the nature of the brain

reason_passion
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the nature of the brain

Here's a conversation, rather liberally chopped together to show flow of thought, that occurred a week ago (under the forum topic of "problems i have with most atheists". Any comments are encouraged and the discussion is one that goes to the heart of many a theist's worldview.

pkremida wrote:
Serotonin (or whatever variant of chemicals and such) is not qua happiness. There is the inner experience of it!

the evidence is self-evident. Unless I am talking to an automaton? How are you even thinking if you have no conciousness?

Is happiness merely serotonin in the brain. Certainly, it *is* serotonin in the brain, but what about just the inner experience of it. Just because something *causes* happiness does not make it *happiness in itself*. There is the inner, immaterial realm of experience and emotions that is definable only on its own terms. Does happiness exist without serotonin? Certainly not. The reverse is also true. These are two separate yet intimatly connected things. My point is (and if you read about Ken Wilber's quadrants it will make this much more clear) that equating emotional states as merely chemical reactions is a fallacy. Your every day experience of your very conciousness is immaterial.

reason_passion wrote:
here is a classic case of naturalistic dualism at its finest and I have little doubt that pkremida would find great joy in reading David Chalmers.

Unfortunately for Mr. Chalmers and the young lady here, the problems for said position are rather numerous and have already been outlined by Dennett, Owen Flannagan and a few others. The core of the problem has to do with a certain naive understanding of language and a misunderstanding of the term "self."

Language, as outlined by J. Jaynes and others, has a certain proclivity towards dualism as words are easily misconstrued as existing in themselves and therefore having a life all their own. however, words are indexical, they merely point to something and have no necessity in being real. For those having studied the ontological proof of god, this point should be helpful. Hence, for the present discussion, when someone says "I" or "me" there is an assumption made that the term has much the same meaning as rock or plane, as if it points to some separate entity, when in fact, much like even rock and plane, it merely points to a relation or section of space/time in material reality (Bertrand Russell excellently discusses this). At no time should the terms begin to take on a life of their own, but should be kept in mind that they point to something in particular.

What they point to is determined largely upon your metaphysic, whether explicit or implicit. The issue here is that any singular "experience" you have is impossible to be used in any logical justification for a self in any way removed from the relational system of the brain and all of material reality. To use such an example is inchoherent not only because, neurologically you aren't discussing the event itself but rather a reconstruction of it, but also as to the fact that there is no coherent sense in which you can discuss singular events and get a seamless "self" out of it. This is why dualism is so damning, because it requires an unchanging entity that in some way makes sense out of the disparity of experiences, when in fact it is precisely the different experiences and our ability to narratize that creates the semblance of continuity.

todangst wrote:
And how do you know that this 'inner experience' is anything other than how you experience these neurotransmitters? Can you explain just how you 'experience' an 'immaterial mind' without stealing the concept of materialism?

And how would you know how to compare how a materialist sensation of a physical brain 'ought to feel' vs how an immaterialist 'sensation' of an 'immmaterial mind" ought to feel?

Nothing about the axiomatic nature of consciousness supports the claim that consciousness is immaterial.

There's literally no reason to believe that consciousness is immaterial - one only has arguments from ignorance vis the current state of neuroscience, combined with arguments to personal incredulity, which themselves are based on the irrational premise that one can 'know how a immaterial mind oughta feel'

reason_passion wrote:
pkremid wrote: Nuclear physicists have seen subatomic particles actually disappear based on the observer. Quatum physics has shown reality to be a probalistic model, not a deterministic one. Quarks move in choatic patterns, and since they are the basis for all matter, puts the deterministic model into question.

Unfortunately this is another case in which someone with little to no educational background picks up a theory and runs with it, without knowing what they're actually talking about. Quantum theory is mathematics at its finest and even those theorists who propose it are very careful in saying that at best it may describe reality only at the subatomic level. While it is true that the fundamental thinking that the universe is deterministic has been altered by quantum theory, it in no way has been done away with. Newtonian physics is still accurate, but only in context. The problem is one of language, i.e. the descriptive devices used to describe larger forces like gravity simply do not work at the subatomic level and hence a new paradigm needs to be created.

pkremida wrote: The are all the *outward forms* of evolution, and not one of them represents how evolution looks from the *inside*, how the individual entities feel and perceive and cognize the world at various stages.

Mr. Wilbur is unfortunately, at least how his thinking is being shown here, completely unaware of his own metaphysical assumptions. Again, as was mentioned in my previous post in which I quoted pkremida and then refuted her claim, a point lost on the other in this discussion, Wilbur is another case like Chalmers of a naturalistic dualism. To begin discussion of any "entities feelings and perceptions" is to ignore the various means by which organisms differ. In the haphazard way that these words are being used, it infers that all entities think, feel and perceive like humans do, which is patently absurd. A rock has no more ability to perceive than a leaf does, not in any sense that makes perception intelligible. Granted, Mr. Wilbur may be going down the path of Liebniz's windowless monads, but I hope not as that was thoroughly debunked by Kant.

pkremida wrote: In other words, my mind is known interiorly "by acquaintance," but my brain is known exteriorly "by description" (William James, Bertrand Russell). That is why I can always to some degree see my own mind, but I can never see my own brain (without cutting open my skull and getting a mirror).

Having recently finished a study on James and Russell, it is a sad thing here to see their names associated with a theory they would in no way agree with. Again, if my previous post had actually been read and addressed, there would be no point here. Words are largely indexical in usage, they "point to" something, but that something does not necessarily possess independent existence. James and Russell would only agree with this theory of Wilbur's in the sense of being an examination of the different lingual paradigms being used, but not as saying there is any metaphysical difference between the mind and brain.

pkremida wrote: The brain is the outside, the mind is the inside - and, a similar type of exterior/interior holds for everything in evolution.

Not much more needs to be said about this than already mentioned. The assumption here, again, is that there is a metaphysical difference between mind and brain, a fact not at all substantiated. The mistake here is in assuming that simply because a word is being used it must imply some sort of ontologically independent existence, but that is completely unwarranted as seen in the example of a unicorn, a creature that can be described but does not in fact exist in any sense outside of an imaginative construct.

As a sidepoint, it is curious here to point out that in all of the language being used to describe the mind, it all has to do with physical directions; the mind is "inside" , implicitly giving credence to the point that the mind is simply an indexical term pointing to a process going on in the brain and not a thing in itself.

todangst wrote:
No, it's shown that the quantum level is probablistic - not 'reality'. It's a fallacy of composition to apply these results to the macro level.

Well, what you mean is that we can't detect these things from the third person perspective - i.e. the behavioral approach.

Well, yes, we can't know these things phenomenologically - i.e. in a 1st person perspective, that is true... But clearly, it's an overstatement to say that NONE of this can be known from the outside.... if that were true, then how would we know about such things as celluar irritability in the first place?

Which is why actual science is multi-modal..... science need not be simply behavioral/external in the sense that Wilber mistakenly believes it is. Science can and does also look into phenomenology. It's a myth that concepts like reductionism and holism must be 'at war' with each other, and that science is mainly reductionist. Both concepts are tools that can be used by the same investigator while looking into the same phenomenon.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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that's a nice review of some

that's a nice review of some of the points made... any comments? any experts in neurology on our board?

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I actually have a few that

I actually have a few that wrote to me expressing interest on weighing in when needed, I'll write them tommorrow.

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Sapient wrote:I actually

Sapient wrote:
I actually have a few that wrote to me expressing interest on weighing in when needed, I'll write them tommorrow.

Really? That's terrific. I'd love to hear an interview of an advanced student on neuroanatomy/cognitive research...

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todangst wrote:Sapient

todangst wrote:
Sapient wrote:
I actually have a few that wrote to me expressing interest on weighing in when needed, I'll write them tommorrow.

Really? That's terrific. I'd love to hear an interview of an advanced student on neuroanatomy/cognitive research...

You could help conduct it. Eye-wink

I just wrote one of them, I've seemed to misplace info on the others.
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neurology

That'd be great to get someone else in here as well who can discuss such things with a degree of intelligence and knowledge. Always ready to work at ideas.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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Quick Response

Hi,

I recieved a message from Sapient asking me to weigh in on this discussion. This is a rather broad discussion of the brain; but then again, consciousness generally is.

Just a quick note about myself before I start, though. I'm a graduate student at the University of Texas in Dallas, in the Neuroscience program. I work in a neuroendocrinology lab that tries to understand better neurodegeneration, which is linked to Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The first thing that I noticed while reading through the thread is that no one has tried to define what consciousness is. And that is a hard question; but more and more researchers are saying that consciousness really looks sneakily like attenuation, which makes sense.

Think about it for a moment. When you are conscious of something, you're paying attention to it -- no? Say when you're happy (from the first e.g.), don't you have to sort of notice that you're happy and pay attention to it? You certainly couldn't be happy without noticing it. So then the questions start coming in. Like where does this attention take place in the brain? How do you pay attention? How do we choose what to pay attention to?

Just for illustration, think about sitting in a chair at your desk, which many of you no doubt are. There are countless somatosensory inputs feeding into your brain. You have light inputs from all around you, there are the sound inputs from perhaps the AC or maybe the refrigerator, there are all the inputs to your feet touching the ground, your back, your calfs, but oddly enough you manage to ignore almost all of these and just pay attention to the screen in front of you. If you were really engrossed in what was going on in the monitor, you may even not notice someone walk in behind you. You wouldn't be conscious off it.

There is tons of research being done on attenuation, which anyone can try and look for. But another area that's interesting is working memory. This gets back to the question of how your brain actually works with these inputs. Many researchers believe that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is very involved in controlling your working memory (see Curtis and D'Esposito, 2003). Check out the article to read more about how they try and figure out this very fascinating and difficult problem.

To end, before this gets tedious, I want to just go over a simple pathway for how attenuation/consciousness might work.

So say you put your hand on something hot. The free nerve endings would fire, and go to the first neuron, the dorsal root ganglion. Then that would fire up to the second neuron, the dorsal horn, which would then go to the third neuron in the thalamus. It would then be relayed through the thalamus to the primary sensory cortex. From there it would be used to let the organism know that they should move their hand. The attenuation part of this task is still somewhat debated.

Check out the article below, and I'll check back to see what people have to say about all this.

Curtis, C.E., & D'Esposito, M. (2003). Persistent activity in the prefrontal cortex during working memory. Trends in Cognitive Science, Vol. 7(9), 415-423.


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Thanks for the

Thanks for the lead.
Googleing: "Persistent activity in the prefrontal cortex during working memory"
led to a downloadable .pdf of the study which I am reading intently.

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philosophy

Am currently going through the article right now and am enjoying it immensely, but thought to drop a few points before going further.

First, in the full discussion that occured almost two weeks ago, todangst and I actually did define consciousness as we see it, but it wasn't the main point of the discussion and hence didn't get the full attention. I, and I'll leave open to todangst any differences he may have with me here, take consciousness to be a descriptive term. This is in opposition to it being a "thing in itself" of the Kantian or Cartesian variety. I am not a naturalistic dualist like David Chalmers and think that teh current work from Edelman shows great promise in having consciousness be an indexical term describing the totality of processes going on in the brain.

Second, notice that in this description I don't go into the specific neuroanatomical foundation of my conceptualization. This is due to my full realization of my ignorance (though I hope to continue to alleviate that ignorance through further study), but also because my focus is on philosophy and its relation to psychology.

Third, the initial points being made here about consciousness primarily equated with attenuation is something I agree with and something both Edelman and, from the sixties, J. Jaynes also posited.

Definitely look forward to seeing where this goes and now I'm back to the article.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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Hi again

I'm glad to see that everyone found the article easily and are/have reading/read it.

Hopefully some of the issues that come up with trying to figure out what consciousness is are illucidated by this article. For instance, the question of whether the DLPFC is storage or representation for working memory. The thought from this article is that it's representation/control; but they really drive it home that they don't know.

There are scientists out there who spend all their time doing work on the consciousness problem, and I think it's important work. Unfortunately, I'm not involved in it directly; so I'm going to go talk to some collegues about it and see what they suggest.

But I also wanted to point out two things which I neglected in the last post -- one about quantumn mechanics and the other about thoughts.

Roger Penrose proposed that consciousness is nonalgorithmic, and in fact is basically a probalistic function which collapses on an answer. This is due to his, and others, understanding of biology, chemistry, and physics. For a brief synopsis of his ideas go to:

http://artsci.wustl.edu/~philos/MindDict/quantum.html

or you can check out his books The Emperor's New Mind (1989) and Shadows of the Mind (1994). They are a bit dated, but still very valid.

The second idea I wanted to talk about what some researchers have done with paralyzed patients. They have implanted a chip into their motor cortex; then recorded those neurons; and then, sent those recordings to a computer, which decodes the recordings into tasks. This all worked.

So when you try and talk about a soul or mind, people generally end up talking about thoughts. Now here is an instance where thoughts have been recorded and used by a computer. Thus, what are thoughts other than electrical impulses? They look very much materialistic. So dreams, emotions, etc. look all to be not a supernatural soul, but materialistic brain impluses.

For more on that:

http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2006/20060712-braingate.html

~Brainman


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1.Mind is a charicteristic

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.

3.Thoughts, i.e. physical interactions, are governed in a deterministic manner by all matter and qualities of that matter that have direct contact with it.

thats what i think. straight raw determinism. quantum uncertainty/probability is just a framework for humans to understand things that are nearly impossible to measure. self is mind.. at least as im using the word here. self is a charicteristic, or quality of a given organization of matter. it is not seperate; its not related, it is it.

sorry for restating my "signature", but this conversation is what im into.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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determinism

The only objection, or perhaps qualification, I have here is the usage of the term "determinism." While it is truly an inductively supported conclusion that consciousness as process is deterministic, it is only so in the sense of it being made of material reality and hence beholden to laws. Often people have a bleak feeling when confronted with determinism because they think it necessitates the idea that everything that happens is determined as is and could not have been any different. This type of determinism is simply not required even when the mind is seen as being a descriptive device for the totality of the brain's interactions.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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The words are pretty

The words are pretty important.
It's important to understand the words used by the study of the DLPFC. If we start trying to 'make' the study tell us what we want it to then we'll get confused.

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reason_passion wrote:Am

reason_passion wrote:
Am currently going through the article right now and am enjoying it immensely, but thought to drop a few points before going further.

First, in the full discussion that occured almost two weeks ago, todangst and I actually did define consciousness as we see it, but it wasn't the main point of the discussion and hence didn't get the full attention. I, and I'll leave open to todangst any differences he may have with me here, take consciousness to be a descriptive term. This is in opposition to it being a "thing in itself" of the Kantian or Cartesian variety. I am not a naturalistic dualist like David Chalmers and think that the current work from Edelman shows great promise in having consciousness be an indexical term describing the totality of processes going on in the brain.

I agree that were were talking about it in a descriptive sense.

Quote:

Third, the initial points being made here about consciousness primarily equated with attenuation is something I agree with and something both Edelman and, from the sixties, J. Jaynes also posited.

You took the words right out of my mouth... I'll take a look at the article too.... it's been a few years since my last neuropsych or neuroanatomy class (!) but I hope it will all come back...

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Quote: It's been a few years

Quote:
It's been a few years since my last neuropsych or neuroanatomy class (!) but I hope it will all come back...

I've learned more new words reading this article than Rook's shows on ancient history. lol. And all you have to do is remember class??!! Man, I'm envious.

I think my DLPFC is overloading. I hope that's not possible. However, the persistent activity doesn't help the long term memory according to the study.
The study did theorize why tapping my forehead makes me remember what I was doing and what I mean when I say, "This is gonna hurt." lol.
I remember extratiate cortex and premotor cortex and relevant stimuli.

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reason_passion wrote:The

reason_passion wrote:
The only objection, or perhaps qualification, I have here is the usage of the term "determinism." While it is truly an inductively supported conclusion that consciousness as process is deterministic, it is only so in the sense of it being made of material reality and hence beholden to laws. Often people have a bleak feeling when confronted with determinism because they think it necessitates the idea that everything that happens is determined as is and could not have been any different. This type of determinism is simply not required even when the mind is seen as being a descriptive device for the totality of the brain's interactions.

i dont care about peoples bleak feelings. unless they think we have immaterial souls or that ghosts are messing with the deterministic nature of reality, they must accept it as truth. and why wouldnt it "necessitate the idea that everything that happens is determined as is and could not have been any different"? i suppose it is not required to think about what is going on outside the brain... in order
to see what the brain/mind is doing.... but to me it cannot be left out, since it determines the state/reactions of the brain/mind.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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types of determinism

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. The objection I had to your original point is the seeming assumption of what is called "hard" determinism. This type posits that every event occurs in a linear fashion so that each and every event has a single cause and single effect.

So-called "soft" determinism is often allied with metaphysical functionalism and while every event is capable of being sufficiently explained by physical or material events, it does not mean that every event has only one cause or has the potential for only one effect. This, by the way, is where the modern definition of "free will" is found.

There are, of course, problems for both thoughts, but I find the "hard" position to be overstating the implications of materialism.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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More

Hello again,

I would argue that the self is not deterministic. Although, I'll give some evidence contrary to that claim. My reasoning behind the mind/self/whatever not being deterministic is that it goes against our experience and would certainly not make sense in an evolutionary argument.

The "free will" problem has been going on forever now it seems, but I think the answer is pretty simple. It would make sense that we evolved a function of the brain that allows us to deal with information in a greater neural workspace, and then decide what we believe about it or how we want to act on that information. This makes great evolutionary sense. An organism would do very well to be able to try and figure out causality to better react to and prepare for the world.

Now, the problem that comes in with this argument is that it would appear that we're predisposed to certain types of thinking. For instance, humans seem to always look for non-random patterns. Rats, however, don't. So when presented with a problem of maximizing correctness on a random test, rats do far better than humans. Determinism? Maybe, but just because we organize our thoughts in a certain way doesn't necessitate that every action is determined. But it is interesting.

Another interesting article that I've come across, which is in teh opinions section of TRENDS in Cognitive Science, talks about or at least hints to what we're talking about. See below for bilbiography.

In the article Gazzaniga and Cooney really try and drive home that there is a part of the brain that kinda controls how we form beliefs. They hammer it in that the system is only as good as the information that is given to it. So what are we going to believe about determinism? It could be evidence that there is some control in our brain that tells us what to believe, or it could be that when the system if functioning normally, we have controll over what we believe. I still think it's up in the air.

Also, there are some curious disorders that seem to give evidence that our thoughts are deterministic. One disorder is Capgras Syndrom. It is where someone believes that someone they know and or love has been replaced by an alien or imposter. It would appear, that when you see a face, you have to recognize the face, but then you also have to have an emotional recognition of the person as well. If that emotional recognition is turned off or broken, you don't recognize them.

But once again, these are all disorders and examples where stuff isn't going right. So what does it tell us about when it is going right? Can you reject the existence of someone you know? No, that's delusional. But can you decide not to meet someone for lunch? Seems likely; or is it determined?

The overall control of the brain is still widely not understood. Once again, these papers that talk about consciousness are in the opinions section of journals and the philosophy sections of bookstores. It's just too hard right now to be able to say one way or the other.

Cooney, J.W., & Gazzaniga, M.S. (2003) Neurological disorders and the structure of human consciousness. Trends in cognitive science, Vol. 7(4) 161-165.


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the self

brainman wrote:
I would argue that the self is not deterministic.

What is the self? Not deterministic? What do you mean by that? Not deterministic as in not within the material reality of cause-effect relationships or simply not deterministic in the "hard" sense of one effect = one cause. A bit simplistic.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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What I'm arguing is that

What I'm arguing is that when a person makes a decision, they weren't determined to make that decision. I think I was pretty clear on that. The self is obviously what we experience as being an observer. When we make a decision, we refer to ourselves as having done that, which creates the "self" term.

What I wasn't clear on exactly was what is considered a decision. That was where I left grey area. A reflex doesn't seem to be a decision....but does deciding to go to work constitute a decision...or how about deciding to ask a girl out to dinner?

I'm not familiar with different forms of determinism, so I wouldn't be able to argue them very effectively. But, I can't see how their could be a "soft" determinism. Unless by "one effect = one cause" you mean that in a soft deterministic universe there is one effect and 'many' causes? This is messing with me a bit since I'm used to talking about caues and effect and not effect and cause. Maybe you could clarify.


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Quote:But, I can't see how

Quote:
But, I can't see how their could be a "soft" determinism. Unless by "one effect = one cause" you mean that in a soft deterministic universe there is one effect and 'many' causes?

Remember, I'm just a layperson studying along with y'all when I can.

One of the funniest things that I enjoy pointing out to people is their many conditioned responses to the world around them. Such as saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes. I point out my own also.

For an idea concerning 'one effect = many causes', I think we can point to religion easily. I'll use my own thoughts/consciousness to outline this so that I don't use any generalizations about people.

When I see a church, I think about my most recent church experience and my worst church experience. Immediately, I examine whether or not I would go to that church based upon its affiliation with other denominations. My 'working memory' contains data from long-term memory and affects my decision concerning my decision on whether to go to that church. The decision redundancy doesn't make sense to me when I examine it afterward because I feel as if I have stereotyped said church based solely upon my past experiences rather than approaching it 'open-mindedly'. Which is exactly what I don't want to do.......wait for it.......based upon past experiences of being 'closed-minded'.
What a cute little paradox I am.

Because my aversion to churches is caused by a conditioned response then the argument could be made that the decision would be deterministic in nature. However, I make the 'conscious' decision to remain so inclined.

Basically, what I think that I'm trying to say is that it isn't necessarily the physical decision in question but the choice to make the decision by recalling past experiences is my 'conscious' thought.

one effect = many causes
would be seeing anything with regard to churches and having the same reaction.

Am I 'up to speed' here? If I have this process wrong then I'm going back to reading until I at least have this part. lol.

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"hard" and "soft"

elnathan wrote:
What I'm arguing is that when a person makes a decision, they weren't determined to make that decision.

Sorry to be nitpicky, but this does need clarification, which was why I brought up the "hard" and "soft" options. Since the mind, as you seem to be saying and which I agree with, is simply a descriptive term for the totality of the physical operations of the brain and its relation to body and world, then it being physical means that all of its actions are determined or, rather, part of the cause/effect relation of material existence. The only way out of this is to posit the mind as being immaterial or somehow outside of the causal structure of the universe, which amounts to the same thing.

All of this of course brings up the "free-will" bugaboo. It should be patently obvious that nobody is saying free will means people are capable of just anything, for most at least acknowledge the parameters of material existence, i.e. I cannot choose to fly without the aid of mechanics nor can I choose to become a giraffe. However, outside of these obvious examples of identity, proponents of free will tend to posit the notion that all other choices are free and clear from material constraints. Without going into a lengthy discussion, simply read the above paragraph.

"Hard" determinists tend to posit the notion that every event has a single cause or, every event was impossible to have occurred any other way than it did.

"Soft" determinists posit that for every event there are numerous causes or, it is impossible to say that an event must have occurred in the particular way it did for there was no other possibility based on all the causes that preceeded it.

Generally speaking, I think the "hard" position falls into the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo proctor hoc or "if this, then therefore, because." (thank you wikipedia) The problem is essentially one of knowledge: the contention that an event "must" have occurred the way it did entails an epistemological stance that is simply untenable, for how do you know that this is true? There is also the metaphysical issue, with the advances in quantum mechanics, that not everything is determined in a newtonian way. (As a caution here, I think it is presently quite difficult to apply quantum theory to consciousness that is in any way comprehensible as the brain is not on the same level as subatomic particles.)

"Soft" determinism allows for randomness. This is not to be confused with un-caused, for every mental state is material and therefore a part of the causal matrix of the universe. It allows for a limited notion of free will, as mental states are causal states and mental states are capable of being changed. The difficulty with this position is its complexity, for environmental, social, personal and interational factors all contribute to each and every event so the ability to find causes is severely hampered. As a side note, this is where neurophysiology and psychology come into play.

I do hope this clears things up a bit. If not, I thoroughly reccommend Owen Flannagan's "The Problem of the Soul" for a far better exposition than this poor person could ever hope to convey.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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Yeah, I can run with that.

Yeah, I can run with that. It seems that there are many things that look like we're kinda conditioned to do, which are based on past experience.

It does really appear that we're determined to do certain things, like learn language, fall in love, and learn about our bodies. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that with have the ability to make decisions about the world; but, there's a lot of grey area.

For instance, we're pretty much determined to "see" the world in a certain way. This affects our ability to "decide" things about the world. So our morphological features in a way determine who we are. This seems like a lot of grey area in a determined world.

What I'm arguing about the self, is that there is "free will" in a sense. So when we make decisions about what to eat, what movie to see, ect. we actually do make that decision. The grey area that comes in there I suppose is that past experience could dictate which movie to go to -- I guess.

I'm pretty tired Smiling so I'm going to stop here, since this could go on for a while. But I think we're pretty much on the same page. I just don't see how it could be that we're completely determined to be a certain way from birth, or even earlier.


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same page

Yeah, I think we're on the same page. I only took the time to clarify as it has been a serious problem in the past that without initial clarification a lot of discussion occurs that is devoid of progress because the initial parameters weren't established.

You're right, there is a lot of grey areas. Many things do seem to be determined in the "hard" sense, like language (Pinker makes a compelling case for this) and the discussion of just how material determinism works out in each case is open to much discussion. Thankfully such discussion is capable of being done, as nobody here is ascribing to some nebulous non-material world.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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Well, you seem to be

Well, you seem to be speaking some philosophical definitions. i go with the scientific type definition for this type of thing. everything is perfectly determined to happen as it does, as per the laws of physics/chemistry.
things obviously dont react in just a linear fashion. there are always many causes and effects in any given reaction... but that still leaves no room for free will. i simply cannot see how someone could have a form of determinism that allows for free will. to do so would be to say there is somthing that is exempt from physical laws... aka not matter. or that there is a specific type of matter in the brain that obeys whatever laws you want it to... and both of those 2 options are irrational. if the brain is the mind, then mind is matter, and dictated by its very specific composition at a moment in time. free will is to say the mind has control over matter... but the mind is matter.

reason_passion wrote:
Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. The objection I had to your original point is the seeming assumption of what is called "hard" determinism. This type posits that every event occurs in a linear fashion so that each and every event has a single cause and single effect.

So-called "soft" determinism is often allied with metaphysical functionalism and while every event is capable of being sufficiently explained by physical or material events, it does not mean that every event has only one cause or has the potential for only one effect. This, by the way, is where the modern definition of "free will" is found.

There are, of course, problems for both thoughts, but I find the "hard" position to be overstating the implications of materialism.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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so then you think the self

so then you think the self is something other than the physical brain. you must if you think it is free make desicions without regard to the laws which govern reacting matter. i dont care about these different types of determinism.
to me its simply put as: matter reacts according to laws, and you are matter. thats it.
i dont see how that doesnt solve the free will "problem" for everyo

brainman wrote:
What I'm arguing is that when a person makes a decision, they weren't determined to make that decision. I think I was pretty clear on that. The self is obviously what we experience as being an observer. When we make a decision, we refer to ourselves as having done that, which creates the "self" term.

What I wasn't clear on exactly was what is considered a decision. That was where I left grey area. A reflex doesn't seem to be a decision....but does deciding to go to work constitute a decision...or how about deciding to ask a girl out to dinner?

I'm not familiar with different forms of determinism, so I wouldn't be able to argue them very effectively. But, I can't see how their could be a "soft" determinism. Unless by "one effect = one cause" you mean that in a soft deterministic universe there is one effect and 'many' causes? This is messing with me a bit since I'm used to talking about caues and effect and not effect and cause. Maybe you could clarify.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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ok... i guess you guys are

ok... i guess you guys are not that far off from what i think. i hadnt read the later posts. for me it doesnt matter if i or we are able to percieve every reaction to verify that it was causal. i suppose that there is a very small amount of assumption going on in what i think... that everything is causal. but it is the most rational explaination we as humans have to offer thusfar, with regards to free will.... and is supported by trillions of scientific measurements... the absolute only thing adding doubt for people is quantum uncertainty. i maintain that this is just a framework for humans to better understand things that are nearly impossible to measure. we are not even close to understanding things that are so small. i think eventually we will see that even small things react in a given manner.. that they too are causal. even though i doubt any particle of such size would have an impact on brain/mind function.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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an apple becoming detached

an apple becoming detached from a tree limb:
1. the wind blew, shaking the limb
2. a bird landed, shaking the limb
3. some squirrels were fighting, shaking the limb
4. a volcano erupted, shaking everything
5. a person came and picked the apple

the effect can have many causes.

woahh....kay...way to edit your post as i was typing....

Fear is the mindkiller.


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Let me be absolutely clear

Let me be absolutely clear that I in no way advocate a version of free will that is outside of the causal universe or a definition of the mind that is of a separate ontology from the brain. I actually go quite far with my stance on being a monist to the point of having severe problems with thinkers like Chalmers who are materialists but still dualistic.

I think the term "free will" is still legitimate, if for no other reason than social usage, it simply has to be brought down to earth from its Cartesian enunciation.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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Part of me wants to just be

Part of me wants to just be done with it and agree that since matter behaves in deterministic ways, and that since we are matter, then we are deterministic. But that doesn't explain to me how we can decide to go see a movie. Sure, I may have been determined to like action movies, but why did I decide that I wanted to go some saturday evening? Off work, maybe. Saw a preview or read a review, likely. But what is it about our experience of choosing to do things? Maybe it's like vision, and it's just purely a grand illusion; but maybe there really is a function/tract/whatever in our CNS that allows for us to actually make decisions. Until I can figure that out, I'm still not sure, and I lean towards thinking that there is a part/parts of our brain that allow us to choose things.

Think about it this way. I programmed AI for a bit while I was an undergrad. I used in game theory an algorithm called a min-max algorithm. Basically, you choose the best move in a game for yourself, by looking at all the possiblities, evaluating them, and picking the one with the highest evaluation. The computer then does this for its opponent, and so on, until it stops, picks the best move, and moves back up that branch to the move on the top of the tree where the move originated.

If we did things like this, deterministically choosing the thing that made us the 'most happy,' which is what we said the computer was trying to do, then why would we ever branch out? Or why would we do things that we know are probably bad? I'm not talking even about people who smoke or drink excessively, I don't think that applies. I'm talking about choosing to taste something that you know will probably taste bad, just for fun. Is that fun-ness part of the function? I don't know, but it seems like there really isn't a function in the brain that decides your every action. This goes against the observer state that we experience. Of course, maybe we were programed through nature to just randomly try new things, since they might be benificial.

Like I said before, I don't know, but I'm not convinced it's purely determined.


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cool, ya, then we agree. im

reason_passion-->

cool, ya, then we agree. im totally with u on that. and ya.. for daily activities of coarse the term is usefull, and therefore legitimate. right on man.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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"Part of me wants to just be

"Part of me wants to just be done with it and agree that since matter behaves in deterministic ways, and that since we are matter, then we are deterministic. But that doesn't explain to me how we can decide to go see a movie." -- my point is that the choice is an illusion, that there was no choice. we are self replicating highly organized matter. it just so happens that we do this best (live) when we have the illusion of choice. if you didnt have that illusion... you would be just like any other matter, and, well, wouldnt be to good at staying orgainized (alive). so this just happens to be the way it works best. and just so you know... no one is free of this illusion... at best one may be aware of it now and again, but not free from it at all... i think it is most of what the "self" is.

"Of course, maybe we were programed through nature to just randomly try new things, since they might be benificial." -- i agree..

i dont think there is a "function in the brain" that determines our choices.... it is the whole brain, and the whole universe, with every particle in it and every wave in it... every sound, every photon.

i say it like: based upon the current chemical composition (your whole body) and all the matter you are in direct contact with, you will do a given thing next. every word you hear changes your chemical makeup. and words are a quality of matter your in contact with... and soo onSmiling

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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causalitist wrote: i say it

causalitist wrote:

i say it like: based upon the current chemical composition (your whole body) and all the matter you are in direct contact with, you will do a given thing next. every word you hear changes your chemical makeup. and words are a quality of matter your in contact with... and soo onSmiling

ha ha, i was so tempted to give you a gold star and agree with you wholeheartedly.
but: say you are confined to a square, white room with a blue sphere, a yellow rod, and a red cube in it, without any outside contact, ever.*
what 'given' thing will you do at any 'given' time? it can be totally ordered, or it can be totally chaotic. it can be absolutely static. and any number of individuals subjected to the same conditions would yeild completely individual results.
so you are right in every respect except for "you will do a given thing next". what you are saying is that "given every variable, behaviour is absolutely predictable". because of the learning nature of the brain, however, predictability becomes a variable, and should one wish to avoid being predicted, one must merely make a different choice.
this is the basis of natural selection and evolution, the predictable is weeded out, while innovation thrives.

*this is a reference to the 'immoral' experiment of feral children

Fear is the mindkiller.


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choice

drfear wrote:
because of the learning nature of the brain, however, predictability becomes a variable, and should one wish to avoid being predicted, one must merely make a different choice.this is the basis of natural selection and evolution, the predictable is weeded out, while innovation thrives.

I think choice here is given too much strength. Human action is often predictable because there are only so many choices that are actually open to anyone. Add into that equation an education in psychology and sociology and prediction becomes even easier. Not perfect, mind, just easier. Perfect prediction is capable only if one is able to possess all known information in reality at the present moment, a fact that simply isn't possible.

And I'm not sure that evolution is so simple as predictable dies while innovation survives. Often the tried-and-true response is correct. Adaptability, especially in human beings, isn't always about innovation, but about awareness.

Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. -Erich Fromm


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reason_passion wrote:

reason_passion wrote:
Perfect prediction is capable only if one is able to possess all known information in reality at the present moment, a fact that simply isn't possible.

my point precisely, my dear.

reason_passion wrote:
And I'm not sure that evolution is so simple as predictable dies while innovation survives. Often the tried-and-true response is correct.

yes, until it becomes necessary to adapt.
reason_passion wrote:

Adaptability, especially in human beings, isn't always about innovation, but about awareness.

mmm-hmm, but if you become aware of your detriment's awareness of your activities, would you not change those activities in a way that would throw off a prediction? thus you have innovated.

Fear is the mindkiller.


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Quote:I think choice here is

Quote:
I think choice here is given too much strength. Human action is often predictable because there are only so many choices that are actually open to anyone. Add into that equation an education in psychology and sociology and prediction becomes even easier. Not perfect, mind, just easier. Perfect prediction is capable only if one is able to possess all known information in reality at the present moment, a fact that simply isn't possible.

A psychosis can be defined as any severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted. Now think of OCD. A person is aware of the fact that they aren't able to stop doing something, even though they know that they don't need to do it, because there is a belief that they must continue doing it. They have lost the ability to choose to do something, and are forced into an action against their will. Contrast this with someone who is schizophrenic. The schizophrenic loses even the ability to realize that reality is being distorted. They believe that the hallucination they see is real, or that they have to kill someone who really works for the CIA and is after them. Now think of the normal individual. They are aware of reality, mostly, and are able to decide what they want to do with each decision.

Granted, some decisions don't have many options, and maybe if you analyzle a person you can guess with some accuracy what they might do. Emphasis on maybe and might. Any psychologist worth their salt will not say "I can predict reasonably well the actions of all people." And they'll never say that they can predict actions of normal people. Just the very concept of a neural network disobeys the concept of order and prediction. Neural networks adapt, change, break, and even grow.

One day, perhaps, maybe it will come to light that if map out a persons brain exactly, and gather all available inputs, you can predict a persons response. But I doubt it. The idea that we were predestined to make discoveries and innovations just isn't coherent in my mind right now.

Quote:
And I'm not sure that evolution is so simple as predictable dies while innovation survives. Often the tried-and-true response is correct. Adaptability, especially in human beings, isn't always about innovation, but about awareness.

There really isn't a "correct" response when talking about evolution. When thinking about evolution it's most helpful to look at a trait or phenotype and think about what evolutionary pressure might have caused it. In the instance of consciousness, it makes sense to think about why being able to be aware of a situation and choose an action would benefit an organism. It would make the most sense to design an organism that responds automatically to situations with the "correct" decision. But that isn't what happened with us. So why did it change?


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Can you explain

Can you explain neuroplasticity within this determinism paradigm?


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todangst wrote: Sapient

todangst wrote:
Sapient wrote:
I actually have a few that wrote to me expressing interest on weighing in when needed, I'll write them tommorrow.
Really? That's terrific. I'd love to hear an interview of an advanced student on neuroanatomy/cognitive research...

Isn't that Sam Harris's field (not that he'd have time to weigh in)? 

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just because you dont know

just because you dont know if the lottery ticket your holding is a winner or not, does not mean it is not one or the other.

 different people would react very differently because they are physically different.  a different jar of chemicals so to speak.

"given every variable, behaviour is absolutely predictable" .. yes, thats what im saying..  and why would it matter if we could know all the variables??  how does that change reality?  are you saying the lottery ticket is neither a winnor or loser until you look?  i think not.

 and it has absolutely nothing to do with the learning nature of the brain.  the only quality of the brain that is relevent here is that it is matter.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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reason_passion wrote:

reason_passion wrote:

Perfect prediction is capable only if one is able to possess all known information in reality at the present moment, a fact that simply isn't possible.


DrFear : my point precisely, my dear.

 

i agree this is true. but our capability to predict doesnt say anything about reality. so there are too many variables... so what .. are you saying that causality is negated after a certain number of variables are reached? lol .. i think not.

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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from a carl sagan book..

from a carl sagan book.. not exact quote at all.. just got the #s from it:

 a hundred trillion synapses in your cerebral cortex, thats one thousand times the number of stars in our galaxy. still think something immaterial is needed to explain the wonders of the human mind? I think not.

anyway, just kinda puts it in perspective when someone says "5-hydroxytryptamine is happiness?"   ...  im thinkin its A BIT more than that lol..  i mean, we know of many different seretonin receptors, some mediate distracability, some make you puke, some make you mean as hell, some make you complacent, some make you laugh uncontrollably..  etc etc.   

 so its obvious that its wayy past us humans to comprehend ourselves at this point, but the complexity is largely irrelevent when simply noticing a basic fact of reality...  that matter reacts according to laws.     and so we are at a point where there is no way we could deterministically calculate the next physical event in a brain or caused by one, but that we know that there will be a given event, and that for it to be otherwise all that we know about science would be worthless.   ... well...  most of it lol

1.Mind is a charicteristic of the organizational state of the matter that constitutes the brain.

2.Matter in this particular organizational state is of course subject to the laws of causality, as is all matter.
~me


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brainman wrote: Hi, I

brainman wrote:
Hi,

I recieved a message from Sapient asking me to weigh in on this discussion. This is a rather broad discussion of the brain; but then again, consciousness generally is.

Just a quick note about myself before I start, though. I'm a graduate student at the University of Texas in Dallas, in the Neuroscience program. I work in a neuroendocrinology lab that tries to understand better neurodegeneration, which is linked to Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

*snip*

Hot damn, never know who you're gonna run into on this here interweb.

Quote:
Curtis, C.E., & D'Esposito, M. (2003). Persistent activity in the prefrontal cortex during working memory. Trends in Cognitive Science, Vol. 7(9), 415-423.

I remember this paper...still have it sitting around somewhere.

Anyhow, we now return you to your regular scheduled thread.