Evidence of the Mind?

JHenson
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Evidence of the Mind?

This is purely for curiosity, and my expectation is that athiests have an internally-consistent answer. Still, I'm curious.

Can an athiest provide evidence of the human mind, i.e. sentience?

I've taken part in only a handful of threads here, and the constant demand is evidence or proof of God - so far physical, observable evidence. I don't (yet) know of any physically observable evidence supporting sentience. I am assuming that atheists commonly accept sentience as fact.

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Just the fact that people

Just the fact that people are able to reason - certainly be impossible to have progressed with technology, etc so far without sentience. Of course sentience is hard to define, too.

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I think I'm actually using

I think I'm actually using the word "sentience" too broadly... "consciousness" seems a better term. I hope my meaning was at least clear. I don't want to discount self-awareness, which the word "sentience" alone can.

MattShizzle wrote:
Just the fact that people are able to reason - certainly be impossible to have progressed with technology, etc so far without sentience. Of course sentience is hard to define, too.

Can you provide physical evidence of reason?

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So Descartes was walking

So Descartes was walking down the street when a man approaches him

 

Man: I have read your work and, my good sir, I think you are an idiot.

Descartes: My good sir I would think NOT!

 

*poof* Descartes disappears.


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JHenson wrote: Can you

JHenson wrote:
Can you provide physical evidence of reason?

From how I understand it (and I might be wrong). Todangst sure ly could give you the answer you are looking for. Physical evidence of reason is in the firing pattern of synapses in the brain. The brain is responsible for reason, but it is a sum of it's parts, there is not one single neuron responsible for any one function.


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BGH wrote: From how I

BGH wrote:
From how I understand it (and I might be wrong). Todangst sure ly could give you the answer you are looking for. Physical evidence of reason is in the firing pattern of synapses in the brain. The brain is responsible for reason, but it is a sum of it's parts, there is not one single neuron responsible for any one function.

I guess I'd like to hear what Todangst has to say, then.  Are there older threads I could read?  I understand where we might draw a parallel (and quite reasonably, don't mistake me) between neural synapse activity and reason, but I'm not aware of physically observable evidence of reason in the first place.  We can draw the corrolation because we assume reason is factual.

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JHenson wrote: ...I'm not

JHenson wrote:
...I'm not aware of physically observable evidence of reason in the first place.  We can draw the corrolation because we assume reason is factual.

Cpt_pineapple (not an atheist) already alluded to the answer, but I think the best response is "I think therefore I am". The fact that we do reason proves that reason occurs.

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Can you prove that you

Can you prove that you reason?  Can you demonstrate your experience of reason to me, so that I can observe it?

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First, I think we are

First, I think we are talking about two different ideas when you talk about the existence of reason and the existence of God. God, although slightly abstract would have to exist in order to be able to create, judge, forgive, and do all the things he supposedly does. Reason, on the other hand, is a man made abstraction that is not directly observable, so to speak.

However, we can test it scientifically by setting up a set of criteria and infer if an indivdiual is reasonable or not. In fact, the majority of the social sciences are based on this idea. For instance we don't know what intelligence looks like. We can't see it. However, we can observe it when we give somebody an objective test. The same idea goes for depression and schizophrenia. We can also see these through brain scans, which is what BGH was sort of alluding to through neuronal firing. However, we cannot observe the hallucinations that the schizophrnic is experiencing and we can't see the self-defeating thoughts and negative thinking of the person who is depressed. We infer that they have this or suffer from that based on their behaviors and self-reports, which are measured by objective tests. These tests and scientifically and statistically tested. For example, most individuals who are diagnosed with depression will score this on the test when compared to those who do not have the disorder.

All this being said. You can apply the same idea to reason. We actually call some portions of I.Q. tests, tests of reasoning ability. Although, I don't think they are measuring what you are suggesting. I do think that this is how you could obserive reason.

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JHenson wrote: Can you

JHenson wrote:
Can you prove that you reason?  Can you demonstrate your experience of reason to me, so that I can observe it?

Actually, now that I think about it, cogito isn't exactly right, because it proves existence on the basis of thought, it doesn't prove thought.

Actually, the above is an example of reasoning, so yes, in being wrong, and then realizing that I was wrong, I can prove that I can reason.

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RationalSchema

RationalSchema wrote:
First, I think we are talking about two different ideas when you talk about the existence of reason and the existence of God. ... Reason ... is a man made abstraction that is not directly observable, so to speak.

Yes, we certainly would be.  I'm actually trying to leave God out of this particular discussion.  I would, however, argue that reason is an abstract concept, but not man-made (apart from the language and philosophy to understand it, but that applies to anything).  I'm content to simply disagree on the need to specify a creator for this thread, if that's all right.

RationalSchema wrote:
However, we can test it scientifically by setting up a set of criteria and infer if an indivdiual is reasonable or not. In fact, the majority of the social sciences are based on this idea. For instance we don't know what intelligence looks like. We can't see it. However, we can observe it when we give somebody an objective test. The same idea goes for depression and schizophrenia. We can also see these through brain scans, which is what BGH was sort of alluding to through neuronal firing. However, we cannot observe the hallucinations that the schizophrnic is experiencing and we can't see the self-defeating thoughts and negative thinking of the person who is depressed. We infer that they have this or suffer from that based on their behaviors and self-reports, which are measured by objective tests. These tests and scientifically and statistically tested. For example, most individuals who are diagnosed with depression will score this on the test when compared to those who do not have the disorder.

This is an idea I had considered a bit, but one thing troubles me.  It's reliant on second-hand information.  Outside of a formal discussion, I presume we're informed on the workings of a mind (our own) by first-hand experience.  In a strictly empirical sense though (and the thrust of my question), we have no first-hand knowledge of anyone else's mind apart from what they tell us.  We can assemble theories only on the assumption that we have accurate reports.

The conversation could be further compounded by introducing the notion of mental illness (and the necessary contrast of mental health which defines it).  How can we judge this?  I think that's beyond this discussion, since the various mental disciplines themselves don't fully agree.

rexlunae wrote:
Actually, the above is an example of reasoning, so yes, in being wrong, and then realizing that I was wrong, I can prove that I can reason.

This is close to compelling.  I don't mean to simply be difficult, but I must essentially "take your word for it" that reasoning took place.  You've said what seems like a reasonable conclusion, but couldn't it also be a social instinct played out in the complex communication of our species?  Both things seem like logical leaps to me.  We see the result, and have a common hypothesis of cause, but it can't really be proven.  No physical evidence can be rendered.

I somewhat said it above, but I want to be clear.  I'm not pressing this question to be difficult or to pull out some proof of God from getting someone to say they can't render evidence of the mind.  As I said before the question, I honestly expect a reasonable answer to proof of consciousness.

Obviously I think there is a God, and obviously the athiests here do not.  I have been confronted with demands of evidence, so I am hoping to better understand what qualifies as sufficient evidence.  It may be that belief in the mind is entirely inductive - I have a mind, therefore everyone has a mind, and corroborating if circumstantial evidence is sufficient proof.

Still, I want to carry out the discussion sufficiently to explore its depth, because I think it may be very deep indeed.

"The map appears more real to us than the land." - Lawrence


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JHenson wrote: I don't

JHenson wrote:

I don't (yet) know of any physically observable evidence supporting sentience. 

 Then why are you posting here? 

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JHenson wrote: Can you

JHenson wrote:
Can you prove that you reason?

No need. Proofs are for deductive logic. I don't need deductive logic to demonstrate to myself that I reason: the fact that I reason is axiomatic, and defended through retortion.

 

 

Quote:

Can you demonstrate your experience of reason to me, so that I can observe it?

If you haven't already picked up my answer from my last post, I'll be more explicit: your question is predicated on the fact that you already accept that there is evidence that others reason.

By the way, all evidence is physical - if we can't see it, touch it, feel it, hear it, smell it... how else can we 'know of it'?

 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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rexlunae wrote: Actually,

rexlunae wrote:
Actually, now that I think about it, cogito isn't exactly right, because it proves existence on the basis of thought, it doesn't prove thought. 

Yes it does. In fact, that's precisely what it does. 

It absolutely demonstrates the axiomatic nature of one's own thoughts. That's precisely what the cogito demonstrates.

To exist is to exist as something... you can't have existence apart from some 'thing' existing... Descartes learned that when you attempt to doubt everything, you necessarily have to accept the existence of doubt.... so he demonstrated thought was axiomatic in nature.

 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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JHenson wrote: but I'm not

JHenson wrote:

but I'm not aware of physically observable evidence of reason in the first place.  

Yes, you are actually.. you're just missing it.  Your comments here on the board are necessarily predicated on your acceptance of the existence of evidence of reason: our posts.

We learn about the consciousness of others through behavior.

Now, do we need to talk about philosophical zombies? May I say "ugh" first? 

 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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Reason is just operating

Reason is just operating upon abstract thought.  We can prove that we think (neurology), and we abstract concepts all the time (from simple abstractions like "thing A is a cat because it has properties like a cat" to harder abstractions like "a good approach to determining if a given series I've never seen before converges is to use the 'integral' test&quotEye-wink.  In both cases, the example has never been seen before, however abstract and reason what it is (cat or infinite series), we then act upon other abstract thoughts (properties of a cat, properties of infinite series, and properties of the integral test), and use additional abstracted thoughts to perform the actions necessary to come to a conclusion.  In all those cases, reason allows us to get the conclusion; observations, rules, and logic act upon thoughts.  Yes, we most certainly think (neurons communicating with neurons); I am not a neurologist, however I work with several of them, and it is not even remotely difficult to prove that thought occurs.

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canofbutter wrote:   I am

canofbutter wrote:
  I am not a neurologist, however I work with several of them, and it is not even remotely difficult to prove that thought occurs.

It's not even necessary to prove that we, ourselves, have consciousness: it is axiomatic that we are conscious.  This is the most secure knowledge we can have, it is even more basic than deduction, is the most basic knowlege of all - a metaphysical axiom.

There is, however, a problem in philosophy called the 'problem of other minds". Yes, I know that I am conscious, that I reason, this is necessarily true by the very nature of awareness of self. But how do I know that others reason just as I do?

This usually brings up 'philosophical zombie' talk, and honestly, I'd rather go watch the copy of "dawn of the dead" that I just rented, if I'm going to be thinking of zombies tonight... 

 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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todangst

todangst wrote:

canofbutter wrote:
I am not a neurologist, however I work with several of them, and it is not even remotely difficult to prove that thought occurs.

It's not even necessary to prove that we, ourselves, have consciousness: it is axiomatic that we are conscious. This is the most secure knowledge we can have, it is even more basic than deduction, is the most basic knowlege of all - a metaphysical axiom.

There is, however, a problem in philosophy called the 'problem of other minds". Yes, I know that I am conscious, that I reason, this is necessarily true by the very nature of awareness of self. But how do I know that others reason just as I do?

This usually brings up 'philosophical zombie' talk, and honestly, I'd rather go watch the copy of "dawn of the dead" that I just rented, if I'm going to be thinking of zombies tonight...

That comment meant more to show that based on our mapping of the brain we show that other people think and that such thought is similar to our own thoughts by comparing the results (or at least that it can be shown). Being I'm not a nuerologist, the specifics of this process are not completely known to me.

Determining if others reason as well is unnecessary; all that matters is the result of what they do (we ourselves can reason the rest).

I've never seen "Dawn of the Dead", but all this zombie talk has me wanting to go back and shoot some zombies in "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". Smiling

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 I'm Playing Dead Rising

 I'm Playing Dead Rising (Xbox 360). It's a really fun zombie game.

Sounds made up...
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We don't need physical

We don't need physical evidence of our minds because we have an even more direct experience of them. Consciousness is necessary for any thought so for there to be such thing as 'reason' and/or 'physical evidence' our mind must be in place. It seems queer to ask for evidence of reason because using evidence is a form of reasoning.

Personally, I dislike the "there's no evidence" arguments against God as I find them misleading. Evidentialism (the theory that all knowledge depends on evidence) is false which is clear from cases like Mathematics. A better way to express our skepticism towards God would be to ask you exactly what God is, (i.e. what is this God you believe in? When you use the word God do you even understand what you are talking about?) and how we could know that such a God exists. Then we could establish whether God was the kind of thing that required evidence. As it is, I've yet to be given a meaningful understanding of what God actually is. Nothing for me could be evidence of God because I don't know what the word God means. It's like me claiming that rain is evidence of a quimbo and that therefore you should believe that quimbos exist.


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Dear OP, I can prove to you

Dear OP, I can prove to you that your consciousness exists, though it will be an indirect proof, and it will be a proof that you will certainly NOT want to undergo yourself.

We already identify most of the elements of what you may call "consciousness" as processes of different parts of the brain. Take out that part of the brain, and that consciousness element goes away as well. See where I'm getting?

So, which part of your consciousness do you want me to demonstrate it only depends on the brain? The ability to recognize others ("Red Ribbon" Syndrome)? The ability to communicate (aphasy)? The ability to recognize and control your own body (callosal disconnection)? Or do you want to undergo a very fun experiment: take out the whole brain, let's see whether there's any "you" left ? Haunt me this tuesday at 6 o'clock GMT if you're still there.

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First thing is you have to

First thing is you have to define consciousness.

 

I am self aware of my own existence, therefore I define my self as consciousness (this is a definition not proof)

Other people act in a very similar way to me in most circumstances therefore I define them as having consciousness

 

This against isnt proof but is observable evidence.

As other human beings act as I do I am 99.99% certain they are also self aware

 

Gets far more complicated when you try to define self awareness for non human beings, computers for instance


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todangst wrote: This

todangst wrote:
This usually brings up 'philosophical zombie' talk, and honestly, I'd rather go watch the copy of "dawn of the dead" that I just rented, if I'm going to be thinking of zombies tonight...

Maybe I misunderstand the zombie argument. But my understanding of it is that it asks the reader to imagine a being -- a zombie -- who is indistinguishable from a conscious human in every way, but they're not conscious, with no qualia or perceptions. Then, it is argued, this proves that the mind cannot be material, because the zombie would be materialistically the same as a human but not conscious. But this strikes me as circular -- assuming that there's a being materially identical to humans but with no mind implicitly requires that the mind not be material. I'm sure I've got the argument wrong, because I can't imagine the circularity objection not having been noticed earlier.

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Strafio wrote: We don't

Strafio wrote:
We don't need physical evidence of our minds because we have an even more direct experience of them.

It is very interesting that people hold that 'physical evidence' is the best 'proof' of a claim! Ironic in fact.

If we know something deductively, then we know it certainly. This is better than physical evidence (Plato was right on that.)

If we know something axiomatically, its even 'better' than knowing it deductively, in that we don't even need a proof.

People tend to read this as saying "We can't prove it" as if that's something bad.... in most cases, it is... but when it comes to axioms, its not, because axioms are more basic than any deductive argument.

Quote:
 

Personally, I dislike the "there's no evidence" arguments against God as I find them misleading. Evidentialism (the theory that all knowledge depends on evidence) is false which is clear from cases like Mathematics. 

I agree, but the theist typically contradicts himself here, in that he holds that there is evidence for his 'god'. Sauce for the goose.

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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JeremiahSmith

JeremiahSmith wrote:

todangst wrote:
This usually brings up 'philosophical zombie' talk, and honestly, I'd rather go watch the copy of "dawn of the dead" that I just rented, if I'm going to be thinking of zombies tonight...

Maybe I misunderstand the zombie argument. But my understanding of it is that it asks the reader to imagine a being -- a zombie -- who is indistinguishable from a conscious human in every way, but they're not conscious, with no qualia or perceptions. Then, it is argued, this proves that the mind cannot be material, because the zombie would be materialistically the same as a human but not conscious. But this strikes me as circular -- assuming that there's a being materially identical to humans but with no mind implicitly requires that the mind not be material. I'm sure I've got the argument wrong, because I can't imagine the circularity objection not having been noticed earlier.

The concept of 'qualia' is even more dead than philosophical zombie talk. 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


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todangst wrote: The concept

todangst wrote:
The concept of 'qualia' is even more dead than philosophical zombie talk.

Yeah, I've read Dennett's writings on qualia. Can't remember much of them, though. But is my basic argument of circularity right?

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I think my basic interest

I think my basic interest from the original question has been answered in the many replies since my last post.  One of two conclusions seemed necessary, and I was curious which would be reached.  Either a) evidence of minds beyond the personal one could be rendered, or b) evidence is not the only criteria for accepting knowledge.

Just to hammer home the clarity of my previous disclaimers: I'm not trying to prove God somehow with this discussion, just validating what is accepted among this community as sources for knowledge.  Hopefully, it can illuminate common ground from which we can talk.

To respond briefly to some comments made:

Yes, I think there is evidence of God, but not direct evidence.  Essentially, it would be validating proof with an existing assumption of God.  That's nothing new though, and irrelevant without that existing assumption (therefore, irrelevant to theist/athiest debate).

I don't think consciousness itself is axiomatic, although my consciousness can be (whomever the speaker may be).  We infer that others have consciousness through observing their actions (results).  Our actions, derived from consciousness, mirror those of other people.  No contradictions exist to this theory, either.  It makes the theory extremely probable, but not axiomatic.

That is, unless you mean "axiomatic" in terms of something necessarily accepted to allow for further discussion.  Certainly that's true, but historically many axioms have ultimately been refuted and proven false.  The shape of the world is a fairly classical example.  I wouldn't call that better than deduction.

Also, acceptance of consciousness as a human universal would be inductive, not deductive.  I'm not about to demand validation of inductive reasoning, though.  I consider it a necessary thought process for survival and development, whether valid or not.

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todangst wrote: It is very

todangst wrote:
It is very interesting that people hold that 'physical evidence' is the best 'proof' of a claim! Ironic in fact.

I think it's because the first form of 'proof' we encounter in our practical lives (scientific experiments and detective stories) are of the physical sort. That's what we come to associate with the methods.

Quote:
I agree, but the theist typically contradicts himself here, in that he holds that there is evidence for his 'god'. Sauce for the goose.

Yeah. When I was naive of formal philosophical approaches and was mostly relying on intuition, theists who claimed to base their beliefs on evidence immediately lost credibility with me. My religious interest was in exploring the 'above and beyond', the area that modern science hadn't really touched on. Once they tried to explain in terms of everyday science... well, it turned the beliefs from an exploration of the unknown and unexplored to an inferior version of explored science.

I guess it didn't help that even my limited understand of science could spot they had no clue what they were talking about! Laughing