe that there are two plausible candidates. On the one hand, on can say
that the conscious process of attending to something is a particular mode of being
conscious of something with its own sui generis phenomenology. Just like being visually
conscious of, say, a certain shape and being tactily conscious of that shape might be
different modes of being conscious of that shape, being attentively conscious of something
would be again another mode of being conscious."




This is somehow evidence that consciousness and especially self-awareness are understood? Or even close to being undestood? This is somehow NOT speculation and what i said(that self-awareness isn't understood) is speculation? Really??




Further, if you had at least some authority in the subject, you'd recognize what a powerful tool lesion studies are.


You didn't read what i had said and you are responding to things i never said or implied. I never said that mental disorders didn't represent an oportunity for developing a host of practical applications on medicine. On the contrary, i said the opposite! So yes, big surpirze!, brain lesions are a powerful tool, as you say. Now explain to me how the predominant view in neuroscience(brain is/will be enough to explain everything, because brain is most likely all that exists) can explain awareness.

If you make topology changes to a network and you monitor the resulting functional manipulations, you can begin to build an understanding of how brain structure and dynamics relates to brain function.



Excuse me, we are still talking about consciousness, the process of being conscious and self-aware. Did you see the thread title? If you know or have a suggestion how the brain architecture relates or might relate to consciousness, please share this with us. The paper you quoted didn't have that information, hence my comment about awareness being a very BIG unknown stays unchallenged.



Unfortunately for progress in science (but fortunately for humanity) there are large ethical concerns (in fact, in the lab, we have to decerebrate vertebrates before we can connect them to the electrodes so that they don't experience pain) so instead of carving up humans to do the studies, we wait for nature to carve them up (change network topology) or alter network parameters (such as genetic diseases and foreign molecules can cause).

Show me HOW these studies will help us understand subjective conscious experience, logic, thought, aerodynamics, space-flight or intelligence. I don't wish to repeat myself that claims like "we are not really conscious", "conscious experience isn't quite real and what the average Joe thinks it is" is pseudo-science. Science that fails to explain the obvious, is pseudo-science. What you have been reading AS science in that paper you linked to, especially the quoted bits above, is quite obviously philosophy. So if you insist that you or your preferred authors are authorities, at least be consciously aware(you can) that you can't be an authority in philosophy(philosophy doesn't usually deal with empirical tests, and when there are, they usually have even larger philosophical implications). And really, this isn't much different than situation with the interpretations of quantum theory, which on its own, can't explain the world we observe. Imagine someone having a very strong opinion on a preffered interpretation stating his philosophy as somehow being authoritive(i have been witness to this and it often didn't end well)
 
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  • #38
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I think that’s where you’re getting to regarding the “http://sussex.academia.edu/TomMcCle...sis_A_Hybrid_Account_of_Phenomenal_Qualities"”, that this new physical description of nature must somehow describe the properties of our mental experiences. I’ve heard that suggested before but don’t see any way that could be done given how much we know about physical interactions today. Seems to me we’ve already painted ourselves into the proverbial corner by the way we’ve conceived of what is physical.
It might be the case that our physical theories no matter how much they advance will never be able to accommodate experiential phenomena because of our own cognitive limitations. And yet we know more about the experiential than anything else. Furthermore, it is the experiential that supplies all the evidence for our measurements and for the laws of physics.

On the other hand, it’s quite possible (as some authors above argue) that what may appear as “radical/brute” emergence at present (mental events from brains) will be seen as “ordinary” emergence in the future as our conception of matter progresses. But, the argument put forth by many of the authors above is that there is no hint whatsoever (and I agree) of that happening within our present conceptions of matter. What is claimed is that the reduction base including core physics isn’t there yet. So it’s like going back to the 1800s and trying to reduce chemical laws to the physical (Newtonian) laws of that time. There was an explanatory gap between chemistry and physics and this gap never was filled because the physics was wrong. Unification (not reduction) of chemistry and physics occurred after the physics was changed (e.g. via quantum mechanics). So as the argument goes, the same thing is happening now. We are trying to unify the mental aspects of the world with our current conceptions of physical (the brain) and we can’t because our understanding of the latter as a physical system may be misconceived.

How do we get planetory orbits from mechanical/contact mechanics? We don't. Therefore we give up the mechanical philosophy. As Newton did with a lot of hesitation...What Newton held to be so great an absurdity that no philosophical thinker could light upon it, is prized by posterity as Newton's great discovery of the harmony of the universe." (Lange, the History of Materialism)

So how do we get a mental event from the brain? Maybe we can't because we don't know the right stuff about the brain as a physical system. That's the basic argument.
 
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  • #39
Pythagorean
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Maui,

Theory is not Philosophy.

You've (not surprisingly) moved the goal post. Both Friston and Varela provide empirically testable models, you responded with the loaded word "understand". Did you willfully ignore the empirical claims in these papers? Really? And then you took such a long time to reply with nothing?

In Varela's case, he refers to sychrony. Here's a paper from ten years ago to outline the experimental end of that. So not only is this scientific theory, it is scientific theory with valid evidence supporting it:

Transient Interhemispheric Neuronal Synchrony Correlates with Object Recognition
Tatsuya Mima, Tomi Oluwatimilehin, Taizo Hiraoka, and Mark Hallett
The Journal of Neuroscience, 1 June 2001, 21(11): 3942-3948

In fact, the synchronicity dynamics of subregions of the brain have a very meaningful resemblance to the internal state of the subject, you will find time and time again if you actually look through the scientific literature.

If you know how to follow citations (in both directions), you have a giant handful of papers in front of you to read before you ever speculate again. This abstract conveniently has links to get you started. I hope I really don't hear any more ignorant posts from you know that you have all the resources you need to not make ignorant posts. I openly enjoy criticism, but it actually has to be relevant to the current state of understanding:

http://neuro.cjb.net/content/21/11/3942.short
 
  • #40
apeiron
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This is somehow evidence that consciousness and especially self-awareness are understood? Or even close to being undestood? This is somehow NOT speculation and what i said(that self-awareness isn't understood) is speculation? Really??
On the contrary, the paper shows that "consciousness" is not some simple unitary state (that can therefore be the target of some simplisitic material theory) but a complex process.

A systems approach to hierarchical organisation says a process is an interaction between the bottom-up and the top-down. So "consciousness" arises as a mix of habits and attention in a complex, non unitary way. And in the lab, it is possible to start teasing out this fact.

So contrast the non-scientific view of mind (as some experiencing soul stuff) vs the scientific view (as a complex world model, based on anticipatory/hierarchical processing principles). It is pretty clear which should be the starting point in any philosophical debate these days.
 
  • #41
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Maui,

Theory is not Philosophy.


YOU linked a paper and the pages you highlighted were quite OBVIOUSLY full of philosophy. And i said that much.



You've (not surprisingly) moved the goal post. Both Friston and Varela provide empirically testable models, you responded with the loaded word "understand". Did you willfully ignore the empirical claims in these papers? Really? And then you took such a long time to reply with nothing?


I was out of town today and i replied the first time i got hold of my pc. I'd appreciate if you could highlight a specific part of a paper(like you did with the philosophy bit in "Attention and consciousness: two distinct brain processes") instead of throwing in papers. I don't expect you to evade my questions on consciousness further by providing links. If you understand the answers to the topic, provide answers in your own words.

In Varela's case, he refers to sychrony. Here's a paper from ten years ago to outline the experimental end of that. So not only is this scientific theory, it is scientific theory with valid evidence supporting it:

Transient Interhemispheric Neuronal Synchrony Correlates with Object Recognition
Tatsuya Mima, Tomi Oluwatimilehin, Taizo Hiraoka, and Mark Hallett
The Journal of Neuroscience, 1 June 2001, 21(11): 3942-3948

The abstract from the above paper reads:

"Conscious recognition of familiar objects spanning the visual midline induced transient interhemispheric electroencephalographic coherence in the α band, which did not occur with meaningless objects or with passive viewing. Moreover, there was no interhemispheric coherence when midline objects were not recognized as meaningful or when familiar objects were presented in one visual hemifield. These data suggest a close link between site-specific interregional synchronization and object recognition. "




Where in there did you see anything more than a correlation between regional brain synchronization and object recognition and where exactly did I say there didn't exist such?? I still see NO explanation of self-awareness. This proves what? Someone's philosophy is better?

In fact, the synchronicity dynamics of subregions of the brain have a very meaningful resemblance to the internal state of the subject, you will find time and time again if you actually look through the scientific literature.


What is an internal state of the subject? Could you please give specific answers to the questions I am asking, instead of pointing to tons of literature that obviously don't address the topic we are dealing with?




If you know how to follow citations (in both directions), you have a giant handful of papers in front of you to read before you ever speculate again. This abstract conveniently has links to get you started. I hope I really don't hear any more ignorant posts from you know that you have all the resources you need to not make ignorant posts. I openly enjoy criticism, but it actually has to be relevant to the current state of understanding:

http://neuro.cjb.net/content/21/11/3942.short


You have be aware of your own ignorance before you can make judgements. You are the one who speculates, and if you continue to do so, i may have to report you. My position is of course much much easier to defend(that consciousness and awareness are an unknown, unless you think consciousness doesn't exist), whereas yours hinges on some experiments, lots of personal interpretations and speculative theories. So answer this simple question:

Are we conscious? Are you?

(don't ask me to define what i mean by "being conscious", use the commonly agreed definition - being aware of oneself and the environment). If you fail to answer this question, i will copy/paste it till you do.
 
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  • #42
Pythagorean
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Once again, the papers are theoretical neuroscience papers, not philosophy papers. The difference is that theoretical statements are falsifiable (that doesn't always mean they're right, of course) while philosophical statements are not.

These papers all deal with models of awareness; "object recognition" is a specific awareness task. The internal states are reported by the human subject, or by known behavioral cues. Self-awareness is a particular type of awareness.

It is incorrect, what you say, that we are merely correlating structure with function. That is tip of the iceberg. The deeper, more complex part is the dynamics associated with internal events.

During the response onset, the striate–motor pattern changes (green lines) sharply, whereas it remains stable for the striate–parietal pair (red lines). b | Maps of significant coherence values after the stimulation, expressed as lines between recording sites, mapped onto the brain of one of the monkeys. Note the appreciable extent of large-scale interdependencies.
If you are asking, on the other hand, how matter can have a subjective experience (which is only a very small piece of the study of consciousness) that is still the hard problem, naturally! But you must realize that's a lot like asking "what causes the gravitational force to attract mass" or "what causes opposite charges to be attracted?".

We never answer these questions; we only find the mechanisms, which are more mechanisms, which we must the find the mechanisms for. We still don't have a mechanisms for entropy or conservation of energy. They're just laws that we accept.

So, to the end that we discover in all other fields of science, we are discovering consciousness every day.
 
  • #43
apeiron
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If you are asking, on the other hand, how matter can have a subjective experience (which is only a very small piece of the study of consciousness) that is still the hard problem, naturally!
Yes, there are two ways now of looking at the hard problem. One of them is informed by the available science.

If your presumption is that consciousness must be explained as some very primitive material feature of reality, then there is a large explantory gap because it seems clear, from our current best theories of primitive material reality (ie: micro-physics) that you can't recognise anything like consciousness in those theories.

But if your presumption is instead that consciousness is an emergent aspect of systems complexity, then a huge amount of phenomenology is now explainable.

Of course there is a hard problem in that eventually any theory runs into the problem of self-referentiality and the lack of counterfactuals. A theory of the universe is the same. We can say what it is, but not why it is, unless we can imagine in some measurable way what it is not.

So "primary qualia" like the smell or redness of a rose is the kind of very reduced notion of experience that lacks counterfactuals and leaves us with an untheorisable explanatory residue. If we can't measure a difference, we can't build a model around it.

But again, this is a standard modelling hard problem. And with consciousness, the glass seems much nearer full than empty.

And more to the point, the problem is clearly epistemological rather than ontological. It is not that we don't understand material reality well enough and so need to keep searching for new physics. It is just that our models of reality have this kind of inbuilt epistemic limit. There is always going to be a residual explantory gap because of the way models must couple to measurements.

The textbooks can tell you in terms of neural architecture why you see red instead of blue. There is a measurable distinction to drive the models. But modelling runs out of steam when the choice is red and...red again...only ever red. And it is only "your" red, as we can't even contrast yours and mine to see if it is the same/different.

This is the obvious fact that supports the hard problem. At some point, it becomes impossible to measure a difference. So science must fail at that point.

But meanwhile, people actually interested in how the mind works can spend years just scratching the surface of what we already know.
 
  • #44
Q_Goest
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Hi Bohm,
So it’s like going back to the 1800s and trying to reduce chemical laws to the physical (Newtonian) laws of that time. There was an explanatory gap between chemistry and physics and this gap never was filled because the physics was wrong. Unification (not reduction) of chemistry and physics occurred after the physics was changed (e.g. via quantum mechanics). So as the argument goes, the same thing is happening now. We are trying to unify the mental aspects of the world with our current conceptions of physical (the brain) and we can’t because our understanding of the latter as a physical system may be misconceived.

How do we get planetory orbits from mechanical/contact mechanics? We don't. Therefore we give up the mechanical philosophy. As Newton did with a lot of hesitation...What Newton held to be so great an absurdity that no philosophical thinker could light upon it, is prized by posterity as Newton's great discovery of the harmony of the universe." (Lange, the History of Materialism)
The problem I see with all these examples/analogies is they regard objective phenomena. They regard how things interact. Similarly, we could say we don't have much of a clue how dark matter or dark energy work, but we know something needs an explanation because of the objectively observable phenomena - motions of galaxies, bending of light, etc....

As mentioned previously, I don't see how pinning down additional observable phenomena that occur within the brain will ever aid in explaining why subjective experiences should occur simply because we're not looking for an objectively observable phenomena. Knowing how and why every observable molecule in the brain does what it does says nothing about our subjective experience and never will because explaining interactions are the wrong kind of explanations to look for when explaining subjective phenomena. That will only ever work for objective phenomena.
 
  • #45
apeiron
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Knowing how and why every observable molecule in the brain does what it does says nothing about our subjective experience and never will because explaining interactions are the wrong kind of explanations to look for when explaining subjective phenomena. That will only ever work for objective phenomena.
I can't see the grounds for your assertion here.

Compare these two statements.

1) You know everything about some collection of molecules - but they are just a collection of gunk in a glass jar.

2) You know everything about some collection of molecules - and they are arranged as a functioning brain.

Now what difference is there here apart from the fact that one collection lacks organisation and the other has a definite organisation?

So clearly, it is not about the substance but about the form. You need a theory that is about interactions and organisation to even be talking about what is relevant.

Where now is the a priori argument that a theory of neural organisation must fail?
 
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  • #46
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I take issue with this too Q_Goest, mostly the extreme way in which you've worded it: "nothing". I don't mean to say functional neuroanatomy (and of course, neurodynamics!) tell you "everything" about subjective experience or will give you complete understanding, but do you really believe it tells you nothing about subjective experience?

Do you really think that the line you draw between what is objective and subjective is... well... objective?
 
  • #47
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As mentioned previously, I don't see how pinning down additional observable phenomena that occur within the brain will ever aid in explaining why subjective experiences should occur simply because we're not looking for an objectively observable phenomena. Knowing how and why every observable molecule in the brain does what it does says nothing about our subjective experience and never will because explaining interactions are the wrong kind of explanations to look for when explaining subjective phenomena. That will only ever work for objective phenomena.
I think Nagel made that same point where he wrote:

“If our idea of the physical ever expands to include mental phenomena, it will have to assign them an objective character-whether or not this is done by analyzing them in terms of other phenomena already regarded as physical.”

Chomsky responds:

“this argument presupposes some fixed notion of the ‘objective world’ which excludes subjective experience, but it is hard to see why we should pay any more attention to that notion, whatever it may be, than to one that excludes action at a distance or other exotic ideas that were regarded as unintelligible or ridiculous at earlier periods, even by outstanding scientists.”

Chomsky, in fact, does posit such mental objects/representations in his linguist theories.

Strawson who is a panpsychist makes this point even more bluntly:

Many philosophers think that there’s a major puzzle in the existence of experience. But the appearance of a puzzle arises only given an assumption there is no reason to make. This is the assumption that we know something about the intrinsic nature of the physical that gives us reason to think that it cannot itself be experiential. It’s not just that this assumption is false. There is in fact zero evidence for the existence of anything non-experiential in the universe. There never has been any evidence, and never will be. What we have instead is a wholly unsupported assumption about our capacity to know the nature of things (in particular the physical) which must be put severely in doubt by the fact that it seems to create this puzzle if by nothing else.

One of the most important—revelatory—experiences a philosopher brought up in the Western tradition can have is to realize that this assumption has no respectable foundation. This experience is life-changing, philosophically, but it comes only to some—although the point is elementary. The fact that physics has no terms specifically for experiential phenomena (I’m putting aside the view that reference to conscious observers is essential in quantum mechanics) is not evidence in support of the view that experience doesn’t exist. It isn’t even evidence in support of the view that something non-experiential exists.

Note that there’s no tension between the view that the physical is at bottom wholly experiential and the view that physics and cosmology, and indeed the other sciences—get a very great deal right about the structure of reality.

http://reading.academia.edu/GalenStrawson/Papers
 
  • #48
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https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=3259211&postcount=157" believes that the mind-body problem is nothing more than a "translation barrier" between the first and third person accounts. So he concludes that "if you can overcome them, the problems vanish". No, they don't, they just get deeper. If we want to unify what we refer to as "mental" and "physical" ("the world of qualia and the material world"), I don't see how we can do this in favor of the "physical". The problems that arise are that we either have to sacrifice the casual status of what we refer to as "mental" (the intentionality), or we have to throw away the "what-it-is-like" aspect (the phenomenal). If we want to keep both, we should change our understanding of what we refer to as "physical".
 
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  • #49
apeiron
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There is in fact zero evidence for the existence of anything non-experiential in the universe. There never has been any evidence, and never will be. What we have instead is a wholly unsupported assumption about our capacity to know the nature of things (in particular the physical) which must be put severely in doubt by the fact that it seems to create this puzzle if by nothing else.
http://reading.academia.edu/GalenStrawson/Papers
Strawson's argument here is that stones, mushrooms and glasses of water could be "experiential" and we can have no evidence to disprove that.

But you can see that this claim in turns depends on consciousness having no material consequences. If awareness had actual objective properties, it would give itself away when present in an inanimate object or material.

Now why should we believe this claim that consciousness is just naked experiencing and not intentional, dispositional or otherwise causal? Why should we believe its essence is passive and not active?

Well, it turns out even Strawson seems to doubt this part of his own story.

He says something extra is going on in humans (perhaps higher animals) to make consciousness now intentional, active, dispositional. There is something that it is like to be thinking and having ideas. Something that is over and above mere sensing/feeling (like a good philosopher, he justifies this distinction on the basis that it is "mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive", LOL).

So now we have a way to tell humans from rocks. One of them has thoughts about doing things, experiential states that make an objective difference. Just try to meditate and still the mind and we can see how restless our thoughts make us.

Strawson allows this is a recent evolutionary advance. And it would likely be connected with "neural goings on".

So we have a new story where we claim to believe that all materials things may have sensing/feeling, but this is conveniently unobservable. And this "fact" about nature is so incredible that it should shake us of any belief we understand material reality at all. It is quite literally a revolutionary realisation.

But then, on the other hand, the very things that we might be quite sure to be conscious - such as humans and large brained vertebrates - have this second higher-order form of experiencing that Strawson calls cognitive. And this is conveniently observable as it leads to dispositions, intentions, actions.

So we now also have a crisp reason why humans and animals behave as if they are aware (...if not yet any explanation of why stones and mushrooms should lack cognitive experience, or why "neural goings on" are suddenly key to this second kind of experiencing without actually deserving credit for being the material basis of his distinction).

Well, talk about trying to have your cake and eat it. :zzz:
 
  • #50
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Now why should we believe this claim that consciousness is just naked experiencing and not intentional, dispositional or otherwise causal? Why should we believe its essence is passive and not active?...He says something extra is going on in humans (perhaps higher animals) to make consciousness now intentional, active, dispositional.
Well, I'm guessing he would argue that is just "emergence" on the experiential side?
 

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