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Then you explain it!

  1. Oct 24, 2003 #1
    I've been defending Dennett's philosophy of the mind for some time now, on many different threads. It occured to me recently, though (thanks to my good friend, Royce), that these debates have been somewhat one-sided. That is, I have been almost completely on the defensive, while everyone else was picking away at the idea, instead of coming back with their own idea of how consciousness might work.

    Now, I challenge all of those who believe that Dennett's idea isn't good enough (for whatever reason), to present their alternative. Basically, I'm saying "Fine, then how do you explain it?"

    Now, there is more than one facet to Dennett's idea, and you are free to accept some but not others if you want; or you can discard anything that even looks like his theory, and present something completely original.

    I will, of course, be challenging these new ideas on consciousness (as you have all been challenging mine (which is based on Dennett's, mostly - along with a few other people, like Joseph LeDoux)), so I hope you bring something you are prepared to defend.

    As always, all responses are appreciated. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2003 #2


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    I was about to go into a lengthy description of what I believed conciousness to be. I thought I should check out the ideas of Dennett first, to have points to argue from. I find I agree almost totally with what I read, though it was only very superficial 2nd hand info.

    I believe memory to be the imperfect imprinting on our neurological apparatus of sensory information. I believe thought to be the superpostioning of this information in various ways using different neurological apparatus. This new, processed information may also be stored in memory.

    There are complicating subtleties. One such is feedback. Some thought processes may skew the interpretation of sensory input, thereby skewing memory, which, in turn, may skew further thought processes. Also, biological feedback seperate from the neurological system can affect the mind, which in turn can affect those biological systems.

    In brief, I think I agree with you.

  4. Oct 24, 2003 #3
    In most ways that is probably true (that we agree), but I have one slight problem with wording here:

    What is this superpositioning? Do you mean the collections of different stimuli to the different parts of the brain, which we interpret as individual "thoughts"? In that case, I'd say we probably do agree. However, there are other ways that this statement could be taken.
  5. Oct 24, 2003 #4


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    Superpositioning is usually used in discussions of wave mechanics. The most common usage is in fourier series. By taking various trigonometric functions, and multiplying them by different weights and summing them, you can make virtually any function.

    By saying thoughts are the superpositioning of memories, I was trying to convey that our thoughts are assemblies of memories with varied emphasis, rearranged and edited. I would actually venture to say that perhaps our thought processes might push beyond this by tiny increments, but I can't really come up any justification. We can think of all sorts of things we have never experienced, but are they really original? I have never seen a three headed man, but I have seen men, and I have seen heads. It is just a matter of editing to put three of them on one man.

    The accuracy of a fourier series is limited by how many sine and cosine terms you include. The details of your thoughts are limited by the memories you may draw upon to create them.

  6. Oct 24, 2003 #5
    a little to the side here with question about your concept of memory.

    I have often wondered where exactly do we keep all these memories. I mean if you think about it all the hard drives in the world would not be enough to store a memory of 24 hours of living....I would think, if i can remember where i put that file (memory)

    The answer for me is on the ability to sence a memory which isn't stored any where in fact it just stays where you remember it in a time some where in the past. The brains ability to sence the past where the past is, is in fact how we remember.
  7. Oct 27, 2003 #6
    Very interesting insights.

    BTW, if you want to conceive of our using our memory to produce things that we've never seen (like three-headed men and purple cows) just think of the fact that a PC can do this same thing (thus the production of movies like "Shrek"), by drawing on previously stored memory of varying things. The difference between the PC and ourselves (apart from complexity) is that someone has to order the PC to draw from whatever memories that someone choose. With humans, there is no one to make the order, and thus Dennett assumed that multi-tasking ability of neuronal processes (the question/answer game).
  8. Oct 27, 2003 #7
    Such a metaphysical (and much too psuedo-scientific - no offense) approach is not necessary when one remembers that the brain's processes are electrochemical, and that chemical "stains" can be left behind on neurons that have been previously stimulated.
  9. Oct 28, 2003 #8
  10. Oct 28, 2003 #9
    Fist a disclaimer. These are my thoughts and opinions only. They have been developed by long and hard thinking, meditation and observation. I have no material proof nor support for these thoughts.

    The prime ultimate reality is the One. The one God, creator, mind, consciousness and or awareness that is all and the cause of all.

    The universe is created and caused by and is part of this ultimate consciousness. We as individuals are created and caused by and are part of the One. All is One. One is All.

    Consciousness/Awareness is prime and ulitmate and so to us at this time unexplainable. It is. It is real. It is reality.

    The part of the One that is us individually is our soul. It is part of and inseperable from the One or if you prefer God or conscious universe
    The portal or means by which our soul interacts with the physical material world is the mind. The mind is pure energy partly made up of thought which is also energy. It is pressumed that the brain generates thoughts and thus the mind by the electrochemical activity within the neurons and axons. I think that it is the mind that directs the brain probably at the quantum level to think and store thoughts.
    It is the electrochemical processes that control our bodies and keep it alive, whatever that means, and thus effects the material world within and about us.

    Thus there is the ultimate reality which is the conscious aware mind of God, the metaphysical or spiritual reality.

    Next is the the subjective reality of the mind and thought through which the metaphysical effects the physical.

    Finally there is the illusion, the physical, material, which we sense and perceive as physical reality.

    In short the cause - the media - the effect, the metaphysical - the subjective - the material. Not the other way around with the cart before the horse.
  11. Oct 28, 2003 #10


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    Pointing out potential flaws in the reasoning of a hypothesis does not require the critic to come back with his own fully fleshed out hypothesis. How exactly does consciousness work? I'm not sure, get back to me once we've done a lot more research on brain activity and correlated conscious experiences. What I do know is that Dennett's hypothesis is just that; a hypothesis. It must be empirically verified before we go around stating it as a rock solid theory or even a fact.

    By the way, I've been away for a while, but I do plan to continue our discussions in the philosophy forums when time permits. I don't mean for this to branch off into another critique, at length, of Dennett's ideas; that's better left to the other threads. I just want to establish that there is nothing wrong with saying "I'm not sure." Oftentimes it's helpful to flesh out what should not be accepted before we commit to what should be.
  12. Oct 29, 2003 #11
    Re: Re: Then you explain it!

    You sound like Lifegazer to me. I had a long, somewhat drawn-out, debate with Lifegazer over this "all is One" issue, and in the end he just refused to accept the truth: This view is Solipsism, which doesn't logically allow for the existence of seperate minds.

    You can still hold to this view, of course, but it can never be reconciled with science.
  13. Oct 29, 2003 #12
    I never said that Dennett's theory was proven. It's the best I've ever heard - and, in fact, the only one (with the exception of theories that look just like his after some examination) that has explained consciousness at all, in my experience. I need to know what all of these people who believe there must be "more to it" believe the "more" is.

    Glad you're back though. :smile:
  14. Oct 29, 2003 #13
    I side with Dennett but, as Richard Rorty has pointed out (who also sides with Dennett), his fundamental assumptions (or, rather, lack there of) are too different from his critics (Searle, Nagel, Chalmers). If one believes that the mind must have instrinsic features, phenomenological data, then one will regect Dennett's stance. Meh... That is why I have take little interests in the debate - the real battle ground is on the meta-level.
  15. Oct 30, 2003 #14
    Re: Re: Re: Then you explain it!

    I first encountered the philosopy that all is One while reading about Buddhism. It is hardly original with me nor is it Solipsism. During meditation at various times I have experienced the One and being a part of it and seeing that everyone else, including you my friend, are a part of the One. We are all individuals and have our own minds but are all connected and part of the One.

    It is of the ultimate reality that I keep referring to. Your materialistic truth has nothing to do with the truth of the the metaphysical reality of spirit, soul or One. It is not of the material world. If you have never experienced it then there is nothing that I can say that will convince you or anyone else that it is real, more real than the objective material world.
  16. Oct 30, 2003 #15
    Is Dennett a materialist? If so, how can he begin to explain something that he doesn't understand? I'll just leave it at that ...
  17. Oct 30, 2003 #16
    Question: can we say that 'reality' has two sides: a material side and an energy side?. Are we trapped in duality? I propose we go the Hegel analysis. On one side (thesis) you have matter (Einstein said it was spacetime with ripples) and on the other side (antithesis) you have Energy (from which Einstein said it was spacetime with ripples). So the synthesis is: Both are spacetime with ripples (but the quality or combination is different).
    Since Mentat said: As always, all responses are appreciated, I go further.

    If we see Spacetime (but in pure gravity perspective) as the "only" force from which everything is generated ... then this spacetime must be have coupled locally in 'discrete zones' and these 'discrete zones' have coupled again with other zones ... building up systems of more complex order. Remember these zones are just restructured spacetime.
    Einstein talked about ripples ... so oscillations. Now since everything (all these zones of lower and higher levels) come from the same basic spacetime ... they are all influencing each other (we call that gravity) but they are also sensitive for oscillations of other zones. Many layers give more density and rigidity: mass.

    Now to come to sub-consciousness, consciousness and memory. Lets call this level 1, 2 and 3.
    One of our human (and animal) historical spacetime restructuring is DNA.
    Our body is builded after that DNA model and thus our brain too. They are locally unique.

    In our brain we see Electromagnetic activities.
    EM is created by friction of multi-layers of local spacetime. (BTW that's how spacetime [gravity] creates EM, Weak and strong forces: by friction of different types of local spacetime).

    So inside the brain new information adapts the locally stored old information. That's level 3: memory. This is a direct transfer of information (cfr. MNR scans). Microtubulines play a role here. Let's call this the kitchen.

    But since the DNA is everywhere in our body there is a higher resonance (oscillations) on level 2. The body acts as a whole. The DNA spacetime zones are much deeper layered than the cells which make our body. But they also are influencing each other. That's what we could call consciousness: a overhaul communication. Let's call this our house.

    But in DNA you have the genes in which again there are a much deeper oscillations ... and also historical layering. This is level 1. Here we get deep hidden information which Jung would call the collective unconsciousness. Let's call this Internet.

    Now since they all are made by spacetime there is a constant interference of those layers upon each other. Dynamic interaction and constant communication (local but also non-local). ESP is an example of such Non-local communication.

    As you see I try to go to the basic level of spacetime. Starting from there ... no duality.

    Because - in the layering process - each locality (zone) has an history: our universe is non-commutative.
  18. Oct 30, 2003 #17
    What the heck are you talking about? Yes, Dennett is a materialist, but what right do you have to say he doesn't understand his own chosen field, in which he has become quite an authority, and which I believe he has mastered better than all of his predecessors?
  19. Oct 30, 2003 #18
    pelastration, I like it. I don't know about the physics but the concept I like. There is only one reality and no real duelism. It is merely two different aspects of the one reality. How it all interacts and how it is all tied together I don't know but your idea has a certain elegance about it that I like.
  20. Nov 3, 2003 #19
    To postulate that would be against Occam's Razor wouldn't it?

    Please do, but remember that Einstein showed through his most famous equation that matter and energy are interchangeable (in fact, matter is just one form of energy).

    This is only partially correct, and that's because of a generic approach to GR on your part. Einstein didn't really say that everything is just ripples in spacetime, he said that energy produced ripples in spacetime, and that spacetime itself doesn't even exist seperate from some reference body.

    I suppose this is correct enough, except that mass is not really a collection of layers of spacetime; mass is what influences spacetime to "ripple" or "warp" in the first place.

    I'm sorry, but now you are really leaving what is known in science for pure speculation. Remember energy is not really ripples in spacetime, but produces ripples in spacetime, and it thus makes no sense to say that everything material and energetic is just "discrete zones of spacetime". Thus, if we cannot make that postulate in the first place, then it is quantum LEAP beyond what is currently known or believed, to say that the electroweak and the strong forces were produced (and are continuing to be manufactured (as EM, weak, and strong forces)) by friction between different types of local spacetime.

    I'm sorry, but you've now completely lost me. Suffice it to say that you've made much too many unfounded assumptions for me to continue reading one. Perhaps you could clear up these little problems I've pointed out, and then I can continue to try and understand your idea.
  21. Nov 4, 2003 #20
    What right does he have to say that this is not a spiritual phenomenon -- or, at least allude to it by virtue of its omission -- when in fact in all actuality, it is.

    Are you trying to tell me that this three dimensional universe, which some of us call "reality," is totally bereft of motive or meaning? If so, then there would be no "purpose" in discussing it now would there?
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