The mind-body problem

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The mind-body problem

What are peoples solutions of the mind-body problem? I tend to go with a reductive or eliminative position (although I am open to an non-reductive/emergent explanation). I regard the ‘mind’ to be a ‘by-product’ of processes in the brain. Huxley made a similar argument for epiphenomenalism. He argued that mental states are like the steam coming off a train. The steam plays no causal role in the train moving forward; it is merely a by-product of the actual causation occurring in the engine. Now I don’t necessarily agree with epiphenomenalism however what I am saying relates to it somewhat: the underlining physical processes in the brain are what provide causality, while the mental states are mere superficial by-products; they don’t physically exist nor do they play a role in causality just like the steam doesn’t play a part on the functions that cause the train to move.

But if they don’t physically exist, how can they have been caused? Well I think that while they don’t exist, we intuitively think they do, and this intuitive thought is the by-product I am talking about.

 From here the eliminativist would say we should eliminate the mental states, however while we may be able to do this, I think our interpersonal/social interaction is based on this commonsense/intuitive notion of mental states, so I think they still have a purpose despite being superficial. As such, I don’t think they exist, but I think there is value to them, if that makes any sense. So the only purpose of mental states is in our social context.

I’d love to hear people’s views of the mind-body problem. I’ve become quite interested in this whole area recently and I know there are such diverse proposed solutions. I think part of the interest is neuroscience and the understanding of the brain is one of the developing sciences so it is interesting to be here now as it is happening. I guess it could kind of be like Darwin developing the theory of evolution, or Newton developing the law of motion in that we may see a major development in science regarding the brain.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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As we discussed in the

As we discussed in the other thread I'm coming round to the view of neutral monism. Whilst this view does not actually explain how consciousness works it does explain why there is a problem in reconciling body and mind.


Neutral monism is the position that there is a single "substance" in the universe. The universe is made of "stuff" but this "stuff" is neither mental or physical in nature. Both "mental" and "physical" are abstractions or approximations too the underlying reality. The mind body problem is, therefore, an issue of trying to describe one abstraction (mental) in terms of another (physical). There is no reason why two different abstractions should be able to account for each other and hence we run in to problems.


The main issue people have when encountering this view for the first time is that we are so stuck on thinking that our physical descriptions of the world IS reality. That the physical description of a thing is THE objective description of that thing. But consider wave particle duality of an electron. Both descriptions relate to the same phenomena (the same thing - the electron) both accurately describe its behavior but neither can be described in terms of each other. The underlying reality is a wave function which is NOT describable in physical terms at all! This to me indicates that our concept of "physical" is not a complete description of reality it is an abstraction just like mental.


So IF mental and physical are merely two convenient ways to describe the underlying structure of the world then there is no reason why we would expect them to be describable in terms of each other. As they can be used to describe the same thing (the human "brain&quotEye-wink then we would expect a strong correlation between physical and mental descriptions. So we would expect that when synapse or neurons x,y,z fire (physical description) then there is a corresponding feeling produced in the subject (mental description) BUT we should not expect a full account of mental in terms of physical when we attempt to do so we run into all the problems that we are so familiar with.

 


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Topher, I think you should

Topher, I think you should be careful when distinguishing emergentism and reductionism. These are both materialist schools of thought, and are not necessarily incompatible.

From my essay Common Fallacies Employed Against Materialism Refuted:

The crux of all this is that the dualist who asserts that materialism cannot account for X abstraction is that they are making a fallacy of conflation between reductionism and materialism. Reductionism is merely one arm of the materialist school of thought. We also have to take into account, for this exercise, emergentism, which materialism does indeed encompass. Emergentism is the doctrine that properties emerge from systems that are not necessarily reducible to their constituents. They exist only when the system is in place, and are hence not reducible to the sum of their parts. This is the schism in materialism between reductionism (whole=sum of parts) and emergentism (whole>sum of parts). The point is, these are both materialist positions. Neither invocates dualism or magic. So when the dualist is asserting that the materialist is denying the existence of X because it can be reduced to smaller constituents, they are making the greedy reductionist fallacy. Regardless of whether the system in question is emergentist or reductionist, the fallacy holds. It is analogous to saying:

1. The clicking on hyperlinks can be reduced to electrons being fired across LCD electron guns and photons through ethernet and fiberoptic cables. Therefore hyperlinks do not actually exist, only electrons and photons.

2. An atomic nuclei can be reduced to individual protons and electrons, which in turn can be reduced to quarks, which in turn can be reduced to bosons and fermions. Therefore, atoms do not actuallly exist, only bosons and fermions.

You will find that many materialist systems are indeed emergentist. That means that they cannot be reduced to their constituents, they only emerge when the complexity of the system reaches a certain point, but, the crux: They are still materialist. Emergentism is an arm of materialist philosophy. Many naturalists regard consciousness and the mind as an emergent property of the brain. Some others hold that the mind can be divided and is hence, with respect to the whole brain, reductionist, not emergent. I am sympathetic to a middle ground position . Obviously when we reduce the system to a certain degree, we find the property which we were examining in the first place disappears. Hence to some degree the two positions of emergentism and reductionism are valid and mutually reconcilable in much the same way that empiricism and rationalism are reconcilable. In fact, I do not think there has been a “pure” empiricist or rationalist since the days of Immanuel Kant. Likewise, the materialist philosophy does not usually find one taking a pure stance on emergentism or reductionism.

So, when the dualist makes the greedy reductionist fallacy by whinging that the materialist is denying the existence of X by invoking reducibility, they are invalidated by both schools of materialism. Reductionism does not say that X does not exist, merely that it is a lower ontological category than its constituents Y and Z. Emergentism says that X exists of its own accord due to a synergistic effect between Y and Z. The latter can be invoked to explain many phenomenon from a materialistic perspective, especially consciousness and the mind. Regardless, any dualist asking for a materialist to explain abstract X is revealing their own unsurprising ignorance of materialist philosophy. Abstractions in this context are merely what a reductionist would call lower ontological categories that result from increasingly complex systems, or what an emergentist would call the result of synergistic effect in the system. Emergentist materialism is extremely important in my work, since one of the things I study is enzyme kinetics, drugs and medicine, where synergistic interplay is extremely important. The same logic which causes a Calcium Channel blocker and a Beta Blocker to work better together to lower blood pressure than the mathematics of their individual workings would have us believe is the same logic that may give rise to abstractions from material systems. In other words, this may cover thoughts, emotions, rationality etc. To a reductionist however, we can explain these in terms of direct reducibility to their electrophysiological activity in corresponding neurons. Regardless of which position you take, the abstract, the thought, is still generated. And hence for the dualist to accuse the materialist of denying said abstractions is just, well, stupid. And can only be described as immensely foolish. We shall soon see how easy it is to flip this on its head.

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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deludedgod wrote: Topher,

deludedgod wrote:
Topher, I think you should be careful when distinguishing emergentism and reductionism. These are both materialist schools of thought, and are not necessarily incompatible.

I suspected that for materialism overall, although are they compatible when it just comes to the brain/mind? Can both emergentism and reductionism apply? So some mind states can just emerge, while others can be reduced. It seems strange since one would expect one or the other to apply to the brain. Unless of course those that can be reduced are produced by simpler processes while those that just emerge are produced by far complex processes hence they cannot be reduced.

 

I find myself agreeing with reductionism, emergentism and eliminativism, but not in the usual way, which makes it a little more complex. I largely think the mind doesn’t exist (inc. the likes of qualia) but that we intuitively think it does, as an abstraction, and I think it still has a purpose. Perhaps consciousness is just emergent (I don'€™t see how it can be reduced). Maybe some other things such as emotions can be reduced. In any case, I hold the end result for all is just an abstraction.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote:As such, I

topher wrote:
As such, I don’t think they exist, but I think there is value to them, if that makes any sense.

Wouldn't value also be a mere by-product of brain activity,thus, does not actually exist in your view?

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog

illeatyourdog wrote:

topher wrote:
As such, I don’t think they exist, but I think there is value to them, if that makes any sense.

Wouldn't value also be a mere by-product of brain activity,thus, does not actually exist in your view?

 The fact that something is an abstraction doesn'€™t mean it doesn'™t '€˜exist'€™ per se. Just like value is an abstraction, I'€™m saying the mind is also an abstraction. Neither have an independent physical existence.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Yes, this is precisely what

Yes, this is precisely what I said in my above post.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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topher wrote: But if they

topher wrote:
But if they don’t physically exist, how can they have been caused? Well I think that while they don’t exist, we intuitively think they do, and this intuitive thought is the by-product I am talking about.

 

I guess this section cunfused me.  It seemed like you were claiming that these by-products, be it value, emotions etc. simply do not exist yet you beleive in them anyway.  So you just meant that these aspects about humanity simply have no physical existence?  If so, are you allowing for some sort of nonphysical existence of concepts even if they are mere abstractions of physical actions in the brain?

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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I make a distinction between

I make a distinction between the physical mind (which is really the brain) and the commonsense notion of mind (which is an abstraction, just as numbers and names are abstractions).

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote: I make a

topher wrote:
I make a distinction between the physical mind (which is really the brain) and the commonsense notion of mind (which is an abstraction, just as numbers and names are abstractions).

 

What were you referring to then with "they" when you said "I dont think they exist"?  Thats where my confusion is.  I understand that you beleive that the mind is nothing more than the brain, or an abtraction of the brain but you said very clearly that some things do not exist.  What are these things?  And if they do not exist, what value could they have (assuming value is an abstraction that can be traced back to the brain of course)?

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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deludedgod wrote: Topher,

deludedgod wrote:

Topher, I think you should be careful when distinguishing emergentism and reductionism. These are both materialist schools of thought, and are not necessarily incompatible.


They're metaphysically compatable.
That's where the compatibility ends.
In contemporary debate, when they say "physicalist" they tend to mean reductive physicalist and when they say "dualist" they tend to mean property dualist like emergentism.
And they are very much against each other.


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illeatyourdog

illeatyourdog wrote:

topher wrote:
I make a distinction between the physical mind (which is really the brain) and the commonsense notion of mind (which is an abstraction, just as numbers and names are abstractions).

 

What were you referring to then with "they" when you said "I dont think they exist"? Thats where my confusion is. I understand that you beleive that the mind is nothing more than the brain, or an abtraction of the brain but you said very clearly that some things do not exist. What are these things? And if they do not exist, what value could they have (assuming value is an abstraction that can be traced back to the brain of course)?


I was referring to the abstractions. They ‘exist’ as abstractions (they have a lower ontological status), however they don’t exist physically. I tend to use the term ‘exist’ to refer to ‘physically exist’ as per materialism.

But also note that just because something is an abstraction and doesn’t physically exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t have purpose or value. Names and numbers don’t physically exist, but they have a purpose and value. It would be a fallacy of composition to argue that the whole doesn't have value because its parts don't.

 

Hope that clears the confusion.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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[quote-topher]But also note

topher wrote:
But also note that just because something is an abstraction and doesn’t physically exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t have purpose or value. Names and numbers don’t physically exist, but they have a purpose and value. It would be a fallacy of composition to argue that the whole doesn't have value because its parts don't.

Hope that clears the confusion.

Kinda but then what do you mean by purpose or value?  I do not see how you can avoid weird circular reasoning, on your view, to defend the existence of value.  Again, I am most likely misunderstanding your view but, it seems to me that the only way to explain value in your view is to say "Value is an abastraction of a brain state, that, while not physically existing, still has value becuase we apply value to it."  The same can be said for purpose as well but I will save you that example.

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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Topher wrote: I’d love

Topher wrote:

I’d love to hear people’s views of the mind-body problem. I’ve become quite interested in this whole area recently and I know there are such diverse proposed solutions. I think part of the interest is neuroscience and the understanding of the brain is one of the developing sciences so it is interesting to be here now as it is happening. I guess it could kind of be like Darwin developing the theory of evolution, or Newton developing the law of motion in that we may see a major development in science regarding the brain.

For the sake of brevity, since I don't have a lot of time to write left, I embrace a kind of hodegepodge of Dennet and Chalmers. Consciousness is emergent, there is no hard problem (the questions from which are irrelevant to me), it has a threshold of complexity, it is relative to informatic mechanisms. Consciousness begins at self-reflection and survivally related imagination. The answer to questions regarding such things as qualia are unknowable and therefore equivalent to masturbation for the intellect.

Now I have to go do stuff; I'll answer whatever questions come up later. 


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illeatyourdog

illeatyourdog wrote:

topher wrote:
But also note that just because something is an abstraction and doesn’t physically exist doesn’t mean it doesn’t have purpose or value. Names and numbers don’t physically exist, but they have a purpose and value. It would be a fallacy of composition to argue that the whole doesn't have value because its parts don't.

Hope that clears the confusion.

Kinda but then what do you mean by purpose or value? I do not see how you can avoid weird circular reasoning, on your view, to defend the existence of value. Again, I am most likely misunderstanding your view but, it seems to me that the only way to explain value in your view is to say "Value is an abastraction of a brain state, that, while not physically existing, still has value becuase we apply value to it." The same can be said for purpose as well but I will save you that example.



Well do you agree that the likes of numbers, names, logic, morality, mathematics etc, all have value/purpose? All are abstractions.



I’m using the term ‘value’ to mean importance or significance, and the term ‘purpose’ to mean “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc” and/or “an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.”

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote: Well do you

topher wrote:
Well do you agree that the likes of numbers, names, logic, morality, mathematics etc, all have value/purpose? All are abstractions.

 

Well, I have questions about the value of morality but aside from that, from whats on your list, yes, I would agree they have some type of value.  However, I question what possible value a mere abtraction has.  For example, a mirage in a desert is a mere abstraction and one would be inclined to say that the mirage lacks value and that to argue that it has value simply becuase a delirious individual attributes value to it is just absurd.  Of course, in the case of the abtractions you listed, it is not just one individual attributing value to them but many.  So how do you avoid a "majority rules" type defense in this view? 

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog wrote:

illeatyourdog wrote:
Well, I have questions about the value of morality but aside from that, from whats on your list, yes, I would agree they have some type of value. However, I question what possible value a mere abtraction has. For example, a mirage in a desert is a mere abstraction and one would be inclined to say that the mirage lacks value and that to argue that it has value simply becuase a delirious individual attributes value to it is just absurd. Of course, in the case of the abtractions you listed, it is not just one individual attributing value to them but many. So how do you avoid a "majority rules" type defense in this view?

Well no one is saying all abstractions have value. It depends on the context of the abstraction. That said, abstractions are (I think) largely based on communication. For instance, names are valuable because they our part of our communication, as are numbers and ‘blue.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstraction
”Abstraction is the process of generalization by reducing the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose. For example, abstracting a leather soccer ball to a ball retains only the information on general ball attributes and behaviour. Similarly, abstracting an emotional state to happiness reduces the amount of information conveyed about the emotional state.”


As for a "majority rules type-defense." It isn't a argument from majority... it’s not saying “the majority of people say X has value, therefore X has value”. It is intersubjective: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersubjective

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote:Well no one

topher wrote:
Well no one is saying all abstractions have value. It depends on the context of the abstraction. That said, abstractions are (I think) largely based on communication. For instance, names are valuable because they our part of our communication, as are numbers and ‘blue.’

Risking sounding like a three year old, what makes communication valuable?

 

Based on the defition provided, wouldn't the nueral firing within the brain also be an abtraction, or rather, the ultimate abtraction?  I mean, you start off with a normative concept, lets say, value then you reduce it to a brain state, which is then reduced to the nueral firings in the brain.  Then, from here, you can (and have a multiple occassions) claim that all normative concepts are nothing more but the by products of these nueral firings in the brain.  You cannot get anymore general or reduce the information anymore than that.

Quote:
As for a "majority rules type-defense." It isn't a argument from majority... it’s not saying “the majority of people say X has value, therefore X has value”. It is intersubjective: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersubjective  

Which of the three uses are you employing?

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog

illeatyourdog wrote:
Risking sounding like a three year old, what makes communication valuable?

It allows us to relate, interact and express our self.

illeatyourdog wrote:
Based on the defition provided, wouldn't the nueral firing within the brain also be an abtraction, or rather, the ultimate abtraction? I mean, you start off with a normative concept, lets say, value then you reduce it to a brain state, which is then reduced to the nueral firings in the brain. Then, from here, you can (and have a multiple occassions) claim that all normative concepts are nothing more but the by products of these nueral firings in the brain. You cannot get anymore general or reduce the information anymore than that.

No. You have it backwards. Neurological explanations are comprehensive and precise details of the functioning of something. Abstractions reduce that precise explanation down to a level which is relevant for a the specific purpose, such as communication. As the Wikipedia page states: ”Abstraction is the process of generalization by reducing the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose.”

So in abstracting love we do not need to know about the detailed scientific brain functions, or when expressing a colour, the fact that colour derives from a wavelength entering the optical nerve which in turn is processed by the brain which consequently produces a subjective sensation is irrelevant. We do not need this information, as such, we abstract colour down to a mere abstract sensation.

illeatyourdog wrote:
Which of the three uses are you employing?

All of them can relate in some way, particularly the first two.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher

topher wrote:
”Abstraction is the process of generalization by reducing the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, typically in order to retain only information which is relevant for a particular purpose.”

 

So nueral firings in the brain are not relevant to any particular purpose?  ANd if I have it backwards its becuase the examples were misleading.  The first example was abstracting ball from soccer ball.  Clearly that was reducing specific information, what type of ball, to more general information, type of object i.e. ball.  The second example did the opposite.  It started with the general information, emotional state, then reduced to more specific information i.e. type of emotion, happiness.  So, with the examples given, it seems abstraction can go both ways 1) Abstracting something specific from something general 2) Abstracting something general from something specific. 

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog wrote: So

illeatyourdog wrote:
So nueral firings in the brain are not relevant to any particular purpose? 

I never said any particular purpose. I said the purpose of social communication. If you are expressing an emotion, or a colour, or pain, etc, the brain activity which produces these things are irrelevant.

illeatyourdog wrote:
The first example was abstracting ball from soccer ball.  Clearly that was reducing specific information, what type of ball, to more general information, type of object i.e. ball.

Yes, this is what abstraction is, yet your misunderstanding was the exact opposite of this. Abstraction is reducing specific/detailed information, down to a more general/vague abstracted form, hence ‘leather ball’ (specific) while ‘ball’ (general). In a social context, I wouldn’t say: “hay, can you pass me that leather football” I would tend to say: “hay, can you pass me that ball” hence I’ve reduced ‘leather football’ down to ‘ball’ as this is all that was required for the purpose of getting the ball.

illeatyourdog wrote:
The second example did the opposite.  It started with the general information, emotional state, then reduced to more specific information i.e. type of emotion, happiness. 

I don’t think it is doing the opposite. I took it to be reducing the specifics about an emotional state to just “happiness” since it clearly stated: “Similarly, abstracting an emotional state to happiness reduces the amount of information conveyed about the emotional state” while what you described includes additional information. However even if it was the case as you stated it, reducing “emotion state” to “happiness” it would not follow what abstraction is starting with an general/vague concept and ending with a detailed empirical and scientific explanation (abstraction is in fact the opposite of this).

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote: I never said

topher wrote:
I never said any particular purpose. I said the purpose of social communication. If you are expressing an emotion, or a colour, or pain, etc, the brain activity which produces these things are irrelevant.

 

BUt the definition provided stated, very generally that an abstraction is a reduction made for a particular purpose.  It seems to me that reducing every possible brain state (emotions, beleifs, etc.) to nueral firings in the brain is reducing the information for a very particular purpose i.e. to make sense of these things we call brain states. 

 

Quote:
I don’t think it is doing the opposite. I took it to be reducing the specifics about an emotional state to just “happiness” since it clearly stated: “Similarly, abstracting an emotional state to happiness reduces the amount of information conveyed about the emotional state” 

1) What is more specific "Im having an emotional state today" or "I am happy today"? 2) The section of the definition emphasized also is problematic for pretty much my initial reasoning in my initial post.  Again, the better example made it clear that reducing iinformation means making something more general (soccer ball to just ball).  This is a reduction of information beucase you do not know what type of ball it is after the abstraction.  The second example though clearly starts off with something very general, emotional state (which could be an indefinite amount states to be in), to something specific, happiness.  Granted, there are probably an indefinite amount of degrees or types of happiness, but that it still more informative than emotional state.

 

Quote:
However even if it was the case as you stated it, reducing “emotion state” to “happiness” it would not follow what abstraction is starting with an general/vague concept and ending with a detailed empirical and scientific explanation (abstraction is in fact the opposite of this).

 

It is clear that you beleive that but the definition you privided does not make that clear and it seems my initial claim about nueral firings is compatible with it.  Now if you want to clarify that only the first example captures what you mean by abstraction, thats fine but you have yet to provide any real specific explanation for any of the abstractions you listed.  All you have done is claim that all these abstractions are by-products of nueral firings in the brain.  At most, you have an explanation as to how those type of nueral firings got there (inherited from earlier ancestor) but not neccessarily which nueral firing leads to which abstraction. 

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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It seems your problem here

It seems your problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of what abstract is and what concrete is.

illeatyourdog wrote:
BUt the definition provided stated, very generally that an abstraction is a reduction made for a particular purpose. It seems to me that reducing every possible brain state (emotions, beleifs, etc.) to nueral firings in the brain is reducing the information for a very particular purpose i.e. to make sense of these things we call brain states.

The purpose alone is not what makes it abstract. Simply reducing information for a specific purpose does not mean you are abstracting it. In philosophy abstraction is the processes of taking something concrete and turning it into something more generalised, simplified, vague, ambiguous, etc

”Abstraction uses a strategy of simplification, wherein formerly concrete details are left ambiguous, vague, or undefined….”

Hence “concrete details” become abstracted and thus are now vague/ambiguous. (I talk more about concrete below.)

What you said – reducing states to neurons firing – is absolutely fine, but it is NOT abstraction since it is starting with an abstract concept and working towards something concrete. Abstraction is the reverse of that. What your talking about is actually operationalising. (I talk more about this below too)

illeatyourdog wrote:
1) What is more specific "Im having an emotional state today" or "I am happy today"?

I think you misunderstand here. I was talking about the specific concrete details about a particular emotional state like happiness (i.e. what happens in the brain, maybe external details as to why they are happy) being abstracted to just “I’m happy.”

That said, I did not write the Wikipedia entry, but here’s another definition from Dictionary.com
1. an abstract or general idea or term.
2. the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances

illeatyourdog wrote:
It is clear that you beleive that but the definition you privided does not make that clear and it seems my initial claim about nueral firings is compatible with it.

Again, your claim is the OPPOSITE of an abstraction.
Abstraction, as I am using it, as it is in philosophy, is forming a non-physical concept from a physical entity, such as thoughts, consciousness. In one sense they are physical brain states, but we can also view them as non-physical concepts (which is exactly what we do with out commonsense notion of consciousness and thoughts.)
Other times something may only ‘exist’ as an abstraction, such as names and numbers.

In philosophy abstraction is a thought processes, an idea, NOT an object.
The non-physical concept of consciousness is an idea, an abstract… while the physical form of consciousness (i.e. brain state) is the object, it is concrete. Concrete things are not abstract. This is precisely why your example is wrong. Since the object cannot be an abstract.

Please see this page for more on abstract/concrete: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_object

Again, to restate my view, if something is concrete is has a physical existence. If something is abstract it does not, it only ‘exists’ as an abstract concept. Abstracts concepts can however refer to concrete things. This can make the same term be both abstract and concrete, given the context it is used in. To illustrate, tennis as a concept is abstract, although it does refer to a physical activity, a game, and this physical activity is concrete.


Moving on, abstraction is sociology is very similar to the philosophical use:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstraction_%28sociology%29
Sociological Abstraction refers to the varying levels at which theoretical concepts can be understood. This idea is very similar to the philosophical understanding of abstraction. There are two basic levels of sociological abstraction: sociological concepts and operationalized sociological concepts.

A sociological concept is a mental construct that represents some part of the world in a simplified form. An example of a mental construct is the idea of class, or the distinguishing of two groups based on their income, culture, power, or some other defining characteristic(s). Concepts can remain abstract or can be operationalized. Operationalizing a sociological concept takes it to the concrete level by defining how one is going to measure it. Thus, with the concept of class one could operationalize it by actually measuring people's income. Once operationalized, you have a concrete representation of a sociological concept.”


So we can say:
Abstraction is taking concrete > abstract (simplification for the purpose of communication)
Operationalising is taking abstract > concrete (understanding how the abstract idea works/functions)

With this in mind your idea of taking abstract concepts and reducing them to neurons firing is operationalising the abstract concept.

illeatyourdog wrote:
All you have done is claim that all these abstractions are by-products of nueral firings in the brain.

Have you read deludedgod’s essays on this topic. Abstract thoughts are clearly produced or emerged from physical processes.

illeatyourdog wrote:
At most, you have an explanation as to how those type of nueral firings got there (inherited from earlier ancestor) but not neccessarily which nueral firing leads to which abstraction.

Who said we knew which specific neurons lead to which mental state? Neuroscientists know which region of the brain produces which mental state, even if they cannot pin-point the specific neurons or know exactly how it all works. I don’t even think specific neurons do play a role, I think it is rather a collection of neurons, which deludedgod refers to “interagency.” We know they are physical so this point of yours is somewhat of a red herring.

Anyway, if you want specific neuroscientific details I suggest you speak with deludedgod since he is the neuroscientist around here. But first, read his essays since he may have already answered your questions:

Fallacies Commonly Employed Against Materialism Rrefuted

The Matter Information conjecture is a crisis for the existence of god

vitalism Immaterialism and Christian dualism have long since been debunked

On the problem of interaction and the concluding piece of the series the absurdity of an immaterial mind

 

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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After reading the essays I

After reading the essays I have one question: have my comments on the topic of the mind-body problem, led you to beleive that I am a dualist?

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog wrote: After

illeatyourdog wrote:
After reading the essays I have one question: have my comments on the topic of the mind-body problem, led you to beleive that I am a dualist?

I've not got that impression. Are you a dualist?

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote: It seems

Topher wrote:

It seems your problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of what abstract is and what concrete is.

Let' see if we can sum up the most common dualist arguments.

They typically are based on one of the following errors: 


1) The error of confusing abstractions for immateriality

2) The error of conflating materialims with reductionism (DG's excellent point) 

3) The mistake of simply begging the question that X  is immaterial, based on an argument from ignorance.

 

There are more errors, of course, but I'd say that there isn't a dualist argument that doesn't rest on such an error as it's foundation. 

 

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

Books on atheism.


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topher wrote: I've not got

topher wrote:
I've not got that impression. Are you a dualist?

Not really.  I am just struggling with terms like morality and value since these are terms that have like a "they just are" type explanation and defense which is why I am inquiring about how reductionlists and/or materialists make sense of these terms.  And if my questions seem irritating (i apologise), but I do not find calling them all brain states satisfactory unless you can show how we know that these terms stem from the brain rather than some external source (I know that sounds dualistic but I do not know of a better way to put it).  The only reason why I asked if you thought I was dualist was becuase pretty much all the essays were focused on proving dualism (all and any form of dualism) wrong. 

 

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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topher wrote: With this in

topher wrote:
With this in mind your idea of taking abstract concepts and reducing them to neurons firing is operationalising the abstract concept.

 

Ahhh, k.  Just a few more little questions.  How do you avoid an infinite regress when explaining value?  Granted, you have described value as relational but, like the aofrementioned three year old example, lets say you were trying to explain the value of talking and you say its becuase it allows for communication, then communication is important becuase it allows of a group of people to run an organized society, then we need to run an organized society for reason x, etc. is there a point where, as the greeks would say, it is an end in itself?  Are materialists or reductionalists working on this?

 

sidenote: I am seriosuly asking these question and not trying to turn them into some arguement against the view.  After reading those essays, I understand how my questions could be mistaken for implied arguements.

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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todangst wrote: Topher

todangst wrote:
Topher wrote:

It seems your problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of what abstract is and what concrete is.

Let' see if we can sum up the most common dualist arguments.

They typically are based on one of the following errors:


1) The error of confusing abstractions for immateriality

2) The error of conflating materialims with reductionism (DG's excellent point)

3) The mistake of simply begging the question that X is immaterial, based on an argument from ignorance.

 

There are more errors, of course, but I'd say that there isn't a dualist argument that doesn't rest on such an error as it's foundation.

 

I was thinking on this matter last night. Whilst I certainly agree with you regarding dualist errors of reasoning one thing bothers me with materialism.

I find a problem with accepting that mind is an emergant  property like colour, heat , hardness etc etc. With any other emergant property I can think of we could, in principle, understand and predict that properties emergance IF we had a Gods eye view of "low level" properties of the system in question. For example with heat if we knew the motion of all the atoms in the object in question we could predict and calculate the heat of the object. Could the same be said of mind? Could a Gods eye view of the neurons and what have you predict the emergance of the "what is it like to be" of conciousness? I'm not sure that it can. I'm not sure that this aspect of conciousness could ever be predicted regardless of the detail of knowledge about the phsyical aspects of the brain. 

1- So is there another example of an emergant property of an object that could NOT be predicted by a detailed account of lower level physcial properties?

Or

2- Do you you think the "what it is like to be" of conciousness can be predicted by a detailed physical description? 

I've been scratching my head on point 1 and I can't think of one. With question 2 again I struggle to see how this aspect of conciousness can be predicted by a phsyical description.

 


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evil religion

evil religion wrote:
todangst wrote:
Topher wrote:

It seems your problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of what abstract is and what concrete is.

Let' see if we can sum up the most common dualist arguments.

They typically are based on one of the following errors:


1) The error of confusing abstractions for immateriality

2) The error of conflating materialims with reductionism (DG's excellent point)

3) The mistake of simply begging the question that X is immaterial, based on an argument from ignorance.

 

There are more errors, of course, but I'd say that there isn't a dualist argument that doesn't rest on such an error as it's foundation.

 

I was thinking on this matter last night. Whilst I certainly agree with you regarding dualist errors of reasoning one thing bothers me with materialism.

I find a problem with accepting that mind is an emergant property like colour, heat , hardness etc etc. With any other emergant property I can think of we could, in principle, understand and predict that properties emergance IF we had a Gods eye view of "low level" properties of the system in question. For example with heat if we knew the motion of all the atoms in the object in question we could predict and calculate the heat of the object. Could the same be said of mind? Could a Gods eye view of the neurons and what have you predict the emergance of the "what is it like to be" of conciousness? I'm not sure that it can. I'm not sure that this aspect of conciousness could ever be predicted regardless of the detail of knowledge about the phsyical aspects of the brain.



Well, as I’m sure you are aware, the lack of a complete understanding in a materialist system is alone not a basis to hold the whole system questionable. All we can say is that we have yet to build a full understanding and so the best ‘criticism’ can only be the claims must be tentative. However I think you’ve hinted at point which I find very interesting: could we ever be able to understand the likes of consciousness? Colin McGinn thinks it might be possible that the mind is simply incapable of fully comprehending itself (cognitive closure) and he might be right. Perhaps we won’t be able to have a complete understand of the mind and consciousness. Maybe the mind-body problem is simply unsolvable? (Although not a reason to not try to solve it) His position is know as "New Mysterianism."

evil religion wrote:
2- Do you you think the "what it is like to be" of conciousness can be predicted by a detailed physical description? 

I've been scratching my head on point 1 and I can't think of one. With question 2 again I struggle to see how this aspect of conciousness can be predicted by a phsyical description.

For number two the emergentist would say the subjective experiences emerge from the brain and as such, even if we could precisely pint-point exactly where each subjective experiences was produced in the brain, the experience itself can only be experienced (although by this point we could just induce the experience). So I don’t think we could physically explain the subjective experience itself, we could only explain how the experience happens.



illeatyourdog wrote:
And if my questions seem irritating (i apologise), but I do not find calling them all brain states satisfactory unless you can show how we know that these terms stem from the brain rather than some external source (I know that sounds dualistic but I do not know of a better way to put it). 

Well I think there are external factors. I think it is a mixture of external and internal conditions, such as with morality and determinism. For instance, two people can have exactly the same internal conditions (i.e. twins) but arrive at different outcomes due to having different external factors, such as environment and experiences. This is part of what makes it so complex. Also consider language… while language runs via the brain, he meaning of the words themselves are external, for instance, there is nothing inherent brain which makes the term ‘dog’ reference a dog. The meaning of the term is hardwired in the brain from experience, which in turn is based on intersubjectivity.


So one can be a materialist and still acknowledge that there is external input which plays a role. The dualist however holds that there are two different substances which is nonsense.

illeatyourdog wrote:
The only reason why I asked if you thought I was dualist was becuase pretty much all the essays were focused on proving dualism (all and any form of dualism) wrong. 

They did focus on dualism but the arguments can apply to any ‘critique’ or question of materialism since they were positive arguments for materialism.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Topher wrote: evil

Topher wrote:
evil religion wrote:
todangst wrote:
Topher wrote:

It seems your problem here is a fundamental misunderstanding of what abstract is and what concrete is.

Let' see if we can sum up the most common dualist arguments.

They typically are based on one of the following errors:


1) The error of confusing abstractions for immateriality

2) The error of conflating materialims with reductionism (DG's excellent point)

3) The mistake of simply begging the question that X is immaterial, based on an argument from ignorance.

 

There are more errors, of course, but I'd say that there isn't a dualist argument that doesn't rest on such an error as it's foundation.

 

I was thinking on this matter last night. Whilst I certainly agree with you regarding dualist errors of reasoning one thing bothers me with materialism.

I find a problem with accepting that mind is an emergant property like colour, heat , hardness etc etc. With any other emergant property I can think of we could, in principle, understand and predict that properties emergance IF we had a Gods eye view of "low level" properties of the system in question. For example with heat if we knew the motion of all the atoms in the object in question we could predict and calculate the heat of the object. Could the same be said of mind? Could a Gods eye view of the neurons and what have you predict the emergance of the "what is it like to be" of conciousness? I'm not sure that it can. I'm not sure that this aspect of conciousness could ever be predicted regardless of the detail of knowledge about the phsyical aspects of the brain.



Well, as I’m sure you are aware, the lack of a complete understanding in a materialist system is alone not a basis to hold the whole system questionable.

Indeed that not what I'm driving at. 

 

Quote:
All we can say is that we have yet to build a full understanding and so the best ‘criticism’ can only be the claims must be tentative. However I think you’ve hinted at point which I find very interesting: could we ever be able to understand the likes of consciousness? Colin McGinn thinks it might be possible that the mind is simply incapable of fully comprehending itself (cognitive closure) and he might be right. Perhaps we won’t be able to have a complete understand of the mind and consciousness. Maybe the mind-body problem is simply unsolvable? (Although not a reason to not try to solve it) His position is know as "New Mysterianism."

Indeed this is distinct possability. But I think the problem may run a bit deeper than that. I can't fathom how we could ever understand the "what it is like to be" of any conciousness let alone our own. I further more contend that, unlike any other emergant property, we will not be able to even begin to describe or predict the "what it is like to be" regardless of how detailed our understanding of the physical system in question is. Could, for example, you ever woek our what it is like for a bat to "see" in sonar even if you knew exactly how its brain worked?

We can say ahhh yes but its an emergant property. We can predict how and which neurons will fire but this will not shed any light on the property of what it is like to actually experiance this. This "experiance" is fundamental to what conciousness. Any other emeregant property should at least be predicted by and accounted for by the "lower" properties of the object. I can't think of any other emergant property that is not.

Quote:
evil religion wrote:
2- Do you you think the "what it is like to be" of conciousness can be predicted by a detailed physical description? 

I've been scratching my head on point 1 and I can't think of one. With question 2 again I struggle to see how this aspect of conciousness can be predicted by a phsyical description.

For number two the emergentist would say the subjective experiences emerge from the brain and as such, even if we could precisely pint-point exactly where each subjective experiences was produced in the brain, the experience itself can only be experienced (although by this point we could just induce the experience). So I don’t think we could physically explain the subjective experience itself, we could only explain how the experience happens.

Indeed. Thats what I think. But the point is that the very phenomona in question IS SUBJECTIVE EXPERIANCE this is the property we are talking about! Conciousness is subjective. We can explain all we like about what phsyically happens in the brain and still shed no light whatsoever on the fundamental defining aspect of conciousness. This to me, as you know, leads me to think that our physical description is limited. That the very concept "physical" is not fundamental it is itself an abstraction. 


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evil religion

evil religion wrote:
Indeed this is distinct possability. But I think the problem may run a bit deeper than that. I can't fathom how we could ever understand the "what it is like to be" of any conciousness let alone our own. I further more contend that, unlike any other emergant property, we will not be able to even begin to describe or predict the "what it is like to be" regardless of how detailed our understanding of the physical system in question is. Could, for example, you ever woek our what it is like for a bat to "see" in sonar even if you knew exactly how its brain worked?

We can say ahhh yes but its an emergant property. We can predict how and which neurons will fire but this will not shed any light on the property of what it is like to actually experiance this. This "experiance" is fundamental to what conciousness. Any other emeregant property should at least be predicted by and accounted for by the "lower" properties of the object. I can't think of any other emergant property that is not.


Indeed. Thats what I think. But the point is that the very phenomona in question IS SUBJECTIVE EXPERIANCE this is the property we are talking about! Conciousness is subjective. We can explain all we like about what phsyically happens in the brain and still shed no light whatsoever on the fundamental defining aspect of conciousness. This to me, as you know, leads me to think that our physical description is limited.


But emergentism (or any other materialistic system) does not say we can understand the subjective experience itself just by understanding the physical framework from which it emerges. So your point is irrelevant with regards to emergentism/materialism. We must still experience the experience in order to understand what it is like to have the experience. This is why arguments against materialism such as the ‘bat argument’ or the ‘p-zombie argument’ are complete bs since they simply presume materialism says it can explain the subjective experience. It doesn’t. All emergent materialism does say is that the abstractions emerge from a physical framework (the brain). Nothing more.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote: So one can be

topher wrote:
So one can be a materialist and still acknowledge that there is external input which plays a role.

 

Alright.  To be fair, I am beginning to understand more how you can call all these things like value and morality brain states even if we want to suppose they have an external source.  I suppose that is where my real confusion lies.  I have yet to be presented with anything that points to a source of these concepts.  Granted (hipefully this doesn't sound too much like a broken record) you have presented with studies that show the effects that these concepts have on the brain or the effects on the brain in various human interactions, but none of the studies have even pointed to a source of these concepts.  They all seem to assume that they exist.  I could be misuderstanding this view again but, it seems to me that, considering what the view claims, it should abandon all normative definitions and expressions of these concepts and start from scratch.  To be clear, this does not mean they should abandon the concepts comepletly but, relying on the old normative definitions or expressions of them can only lead to the same holes that various thinkers have pointed out time and time again with these concepts.  Again, to be fair, I should probably gain a better understanding of intersubjectivtivity but what i have stated has pretty much been my concern all along with your view. 

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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illeatyourdog wrote:

topher wrote:
So one can be a materialist and still acknowledge that there is external input which plays a role.

 

Alright. To be fair, I am beginning to understand more how you can call all these things like value and morality brain states even if we want to suppose they have an external source. I suppose that is where my real confusion lies. I have yet to be presented with anything that points to a source of these concepts. Granted (hipefully this doesn't sound too much like a broken record) you have presented with studies that show the effects that these concepts have on the brain or the effects on the brain in various human interactions, but none of the studies have even pointed to a source of these concepts. They all seem to assume that they exist. I could be misuderstanding this view again but, it seems to me that, considering what the view claims, it should abandon all normative definitions and expressions of these concepts and start from scratch. To be clear, this does not mean they should abandon the concepts comepletly but, relying on the old normative definitions or expressions of them can only lead to the same holes that various thinkers have pointed out time and time again with these concepts. Again, to be fair, I should probably gain a better understanding of intersubjectivtivity but what i have stated has pretty much been my concern all along with your view.


I don’t think there is one source for external conations, I think it is multiple sources, which why it can seem complex. I don’t think the right question is necessarily “what is the source for these external conations” just like we shouldn’t ask what part of the brain produces consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t seem to be produced by a single region of the brain, just as there is not one source for external conditions.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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topher wrote: I don’t

topher wrote:
I don’t think there is one source for external conations, I think it is multiple sources, which why it can seem complex. I don’t think the right question is necessarily “what is the source for these external conations” just like we shouldn’t ask what part of the brain produces consciousness.

 

To me, consciousness is something far more complex than morality so I would never presume that there is a single source for consciousness.  Paradoxically, however, there is something we can point to to show the consciousness exists such as, we can say dead body lacks consciousness where as a live body has consciousness.  Granted this too is not without its problems (Terry Shrivo) but there is pretty much no question among scientists or even philosophers that there is this thing called consciousness that we all possess.  The same is not true with morality or value.  We cannot simply point to a body, alive or dead, and say "Body A has morality and body B does not" and there are many philosophers who argue that morality does not exist in any form (i honestly cannot think of any philosopher who has tried to argue that there is no such thing as consciousness.  If you know of any feel free to name them Smiling ).  Furthermore, you cannot apply a relative model to consciousness (as easily) to consciousness as you can with morality or value.  For example, you cannot, as you would in a morality thats relative to a specific society, go "IN society A I am conscious but in Society B I am not."  I guess the point I am trying to make is, we know there is a source to consciousness even if we cannot pin point it down since it does not matter what you beleive, or how you describe it, we have it and it can be lossed.  Morality and value, on the other hand are not so cut and dry since there are two dyametrically opposed views to value, for exmaple, with a third view that rejects the possibility of it existing.  And seeing as how morality and value, in many ways, determine what we do with our consciousness, it seems to me that they need to have some identifiable source somwhere, be it the brain or some sort of complex molecule thats floating around somwhere (I admit this does sound weird but thats the only way to explain an external source without it being dualist), so we simply aren't mistaking one type of brain state for something else entirely.  

" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff


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Topher wrote: evil

Topher wrote:

evil religion wrote:
Indeed this is distinct possability. But I think the problem may run a bit deeper than that. I can't fathom how we could ever understand the "what it is like to be" of any conciousness let alone our own. I further more contend that, unlike any other emergant property, we will not be able to even begin to describe or predict the "what it is like to be" regardless of how detailed our understanding of the physical system in question is. Could, for example, you ever woek our what it is like for a bat to "see" in sonar even if you knew exactly how its brain worked?

We can say ahhh yes but its an emergant property. We can predict how and which neurons will fire but this will not shed any light on the property of what it is like to actually experiance this. This "experiance" is fundamental to what conciousness. Any other emeregant property should at least be predicted by and accounted for by the "lower" properties of the object. I can't think of any other emergant property that is not.


Indeed. Thats what I think. But the point is that the very phenomona in question IS SUBJECTIVE EXPERIANCE this is the property we are talking about! Conciousness is subjective. We can explain all we like about what phsyically happens in the brain and still shed no light whatsoever on the fundamental defining aspect of conciousness. This to me, as you know, leads me to think that our physical description is limited.


But emergentism (or any other materialistic system) does not say we can understand the subjective experience itself just by understanding the physical framework from which it emerges.

Indeed. But there is no emergant property I can think of that can't be predicted or at least partly explained by the underlying physical structure. 

Quote:
So your point is irrelevant with regards to emergentism/materialism. We must still experience the experience in order to understand what it is like to have the experience. This is why arguments against materialism such as the ‘bat argument’ or the ‘p-zombie argument’ are complete bs since they simply presume materialism says it can explain the subjective experience. It doesn’t. All emergent materialism does say is that the abstractions emerge from a physical framework (the brain). Nothing more.

I really cant think of another emergant system where the underlying structure does not at least predict or partly explain the emergant property.

Consider:

Hardness:It is a meaningless property when looking at individual atoms. But if we understand the motion and structure of those atoms within a substance we can predict and even calculate its hardness.

 Social dynamic: It is meaningless when applied to a single person but if we understand what the personalities of individuals within a group are like we can predict what kind of dynamic will exist within a group.

Heat: It is a meaningless concept when applied to an individual atom but when we know the motion of all atoms in a gas we can preict and calculate the heat of the gas.

Position: When applied to and unonserved quantum particle it is a meaningless concept but if we understand the underlying wave function and how it will be observed we can predict the likely hood of and emergant position.

 With mind no amount of detailed understanding of the motion of atoms or neurons or any other arbitarty physical grouping will predict, account or say anything useful about the "what it is like to be" of conciousness. Given that this is perhaps the fundamental defining property of conciousness this too me is a serious problem in our physical account of the brain.

Seriously if you can give me an example of another emergant property that is in no way explained (even partly) or predicted by a deep understanding of the physical structure then I would like to here it. I have been trying to think of one but I can't. Physicalism and materialism is, or rather has been, my default position for the last 12 years. My degree subject was a joint honours in phsyics and philosophy you would be hard pressed to have found a more ardent physical materialist than myself! But now, in the light of some well reasoned arguements, I am coming round (all be it rather grudgingly) to the position of neutral monism.

I think there is a genuine problem in giving a physical account of mind. Obviously dualism is and absurdity as todangst, yourself and many othes have pointed out it explains nothing at all and is just "magic" really. I think you hit upon a possible explanation for why the "physical" and "mental" abstractions can never be reconciled. In another thread you mentioned the fact that these are processed in different and unlinked brain areas. I forget which ones but you said something along the lines of 

Brain area A is responsible for our understanding

Brain area B is responsible for our experiancing.

I didn't know this prior to you explaining it but it makes sense. If "Physical" is itself an abstraction then it is an abstraction that is generated in the "understanding" part of our brain. It belongs to that realm. Our "mental" abstraction belongs to the experiancing part of the brain. They are generated in different brain areas are different abstractions of an underlying reality and hence trying to predict, grasp, understand  or comprehend one in terms of the other is as absurd as trying to understand colour in terms of heat. 

There is also a self referential loop going on here somewhere which is muddying the waters. The "mental" realm is self referential in that it is the brain looking at the properties of the brain. I'm not quite sure what baring this has on all of this but my instinct tells me that its quite important. Hofstader certainly seems to think so anyway! Perhaps your comment above about a system not being able to understanding itself pertinant, perhaps the self understanding of any self referential system will always be incomplete. The whiff of Godel is positivly pungent at this stage.

 

 


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You hit the nail on the

You hit the nail on the head. The consciousness cannot be reduced , nor is it an emergent property.

We are so conventional that we just overlook the obvious. The conscious is the absolute and the all pervading truth. It exists everywhere , pervading the entire universe.

The body senses only. The brain / mind processes the information. But it is the Conscious that finally receives it. The Brain/ Mind processing is all what neuroscience talks about and it fails to go beyond that , since we are looking for more causation (physically) of the causes of the causes of the various electrochemical movements/events. There it runs into a blind alley. So we have to accept that the Consciousness is the ultimate truth and being everywhere. It is without space/time, without form, attributes, without colour, is ineffable and indescribable.

Now one may ask what is the evidence. The evidence is people have intuitively experienced this. You have to meditate , but before that you have to go throught the core concepts of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) , maintain and live a way of life  and then meditate on the Self. The process may take 10-15 years. There are few fortunate few who have got it very fast because they had extraordinary intuitive capabilities.   and I am not talking about Sages of the Yore. There are people in India currently also , meditators, who have reached the final frontier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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evil religion
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Venkatrajan wrote: You hit

Venkatrajan wrote:

You hit the nail on the head. The consciousness cannot be reduced , nor is it an emergent property.

Nope thats not what I'm saying at all I'm afraid.

I'm saying that conciousness can not be reduced to physical terms and visa versa. They are two different abstactions of an underlying structure that is neither mental or physical.  

Quote:
We are so conventional that we just overlook the obvious. The conscious is the absolute and the all pervading truth.

No it isn't its an abstraction a useful way of looking at certain types of phenomona thats all. 

Quote:
It exists everywhere , pervading the entire universe.

No it does not. Conciousness is, as far as we know, only a useful description of reality when looking at very specific objects namely human beings.

 

Quote:
The body senses only. The brain / mind processes the information. But it is the Conscious that finally receives it. The Brain/ Mind processing is all what neuroscience talks about and it fails to go beyond that , since we are looking for more causation (physically) of the causes of the causes of the various electrochemical movements/events. There it runs into a blind alley. So we have to accept that the Consciousness is the ultimate truth and being everywhere. It is without space/time, without form, attributes, without colour, is ineffable and indescribable.

I disagree. Conciousness is one useful anstraction buy it is not more the absolute truth about rteality than the physical descriptions are. Both are very useful but both are incomplete. To see th truth of this please try to give a purely "mental" account of piece of metal accounting for all its properties. It can't be done.

Quote:
Now one may ask what is the evidence. The evidence is people have intuitively experienced this. You have to meditate , but before that you have to go throught the core concepts of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) , maintain and live a way of life and then meditate on the Self. The process may take 10-15 years. There are few fortunate few who have got it very fast because they had extraordinary intuitive capabilities. and I am not talking about Sages of the Yore. There are people in India currently also , meditators, who have reached the final frontier.

In otherwords you have to believe in Hinduism in order to believe. This is where Hindu philopshy fails. What starts of as a very interesting entreprise of introspection quickly decends into religisous nonsesne with wild claims about the nature of reality. Bhudist philosphy and Jain philsophy follow the same path. With bhudism the  bhuda observations and arch empiricism where way ahead of his time. It was a good start but then we quickly decend into jibberish about rebirth and karma which are totaly unfounded claims. 

 

 


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evil religion

evil religion wrote:
Venkatrajan wrote:

Now one may ask what is the evidence. The evidence is people have intuitively experienced this. You have to meditate , but before that you have to go throught the core concepts of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures) , maintain and live a way of life and then meditate on the Self. The process may take 10-15 years. There are few fortunate few who have got it very fast because they had extraordinary intuitive capabilities. and I am not talking about Sages of the Yore. There are people in India currently also , meditators, who have reached the final frontier.

In otherwords you have to believe in Hinduism in order to believe. This is where Hindu philopshy fails. What starts of as a very interesting entreprise of introspection quickly decends into religisous nonsesne with wild claims about the nature of reality. Bhudist philosphy and Jain philsophy follow the same path. With bhudism the bhuda observations and arch empiricism where way ahead of his time. It was a good start but then we quickly decend into jibberish about rebirth and karma which are totaly unfounded claims.

 It sounds like Venkatrajan is claiming that Hinduism has a monopoly on meditative experimentation, which is a bit like saying in order to understand reality you need only study nuclear physics. Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism all frame the intense introspection of meditation inside superstition.

Ramanujan claimed he arrived at his 9th digital accuracy of pi by having it revealed him to by a diety - saying very little about how he actually reached the formula that gave him the number. What was lost by not having the logical process that produced the formula? Another example: Fermat's Last Theorem. If Fermat did prove the impossibility of pythagorean equations of dimensions greater than 2, the proof was lost. This resulted in a 300 year struggle to recover the proof. If we're going to study mind-body empirically we need to ground the studies in the language of science, with careful recording of each experiment in repeatable terms. Terms which I'm afraid the eastern meditative philosophies not only lack, but fail to show the physical representations of in the brain.

The more apt method of answering the question of emergence, I think, is to study the generation of mind rather than its presence in fully developed brains. Barring the most insideous experiments I can think of, a reasonable way to do this is to try and construct a mind in a different context, something we are already doing.


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evil religion

evil religion wrote:
Indeed. But there is no emergant property I can think of that can't be predicted or at least partly explained by the underlying physical structure.

Well then I refer you to deludedgod’s essays. We might not to explain HOW something works, but we can explain that it is rooted in and produced by physicality.

 

evil religion wrote:
I really cant think of another emergant system where the underlying structure does not at least predict or partly explain the emergant property.

Consider:

Hardness:It is a meaningless property when looking at individual atoms. But if we understand the motion and structure of those atoms within a substance we can predict and even calculate its hardness.

 Social dynamic: It is meaningless when applied to a single person but if we understand what the personalities of individuals within a group are like we can predict what kind of dynamic will exist within a group.

Heat: It is a meaningless concept when applied to an individual atom but when we know the motion of all atoms in a gas we can preict and calculate the heat of the gas.

Position: When applied to and unonserved quantum particle it is a meaningless concept but if we understand the underlying wave function and how it will be observed we can predict the likely hood of and emergant position.

 With mind no amount of detailed understanding of the motion of atoms or neurons or any other arbitarty physical grouping will predict, account or say anything useful about the "what it is like to be" of conciousness. Given that this is perhaps the fundamental defining property of conciousness this too me is a serious problem in our physical account of the brain.

All this simply points to the fact that we currently do not know HOW they work. It doesn’t negate the fact that we know they are still physical, or at the very least, the result of physicality.

Again, read deludedgod’s essays on this topic.

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan


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Quote -I disagree.

Quote -I disagree. Conciousness is one useful anstraction buy it is not more the absolute truth about rteality than the physical descriptions are. Both are very useful but both are incomplete

You seem to be verging towards duality here. Duality is always going to end up getting contradicted. However I guess we are both trying to indicate that the Conscious is not physical.You seem to however differ that it is not the absolute. But you indicated that you believe in neutral Monism, so what might be the core of that.

 Unless one focusses on the conscious , one cant see the truth. The fact is that duality is inbuilt in our current nature, so much so that we are unable to percieve that the truth is Monistic ie the conscious only and nothing else. 

A simple experiment will indicate only the start of this. No need to believe in Hinduism or read any scripture. Try getting up in the morning around 5.30 -6.00 am when no one is awake, (presuming you slept very well atleast 7 hours and body is fresh) . Have a glass of water, after brushing your teeth. Sit on the Padma pose (Buddha's pose or need not be Padmasana as per Hatha Yoga). Close your eyes. Keep your hands in such a way that they are rested on your lap without tension, let the fingers of one hand be over the other. This is important.

Meditate with only the thought on your Self conscious . All other thoughts should be brushed aside. Bit difficult initially, but persist. One should start thinking only about  the Self Conscious. To give a hint , ask the question , how do you know you are alive , what intuitive feeling is giving you that assurance. You will be close to the Self that way. You can also try  imagining the awareness of your existence inside and around your body. If you get distracted , only observe the breathing of the nostrils and movement of air and again go back to the awareness of the Self. If you do this properly , in about 20-25 minutes time, you will feel as if you fingers and palm are not with you. Please note that this is a fully aware state, you can hear cars honking outside if there is one , or the clock ticking or the AC's gentle sound. But your fingers vanish and merge into space as it were.

This is just the start of it. If you prolong this for 1 hour for some time , you may start observing depending upon the intensity that barring the part of your torso which is touching the ground or whatever is touching your back , many other parts doesnt seem to exist, you are unaware of those

This progression takes you to the reality. Some stages later one  will have not even have the mild breathing movement, thats all , no sensation of the body , as if the outside and inside are diffused. Now this is just a physical realization of the reality that it is only the Self and nothing else.  If you doubt all this without trying yourself, which you may naturally , since this not an everyday experience  please visit India and some of the Ashrams of Vedanta. You may also visit some of the Buddhist monasteries anywhere in the world. You might be amazed to see it in person. There is hard evidence here in front of your eyes, not some mumbo jumbo.

  On prolonged practice , you will get into higher layers of the Monistic reality (all in complete awareness of yourself). In the higher stages of the monistic reality apprehension, the concept of Karma and rebirth step in.

Why does it take us so much time ( one hour daily etc) to get this, one might ask. It is because the human body and our minds are so convinced about Duality,  that it takes a long time to initially get rid of this notion. What is the  Duality that gets dispelled in this process. This needs to be addressed here. Is it the duality body/ matter  and the spirit which RSS berates. No we are not referring to the kind of  duality preached by say Christianity. The human body and ourselves are so convinced that I am a body and I am  different from the bodies outside me. So Duality is that of the Self and the Non Self.  This Duality is what is dispelled  totally in higher reaches of the practice.   Now one may ask if this is not the Reality ,why are we living it day in and day out. Yes true. The answer is that the life in front of our senes is an illusion. Just as when we dream and get up, the dream vanishes, when you meditate to certain extant , you start seeing that the duality in front of you starts vanishing.  You can see through matter

The final stage of this is the merging of the Self into its own larger Universal Cosmic Self  which is itself, but the dimensions are Cosmic.

 Many of the stages and later stages require one to read through the Vedas and the scriptures and have a particular way of life. This way of life tunes ourselves to get it properly.   Again one may ask why , why cant someone else do it. I am not forcing, but the answer is this is a well trodden path , that is all.  The path has certain extreme austerities also built in .

The common ignorance creeping up here is Hinduism as a religion.

No Hinduism is a way of life , majority of Hindus only call it a way of life. Because the Hindus arent bound by dos and donts . One neednt go to temple at specified times, neither is one supposed to pray if one doesn want to. The preyaers themselves can be created and coded by people. Meaning to say it is not like the Quran. Neither is one required to believe in the Pantheon of Gods. The Vedas really are philosophical texts primarily with certain details on way of life to be conducted. There is a ritualistic procedural first part and a philosophic second part. There are a lot of commentaries which explain to the lay person , what might appear abstract. There are separate texts called Puranas which have mythology and have detailed description of the variety of gods. But the entire philosophical aspect comes from the Vedas. The Puranas and the part of the Gods which atheists will disagree help one to prepare for the later stages and know the reality of philosophic truth

 Please note that a lot of people who go on this path have achieved what are known as Yogic Powers, though not recommended , since the same can be misused. By Yogic Powers, one can do many things which will appear as miracles to us , but it is not a miracle, it is achieved only when achieves phenomenal control of the concentration on the Self that eg one can move in physical Space time backwards and come back (to others perception only). Not mumbo jumbo again , please visit some of the places I mentioned , the hard evidence is there , you can also get it provided there is a Will. It has nothing to do with any God or preachings.

Quote -In otherwords you have to believe in Hinduism in order to believe. This is where Hindu philopshy fails. What starts of as a very interesting entreprise of introspection quickly decends into religisous nonsesne with wild claims about the nature of reality. Bhudist philosphy and Jain philsophy follow the same path. With bhudism the bhuda observations and arch empiricism where way ahead of his time. It was a good start but then we quickly decend into jibberish about rebirth and karma which are totaly unfounded claims 

For your information , Buddhism borrowed heavily from Hindu scriptures. Jainism is adjutant to Hinduism , but as a religion , whereas Hinduism is a way of life. Jainism  does have one among many preceeding him  who can be said to be the founder (Mahavira) , unlike Hinduism which has no founder.

Coming to Karma and Rebirth.

It is not a religious concept.  Karma is one of the four activities which according to the Vedas a person can engage in. The others are Dharma (being pious), Karma , Artha (earning resources and money) and Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth).

So please note that the religious aspect or the piety aspect is an adjutant to this  and not the core. But many end up calling this as religion

Venkat Rajan

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Topher wrote: evil

Topher wrote:

evil religion wrote:
Indeed. But there is no emergant property I can think of that can't be predicted or at least partly explained by the underlying physical structure.

Well then I refer you to deludedgod’s essays. We might not to explain HOW something works, but we can explain that it is rooted in and produced by physicality.

 

evil religion wrote:
I really cant think of another emergant system where the underlying structure does not at least predict or partly explain the emergant property.

Consider:

Hardness:It is a meaningless property when looking at individual atoms. But if we understand the motion and structure of those atoms within a substance we can predict and even calculate its hardness.

 Social dynamic: It is meaningless when applied to a single person but if we understand what the personalities of individuals within a group are like we can predict what kind of dynamic will exist within a group.

Heat: It is a meaningless concept when applied to an individual atom but when we know the motion of all atoms in a gas we can preict and calculate the heat of the gas.

Position: When applied to and unonserved quantum particle it is a meaningless concept but if we understand the underlying wave function and how it will be observed we can predict the likely hood of and emergant position.

 With mind no amount of detailed understanding of the motion of atoms or neurons or any other arbitarty physical grouping will predict, account or say anything useful about the "what it is like to be" of conciousness. Given that this is perhaps the fundamental defining property of conciousness this too me is a serious problem in our physical account of the brain.

All this simply points to the fact that we currently do not know HOW they work. It doesn’t negate the fact that we know they are still physical, or at the very least, the result of physicality.

Again, read deludedgod’s essays on this topic.

I have read the essay.

Its not a question of having to explain the property.  There is not a single emergant property that I can think of that could not, with a Gods eye view of the system at least be predicted by this God eye view. Now sure if we know about every atom of the brian we can say hmmm yes this person will experiance pain or laughter or even is thinking about a blue horse but nothing what so ever will be said about the actual experiance itself. Nothing. No amount of detail will even predict anything about the "what it is like to be". I simply can't think of any other emergant property that springs forth so magically without warning. Given that the "what it is like to be" is the very defining property of conciousness this leads me to believe that the "physical" description is hoplesly ill equiped to describe this type of phenomona.  It is very good a encasulating the objective but completely useless at encapsulating the subjective on any level. Conciousness is by definition a subjective phenomona.


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Venkatrajan wrote: evil

Venkatrajan wrote:

evil religion wrote:
-I disagree. Conciousness is one useful anstraction buy it is not more the absolute truth about rteality than the physical descriptions are. Both are very useful but both are incomplete

You seem to be verging towards duality here. Duality is always going to end up getting contradicted. However I guess we are both trying to indicate that the Conscious is not physical.You seem to however differ that it is not the absolute. But you indicated that you believe in neutral Monism, so what might be the core of that.

I'm not tending towards duality lets get that clear right now.

I agree that conciousness (mental) can't be explained, defined or comprehended in terms of "physical". But, and here is the crux, neither can physical be defiend, explained or comprehended in term of conciousness (mental). Trying to explain hardness in terms of a mental experiance is a futile as trying to explain "what it is like to feel pain" in terms of the motion of atoms or neurons.

We can use the mental to explain what it is like to feelm a hard object, how it feels, how it compares to other feelings other objects. We can describe it in these mental terms but nothing we say of how it feels will ever account for or explain its physical properties. We won't even get close to explaining why it is hard using these terms.

Similarly we can have an increadibly detailes physical explanation of the atomic structure of the metal, How it interacts with nerves in our fingers understand which neurons fire in our brain. We can understand that it will produce a set neurons firing that will be similar to other hard objects and so can understand that other hard objects will produce similar feelings. But none of this says anything about the actual experiance itslef. No a single clue is given by this physical analysis about what it actually feels like. The only way we gain any knowledge about this is by actually having those feelings at some stage now or in the past.

Quote:
Unless one focusses on the conscious , one cant see the truth. The fact is that duality is inbuilt in our current nature, so much so that we are unable to percieve that the truth is Monistic ie the conscious only and nothing else.

I really don't see how conciousness can be fundamental.

Physical is a good contender for being fundamental but I think it does fall at certain herdles but conciousness really does not cut the mustard at all as the fundamental property. 

Quote:
loads of irrelevant stuff about meditating

Look I'm not really interseting in disussing your experiances whilst meditating. You need to provide me some actual arguments as to why you think the mental is fundamental. Meditation can lead to all sorts of results but it is not empirically testable or indeed relaible. How would you know you where wrong? If I said to you that I have meditated for hours and my insights have told me that the physical is fundamental how would you debate me? How would you prove me wrong? You can't. It is therfore rather fool hardy to expect me to take your word for it, or to take the word fo some Yogi's bronze age India. 

Quote:
Quote:
Quote -In otherwords you have to believe in Hinduism in order to believe. This is where Hindu philopshy fails. What starts of as a very interesting entreprise of introspection quickly decends into religisous nonsesne with wild claims about the nature of reality. Bhudist philosphy and Jain philsophy follow the same path. With bhudism the bhuda observations and arch empiricism where way ahead of his time. It was a good start but then we quickly decend into jibberish about rebirth and karma which are totaly unfounded claims

For your information , Buddhism borrowed heavily from Hindu scriptures. Jainism is adjutant to Hinduism , but as a religion , whereas Hinduism is a way of life. Jainism does have one among many preceeding him who can be said to be the founder (Mahavira) , unlike Hinduism which has no founder.

I'm well aware of all this. 

Quote:
Coming to Karma and Rebirth.

It is not a religious concept. Karma is one of the four activities which according to the Vedas a person can engage in. The others are Dharma (being pious), Karma , Artha (earning resources and money) and Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth).

So please note that the religious aspect or the piety aspect is an adjutant to this and not the core. But many end up calling this as religion

Venkat Rajan

But there is no logical basis for Karma thats my point. There is no reason to supose that Karma is a real phenomona. None what so ever its just a faith position in the same way the Xtians believ in their God.