Intelligent Design Three Knockdown Proofs of the Immateriality of Mind, and Why Computers Compute, not Think Posted on December 29, 2018December 31, 2018 Author Barry ArringtonComments(162) Spread the love From Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor
162 Replies to “Three Knockdown Proofs of the Immateriality of Mind, and Why Computers Compute, not Think”
Let me preface this by saying that I believe in the immaterial mind. But, is a mind resulting from completely material processes incompatible with ID?
The problem for physicalists is that they have to first explain how it’s even possible that mindless matter can give rise to mind and consciousness. So far, as far as I know, no one has been able to do that. Of course, they can always argue that we do not know. But if that’s true why not consider the other possibility that ontologically consciousness and mind are immaterial.
What is inane and stupid is to argue that even if we don’t know the answer MUST be physical. Egnor has actually carried on debates with people like that, including Dr. Steven Novella assistant professor of neurology at Yale and president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society. He has argued there is no debate because materialism has already won.
Barry Arrington referenced the video of neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the immateriality of the mind.
Here are some of Dr,. Egnor’s further thoughts and responses on the mind and free will (I will also put them up as a separate post):
Hamlet: Did His Perplexing Neurotransmitters Cause the Tragedy? The neuroscientist working from a mechanical perspective would study the material and efficient causes of Hamlet’s act of revenge.
Yes, your brain is a machine—if you choose to see it that way
Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part I
A reply to computational neuroscientist Anil Seth’s recent TED talk
Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part II In a word, no. Your brain doesn’t “think”; YOU think, using your brain
Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?
Is Free Will a Dangerous Myth?
The brain is not a “meat computer”
AI is indeed a threat to democracy But not in quite the way historian Yuval Noah Harari thinks
Follow UD News at Twitter!
I am one who certainly does consider that “ontologically consciousness and mind are immaterial.” But I think it’s important to acknowledge that dualists face the equally difficult problem of how the immaterial mind interfaces in a causal way with the physical body.
This is why I am more interested in the experience of consciousness, and how it relates to the overall mind than I am to the ontological question.
In the video Dr. Egnor referenced Benjamin Libet’s work on free will, or as he put it in the video “free won’t”.
Besides evidence from neuroscience validating the reality of free will, advances in quantum mechanics now also validate the reality of free will.
In fact, the last major ‘loop-hole’ that was left to be closed in quantum mechanics was the ‘free-will’ loop-hole:
That “creepy” and “far-fetched” possibility, i.e. “that a physicist running the experiment does not have complete free will in choosing each detector’s setting”, (which is exactly the “creepy” and “far-fetched” possibility that atheists hold to be true), has now been, for all practical purposes, closed.
Anton Zeilinger and company have now pushed the “free-will loophole” back to 7.8 billion years ago by using quasars to determine measurement settings.
Moreover, here is another recent interesting experiment by Anton Zeilinger, (and about 70 other researchers), that insured the complete independence of measurement settings in a Bell test by using the free will choices of 100,000 human participants instead of having a physical randomizer determine measurement settings.
In a more direct way, free will is also now validated in quantum mechanics with Contexuality and/or the Kochen-Speckter Theorem,
With contextuality we find, “In the quantum world, the property that you discover through measurement is not the property that the system actually had prior to the measurement process. What you observe necessarily depends on how you carried out the observation” and “Measurement outcomes depend on all the other measurements that are performed – the full context of the experiment. Contextuality means that quantum measurements can not be thought of as simply revealing some pre-existing properties of the system under study. ”
And in the Kochen-Speckter Theorem we find, as leading experimental physicist Anton Zeilinger states in the following video, that “what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”
This finding is simply devastating to the physicalist’s deterministic view of nature, And even to the Theistic Evolutionist’s ‘front loading’ view of nature.
As the following article states, it is “not even be possible to place the information into the universe’s past in an ad hoc way.”
It should also be noted that this closing of the ‘free will loop-hole’ in quantum mechanics validates what is termed ‘the instrumentalist approach’ in quantum mechanics and, as Steven Weinberg himself points out in the following articles, undermines the Darwinian worldview from within:
Thus free will, which is the defining attribute of agent causality, is validated and the deterministic view of Darwinists, (materialists, naturalists, physicalists, or whatever you want to call atheists), is in no uncertain terms, as far as empirical science is concerned, completely refuted.
If only Darwinian atheists were truly as ‘scientific as they pretend to be on the internet then they would honestly admit that their deterministic worldview, as far as science itself is concerned, is proven to be false.
Moreover, by allowing agent causality back into the picture of modern physics, as quantum physics itself now demands, and as the Christian founders of modern physics originally envisioned, (Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, and Max Planck, to name a few), then an empirically backed reconciliation, (via the Shroud of Turin), between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, i.e. the ‘Theory of Everything’, readily pops out for us in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
And one final note, although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God. C.S. Lewis states the situation as such:
And just as Christian’s have presupposed all along, two of our best scientific theories, special and general relativity respectfully, now reveal two very different, even two diametrically opposed, eternities. A very orderly eternity associated with special relativity and a very destructive eternity associated with general relativity,
And yet immaterial software interfaces just fine with the material computer. The immaterial mind permeates the material brain and body.
Software is not immaterial. It is just bits embedded in something physical. Of course, the logic of the arrangement of those bits was designed by a person, but the software itself is material. I don’t think this is a reasonable analogy at all.
Hazel at #4:
It certainly happens in the brain all the time.
How it happens is a very good question, of course.
The problem is that it should happen without violating known laws of physics. IOWs, if we accept that events in a physical system are mainly deterministic, we have to find a way for consciousness to interact with that determinism without violating it.
I think that the best theories about that problem rely on some form of quantum interface. That is my personal position too.
Quantum events are fully deterministic (at the level of the wave function), but they include a probabilistic (and indeed very mysterious) component in the idea of wave function collapse.
That probabilistic component seems to be intrinsically random (but of course, that’s exactly where the many interpretations of quantum theory differ a lot). However, an intrinsically random system could be a very good interface for a design intervention.
Design is really the art of superimposing meaning and function on contingent systems. In that sense, the whole consciousness-matter interface, however it works, could be seen as a pervading design intervention, where consciousness superimposes designed meaning and function on the contingent level of wave function collapse.
That’s my position too.
Yes, it is.
That is how it is represented.
“Information is information; it is neither matter nor energy.”– Norbert Weiner
As I said ET, the logic (or structure or meaning or whatever you want to call it) is an idea (or information or design or whatever you want to call it), but it has to get instantiated in the physical world to actually do anything.
Same with the mind: I can think, “I will raise my hand”, and voila, my hand raises. Someplace in there my thought has to interface in a way that the appropriate physiological things happen that are involved in my physical hand raising. It is that interface that is unknown.
I think what Hazel means is that design, or meaning, or function, if originating in consciousness (as I do believe), have to be outputted to material objects at some point. That’s where the problem of the interface arises.
If I design a form on a sheet of paper, the form certainly originates in my cosnciousness and mind. But if it has to be represented as a design on a material object (the sheet of paper), I need to be able to do a few specific things: take a pencil, govern it with my hands and use it to design the form that I perceive in my consciousness on the sheet of paper.
That’s the interface.
Of course, it must start in the brain. My conscious representation, whatever it is and however it works, must at some point be able to control the ouptut of my motor neurons in my primary motor cortex, so that all those actions may happen in a coordinated way, controlled by my desire to output the perceived form to the sheet of paper.
So, a lot of higher functions linked to conscious representations (cognition, meaning, desire, free will) are involved in the design process, but there is no doubt that an interface with the physical machinery that implements the material design is also necessary.
I really believe that a quantum interface between consciousness and biological matter is, at present, the best hypothesis. But of course we still understand too little about those things.
Hazel- I can think “I will raise my hand” and nothing happens. I will say it out loud and nothing happens. Maybe I need to specify which hand and also to raise the entire arm. I will try it again.
The two are together as one- mind and body. Just as the software and the hardware are inseparable and act together. The hardware is pretty useless without it.
A few notes:
Moreover, In the sleeping state, the brain shares much less information with different parts of the brain than the brain does during our waking state.
Moreover, quantum information is ‘physically’ conserved:
And it is precisely ‘information’ that goes ‘missing’ upon death of our temporal material body:
The implication is fairly straightforward, “the quantum information,,, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed.,,, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
Hi gpuccio at 9:
I understand that a common hypothesis is that the interface between our mind and our body is via quantum effects of some kind. I don’t think there are any testable specific about this (I may be wrong), so I consider this a speculation and not even a hypothesis yet.
But I like these thoughts of yours:
However, I still see the same interface problem, pushed back a level. If the mind can change the probabilities of quantum behavior from random to the way the mind needs them to be to cause its design to be instantiated, how does it do that? That would require not only a vast, global knowledge of what quantum events needed to be changed, but the ability to collapse all those waveforms in a way that was different than they might otherwise have, and that might easily be considered “violating known laws of physics.” It may be taking place at a level forever empirically unknown, and perhaps unknowable, to us externally but it would still be intervening in the randomness that is part of the laws which describe quantum events.
However, given that this is all highly speculative, I was glad to see you state that you agree with me when I said that I “am more interested in the experience of consciousness, and how it relates to the overall mind than I am to the ontological question.” I made a number of comments about this issue over on the Inane thread, but didn’t get much reply.
And I just saw your post at 12, and you explain my point well. There has to be an implementation stage of any design to bring it into the physical world. Thanks.
A few more notes on the physical reality of immaterial information:
It is important to learn that ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, quantum entanglement can be used as a ‘quantum information channel’,,,
And by using this ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, ‘quantum information channel’ of entanglement, is how they are able to perform quantum computation.
Moreover, the final answer in quantum computation is read off the state of the particles at the end of the computation when it is ‘measured’. In other words, it is the ‘non-local’ computation and then ‘measurement’ that determines the final state of the material particles, not the material particles that determine the final state of the answer.
To reiterate, this ‘quantum computation’ is NOT being accomplished in a material fashion, as with classical computation, but is accomplished ‘non-locally’ in a completely non-material fashion, and we can only read off the answer by measuring the quantum state and thus collapsing quantum wave and thus bringing the ‘material register’ to a definite ‘material’ state..
Simply put, in quantum computation, quantum information determines the final state of the material particles.
Hazel @ #4,
Well, you can always wave your metaphysical magic wand and just imagine (or wish) away the problem. You don’t even have to say hocus-pocus. That’s what materialism does. By fiat materialists declare that matter-energy is all that exists. Unfortunately there is a high metaphysical cost that one has to pay to truly embrace such a worldview. For example, on an earlier thread I quote an atheist who thinks that absolute physicalism or materialism is “a bridge too far.”
The other way to magically wave away the problem is to accept an extreme form of idealism like virtual reality idealism as is portrayed in the movie The Matrix. However, The Matrix IMO doesn’t really go far enough because hero Neo is only plugged into the matrix, so he is able to escape the VR world into the “real” world. We can easily imagine that we are wired into a VR world for which there is no escape– this the so-called “brain in a vat” version of VR. Descartes, however, took the thought experiment to its ultimate conclusion. Suppose there is no such thing as a material world. The real world is a world of unembodied minds and spirits (angels and demons.) A skeptic, according to Descartes, could argue that we (or maybe just you) have been kidnapped by a malevolent demon who has taken control of our minds and has created the world we perceive around us, but it’s only a VR world of unreal perceptions. Philosophers argue that such a world is logically possible but like absolute materialism there is a very high metaphysical cost to such a view. It does solve, however, the some of the problems posed by materialism, namely, consciousness is real, not just an illusion.
Personally I have no reason to doubt a quotidian version of reality. Ontologically the spatial-temporal world in which I exist is composed of two types of things: (1) things that perceive, like conscious beings– humans and animals, and (2) things that are perceived like rocks, trees, stars, planets and human artifacts etc. We have a choice then: assume the world we perceive is basically the way the world is and try to explain it, or try to explain it away by metaphysical sleight of hand.
JAD writes at 17,
I hope the “you” in that sentence isn’t addressed to me, as it appears to be, as right before the sentence of mine you quoted I wrote, “I am one who certainly does consider that ‘ontologically consciousness and mind are immaterial’”, in reply to your statement at 2 about considering that possibility.
I am not a “physicalist”, and the further discussion I’ve had on this thread has not been from a physicalist point of view. I’d like to make that clear.
Hazel at #15:
Thank you for the good thoughts.
Yes, I saw some of your comments on that other thread, and I think the topic was very interesting, but I did not want to get engaged in the discussion in that context. I am very interested in the “sensorial” aspect of conscious representations, and I think that NLP has said some interesting things about that topic. However, a detailed discussion about the nature of the mind would be too complex and philosophic at the present stage of our knowledge.
Regarding the idea of a quantum interface, I agree with you that it is still conjectural (like many things in science, I must say). However, it has been seriously considered by many scientists, starting with Eccles and up to Penrose, and with different perspectives.
“That would require not only a vast, global knowledge of what quantum events needed to be changed, but the ability to collapse all those waveforms in a way that was different than they might otherwise have, and that might easily be considered “violating known laws of physics.”
Well, I don’t agree. I think it does not require a “conscious knowledge”. It just requires a coordinated connection.
I will try to be more clear. When we move a muscle to achieve something, we have no conscious knowledge of what muscle fibers need to be contracted. Many movements are simply the coordinated action of different muscles, but we are not aware of the details. Our consciousness is just correctly “wired”, so that we easily learn the right moviments.
The same could be true for the quantum interface. If it is designed, we just use it. We are not aware of the details.
Of course, there are deep philosophical problems here: for example, are formal configurations merely physical, or can they happen at different levels of reality? Is consciousness itself formal, or not?
I am aware of those difficulties, but again they have a deep philosophical nature, and they are beyond what we are discussing here.
The second point is that the control by consciousness needs not violate the probabilistic properties of quantum systems. Except from a design perspective.
Again, I will try to be more clear. A Shakespeare poem does not violate any physical law. If we lived in a world where strings of letters are continuously generated by random systems, the appearance of the poem would not violate in itself a probabilistic law: as our opponents often say, the poem is in itself as likely as any random sequence of the same length. It’s only its meaning that specifies it as an extremely unlikely event (if compared to the many events that have no meaning at all), and reveals its designed origin.
But physical laws are not aware of meaning.
So, even if we observe what happens in the many probabilistic events in a random system (like the brain), no violation of the general probabilistic distributions will be observed. Except that some of the random events will have unexpected meanings, and will allow a design inference. But physical laws need not be violated, exactly as nobody believes that the works of Shakespeare falsify the second law..
To Gpuccio at 19.
I appreciate all your comments, and that these are deeper issues than being discussed here, or at least than you wanted to get involved (and that is perfectly understandable.)
However, there is one issue I’d like to mention. In respect to whether mind interacting with the body via quantum effects, I had written, “the ability to collapse all those waveforms in a way that was different than they might otherwise have, … might easily be considered “violating known laws of physics.””
To this idea (I think), you replied
There is a difference between there being no violation of “general probabilistic distributions” and a possible violation, by mindful control, of a single quantum effect.
To make a unrealistic example, suppose a mind could control the roll of a dice, but usually doesn’t). If I roll the dice 6000 times, not only would there be an expected probability distribution, there would be an expected distribution of actual distributions. That is, we would expect 1000 sixes, in theory, but we would also not expect to get exactly 1000 sixes. 980 sixes would be reasonable, but only 200 sixes would make us consider that something was wrongs, as that would be too unlikely.
However, suppose the mind that can control the dice made the 3000th roll a six, overriding the 5/6 probability that it might not be a six. There is no way we could detect that via looking at probability distributions, but it would be a violation of the laws of physics to impose that result.
This is the kind of thing I was referring to when I wrote, “It may be taking place at a level forever empirically unknown, and perhaps unknowable, to us externally but it would still be intervening in the randomness that is part of the laws which describe quantum events.”
As an AGI researcher, I believe that intelligence does not require a conscious mind. Intelligence is a cause-effect, physical phenomenon. Most of you will live to see highly intelligent machines and robots among us. They will cook for us, do our laundry, clean the house and do our jobs. They will be construction workers, doctors, drivers, pilots, engineers, chefs, waiters, soldiers, etc. It’s coming.
Hazel at #20:
“There is no way we could detect that via looking at probability distributions, but it would be a violation of the laws of physics to impose that result.”
I am not sure what you mean, but I wil try to answer just the same. Correct me if I am wrong in interpeting your thoughts.
First of all, regarding probability dostributions, I think that the “design” taking place in the brain would use configurations that are not in themselves extremely unlikely (let’s say, like getting 3000 sixes in 6000 attempts, which is really totally unlikely), but in the range of realistic results. So, the probabilistic distribution would be absolutely respected for an observer, if nothing were known of the meaning of the configuration.
Regrading the laws of physics, I can agree with you that they would be violated in the case of the dice, because that is a fullt deterministic event, and our description of it as a probability doistribution is only due to our inability to know all the variables involved.
But quantum probability, at least in the most common inteprations, is not a matter of hidden variables. It is, probably 🙂 , intrinsic probability. Something that we really don’t understand.
Therefore, there is the realistic chance that no violation of physical laws is necessary for consciousness to control it.
There is no doubt that intelligently designed machines can do a lot of amazing intelligent things. Look at what biological machines can do.
Intelligence is an ambiguous world. As you use it, it refers to “frozen” intelligence: IOWs, a conscious intelligent agent implements complex functional machines. That’s why you call them “intelligent”.
But if we mean intelligence as the conscious experience of understanding meanings, then machines are not intelligent, and never will be, because machines, very simply, are not conscious.
It’s as simple as that.
I don’t think any or all of Egnor’s examples amount to proof of the immateriality of the mind. They are arguments to which there are equally good counter-arguments. For example, Egnor can cite research by Penfield, Sperry and Libet but he can’t provide any examples of disembodied consciousness at all. This debate continually butts up against the hard problem of consciousness which no one has been able to crack so far. If you want to hypothesize the brain to be some sort of hugely complex and metabolically expensive ‘transceiver’ then you need to show that there is something being transmitted and received by the brain in the same way that electromagnetic waves are broadcast and received by a radio.
As for machines thinking consciously, as far as I know, there are none that do that yet but I would argue that, since we have no adequate account of consciousness yet, we are not in a position to say that they never will.
I don’t know if the website redesign project is finished, but the Recent Comments feature still doesn’t work reliably, and it’s one of the most useful features when it’s working.
Hmmm. Right after I wrote this, I refreshed the Home page (which I think I had just done) and now the Recent Comments are up-to-date. Maybe refreshing a Post doesn’t refresh, but refreshing Home does?
As Seversky says, nobody can provide examples of disembodied consciousness.
I can point to 7.6 billion examples of minds that are associated with physical brains.
Can anyone demonstrate even one mind that is not?
To gpuccio at 22
I agree. That is I was referring to when I wrote, “There is no way we could detect that [a specific dice roll being a six] via looking at probability distributions.
I also understand that that analogy of the dice is flawed (all analogies are, by definition, only partly true) in that the roll of the dice is a deterministic event that only appears probable due to our lack of complete knowledge, but that quantum probabilities are truly random: there are no hidden variables such that if we knew them they would be like dice.
I understand the distinction you are making. Still, I wonder if it’s not realistic (I’m glad you used that adjective) to say that changing an event from one that is truly random to one that is chosen by a mind is not violating, or at least contravening, the laws of physics in that the flow of physical events would most likely have been changed from what it would be if the mind had not intervened.
I think the key issue might be, for a single quantum event, not that no laws of physics were violated, but that there would be no way, even in theory, for us to ever know.
I understand PK’s point at 26. However, one of the logical philosophical possibilities is that consciousness (and really we should say the mind, I think) is an immaterial something, but that it has no definite content nor ability to affect the physical world without being connected to a body, in whatever mysterious and unknown way that is.
Web site designers
Please, either reinstate the “more” button for comments, or an “ignore” button. There are comments with very extensive “copy and paste” or verbose prose that many people just scroll past. Having to scroll past all of it makes for an unpleasant experience for many who would like to participate in the discussion.
@ 24 Seversky states
Yet Seversky purposely ignores extensive evidence from Near Death Experiences that have been repeatedly pointed out to him.
Moreover, as Dr. Egnor himself pointed out, the evidence for the reality of Near Death Experience is far more robust and compelling than any purported evidence for Darwinian evolution is:
Moreover, the transcendent nature of ‘immaterial’ information, which is ubiquitous within molecular biology, even permeating every facet of molecular biology, and which is the primary thing that, (as every ID advocate intimately knows), unguided material processes have repeatedly failed to explain the origin of, directly supports the transcendent nature of the soul:
As was stated earlier at post 14, (i.e. physical reality of immaterial information), and as I quoted Stuart Hameroff: “it’s possible that this (conserved) quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
Of related note:
Ed George, do you want me to try to help you with your attempt to basically censor my comments?
Although, you might not find the solution that I would ask for to your satisfaction!
That sounds perilously close to not existing at all.
Are you suggesting that people would choose not to read your comments? Why would you think that?
All I am asking is for a feature found on many blogs. A “more” button so that those who are interested can read the rest of the comment. And for those who don’t want to scroll for several seconds to go on to the next comment. Most people wouldn’t take this personally. Do you?
And no one can provide a materialistic process capable of producing a living organism let alone an organism with a brain.
When you guys ever get any evidence for such a thing we will reconsider the claim that mind is separate from body.
So what? You cannot show ONE case of the mind emerging from the brain
And if you really wanted evidence for disembodied consciousness then you would travel to the allegedly haunted sites and conduct a thorough investigation.
Ed George, I’m just trying to help you personally not see my comments anymore.
Do you want my help?
I’m pretty sure that I can make it happen for you.
For some strange reason, you appear to be worried that some people may be given a tool by which they don’t have to read everything you write. Why? I am perfectly fine if some would prefer to skip past my comments. In fact, might I suggest that you do so?
A simple yes or no, do you personally not want to see my comments anymore?
I will do my best to make it happen for you if you want.
Again, I’m pretty sure that I can get it done for you.
An answer in the same vein as the last answer, I will take as a yes from you personally.
The thread is far enough off topic as it is with the last few posts, so let’s have your decision, and let you be on your own way and stop muddling up the thread.
Hazel at #27:
Again, thank you for the interesting discussion.
Only a couple of points:
But the idea is, of course, that the laws of physics (not just those that we already know, but those that we will understand as our knowledge deepens) do allow for physical events to be changed by consciousness at quantum levle. IOWs, consciousness and minds are part of reality, and therefore the laws of physics, that are part of the laws of reality, must certainly account for their existence and for their interaction with other components of reality.
Consciousness is not a rare event: we observe it all the time. It is an integral part of reality.
And consciousness does interact with physical matter. In both directions. Again, we observe that all the time.
Therefore, we must look for laws of reality and of physics that explain those regular observations. Apparent violations of existing laws must lead us to new laws.
The only aòternative is pure determinism or pure determinism plus randomness. But that does not even begin to explain what we observe in reality, especially consciousness, meaning, desire, intelligence and, of course, complex functional information and design.
I don’t agree.
First of all, even if the laws od physics are not violated by conscious events, as discussed, when we take into account meaning and function the laws of probability are absolutely violated. That is the main idea of ID. We observe meaning and function in the workings of consciousness at a level that can never be explained by a purely determoinistic and/or random system.
Second, I firmly believe that is something exists, we can understand it, sooner or later, at cthe level that it can be understood by our cognitive powers. It is never a good thing to give up in advance.
Seversky at #24:
Maybe. But we are discussing empirical science here, not mathematics. Why do you want “proof”? What are you looking for, a theorem?
Egnor’s arguments are good empirical arguments. They deserve to be considered for what they are.
And I am ready to listen to them.
Well, the arguments for the existence of disembodied consciousness are other, for example NDEs or mystical experiences. Those are facts, too. And they deserve interest and explanations.
Of course, I agree with that.
It depends on what you mean by “crack”. If consciousness cannot be explained in terms of configurations of matter, as I believe, and as the hard problem IMO strongly suggests, then insisting in trying to “crack” the problem in that sense is a road to nowhere. The only reasonable empirical attitude is, of course, to admit that consciousness is an observable that cannot be explained in terms of configurations of matter, and to study its properties and its interaction with other parts of reality.
Well, not necessarily. While I certainly agree that the brain is hugely complex and metabolically expensive (like the rest of our body, or even like bacteria, i would say), the discussion here has been about the brain as an “interface” to cosnciousness. That does not mean a “transceiver”, if you imply that it is receiving ifnormation from some distant source, by radio waves or similar. My discussion here has been about the theory that cosnciousness is linked to the brain at quantum level. That requires no “physical” separation, and no transmission of information by any waves in space and time. It certainly requires some form of connection by some laws, but nothing else.
I certainly agree.
You can certainly argue that. As I can argue that there are a lot of reasons to believe that they never will. Even with the level of understanding of consciousness that we have at present.
Are you interested in that discussion?
Pater Kimbridge at #26:
So can I, of course. That is a simple fact that nobody is trying to deny.
And yet, we draw different conclusions from facts. Not only me. Have you ever observed that most living and reasoning people, for millennia, have believed that consciousness can exist even if not linked to a physical brain? For example, after death?
I could mention again NDEs or mystical experiences. Those are facts, too. But I think that there are also many basic reasons that epxlain why so many reasonable people have considered survival of consciousness after the death of the physical brain as a very realistic idea.
None of those persons, as far as I am aware, has ever denied that millions or billions of conscious beings that we can observe exhibit a link between cosnciousness and a physical brain.
Of course there are many good arguments to believe in that idea. NDEs and mystical experiences are IMO among the best. However, the discussion is of course wider and more complex, involving philosophy and many other things.
The simple idea is that, if you look at matter, you will see at best manifestations of consciousness in matter. We can observe them all the time, but of course they require some interface between cosnciousness and matter. For huma beings, that interface is the brain.
I could certainly argue that the existence of complex functional information in biological beings is a very strong argument for the existence of conscious beings that interact with matter without using a human brain.
This is an ID site, have you noticed? 🙂
You have raised a worldviews level challenge and that means that you too have to warrant your own views on comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power. You do not get a free pass to impose evolutionary materialistic scientism and mind as in effect biologically programmed software riding on neuronal electrochemistry as default.
(For one, no-one has a credible mechanism to get to such a machine’s functionally specific complex coherent organisation and associated information on blind watchmaker chance and/or mechanical necessity, all at once [= Boltzmann brain] or incrementally [=goo to you by way of microbes to Mozart]. For two, a computational mechanism is not even in the same category as rational, responsible contemplation and choice. Evolutionary materialistic scientism is patently self-referentially incoherent and self-refuting, as J B S Haldane long since pointed out and as many others have continued to point out or inadvertently imply. In short, there is no warrant to infer or assume that brains sufficiently explain minds. You have inadvertently committed fallacies of presuming a false default alternative and so of question-begging. The actual weight of evidence is, that we may not know how it is, but the very patent fact of responsible rational freedom as the basis for reasoned discussion implies a degree of freedom and rational, reflective capability that cannot be explained on the mechanical necessity and/or stochastic behaviour of material computational substrates. Computing is not contemplation and rocks have no dreams.)
Next, when we look at cell based life, we find in its heart computing, cybernetic molecular machinery using 4-state per symbol digitally coded information in D/RNA. Alphanumeric code, text strings and algorithms, all of which are manifestations of language. Language antecedent to observed, cell based biological life. The only actually observed cell based biological life. Language, being a characteristic sign of intelligence and rational responsible freedom at work.
Going further, we live in an observed cosmos that is such that its physics puts it at a deeply isolated operating point in the configuration space of mathematically possible cosmologies. That is, there is good reason to see that the observed cosmos is fine tuned in ways that enable C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based biological life on terrestrial planets in galactic habitable zones. There is further reason to see that we inhabit an extraordinarily privileged planet, as it is evident that a great many factors have to be Goldilocks zone just so for the Earth to be right for the sort of life we enjoy.
All of this points to design of the observed universe as a serious view. Design that is antecedent to the existence of the sort of matter you appeal to by pointing to brains.
Going yet further, we find that mathematics [= the [study of the] logic of structure and quantity] is inextricably entangled not only in the practice of science but in the fabric of reality. Indeed, much of the logic of structure and quantity is embedded in the framework for any possible world to be. Mathematics, notoriously, addresses abstracta and logic even more, abstracta being irreducible to material instantiations. Where, information is precisely a case in point of quantifiable structures.
So, there is little reason to reduce the world to materialistic entities, including the phenomenon we experience as fact no 1, conscious mindedness.
A wiser approach is to take fact no 1 as point of departure, and to reject schemes of thought that reduce it to grand delusion (Plato’s cave type scenarios). This then leaves us with the common sense view that we are minded, embodied intelligent rational and responsible creatures in a world that has aspects that are concretely physical and aspects that are clearly immaterial, starting with abstracta and with mindedness.
Then, we can work out which view of reality makes best sense of such facts, recognising that Popperian style “falsification” is at best a small part of the overall project of rationality. A comparative difficulties approach makes far better sense than scientism, which is self-refuting.
The notion that those who believe in immaterial mind/soul have a burden of warrant beyond that which adherents to evolutionary materialistic scienism bear, fails.
PPS: Can we get rid of quotes as bigger font size and italicised?
I agree with kf at 44. Both of those changes should be very simple changes to make. Bigger font size on quotes makes no sense, and given the nice indent bar italics are not at all necessary, and really don’t read quite as easily.
to ba77 at 36 and 38. It seems like you are implying that you’ll ask, and succeed, to get Ed George banned. That doesn’t seem appropriate. If nothing changes, as is likely, then he can adapt to the circumstances, and choose to not read UD anymore or just scroll by posts he doesn’t want to read. This is a choice we all have: there are posters that I usually don’t read in full, or at all, and probably some that skip my posts.
But particularly on long threads, and/or on phones or tablets, scrolling through posts to get to the bottom is time-consuming and not very user-friendly. A suggestion I made, but this would be harder to implement, would be a “down to the end of the comments” button just as there is an “up to the top button” at the bottom right now. Then one could get quickly to the most recent posts and not have to re-scroll through all the past post.
Hazel, you can click on recent comments and get to the exact post you want without scrolling.
To defend my “long post’ at 5 and 6, I note that I am the only one on this thread to cite actual empirical evidence in support of the reality of free will, via quantum mechanics, so as to provide strong empirical support, via physics, for Dr. Egnor’s evidence from neuroscience.
Not a minor detail.
I also, briefly, laid out what I can see to be the very real ‘spiritual consequences’ for each of us.
Again, to put it mildly, not a minor detail.
Thus my posts were very much relevant to the topic and, IMHO, very important for the unbiased readers to learn.
To have someone who has contributed nothing of significance to the thread thus far, come into the thread and complain about what I find to be very relevant to the topic at hand is, IMHO, to reveal a hidden bias and animosity towards me personally. and more importantly a general disregard for the actual science at hand.
To Pater at 32:
When I offered the logical possibility that the mind has to be connected to a body to have any content or effective power, Pater replied, “That sounds perilously close to not existing at all.”
I am interested in exploring the logical possibilities about the mind. It could be that even though disembodied minds never exist, while existing in conjunction with a body they have access to some larger immaterial world such as one of Platonic ideas, mathematical or otherwise: that is, the mind has access to two sources of information, that provided by the body about its empirical experience and that provided by whatever immaterial aspect of the universe exists concerning more abstract ideas.
I don’t think this logical possibility can be dismissed, perhaps.
Exploration is a noble endeavor, but you are positing substance dualism, which is illogical by reductio ad absurdum.
To gpuccio at 39”
This is a good point. If consciousness interfaces with the body via quantum effects, then that interface could properly be considered as following the laws of physics: just laws we haven’t discovered/articulated yet. For that matter, the mind might be as much a manifestation of the quantum substrate as what we experience as the physical world, which would support a monist view in which both mind and matter exist as part of a unified ontological whole.
Now I know this possibility doesn’t account for disembodied minds or traditional ideas of a mind (or soul) that exists after death. My personal feeling about near-death experiences is that they are psychological experiences related to those people have in mystical or drug-stimulated states, but I understand I could be wrong about that. That isn’t a subject I personally want to pursue right now, though.
Back to the main topic for me:
When I wrote, “I think the key issue might be, for a single quantum event, not that no laws of physics were violated, but that there would be no way, even in theory, for us to ever know.”,
The distinction I am making is between one single event and a large number of events. Even if, as you’ve said, a quantum event being under the control of a mind violates no laws of physics, there is no way that we could ever tell that a single event had been so controlled.
This is just a mathematical point. Back to the dice example (which I know is just an analogy.)
Suppose we throw a dice, and if it’s a six, you win $1 million. Suppose some mind that can control dice wants you to win, so they make the dice come up six. With just one dice throw, there is no way to detect this intervention. It would take a lot of trials to reach a point where we felt comfortable affirming that the result was so unlikely that an intervention had taken place, but with just one throw we can’t.
I’m not trying to suggest any larger implications about ID, much of which doesn’t interest me. I am interested in thinking about how the mind and the body work together. The body is constantly going through huge numbers of biochemical changes that deterministically follow the laws of physics: how does the mind affect select subsets of those changes to provide direction and choice to our actions?
But given the current lack of knowledge about this, I’ll return to my actual main interest: how does our experience of our own consciousness, our larger mind, and our body work together, and how can we best use the tool of our consciousness to make our life the best we can.
Materialism is illogical
to Pater at 49: Thanks for giving a name, substance dualism, to the possibility I was describing (although positing might be too strong a word.)
However, I’m not a fan of videos: way too slow and no way to skim. Do you have a written source of explanation of what is illogical about substance dualism. (I understand well why someone might not believe in dualism, but I’m interested in the “illogical” part.)
I found a nice short statement about substance dualism, which also describes property dualism.
And this, about monism (edited a bit);
This is all interesting. The idea mentioned about with gpuccio that mind and body might both be different manifestations of a unified quantum substrate doesn’t seem to fit any of these. (And, as an aside, wjm’s beliefs, which he has described in other threads, seem to a version of Idealism and Phenomenalism, perhaps,
Hazel, it might interest you to know that one of the defining features of NDE’s is the fact that those who have experienced being outside their bodies while clinically dead report having access to much richer knowledge and information than they have had while their minds were/are connected to their temporal bodies.
For instance the following statement is not uncommon to hear from people who have had NDE’s:
Along that line of thought is this article:
In further support of the claim that the ‘material brain gets in the way of the mind’, it is also found that people who were born blind who have had NDE’s, could see for the first time in their life during their NDE. This simply has no explanation within the materialistic framework, whereas, in the theistic framework, this is expected:
In further support of the claim that ‘the material brain gets in the way of the mind’, in the following study, materialistic researchers who had a bias against Near Death Experiences being real, set out to prove that they were ‘false memories’ by setting up a clever questionnaire that could differentiate which memories a person had were real and which memories a person had were merely imaginary.
They did not expect the results they got: ,,, to quote the headline ‘Afterlife’ feels ‘even more real than real”
Again, this simply has no explanation within the materialistic framework, whereas, in the theistic framework, this is expected:
IMHO, one can patter on about philosophy all day long and chase your tail in an endless circle, but until one actually looks at the empirical evidence, such as from NDE’s, so as to bring resolution to the philosophical biases, it of no real use.
IMHO, the evidence from NDE’s is compelling and trumps philosophical posturing.
Thanks ba, but as a said, that subject doesn’t interest me.
To repeat a quote which has already been repeated more than once:
Which is exactly what we would expect if some form of dualism is true– which is why neurosurgeons like Egnor defend it. It certainly doesn’t prove that physicalism is true.
If you want to prove that physicalism then tell us how build and program a computer so that it is not only conscious but self-conscious. Just saying you believe that it’s possible doesn’t prove a thing.
By the way, there are other forms of dualism besides Descartes substance dualism. Egnor, for example, promotes the Aristotelian-Thomist view of dualism.
In other words, the essence of human existence not only appears to be dualistic it really is dualistic.
“…build and program a computer…”
If you have to resort to “god of the gaps”, you have lost the argument.
And yet, while waiting for my response, you could have watched the video, so your request was illogical.
Sorry, Pater. In the time I could have watched the video, I did other things, including doing a bit of research stimulated by your comment, for which I thank you.
I have what might be considered an irrational pet peeve, but I don’t watch videos or TV of any sort (except my favorite basketball team and a few other sports events.)
Also, please note: I was describing substance dualism as a belief some people have, not a belief I have.
And I’d still be interested in reading about why substance dualism is illogical.
Pater Kimbridge states:
And appealing to ‘unguided material processes of the gaps’ is ‘winning the argument’ for atheists how exactly?
To clearly illustrate the ‘materialism of the gaps’ style argument that the materialistic/atheistic philosophy makes, the materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several contradictory predictions about what type of scientific evidence we will find.
These ‘natural’ contradictory predictions of each Philosophy, and the evidence that we have found by modern science, can be tested against one another to see if either materialism or Theism is true.
As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy (methodological naturalism), from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation.
In fact, as was mentioned previously, when the Agent Causality of God is let back into the picture of modern physics, as quantum physics itself now demands, and as the Christian founders of modern physics originally envisioned, (Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, and Max Planck, to name a few), then an empirically backed reconciliation, (via the Shroud of Turin), between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, i.e. the ‘Theory of Everything’, readily pops out for us in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
In short, the supposed “God of the Gaps” objection is a shallow and fallacious objection from atheists that they invoke in order to try to avoid having to deal with the glaring and devastating deficiencies in their own worldview.
IMHO the ‘gap argument’ from atheists reflects a rather profound intellectual dishonesty on the part of atheists.
Correct. And so?
Many of the things we know in science require multiple observations. Even Newton’s law of gravity could not be derived from one object falling (even an apple 🙂 )
So, what’s the problem? If we need to observe enough events with meaning to infer the intervention of consciousness, so be it. I can’t see any problem in that.
Including quantum laws.
Probably, by controlling events (wave function collapses) that otherwise are completely random. By some law we still have to understand.
For a start, we can believe in free will (the libertarian form, of course) only if we believe that cosnciousness can control matter. I think that it is really a problem to “best use the tool of our consciousness to make our life the best we can” if we really don’t believe in free will.
For example, look at this:
There’s No Such Thing as Free Will
But we’re better off believing in it anyway.
Is archaeology an “artisan of the gaps”?
Is forensic science a “criminal of the gaps”?
The point is the design inference, ie Intelligent Design, is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships.
For example everything we know via observations and experience tell us that intelligent agencies can produce codes along with the means/ components to carry them out. We have never observed nature doing so. We don’t even know how to test the claim that nature can produce codes.
Therefore when we observe that biological organisms are ruled by codes we have every right to infer intelligent design given Isaac Newton’s four rules of scientific reasoning.
It is a huge leap of faith to believe that nature produce the codes that rules biological organisms.
Substance dualism is also referred to as Cartesian Dualism…
To gpuccio at 61:
My point about probability distributions was mainly of mathematical interest to me.
I’ve liked both your comment that the mind/body interface shouldn’t violate any laws of physics and that the laws of physics, especially at the quantum level, may one day be extended to include this interface. Those have been a stimulus to me for some useful thoughts.
I’m not quite sure why you mentioned free will in your post if that was still addressed to me. When I wrote, “how does our experience of our own consciousness, our larger mind, and our body work together, and how can we best use the tool of our consciousness to make our life the best we can”, I assumed, but didn’t use the exact words, that this includes making choices about how to act.
Exercising the will is one of the main issues, to me, in the problem of living. Where it fits in ontologically, like all this other philosophy we have been discussing in this interesting discussion, is full of more questions than answers. However, my conscious experience of being alive and making the choices I do as I act in the world is immediate and real and of greater importance to me than reaching a conclusion about some of the perennial philosophical issues.
Saying “god of the gaps” does not answer to the challenge to you at 42 above. Indeed, you cannot credibly (backed by actual empirical observation) get to a programmed, functional computational substrate by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. Much less, going further to a self-aware, conscience guided computational machine by the same means.
Where, 43 above gives an in a nutshell on the inherent, inescapable self referential incoherence — thus self-falsification — of evolutionary materialistic scientism.
If you think my comments are in error, simply provide said evidence: _______
What kind of evidence would be convincing? What would it look like?
PK, you are backing a claim of evolutionary materialistic scientism. In this case, an empirically testable claim, that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity formed computational substrates and associated functional programming. You need to empirically show at least that one of these components beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of functionally specific complexity could come about by such factors. In our credible observation. Otherwise, per Newton’s rules we ought not to allow explanatory factors not shown to be capable of a given effect when it comes to things we cannot directly observe. KF
PS: I can save you a lot of huffing and puffing by pointing out that random text generation exercises are at about 20 – 24 ASCII characters, far short of the 72 – 143 characters implied by such a threshold. Where, as an ASCII character is 7 bits, each additional character multiplies the scope of the configuration space of possibilities for a s-t-r-i-n-g by a factor of 128. That should help you to begin to see why functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information beyond such thresholds is a strong sign of design as cause. With, trillions of observed cases in point.
Yes, but what would that demonstration LOOK like? Some chemicals in a test tube? A computer model? A deck of cards?
Hazel at #64:
OK, I am happy that you believe in free will. So do I. Libertarian free will, of course.
More questions than anwers? Maybe. I am the first to believe that free will is probably beyond a scintific approach, at least for the moment.
But my point was simpler than that, and that’s why I addressed you with the statement about free will.
My point is simply that, if you believe in free will, as you seem to do, then I am afraid that you really need to believe in an interface between consciousness/mind and the body/ brain.
Why? It’s simple enough. Whatever the philosophical problems, if we accept a merely physical theory of the mind and of consciousness, we have to accept also that all conscious events are deterministic or random. I really can’t see how you can make room for free will in that case.
Again, if choices are determined by completely non conscious events (the working of physical forces in the body, plus some random component, maybe at quantum level), then they are not choices at all. Then we cannot modify in any way our destiny. At best, we are conscious helpless witnesses of events that happen in us, but that are in no way determined by us. At best, we can be deluded in believing that we make choices, but nothing more.
Look, I am not trying to force anything here. I really believe that there is no possible alternative, in a physicalist monism. No free will, no choices, a destiny that cannot be changed by our sentient I.
But you say that you feel and believe differently. But then I say: don’t you see that you need an independent role of consciousness, and an interface between consciousness and matter? Just to be consistent?
IOWs, I am not asking any detailed discussion about “where it fits in ontologically”. Let’s leave that to philosophers. But my points are very simple and very practical. Can we change our personal desitny? If yes, how? How can you envision chnages to our personal destiny without an interface where conscious events become a cause, and can change physical events through some interface? And if that interface is not at quantum level, as I have suggested, how can we avoid the apparent paradox of an intervention on deterministic systems that does not violate the laws of physics?
These are very simple questions. I have tried to propose answers, but I don’t understand what is your position. Can you clarify?
The evidence is the codes that rule biological organisms. And the demonstration is those codes in action.
And guess what? Your side has nothing to account for it
PK, further evasion duly noted. It is quite clear that science is about empirical evidence and support for claims rooted in such. The living cell, notoriously has a large quantity of 4-state coded, functionally specific information stored as strings. That is a central phenomenon of the cell, but there is nothing that locks strings down to D/RNA strands, nor to any one particular code. Thus, any experiment design that studies how blind chance and/or mechanical necessity generates strings and tests for relevant function as code is appropriate. Provide evidence that strings carrying at least 500 – 1,000 bits of coded, functional information have been observed to form through blind chance and/or necessity, or acknowledge that there is no empirically credible observation of such happening. By contrast, there are literally trillions of cases of such coming about by design, and the resource-constrained needle in haystack search challenge gives a very good reason for that observed pattern. KF
To gpuccio at #69:
Thanks for the thoughtful response.
Working backwards, you ask “What is your position? Can you clarify?”
My position is that there are more questions than answers (lots more), and that I am more interested in understanding my experience of consciousness than I am in coming to a personal conclusion about the ontological issues.
My consciousness is real: that is an immediate fact. But as I pointed out in my very post in the Inane thread (here), my experience is that a great deal of what is in my consciousness arises from outside (below?) my consciousness, which I think of as my sub-conscious, and then my conscious self processes them. For example, I articulate the holistic thoughts into a stream of words.
Similarly, I feel strongly that I can will my behavior, but my experience is also that decisions, or at least decision-possibilities, arise from the sub-conscious, and then my consciousness “feels” and articulates them as action. But I’m also aware that all of this is done in conjunction with sensations from the body, so I can’t really draw the line sometimes between mindfully driven action and bodily driven action.
This is very hard to describe, but I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to pay attention to the interplay between my consciousness and my overall self. In this context, stating exactly what will is, or free will is, as an experiential (as opposed to ontological) issue is not easy
So I have more questions than answers.
This assumes that everything outside of consciousness is part of the physical body, but that’s not been my picture at all. Several times I’ve said we should be saying mind, not consciousness, as, it seems to me that consciousness is just part of the mind.
Paying attention to my sub-conscious in order to find out what I “really” think or “really” want to do is, it seems, commonly found in many religious contexts: meditation, prayer, music, seclusion, etc. are all used by people to quiet the conscious mind so as to be be able to “hear” or “see” better what the larger self knows or wants to do.
So I disagree with your characterization of the sub-conscious. To me, “I” am something much larger than just my consciousness. I have access to all sorts of information that resides someplace in the mind/body that I am. I don’t know where that dividing line is, or what that interface is like, but I am pretty sure that interface is not the line between consciousness and non-consciousness.
It seems that through this entire discussion I’ve been thinking about the mind as different than the body. And I’ve agreed that the most likely avenue of how this happens is through whatever quantum reality is “really” like: in fact, I like the possibility that ultimately both consciousness and physical reality may be different types of manifestation of some larger unifying oneness. But that’s not a belief I have adopted as “my position”: it’s just something that seems like it might possibly be where the resolution of this interface issue lies.
I have agreed, as stated above, that the quantum explanation is a good candidate. And yes, every action we take has the effect of changing the course of our life, from the smallest of decision to the largest. As I’ve said above, I feel the reality of my will just as much as I feel the reality of my consciousness. Just because I think there are sub-conscous components to those things in the subconscious part of my mind that are available to my consciousness doesn’t make them any less part of “me”. Having the freedom to make choices, and taking responsibility for those choices is an essential part of my personal philosophy about living and being a human being
Strings? Do they have to be strings of DNA or will it suffice to generate other kinds of strings?
PK, again, I have already explicitly answered that generation of coded data strings is relevant and is not confined to DNA. DNA, for example is not ASCII coded. KF
A basic question that should be asked before we talk about consciousness and mind is: what exactly is consciousness?
Egnor gives a descriptive list of some the key properties of consciousness. None of this is original with him. You can find numerous articles and papers on-line which deal with each one of these properties in much more detail. For example, the following SEP article is a discussion just about “qualia” which cites Frank Jackson’s seminal 1982 paper on the subject, “Epiphenomenal Qualia,” along with others.
Egnor then points out,
JAD writes, “A basic question that should be asked before we talk about consciousness and mind is: what exactly is consciousness?”
I am interested in exploring this question, and I’m particularly interested in the interaction between consciousness and the rest of the mind. (For the record, I’m interested in this from a dualist viewpoint. I’m not interested in how a materialist sees this.)
For instance, what is the capital of France?
I am sure that the word “Paris” came into your consciousness as soon as you saw the question, either as an internal verbal articulation or in an image of the printed word. In addition, you might have had an instantaneous sense of where Paris in on a map, and if you’ve spent time in Paris probably other images as well.
My question is where was all this information when you weren’t being conscious of it? Is it accurate to say it was in the subconscious? Is the subconscious part of the mind? Or is all that information stored only in the material brain, but the consciousness has virtually instantaneous access to it?
A less simple example. It is a common phenomena for a person to be stuck working on a problem of some sort. They take a break, and the next morning they have a new insight and get unstuck. I think it’s common to feel that you were working on the problem in the subconscious. Again, was this creative activity going on in the mind, or just in the material brain?
So I’m interested in people’s thoughts on this. To what extent, and how, is the mind different, and “bigger” somehow, than our conscious experience, and how do consciousness and the subconscious interact and work together?
Hazel at #72:
Thank you for sharing in detail your ideas. I think that we agree on more things than you expect, and that there are some aspects of what I think of consciousness that are not clear to you (not your fault: I have not made them explicit in this discussion). So, I will follow your arguments and try to clarify my position better.
And I agree. Even if I have some ontological views /as probably have you), my discussions here, even about such subtle issues like consciousness and free will, are always essentially empirical. So, I treat consciousness for what we can observe of it, and I am not interested, at least at this level of discussion, in debating ontological issues. That’s why I never refer to consciousness and matter as “substances”, for example, and I am not a big fan of concepts like dualism and monism. IOWs, I want to stay as empirical as possible, and not get too philosophical, at least in this context.
Of course, I absolutely agree. It can be useful to specify that my personal consciousness is an observed fact for me, as yours is for you, while your consciousness is an inference by analogy for me, as mine is for you. But it is an inference so strong and fundamental that I have no douts that it is true.
Then you say:
OK, here is the important point, where you probably don’t understand my position (again, not your fault). So, I will try to clarify.
And, to clarify, it is always a good thing to give a couple of definitions. Of course, these are my definitions, but I hope they can help you understand what I believe.
a) Consciousness: any process where one perceiving “I” (or self, if you prefer) experiences many changing subjective representations. It’s not important the level, detail, intensity, structure of the representations. If there are subjective representations, of any kind and level, that is consciousness. There is a self that refers to itself all those changing forms. Let’s call that self “the subject”.
b) Therefore, consciousness includes all different states where the subject perceives something, however different the conditions. Let’s say that we are manly aware of the state where our self perceives the outer worlds during our waking hours. That’s certainly the state of consciousness that we understand best. But what you call “subconscious” is consciousness just the same. And the state of dreams, and of deep sleep. And NDEs, mystical experiences. And even altered states induced by drugs, or diseases, and so on. Different states of consciousness, but cosnciousness all the same. And the subject, our self, remains the same.
c) I have notices some confusion in our discussion about the terms “mind” and “consciousness”. You seem to use “consciousness” to denote the waking state of the self, and “mind” in a broader sense. Of course, anyone can use words as he likes. However, I use “consciousness” as the process including all subjective experiences. I use “mind”, instead, to indicate the more or less structured contents of consciousness, IOWs the forms experienced by the conscious self.
So, when you say:
“a great deal of what is in my consciousness arises from outside (below?) my consciousness, which I think of as my sub-conscious, and then my conscious self processes them.”
I would reformulate the same thought as:
“a great deal of what is in my waking consciousness arises from outside (below?) my waking consciousness, which I think of as my sub-conscious consciousness, and then my waking self processes them.”
In this form, I absolutely agree. I believe that thw waking self is only the “tip of the icenerg” of what consciousness is. While it is certainly an important component, it is only part of the general scenario.
“For example, I articulate the holistic thoughts into a stream of words.”
I agree. What you call here “the holistic thought” is for me the deepest cosncious experience of meaning, that is then organized in coded form by the waking mind to be expressed to the external world.
In next post, I will go on commenting about your thoughts, to see how these ideas apply to the problem of free will.
Hazel at #72:
OK, I will go directly to the important point here. I have never said, least of all thought, that our free will must be identified with our waking state of consciousness. Indeed, like you, I believe that we cannot say where our free will comes into action. But, certainly, it comes into action is some conscious state, somewhere in the “iceberg”.
A second important point. Very important.
Free will in no ways means that our actions are completely free. That is a sever misunderstanding of free will.
Of course our actions, and even our thoughts, are deeply influenced and conditioned by a lot of things: the outer worlds, sensations, memories, our past history, our body, and so on. We cannot do everything (we are not omnipotent). And we cannot certainly do everything that we seem to be able to do.
I always refer to the example of drug addiction. While for a non addicted person it is very easy to decide not to take drugs, that could be actually impossible for an addict, at least in his current condition.
There is also a big difference between what we think we can do and what we can really do. In both directions. There are many things that we think we can do and we cannot do, and there are many things that we think we cannot do and we can do.
So, our actions are always severely conditioned and limited.
So, in what sense do we have free will?
We have free will because there is never any situation where we can act only in one way. We always have a choice, even if our choices are severely limited.
Going back to drug addition, maube my choice as a drug addict is not, at present, to avoid taking drugs. Maybe my choice, today, is only to choose how I feel whne I take drugs: shall I surrender to self pity, for example, and to negative feelings that will reinforce my habit, or can I try to look at myself with some objectivity, maybe to lay a tiny foundation in my mind for some future, bigger change?
I have a choice, but my choice can be very limited, maybe even not obvious to any outer observer.
So, there is no line to draw: our actions are always driven, maybe even mainly driven, by our body or by outer influences; but they are never completely determined by those things. There is always, always, some choice, even a small choice.
Therefore, ther is no fixed destiny: but to change our personal destiny in a detectable way may require, in some conditions, time and effort. IOWs, a persistent good use of our free will, however small its range can appear.
Hazel at #72:
I apologize for the messed formatting at the end of the previous post! 🙂
Let’s go on.
OK, I think that here you are using “consciousness” to mean the waking state of the self. I hope I have clarified that I use the word in a different sense.
So, using my meaning, “everything outside of consciousness” just mean “everything that is perceived as an object”, or “everything that is not a subjective representation”. Matter and objects do exist “outside of our consciousness”, even if we perceive them thorugh our consciousness (I am not a solipsist). So, our body and everything else that is an object are part of the “physical reality”.
Everything perceived, instead, is a cnscious representation. As I have already explained, I call the sum total of cosncious representations “mind”. However, the mind and the subject are two different things, because even if mental representations are not physical objects, they are anyway “objects” perceived by the self, the common subject of all presonal representations.
So, just to simplify, we have:
a) The subject, which is one and remains the same
b) The mental objects, that are not physical, but are only representations in the subject’s consciousness
c) The physical objects, including the body, which are inferred as existing independently outside us and outside our consciousness, even if we perceive them through our mind.
I absolutely agree.
What characterization? There is, probably, a misunderstanding, as I have tried to clarify. What you call “sub-conscious” is for me absolutely part of cosnciousness, maybe the most important part.
I suppose that I agree, making the appropriate corrections to the temrs. The real line is between subjective representations (the self and its mental contents) and objects.
Look, to be more clear. There can be no doubt that our body is a physical object. Maybe it is more than that, accordign to how we define “body”, but there can be no doubt that, at some level, it is a physicla object. I can look at my hand and perceive it in my sight in the same way that I perceive any external object (even if I have also an inner perception of it). We can observe our brains through various kinds of imaging, and when we die they can be mnipulated like any other object.
When I act, the final part is certainly physical: my hand moves, or I speak through my vocal cords, and so on.
I can think that I move my hand, I can imagine the movement, and those are mental representations in my consciousness. But when I really move it, that is a physical event.
The real line, the real hard problem of consciousness, is: why is there a subjective world, and how does it interact with the objective world?
My point was:
“I really believe that there is no possible alternative, in a physicalist monism. No free will, no choices, a destiny that cannot be changed by our sentient I.
But you say that you feel and believe differently.”
Maybe that was not clear. I meant: you say that you feel and believe that it is not true that there is no free will, no choices, a destiny that cannot be changed by our sentient I. I still think that you feel and believe that way. I understand that my statement could be misinterpreted.
OK, my point is simply:
If you believe in free will, and that we can change our personal destiny, you definitely need an interface between consciousness/mind and the physical body. There is no other possibility, because those who believe in a physicalist monism do not need any interface, but certainly cannot admit free will (the libertarian form). And those who admit free will (libertarian) cannot be physicalist monists, and do need an interface between subjective experiences and objective facts, because that’s the only way that subjective experiences can modify objective facts.
So, my point is: if you believe that we can modify our personal destiny, you definitely need an interface. If it is not at quantum level, have you any better options?
I am perfectly fine with the idea that we don’t really know where the interface is and how it works, even if, as explained, the quantum hypothesis is at present, IMO, the only one that makes sense.
However, I would like to understand if you agree that, if one believes in free will and in modifying one’s destiny, then an interface is absolutely necessay, somewhere, between the iceberg of consciousness and the physical object that is the body.
I absolutely agree. Having clarified that for me the “subconscious” is definitely part of cosnciousness, and very likely an important part of free will.
I suppose that the above parapgraph confirms that you believe in free will exactly as I do. So, do you agree that believing in free will, wherever it is and however it works, implies the need for an interface between conscious representations and physical objects?
John_a_designer at #75:
I agree with what you say.
However, in the basic sense, my definition of consciousness, as I have explained in my previous comments to Hazel, requires only the existence of subjective representations, of any form.
So, it just requires a subject that represents something in a subjective way.
Therefore, of all the important aspects you quote, only two are really necessary to define consciousness:
b) Persistence of Self-Identity
All the others are important dimensions of subjective experiences, but not really necessary to define the existence of a conscious experience.
Maybe I could add that all conscious experiences, even the simples ones, have always at least two important aspects: a cognition and a feeling. Those two aspects seem to be absolutely intertwined in all conscious representation. Meaning and intentionality can be seen as structures forms of cognition and feeling, respectively.
It is interesting to note that those two basic dimensions of subjective experience have no correspondence in the objective world (objects have no cognitions and no feelings). It is also interesting that they are the best rationale for ID theory, because they can explain why conscious beings can generate complex functional information, while objects cannot.
Hazel at #76:
Good thoughts and good questions.
I hope you have already read my previous comments to you, so that I can go on with my arguments starting from what I have already said.
I am interested in exploring this question, and I’m particularly interested in the interaction between consciousness and the rest of the mind. (For the record, I’m interested in this from a dualist viewpoint. I’m not interested in how a materialist sees this.)
So am I! 🙂
Correct. And this shows very well the “sensorial” aspect of many mental proceedings. Again, I would like to quote NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) about that. Our mind works mostly through sensorial representations. I don’t think that’s all the story, but it is certainly true at many levels.
First of all, as I have tried to explain, for me there is absolutely no doubt that the subconscious is definitely part of consciousness and of the mind. Subconscious contents are absolutely represented in subjective consciousness, even if at a level that is rather different from what we call “the conscious mind”, and that I have called, more precisely, the waking state of consciousness.
That said, you ask where the memory of information is stored.
I think that both the answers you propose are true. They are stored, in part, objectively in the brain. And they are stored, in part, subjectively in the subconscious mind.
Of course, we really don’t know exactly how it works. Memory is still a big mystery. But I imagine something like that:
a) We have an objective repository of stored information, in the brain. That is very much like the hard disk of a computer. Information is stored objectively, and it is not represented subjectively, unless it is read at some time.
b) Then we have a RAM compartment, where information is actively read and represented. However, this subjective compartment is formed by at least two big parts:
b1) The subconscious mind, where the information is represented in the background
b2) The so called conscious mind, where the infromation is run in the foreground of attention.
For a physiological model, just think of the two kinds of vision:
a) Peripheral vision
b) Macular or central vision
It is also important to say that even mental events (implying a conscious representation) are not necessarily independent from physical structures. Mental representations probably rely actively on the working of parts of the brain structures, for example for elaboration of data, in the same way that a person playing a videogame relies on the computer and the game on the hard disk to go on playing. However, the playing is a conscious experience, even if it uses machine work to go on.
This is a slightly different aspect. I believe that all creative activity comes from consciousness, often at the level of the subconscious mind. Only consciousness, subjective experience, has the basic intuitions of cognition and feeling that generate creative thinking.
So, I would say that “inspirations”, of all kinds, come from consciousness, either from the conscious, or the subconscious, or any other type of mind.
Of course, it is perfectly possible that physical brain activities of computing are involved in the process at all times, as explained at the previous point.
Well, I believe that I have given a few thoughts. Maybe too many of them ! 🙂
Looking forward to your feedback.
The problem with this is that (1) we haven’t found any “matter” (it appears that matter does not exist) and (2) given your definition of consciousness and “our mental state” (two different things – a view I share, BTW), an external “objective” physical world comprised of matter is not only entirely unnecessary to avoid solipsism, it’s useless when it comes to any experiential theory. The only things we have available to research, categorize and model are what you call “representations” or what I call “mental experiences”. Whether or not they are actually about an exterior reality is entirely irrelevant, and basing our views on the assumption such an external reality exists is, at best, highly problematic.
Just FYI: I’ve been out all day, but I am looking forward to working my way through Gpucco’s posts, and appreciate the conversation. Later …
William J Murray:
I appreciate your contribution.
My personal position is not necessarily that the external world exists really as “matter”. But I think that it has some objective existence, whatever it is, in the sense that it’s not me that generate it from my personal consciousness.
IOWs, the earth and moon amd galaxies, and even my physical body, may not be what we think they are as material objects, but neither are figments of my personal imagination.
An object that exists, say a table, interacts in similar ways with me and with other people, so that we can share similar and objective experiences of it (its dimensions, position, and so on. We measure time and space in a common way, whatever they are in essence.
So, I believe in some objective reality, which is probably very different from how we imagine it, maybe even not so objective in the ultimate sense. But it is at least objective in a relative sense, to us that perceive it in our present condition.
When you say that you believe in “some objective reality”, do you require that to be external to mind? Not “individual mental states”, but rather the platonic realm of mind. Obviously, platonic forms, values and self-evident truths are parts of an objective reality we can directly experience – and that’s in the realm of mind. Do you believe it is necessary that an actual reality exists outside of that platonic realm?
Just for fun. Don’t bother to read if Douglas Adams isn’t your cup of tea.
I agree with gpuccio’s reply to wjm at 84, and that some objective reality exist outside of mind. wjm appears to be something like the Phenomenologist mentioned in 53. Gpuccio and I are discussing a true dualism, I think, whereby our mind and its attendant qualities are one thing and the external world of which we are aware and in which our body lives is another.
William J Murray:
No. Philosophically I can accept an idealistic monism, even if I don’t think that at present that would make any difference for the scientifc discussions we have here. That’s why I usually don’t engage in the distinction between dualsim and idealistic monism, even if I am probably more a monist than a dualist, philosophically. The important point, IMO, is to falsify physcialist monism, which is a wrong philosophy, incompatible with what we really know from science.
The important point is to believe in the objectivity of the external world in relation to our personal consciousness, whatever the final nature of the external world may be, because it is important to avoid any temptation of subjectivism (and there are many, even in modern philosophy and psychology). We must believe in objective truth, even of relative truths (truth needs not be absolute to be truth). And we must believe that good science is a key to some aspects of that truth.
I really think that you, WJM and I are probably in greater agreement than it seems. Please, read my comment #88 to WJM.
I believe that in the end there is little practical difference, for the discussions we have here, between true dualism and some form of idealistic monism. I am probably more a monist philosophically (I think that consciousness is the final reality), but I have no difficulties to reason in terms of true dualism for all practical purposes, especially for scientific purposes. I really see no differences.
Maybe when physics will gain more understanding of the basic laws of reality, especially of the real nature of matter and consciousness and their relationship between them, then these philosophical distinctions may become more important in science. But I am afraid we are still very far from that scenario.
Indeed, I think that you too may be nearer to some form of monism than to rigid dualism, because you said:
And you apparently are rather distant, like me and WJM, from physicalist monism, as you said:
So, I really think that we are all in more agreement than it appears. Of course, there are probably some philosophical differences, and that is perfectly appropriate. But practically, we seem to believe in a similar worldview.
Look, IMO it is not really important for our discussions here if the external world is, in the end, an independent substance (matter), or some form of platonic ideas. The important thing is that, for all practical aspects, it behaves as an external world to us, and that we can oberve objective laws and behaviours in the external world that are certainly difference from the laws and behaviours of our personal consciousness. So, let’s say that we can all adopt, always IMO, what I would call “methodological dualism”, for all practical purposes in science. Without any philosophical prejudice, of course, and only as long as it works (we certainly don’t want to make the same dogmatic errors as neo-darwinists and fans of scientism! 🙂 ).
That’s really a very good thing! Answers are boring, questions are the real thing.
Do you know this?
Ask A Foolish Question
by ROBERT SHECKLEY
It’s conversations like this that make participation worthwhile – at least for me. I appreciate your participation. I was hoping to get more of it at the other thread, but I’ll take it where I can get it.
I wouldn’t have even bothered commenting on threads and creating a couple of new threads about this subject if I agreed with this. Above everything else, I’m a philosophical pragmatist. I don’t engage in long term, serious discussion about something that I believe has no practical value.
I agree – we all must behave as if we exist within an objective external world of some sort. Apparently, you think that how we frame that experience makes no meaningful difference.
This goes back to what I said on the Platonic realm thread about a proper theory of mind and how theories that are about a supposed external world instead of about the mental experience itself can be, and probably would be, highly problematic in virtually every way – including both our personal experiences and in scientific research. In other words, how we conceptualize and go about interacting with that kind of experience most likely is a very important, practical matter.
Indeed, it seems to me that whether or not there is an actual reality external to the mind would be an enormously important, value-laden, highly practical point to consider – not because we can ever know the answer, but because it would change something very fundamental in our approach to interpreting experience. The only reason I can see to dismiss it as unimportant would be to assume that there would be no practical or important aspects of our relationship to that experience that an “exterior world” model could possibly miss or get wrong, even though it would be based on a huge, fundamentally incorrect assumption.
Everything we say, do, think, attempt to research, how we attempt to research it, how we formulate ideas about what to research and how we interpret data; everything we think and do and try and how we try and what we consider possible even in our daily lives; entirely revolves around what we think it is we are experiencing in terms of the “external world” experience.
To say that whether or not we are entirely wrong about the most fundamental aspect of our daily life, and the most fundamental aspect of scientific research makes no qualitative difference is simply mind-boggling to me.
Perhaps you an explain how you arrived at that position, or why you consider it valid?
Quantum research data essentially contradicted the materialist paradigm of an actual, independent, material world. The results of that paradigm-shifting model about the very fundamental way we see our experience has literally transformed the lives of virtually everyone on the planet, either directly or indirectly. Before that transformation took place, one might have similarly thought that such a paradigm-shift would make no practical difference.
Here at UD good arguments are made that methodological naturalism put huge blinders on scientific research for no good reason, and that it indeed skews and biases not only research results, but also data interpretations and ideas about how to move forward.
I don’t see how one can say, then, that “methodological externalism” (look at me, coining new metpahysical terminology) would not make any practical difference, especially in light of evidence that contra-indicates the externalist model, and a solid logical argument that demonstrates “externalism” to be both unnecessary and most likely problematic.
As far as your view on subjectivism vs objectivism, the entire consensual realm we co-experience has been utterly transformed via the injection of the subjective into what we call our objective world. Regardless of whether or not we directly affect it via observational quantum collapse, we absolutely know we affect it constantly via the injection of our subjective free will, making decisions that change the realm of consensual experience every waking moment of every day. In fact, single individuals have changed the entire world based on their subjective, free will, “mental status” behavior.
Now, what if we all have a more direct effect on our consensual experience via observational status and wave collapse, or some other feature of that relationship that dualistic externalism simply ignores, or cannot see because of ideological bias? Would that, in your opinion, be irrelevant, or extremely important?
A little bit of synchronicity: Methodological naturalism avoids evidence for design to the tune of $10 billion and embracing a theory – any theory, really – that avoids the logical implications of the evidence.
Synchronicity: nice word. I first encountered it in Carl Jung’s introduction to the I Ching, many years ago.
Jung on Synchronicity, https://www.iging.com/intro/foreword.htm
William J Murray at #91:
First of all, thank you for the very interesting discussion.
I hate to repeat myself, but I really think that we don’t disagree so much as it could seem.
My point is that we should always, at a scientific level of discussion, rely on facts. Facts are observables, all observables, including of course consciousness events.
Now, good science is usually independent enough from specific worldviews and cognitive biases. Because it is good science. I am the first to admint that cognitive bias can never be completely canceled, but in good science it is well controlled.
So, good science is the science that lead physicists to develop quantum mechanics, against all previous worldviews and against any simple intuitions of their minds. Why? Because they relied on facts, observables, and they developed good inferences from those facts. That is a very good example of how science should work.
IOWs, they did not starts from any philosophical ideas of how reality should be. They started from observables, and made good inferences on how realy probably is.
That’s what I mean when I say that it is not so important, at the present state of knowledge, if we are dualists or idealist monists. Of course it would be an error to start from physicalist monism, because all that we know form science is already against that position.
So, we can be dualists or idealist monists, but it will not affect our scientific inquiry, provided that we are really looking at facts, and deriving good inferences from them.
My point is that at present our observables are of two different kinds: objects and subjective experiences. That’s why I proposed a “methodological sualism”, at least as long as it works well with facts. Because it is a fact that objects perceived and our subjective representations of them behave differently, as far as we can understand from what we know of reality. I am not relying on any final idea about what they are, about sunstances and so on. I am remaining completely empirical, and I have no prejudices or expections. I want only one thing: truth, or as much of it as it is possible.
Maybe I am wrong, but could you please make some realistic example of how that attitude could be a problem in scientific inquiry?
Of course the interactions between the subjective world and the objective world (both of them considered as categories of what we perceive) are important. They are important because they are facts, they are observables, and therefore they must be part of out inquiry about reality.
When I speak against subjectivism, I am not in any way speaking against the importance of subjective experiences. Unfortunately, those terms have two different meanings:
1) Objective = perceived as something existing in the general framework of the “outer world” (whatever it is)
Subjective = percieved as an inner representation, that can or cannot correspond to some object in the outer world
2) Objective = corresponding to something real
Subjective = a personal representation about reality that can, very simply, be wrong
So, subjective experiences, in the first sense, are certainly objective in the second sense. They are “objects” in our consciousness. They exist. They are real.
But ideas about reality can be right or wrong, and so they are subjective in the second sense. Subjectivism is, for me, the wrong idea that correspondence with the objective reality is not important in cognition.
Everything goes back to the basic epistemologic distinction bewteen facts (observables) and theories (inferences).
I have nothing against inferences, indeed they are our greatest tool in understanding reality. But only if they are good inferences about well observed facts, either in the inner world or in the exterior world.
I have to stop for the moment, but I will be very happy of any feedback from you abiut these points.
GP and WJM as to
For some reason that reminds me of this tidbit:
Professor Crull states in the following article “entanglement can occur across two quantum systems that never coexisted,,, it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.”
Here are a few more notes that back up the preceding startling claim:
It is also interesting to point out that this experiment for ‘quantum entanglement in time’ is very friendly to Dr. Michael Egnor’s (Theistic) contention (via ancient philosophy) that “Perception at a distance is no more inconceivable than action at a distance.”
Often, when presented with such evidence, atheists will often claim that no one understands quantum mechanics. Yet it is funny how often Quantum mechanics consistently meshes so nicely with what we would priorily expect from a Theistic, i.e. Mind first, perspective (Egnor has noted this correspondence elsewhere).,,,
From that “Theistic” vantage point it is easy to see why Atheistic materialists are so often befuddled by Quantum mechanics and indeed why they will never understand it.
Of related note
Silly me. I thought that it was just an album by the Police. 🙂
Ed, according to Wikipedia, Sting’s “album’s title was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s “The Roots of Coincidence”, which was influenced by Jung. Sting has a long history of being interested in Eastern ideas, and he has practiced serious yoga for years.
Eastern mysticism, i.e. panpsychism, has a insurmountable difficulty with quantum mechanics in that, number one, there is no evidence whatsoever that the basic constituents of this universe are conscious.
Secondly, quantum physicist and panpsychist’s David Bohm’s hidden variable theory is, for all practical purposes, empirically falsified.
That is to say, despite the claim from panpsychists such as Hameroff, Chalmers and others that Quantum Mechanics is somehow compatible with panpsychism, the evidence we now have from quantum mechanics, which falsified all hidden variable theories, strongly argues for Mind/Consciousness preceding physical reality, (i.e. Theism), and not for consciousness being co-terminus with the basic constituents of physical reality as is presupposed within panpsychism:
i.e. Due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:
to Gpuccio et al. FYI: I’m working on a well-organized (I hope) reply to the various posts of the last day, but real like has intervened and time is sort. Hopefully I will not be forgotten. 🙂
to ba77. There are many different forms of Eastern mysticism, and ideas that spring from it. Eastern mysticism is not synonymous with panpsychism. Actually Eastern mysticism is quite compatible with quantum physics, and various quantum physicists have liked some of the ideas from Eastern mysticism.
Last for now, Jung believed in the Collective Unconscious, a set of archtypes–ideas and representative icons–that reside somehow in the unconscious of all people (even “below” the subsconscious, perhaps), and which provide a common framework for our understanding, both cultural and personal, of the world and especially of human beings. From a dualistic viewpoint, these would exist “Platonically” somehow, although I don’t know if Jung thought of them that way.
FWIW, I have a friend who has specialized in, and written a book on, Jungian psychology, psychedelic experience, and the use of psychedelic experience in psychiatric therapy.
P.S. to the webmaster: I notice that Recent Comments till do not update all the time. Is that a fixable problem?
And I see that the font size in comments is smaller, but maybe a bit too small. Might we try slightly bigger?
Only in so far as Eastern Mysticism is compatible with Theism, i.e. Mind first, and renounces some of the overt panpsychist presuppositions within it is it compatible with quantum mechanics. To reiterate, Bohm failed to harmonize the two.
From what little I have read of Eastern mysticism, it is a wishy washy philosophy in which you can read all sorts of faces in the clouds as you can possibly imagine.
Post hoc rationilization at it worst to try to say it in is line with QM,, IMHO.
Gpuccio @ 80,
Well, it’s not primarily my thought or even my opinion. The list above is Dr. Egnor’s list and it’s a list of properties we find being discussed in the literature which is really quite extensive. As an example, just take a look at David Chalmers site. (Use with caution. I get the warning “not secure.”)
Are you aware that what you are talking about there is intentionality? (more below)
If you look at the literature there is a lot of interest and discussion about Intentionality and Qualia. Intentionality is something you “unintentionally” left of your short list. However, I don’t see how we can really discuss consciousness without considering so-called intentionality. The term intentionality as used in the literature is not to be confused with common everyday English word. SEP defines it this way:
The word aboutness is often used to clarify what we mean by uncommon meaning of the word intentionality. It answers the questions: ‘what am I thinking (or conscious) about?’ Or, ‘what am I thinking of?’ Rocks, trees, the sun or moon etc. do not have intentional thoughts. We and apparently many animals do. As I wrote earlier ontologically we can divide the world basically into two kinds of things: things that perceive (humans and animals) and things that ARE perceived.
Ed Feser, a professor of philosophy, who has written a book the philosophy of the mind divides the consciousness pie into three parts: intentionality, qualia (subjective experience) and something no one else (including Egnor) has brought up in this discussion rational thought or rationality. He argues that it is our capacity for rational thought (not something we really share with animals) that is the best evidence that conscious thought is immaterial.
So, if we defer to the experts (not other amateurs like you and me) I come up with the following short list:
However, you and Hazel have also discussing Free will– which is actually derived from the other meaning of intention. Why isn’t that important?
So culling Egnor’s original list I come up with five after appending the list with Feser’s argument for rationality. The other two properties on Egnor’s list Restricted Access and Incorrigibility are pretty self-evident when we consider those five.
PS Here is a quick link to Egnor’s list which i posted @ 75
I remember when Sting joked about having tantric organisms that would last for several hours. Some people took him seriously and did research in the quest for the never-ending orgasm.
You need to read more because what you posted has nothing to do with it.
There are many people who have made the case that Jesus’s teachings go hand in hand with those of the eastern mystics. There are many who claim that the “halo effect” is due to the energy radiations of all seven chakras being all on, in-sync and no SWR- ie the “Christ consciousness”. And that is the true goal of humanity- achieve that level of consciousness.
My goodness: I ought to be able to read short sentences: At 99 I obviously meant
“to Gpuccio et al. FYI: I’m working on a well-organized (I hope) reply to the various posts of the last day, but real life [not like] has intervened and time is short [not sort]. Hopefully I will not be forgotten.”
I know anyone who thought about this knew what I meant, but I hate seeing those mistakes!
Gpuccio @ 94
‘Maybe I am wrong, but could you please make some realistic example of how that attitude could be a problem in scientific inquiry?
Good day to you, Gp. We haven’t spoken for yonks. If I may interject here, Gp (Broadway Danny rose style…), ‘that monocular, empirical demarche certainly served Maximilian Planck well, didn’t it ? Apparently, he was very conservative, and really didn’t care for what he was discovering concerning the quantum world. A really nasty bout of the ‘collywobbles’, by the sound of it.
Also, re the point you make, here :
‘My point is that at present our observables are of two different kinds: objects and subjective experiences. That’s why I proposed a “methodological sualism”, at least as long as it works well with facts. Because it is a fact that objects perceived and our subjective representations of them behave differently, as far as we can understand from what we know of reality. I am not relying on any final idea about what they are, about sunstances and so on. I am remaining completely empirical, and I have no prejudices or expections. I want only one thing: truth, or as much of it as it is possible.’
Was Niels Bohr seeking to address the issue, here, do you think ?
‘However far the phenomena transcend the scope of classical physical explanation, the account of all evidence must be expressed in classical terms. The argument is that simply by the word “experiment” we refer to a situation where we can tell others what we have done and what we have learned and that, therefore, the account of the experimental arrangement and of the results of the observations must be expressed in unambiguous language with suitable application of the terminology of classical physics.
Niels Bohr, “Discussions with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics,” in Paul Arthur Schilpp, Albert Einstein: Philosopher Scientist (1949) pp. 199-241.
His Wikiquotes page gives a fascinating insight, even to a Noddy like me, into the epistemological revolution that QM brought about, .
“You need to read more because what you posted has nothing to do with it.”
Oprah and Shirley MacLaine perhaps?
I have been unable to sleep since comment 99 because I could not figure out what was meant by that comment. Now that it has been clarified in comment 108 I can finally rest.- the body will rest. The mind will be out exploring…
Please, take your time. You will not be forgotten. 🙂
LoL! @ bornagain77- No, not Oprah and Shirley. Good one, though.
There are many people who have made the case that Jesus’s teachings go hand in hand with those of the eastern mystics. There are many who claim that the “halo effect” is due to the energy radiations of all seven chakras being all on, in-sync and no SWR- ie the “Christ consciousness”. And that is the true goal of humanity- achieve that level of consciousness.
Nice to hear from you. QM is always a fascinating topic.
Bornagain77 @ #5
Hi BA. Great to see that encyclopaedic mind of yours still as busy as ever.
‘With contextuality we find, “In the quantum world, the property that you discover through measurement is not the property that the system actually had prior to the measurement process. What you observe necessarily depends on how you carried out the observation” and “Measurement outcomes depend on all the other measurements that are performed – the full context of the experiment. Contextuality means that quantum measurements can not be thought of as simply revealing some pre-existing properties of the system under study. ”
In the light of that, does this quote of Niels Bohr seem to you to be on the same page as Anton Zellinger :
‘ We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
In his first meeting with Werner Heisenberg in early summer 1920, in response to questions on the nature of language, as reported in Discussions about Language (1933); quoted in Defense Implications of International Indeterminacy (1972) by Robert J. Pranger, p. 11, and Theorizing Modernism : Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28
Although, he also made it clear, as I quoted to Gpuccio above, that this was not intended as an invitation to wander off the ‘reservation’ of empirical experimentation, renouncing that discipline inherent in classical physics..
John_a_designer at #104:
Well, I am not a philosopher, but I have no problems with your comments. I will just offer a few personal comments, in my role of amateur. 🙂
I was probably intepreting intentionality in the common sense of having purposes. I apologize for the mistake. But, even worse, I must say that I don’t really understand the specific philosophic meaning at least from the quotes you gave. OK, that’s probably no big problem.
I was simplifying the basic definition, at least for my purposes, to qualia and the subject, because I think that, very simply, if I observe a red wall and nothing else, and in that moment I am mainly focused on the perception itself, I see essentially a representation (the red wall) and a subject (I). And yet I am certainly conscious at that moment.
However, I am not trying to ignore all the other interesting aspects. Indeed, I have also suggested that each representation, however simple, has always at least two intertwined aspects: cognition and feeling. So, if I see a red wall, I have a very basic cognition of it as an object, or at least as a sensation, and that is a very simple cognition, and at the same time I always have some simple reaction to that representation (good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant), and that is a feeling.
Intention, in the common sense, comes into the scenario as soon as I have a desire and try to realize it. But probably we always have desires associated to representations.
Free will is more difficult, because it is not directly perceived, at least IMO, but rather intuitively asserted. So, in a strict sense, it is not an observable.
Rationality, as I see it, is a more structured form of cognition. But I am not sure that it is inherent in all forms of consciousness. I think that some beings can be conscious without necessarily being able of rational thoughts (for example, animals). Usually rationality requires some form of abstract thought.
Hello Gpuccio, et al.
Let me organize this by topics, and point to places that I think we are in basic agreement about. The main issue that we disagree about, which may be a matter of semantics, is what the word “consciousness” refers to.
To start, you wrote,
Yep, that’s the big issue! 🙂
Experiential vs Ontological thoughts
I mostly agree with you when you write,
However, I’ll note that the conversation has turned more ontological this morning, which I’d like to discuss later, but not distract me from this approach with you.
The mind/body interface
There has to be an interface between the mind and the body. A working speculation is that this involves the quantum world somehow. Also, such an interface would violate no physical laws, although there might be physical laws we have not discovered yet that are involved.
In fact, my view is that ultimately the mind and the physical world, including our body may be two manifestations of some underlying quantum oneness.
Free will is not completely free. You say that thinking so is a severe misunderst anding, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone claim that. We are constrained by external circumstances, obviously, and by the body in ways. In fact, sometimes the main thing we are free to choose is just our attitude about the situation we are in.
I also think we agree that our will is exercised by our larger self, and not just our waking consciousness.
An external world
We believe there is an external world, which includes our physical body. Irrespective of what the true quantum nature of “matter” is, from a practical point of view, our mind resides in a material body that exists in a material world of things. We also believe that other people have minds and consciousness, just as we do, even though we are the only people who can experience our own consciousness, and we can’t experience theirs.
The key issue here for us is that we are using the word “consciousness” differently. You are using the word to include all that mind encompasses, I think, and I am differentiating our immediate awareness in the moment as consciousness from all the stuff that is available to us but not immediately present, the subconscious. I am conscious of the screen and words in front of me, of my fingers typing, of the words I am saying to myself internally that I am typing, of the music I am listening to, etc. I am not conscious (or at least wasn’t until I had this thought) of a lecture I could easily give about how to derive the quadratic formula, even though I know that lecture is “in there” and I could give it at a drop of a hat.
I think we have to have words to make this distinction, and I think, from a bit of reading I’ve done today, that consciousness usually refers to the awareness, in the moment, of all that is immediately present in our mind. The part of the “iceberg underneath” (which is not my preferred metaphor) is the subconscious.
I can probably understand what you write by the context, and maybe your using “waking consciousness“ to mean what I am calling just consciousness. I don’t think we have disagreement about our thoughts here, just about the words we use.
I think we agree that there is a difference between the immediate awareness (that is, conscious in the sense I use the word) of an internal monologue where we articulate a thought in a stream of words and a more holistic feeling of understanding or meaning that is larger than an expression in words. This is hard to describe… because we have to do it in words – the Catch 22.
You write, as a distinction, that:
Everything perceived is a conscious representation. As I have already explained, I call the sum total of conscious representations “mind”. However, the mind and the subject are two different things, because even if mental representations are not physical objects, they are anyway “objects” perceived by the self, the common subject of all personal representations.
So, just to simplify, we have:
a) The subject, which is one and remains the same
b) The mental objects, that are not physical, but are only representations in the subject’s consciousness
c) The physical objects, including the body, which are inferred as existing independently outside us and outside our consciousness, even if we perceive them through our mind.
These good paragraphs bring up a key point: We think, and feel, that there is a “self”–the core of who we are– that has access through our consciousness to both the external and internal world.
Not only that, at least for me , my sense of self includes my body. The mental part of self does all these things we’ve been talking about, but the pervasive presence of my body is there: I see myself as a mind/body whole, not a “self in a body.” You may think of this differently.
But the idea of self is central, and, FWIW, the central mystery of the Eastern approach to these issues, which asks who is this “I” that is conscious?
We tried to talk about these issue from a experiential perspective as opposed to a philosophical, ontological perspective, but the subject has come up.
At 89, after some posts by wjm, you wrote,
I’m not sure I want to mix wjm’s thoughts in with all this, but I don’t think what you wrote is true about me and him.
However, I like your phrase of “methodological dualism”, and your idea that there is
But, no, I don’t think I believe that consciousness is the final reality. I have said that perhaps consciousness and matter are both manifestations of one underlying oneness, but I don’t think one is more primary than the other. My thought (remember, this is speculative philosophy) is that they are two aspects of reality, each of which helps support and nurture the other.
Also, and this comment maybe takes us farther afield than I want to go, but believing that consciousness is an aspect separate from matter, and that we live as a dualistic mind/body creature, is not the same as thinking that the content of our minds somehow extends out to some Platonic realm that exists outside, and overarches the world, so to speak.
But this is philosophy and beyond the experiential perspective we’ve been trying to take.
I think this concludes my survey of all your posts to me the past few days, which I very much appreciate. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, and the process of putting this long post together.
Hazel at #117:
Thank you for all these good thoughts. As you, I am really enjoying the discussion! 🙂
I think that, in the end, we really agree on more things than expected. And you have clearly listed them. So, I will not go back to the things we agree upon (which are a lot).
You have also clearly detected a few things on which we have probably slightly different ideas. That’s perfectly fine, of course, so I will comment briefly (I hope! 🙂 ) on those few points, with no intention to convince you, but just for the sake of clarity.
As you correctly say, there is certainly a problem of language here: I call consciousness “the whole iceberg” (bear with me, I have to use the metaphor a little further), while you call consciousness “the tip”, and “subconscious mind” the iceberg, OK, that would not be a real problem. Just words.
But there is more, I am afraid. I get the feeling, from what you say, that you use the word “subconscious mind” to denote “the stuff that is available to us but not immediately present”.
Now, to clarify a possible difference between our ideas, I am afraid that I have to introduce a further distinction that is very important to understand what I believe. For me, there are three components:
a) The waking consciousness: the contents of which I am distinclty aware in my waking state. That would be the tip of the iceberg. Or, in my other metaphor, my macular or central vision.
b) The subconscious mind (or, more in general, any other state of cosnciousness): the contents that are represented in my consciousness, but of which I am not distinctly aware. That would be the rest of the iceberg. Or, in my other metaphor, my peripheral vision.
c) Unconscious resources stored in the brain, but not represented at the moment, to which cosnciousness can get access if and when necessary. More or less like contents stored in the hard disk, but not read in the RAM at the moment, just to add my third metaphor 🙂 ! That component is not part of the iceberg of consciousness, but of course those contents can become part of it at any appropriate occasion. In my “vision” metaphor, those are the things that I am not seeing at the moment, but that I could easily see, either in my peripheral vision or in my macular vision, if I move slightly my eyes.
So, that brings us to one possible important difference in our views: when I say that the subconscious mind is part of consciousness, I say it because I believe that its contents are really represented in our consciousness, even if not in a distinct way. They are the peripheral vision, not the things that we at present cannot see. So, they are conscious contents by all standards: they are subjective representations of the self.
This is an important difference, and I would just like to know what you exactly think of the issue. Because some of your statements (like “holistic feeling of understanding or meaning that is larger than an expression in word”) seem more in line with what I think, while others point to a different perspective.
2) The self.
For me, the definition of self is clear enough. It is the “subject” that represents all represented things. It is the thing that does not change, the “Persistence of Self-Identity”, indeed identity itself. It’s what we are.
As we are now in a more philosophical mood, I will add that, in my worldview, the self is transcendental and not formal. But I will stop here about that.
You say: “my sense of self includes my body.” Of course it does, because you perceive your body, in many ways, both conscious and subconscious (in my sense). IOWs, it is continuously represented in your consciousness.
You say: “the pervasive presence of my body is there”. That’s true. But just try to specify: where is “where”? What is it? For me, it is the perceiving self, and nothing else. Because, out of subjective representation, we are nothing, we have no identity. Our perceiving self, our “”Persistence of Self-Identity””, is our only “identity”.
You also say: ” I see myself as a mind/body whole”. That’s fine. May I humbly emphasize: “I see”?
I am happy that you like my concept of “philosophical dualism”. Maybe it can become popular! 🙂
Well, that would be a form of monism. But I am afraid that you still have to clarify. IMO there are three possibilities (if there is any other, please explain what it is):
1) You leave the nature of the fundamental “reality” completely undefined. Possible, but not very satisfying. Of course, that leaves you “off the hook”: if you say nothing, you cannot be contradicted.
But, if you want to give some idea of what this basic reality could be, you should at least specify one of the following possibilities:
2) The basic reality is “an object”. IOWs, it is not cosncious, and it does not represent anything. It does not understand meanings, it has no feelings or purposes. I suppose that this would be just another form of physicalist monism. Among other things, it leaves no room for free will.
3) The basic reality is “a subject”. IOWs, it is conscious, and it can represent things. It can understand meanings, it can have feelings and purposes. Of course there is room for free will. That’s what I mean when I say that I believe that consciousness is the final reality.
Of course, you could also propose that the final reality is a mix of 2 and 3, just like an human being. I think that is too antropomorphic for my taste, but it is a possibility. So, let’s say 4 possibilities.
My position is very clear. What about yours?
The problem of the platonic world is a separate problem, IMO, and I will not discuss it here. I accept that you don’t believe that way. I think that there are interesting aspects in that problem, but what I have already said will suffice for the moment.
Please pardon the time it took me to respond to you.
If I understand your question (in light of previous and further conversation), you are asking what functional difference it makes whether we proceed from a “methodological dualism” or a “methodological mental monism” perspective. From further reading of your following comments, (and those of Axel), it is still a matter of empirical investigation, gathering consensually-verifiable data, and drawing useful conclusions in terms of making consensually serviceable, predictive models. By “consenual” I mean “universal” – anyone can conduct the same experiment and get the same results, and anyone can use the resulting model.
I’ve tried to frame your question in the best possible light.
In response, first I want to say that I believe we agree that what we roughly call consciousness-intention level mind has a huge impact on our experience of what we call an objective, exterior world. The mainstream way of seeing this would be that if mind was immaterial (and I think most of here agree that it is), then it somehow interfaces with the physical brain (I think one theory is via microtubules) in order to introduce its intentionality in a top-down fashion to control or influence the activities of our physical body. To characterize this, we might say the intentionality of our consciousness searches through the mind/platonic realm to find information; it is translated into language/imagery, which is then (perhaps via quantum-level effects) translated into action/behavior. And so, subjective and platonic information transforms the physical world through physical references we call human beings. (Or, use another poetic description for the process, it doesn’t really matter.)
This is the sort of framework that “methodological dualism” assumes; an exterior physical world, a mind/consciousness immaterial world, and localized interfaces in the brain of human beings.
Methodological mental monism, however, is fundamentally difference in that there is no need for an interface system. The physical “world” is entirely generated by mind, just like physicality in a dream.
The functional difference this potentially makes (if true) in terms of empirical research and in creating useful models would be beyond staggering – the difference is complete. It transforms everything for many reasons, but all those reasons stem from the fundamental component of all empirical research and usefulness: causation.
In the mental monism perspective, physical matter and forces don’t cause anything to happen; in fact, they don’t even really exist (they are just patterns mind causes). Mind causes everything – just like in a dream. Mind would be causing the behavioral patterns we (misguidedly, IMO) call “physical laws” and force/energy values.
Furthermore, in mental monism methodology, universal consensuality is no longer a necessary aspect of empirical research (in the pure definitional sense of the word “empirical, not in the scientific-community, ideological sense which requires universal consensuality). What are the experiential limitations of individual, group and societal impact on the reality they experience, given mental monism and the power of subjective, individual consciousness-intention to directly impact what we perceive as external physicalism?
If you are familiar with lucid dreaming, it differs from normal dreaming in that you are aware that you are occupying a mental world and so you can directly affect it. Would we have similar capacity in what we call our waking state?
There is considerable research into this very thing that indicates that yes, we can directly affect what we normally call the external, physical world. I’m not going to debate the validity of such research (such as, the effect of various individuals or groups when intentionally trying to mentally affect random number generators, or various research into mentally-directed/centered healing techniques on others, or the power of meditation on peace and harmony to reduce local crime rates), but you can see the theoretical implications … if mental monism is (1) our true existential state, and (2) how it provides avenues of research and practical value unavailable to standard dualistic models.
Let’s look at various affirmation and intentionality perspectives that have a very large, worldwide advocacy which insist that we can “manifest” things into our lives. Look at prayer. Look at so how many successful people using visualization and imagining techniques. Self-help gurus teach the same. One might roll their eyes at such things, but I will say this: since gravitating towards mental monism and empirically experimenting with such techniques, I’ve experienced things (and many others have) that defy external-world explanation.
I mention all that not to debate the validity, but rather just to answer what the potential problems are when adopting non-mental monist methodology models.
It may be that most of what an individual experiences as an external physical world does not need to be universally consensual. It may be that the imposition of the universality-model of empirical research is, in fact, a self-imposed prison of experiential capacity. By submitting to it as the arbiter of our reality experience, we may be causing that very model to be our experience.
Just some thoughts for consideration. I appreciate your time.
William J Murray:
Thank you, I appreciate your time too. 🙂
The strange thing here is that I can agree with the things you say (well, amost all of them), and still I find no problem in adopting what I call “methodological dualism” in the scientific approach.
Let’s see. I agree with you that our consciousness and mind can change the physical reality, not only through the regular interaction that connects our personal consciousness to our individual brain, but also through the other, less regularly observed ways that you mention, including prayer and all the rest.
And I can agree, at least in principle, that matter is not what it seems to be, and that in the end the reality of matter can be dreamlike. I am very fine with that.
But still, the laws that we observe in science (let’s say gravitation, the basic forces of physics, even quantum mechanics) have certainly a definite reality, because our observation and intepretation of them certainly works, at many levels, and allows us to change and somehow “control” the outer world, whatever its final nature.
The important point is: they are not, certainly, the only laws operating in reality, as physicalists think.
Let’s say that we agree that reality is dreamlike, that it is directly related to consciousness and ideas. OK, then the law of gravitation, as we can observe it in its many regularities, is still a component of that dreamlike reality. Now, whose dreaming “generates”, for the whole observable universe, that kind of “law” or regularity? That’s a legitimate question, even if we think that the law of gravitation is not necessarily an objective absolute. Who is “dreaming” that law in the general dream?
Not me, I would say. Probably not you. Even if we are in some way dreaming it, we are passively dreaming it. We are certainly active parts of the general dream, bur our role does not seem to be to decide the very general aspects. Maybe we can even modify those aspects in our personal experience and life. Maybe we can in some way violate some rules by our consciousness, or by prayer. Gravitation is not probably the easiest thing, but apparently it has been done (Saint Giuseppe da Copertino, maybe?).
However, the general law, if it is a dream, is not our personal dream: it is, at most, the dream of God.
So, after all, we still have a methodological dualism: we have to observe how our personal consciousness, which is part of the dream, can interact with the general dream, which has its apparent rules and regularities.
I don’t see any problem with that approach. You seem to believe that a dualistic approach, even if only methodological, should limit our perspectives about what the mind can really do in its apparent relationship with matter. But why?
The limitations you mention are all due to the dogmatic prevalence of physicalist monism in our current culture: those who believe that only matter exists of course deny that consciousness can really change matter in any way. They even deny free will, because for them it cannot exist. So, not only my mind cannot defy gravitation (or even less drastic laws), it cannot even move freely my own hand. If I move my own hand, that cannot be due to my intention, but only to some complex working of physical laws, on which “I” cannot act in any way.
But those are only the lies of physicalist monism, a theory that consistently tries to deny the existence of a fundamental part of reality, consciousness. A theory denies that we really exist an consscious and free beings. A very bad theory indeed.
But once we accept the existence of consciousness as an independent part of reality, a part that cannot be explained in physical terms only, then there are no such limitations. We know that consciousness can interact with matter. It does that on a regular basis in our personal brains. That means that the laws we know about physical reality, whatever it is, are not enough. There are other, deeper laws. As consciousness can interact with the “apparent” physical reality in the common, “local” way, linked to our personal mind/brain connection, so it can, in principle, act in other ways. Like prayer and so on. The only problem is that we don’t understand the deeper laws that allow that interaction. Beacuse, even if laws are only patterns of the mind, still patterns must obey some deeper laws, otherwise ntohing would make sense, and no regularities would exist, neither in so called “physical” reality or in the inner reality.
Just as a simple example, let’s consider prayer. Let’s say that we agree that prayer can get observable physical results (I certainly agree). But still, there are laws. I wil just make this simple observation: do you believe that an insincere prayer can get the same results as a sincere one? Do you believe that a short, distracted, opportunistic prayer can get the same results as a deep, intense, altruistic one?
Those are laws, too. Laws that in some way connect the inner world to the outer world, whatever they are, laws that connect our personal experience to the more general experience shared with others.
OK, I think that can be enough for the moment. Again, thank you for you attention.
To gpuccio at 118:
That’s a good clear post. I appreciate this joint attempt to draw out distinctions.
First, I’ll go along with iceberg metaphor. I am less fond of the hard drive/RAM metaphor, or the central/peripheral vision metaphor. I’m not sure that it is important to figure the pros and cons, though, so I’ll understand whichever you use.
You delineate three aspects, and differentiate the subconscious (“the contents that are represented in my consciousness, but of which I am not distinctly aware”) from the unconscious (“resources stored in the brain, but not represented at the moment, to which consciousness can get access if and when necessary.”)
Then you say,
I don’t think I understand this distinction. Is my knowledge of the capital of France, or my lecture on the quadratic equation in my subconscious, or in my unconscious and just stored physically in my brain? Since I don’t know what you mean by “subjective representations of the self”, I don’t know which you mean. Perhaps you could give some example.
I think what I think is that all aspects of my mind, both conscious and subconscious, have correlates in the brain. The metaphor/image I have is that my mind, at it base, is a vast, interconnected web of contents with tendrils that touch (through the unknown interface) the vast interconnected web of neurons in our body.
Then consciousness is sort of like a two-way flashlight (how’s that for a metaphor!) whereby information from the external world (the sensory information I am receiving right now) is presented to my consciousness, and at the same time I can turn my attention internally to whatever part of the subconscious I want to access: thoughts about what I want to do today and how long I can spent on this post, what the capital of France is, or whatever.
So at all times, my conscious experience is a combination of external stimulation (which includes stimulation from my own body), which is mostly automatic, and internal stimulation over which I have control and choice about both my actions and my access to the vast store of subconscious content that my self has accumulated.
And, to repeat, at all times there is some correlation between the mind and the body. I don’t think I can have a thought or other kind of conscious experience without there being a correlated state of my body. However, as my flashlight metaphor is meant to imply, the direction of causation runs both ways: body influences mind and mind influences body.
2) The self.
Yes, I have a pervasive sense of self. The sense of self is is the mind, but for me includes my body as “me” in a way that the rest of the external world is not.
You replied, “Well, that would be a form of monism. But I am afraid that you still have to clarify”. You then offer this interesting and useful list:
I think I opt for 1). Let me try to explain why.
First, I don’t think I need to be “on the hook” to have thoughts about what the underlying oneness “really” is, or to be unsatisfied with that position. That’s sort of what “underlying oneness” means: a source of both mind and matter that is beyond my, or anybody’s, ability to comprehend. This is a common religious belief: that the ultimate nature of reality is unknowable to the limited mind of human beings, and thus indescribable. I see this from a philosophical point of view, not religious, but it seems satisfactory to me to accept that this is the case.
Therefore, I don’t think that it is correct to say that basic reality has to be either an object or a subject. (I also don’t think saying that an anthropomorphic “both” is at all accurate: I agree strongly with you about that.)
My feeling (and this is extremely speculative philosophy, but it makes the most sense to me), is that the quantum world of which we have become aware in the past century is the part of some underlying oneness that broaches the “quantum curtain” (a phrase I like of a friend’s) that produces (or manifests as) the material world, and that, as we have speculated, some other aspect of the underlying oneness manifests as mind. Mind and matter arise from the underlying basic reality that is neither mind nor matter, but the source of both.
But human beings, being a mix of mind and matter, cannot pierce the quantum curtain from either the matter or the mind side. Therefore, I am satisfied to remain incapable of describing what’s on the other side. Just living with the mind/body self I have is enough for me.
Hazel at #121:
OK, I’ll try to be brief, because I think that most things have already been said.
a) I think that the concept of “subjective representations of the self” should be clear enough. I mean that if something is in my subconscious mind, it means that it is being represented by me (the subject, the self) now, even if at some deep background level. IOWs, it is, now, part of what I am aware of, even if I am aware of it in a way that is different, and less prominent, than what is in the “conscious”, waking mind.
I am afraid that the methaphor of vision is more useful here, even if you don’t like it. Peripheral vision is vision just the same. We are seeing the things that are in peripheral vision, but we are not distinctly aware of that, because macular vision has most of our attention. But there is a definite difference between the things that we are seeing, even if only in the background of our mind, and the things that are not in our field of vision, but that could come into it if we, for example, moved our eyes. That’s my distincion between subconscious and unconscious.
I also believe that our subconscious mind could be much bigger than we can expect. Many things could be really represented in our subconscious at a very deep level, at any moment.
The distinction is important for me. For example, it explains why subconscious contents and reactions can definitely contribute to the expression of our free will, without denying its free nature: because it’s still us, our conscious self, that is operating in both minds.
It also explain how the subconscious mind can certainly generate complex functional information (see dreams, for example), and also, very often, contribute important intuitions to our conscious reasonings (see the example of the solution that comes after we sleep).
b) You ask: “Is my lecture on the quadratic equation in my subconscious, or in my unconscious and just stored physically in my brain?” Well, it could be in your subconscious at certain times, and just stored physically at other times.
The metaphor of the hard disk and the RAM is more useful here, even if you don’t like it. The contents in the hard disk can be the same that are retrieved by the RAM, but they are not working until they are loaded into the active memory. Remember, we don’t really know how information is stored in the physical brain. Of course it is stored there, but we don’t know how much of the stored information is perceived by our self at any moment.
You speak of “a vast, interconnected web of contents with tendrils that touch (through the unknown interface) the vast interconnected web of neurons in our body”. That’s fine, but the point is: as long as those “contents” are only objects (stored information), they can only undergo objective processes, like algorithmic computations. IOWs, at most they can contribute to non cosncious algorithmic procedures, like in a computer that has no “mind”. But, as soon as those contents are represented consciously, be it in the conscious or in the subconscius mind, the conscious categories of understanding and feeling and purpose and free will can act on those contents. Free cognitive reactions and free feelings can be associated to those contents. New original complex functional information can be generated, and new free actions can arise.
Those things are impossible as long as the brain works only objectively, like a computer.
c) You say:
Yes and no. I would say that we are exposed to external inputs and internal inputs, constantly, that both are mostly automatic, but that we have some control (for example in our new original reactions) on both of them. Our free will can be expressed in how we react to something we are seeing, as much as in how we react to something we are “remembering” in our inner “flux of consciousness”. Many of the contents of our inner flux of consciousness are as automatic and as out of our control as many of the external perceptions.
To be more clear, I think that our inner flux of consciousness is similar to the outer flux of perceptions (that, in the end, become of course part of the inner stream). In both cases, we are somewhat passive, but in both cases we also have some control: we can move our eyes, and we can focus on different parts of our inner flux of consciousness.
d) you say:
I completely agree with that. I think it is certainly true of human consciousness.
However, it does not mean at all that consciousness is necessarily linked to the body and brain. Human consciousness, in its normal state, is certainly linked to body and brain, as you say. But our normal state as humans is not all that exists.
First of all, there is the “small” problem of what happens to our cosnciousness when the physical body dies. As far as we can judge from what we know of NDEs, consciousness does express itself beautifully and in a very complex and deep way in the process of dying, and very likely even when there is no brain activity. Of course those who don’t like the idea try to rationalize it in any possible (and often silly) way, but IMO that’s exactly what the facts of NDEs tell us.
Second, there is the important issue of mystical experiences. In a different, but very deep way, they tell us the same thing. Many could not be interested in that aspect, but I think it is a very important source of information for those who are really convinced of how important these problems are. Even an atheist like Bertrand Russell admitted in one of his books the relevance and interest of mysticism.
e) You say: “Yes, I have a pervasive sense of self. The sense of self is is the mind, but for me includes my body as “me” in a way that the rest of the external world is not.”
But a “sense of self” is a conscious representation (“sense”). Does it include your hair or your nails after they have been cut?
An arm is certainly an important part of our self. But many have lost an arm, and their self still goes on. Your body is part of your self because you perceive it as such. You certainly know that one of the recurring experiences in NDEs is the OBE, don’t you?
f) Finally, you chose the first option, as I expected. And feared.
OK, no problem. It’s your choice. But I am a little disappointed.
You see, I certainly believe that the ultimate source of all reality is transcendent. And we cannot say anything of what is trancendent, by definition. And we need transcendence, to explain what is immanent.
But the source of something must certainly have some connection with that something, at some level.
In your reasoning, IMO, you are invoking some form of force/god/principle as the source of reality. That’s fine. But you are also saying that we cannot know anything about that source, both scientifically and philosophically and religiously. Or in any other possible way.
Because we “cannot pierce the quantum curtain”.
OK, I respect your position. But I don’t like it.
Not a problem, of course, Your position is your position. But my position is different. As a guy who is passionately interested in science and in many other things, I do believe and feel and hope that getting a personal and deep understanding of that source, in all possible ways, is the most important thing in my life.
Thanks, gpuccio. Yes. I think we have covered the ways in which we agree and disagree (or perhaps have different metaphors for what we agree about) concerning the nature of consciousness. We agree on a lot of the empirical and experiential issues, but diverge the more we get to philosophy. I appreciate your comments at f) above, and think that is probably a good place to leave things.
So, once again, thanks for the thoughtful, civil, detailed conversation.
You asked me what I thought were the potential inadequacies of utilizing methodological dualism when compared to methodological mental monism. IMO, while an ideal implementation of methodological dualism might be able to perform as you say, the fundamental concept that we are studying two entirely different realms, instead of categories of a single realm, presents issues that would inevitably appear in actual use. But, we can agree to differ on that.
Now, if you don’t mind answering a question for me: What advantages, if any, are there in using methodological dualism as opposed to methodological mental monism?
Hazel at #123:
OK, fine. This has been a good discussion: respectful and precise. Many thanks! 🙂
William J Murray at #124:
Well, my idea is simply that when we study reality form a scientific point of view, we should stick as much as possible to facts and good inferences, and we should not allow our general worldviews to interfere “too much” (it’s impossibel to avoid it completely) with our procedures.
My idea is that both convinced dualists and convinced idealistic monists should have no problems communicating about scientific issues. As said, I am myself more of a monist, but I have no problems to consider scientific issues independently from my more general beliefs.
Physicalist monism is more a problem, instead, because it denies just from the beginning the independence of consciousness as a different empirical reality, and relies on the lie that it can be explained in terms of matter configurations. That is not a good start, even for the most sincere physicalists. Moreover, they still have the big power, and that makes them cognitively arrogant, more or less knowingly.
When I proposed, a few days ago, the term “methodological dualism”, I did it with a little bit of irony, imitating the common and very bad concept of “methodological naturalism”. But while physicalists definitely cheat with that concept, because their methodological naturalism is always the same as ontological naturalism (and of course “naturalism” mean really nothing), I am very serious about my ironic proposal: my “methodological” means really what it should mean.
It means that we are not necessarily convinced that we are “studying two entirely different realms”, and in the same way we are not necessarily convinced that we are studying “categories of a single realm”. Very simply, we acknowledge that what we can observe has the features of two different manifestations, either of one realm or of two realms. So, we have the methodological duty to understand, without any prejudice, how those two manifestations differ in properties and laws, and how they interact one with the other. And draw good and impartial inferences from the observed facts about both “manifestations”.
I see it a little like the problem of Grand Unified Theories in physics. It’s a beautiful idea to try to unify al known forces in one great mathematical theory, but as long as nobody succeeds in doing that, we must live with 3 or 4 different forces that behave, for some reason that we don’t really understand, in different ways. We cannot just pretend that they are one, we must really find the scientific approach that explains them as one.
So, when we study gravitation or the strong force, we study them as separate forces, even if we are really convinced that they are manifestations of one basic principle.
You ask: “What advantages, if any, are there in using methodological dualism as opposed to methodological mental monism”.
Well, no advantages at all as regards our personal general convictions. As said, if we behave as good scientists, there will be no differences, or at least no big differences, if we are convinced dualists or convinced monists. But in relation to our scientific approach, we must be empirical: we must neither assume that there are two realms, nor that there is one. But we must certainly acknowledge that we can observe two apparently different (empirically) manifestations, two different kinds of facts. That’s where we must stick “methodologically” (IOWs, until facts or good scientific inferences do not allow us to adopt a new perspective) to studying them as separate and interacting phenomena.
Good post, Gpuccio.
I disagree with you on one key point. You say that, properly used, methodological dualism doesn’t require bringing in ideology. I disagree. IMO, the addition of a second hypothetical realm we cannot ever access – even theoretically – is itself bringing ideology into the process. That’s all the proposed existence of something outside of mind can ever be – an ideological framework. We know the realm of mind exists; it’s the only thing we directly experience. You agree that M. Dualism brings nothing of additional value to the table – something I said to start with. That makes it 100% superfluous.
IMO, in scientific research and critical thinking, it’s impossible to defend adding an entirely superfluous 2nd realm.
William J Murray:
OK, I understand your position, and there is no problem if we differ slightly in our ideas. Essentially, I think we agree on almost everything.
But just to be practical, I can agree with you that: “We know the realm of mind exists; it’s the only thing we directly experience”. It’s absolutely true. But are you saying that accepting some objective reality out of our personal consciousness, whatever its nature, is adding “a second hypothetical realm we cannot ever access”?
There is a problem here. As far as we know, even another person’s consciousnes is “a second hypothetical realm we cannot ever access”, because empirically we have access only to our personal consciousness.
So, if we apply literally your criteria, we should deny not only matter, but also others’consciousness. IOWs we should accept solipsism.
I cannot agree with that. It is true that the only things we know directly are those in our personal consciousness, but we can certainly make reasonable inferences about the rest of reality.
The inference that other people are conscious is very legitimate, and practically all share it. That seems not to be a problem for you, because your worldview (like mine) easily accepts an outer reality that is mental.
The inference that there exists an outer objective reality with which our personal consciousness interacts, and that does not apparently behave as some conscious agent (physical objects), seems reasonable too, and most people definitely share it. Most people tend to believe that, as physical matter is perceived by us as behaving differently from conscious contents, it may have a different nature.
Of course, you and I can probably agree that the final source of both the subjective and the objective world could be consciousness, mind, or an ideal world. That is a reasonable philosophical position, certainly shared by some very good people, but obviously not by most people.
I don’t think that convincing others (the majority of people, indeed) to share our personal (even if very good) philosopical worldviews can be considered as a pre-requisite to make good science. That is not a good philosophical position in my philosophy of science where, as said, the empirical approach should be the prevalent attitude.
But, as said, we can certainly differ on one point, however important it may be to each of us. 🙂
As I’ve said before: (1) it is a false dichotomy to say that we either accept the existence of an objective reality outside of mind, or we are necessarily talking about solipsism; (2)I’m not talking about an individual’s mind, but rather mind,, as in “the platonic realm”; and (3) a practical model of mental monism is contingent upon a useful theory of mind that categorizes and takes into account all forms of mental experience – including the experience of what appears to be other people with what appears to be independent consciousness (not the same thing as an independent mind) and what appears to be, in a large part of our experience, a consensual external world.
Also, I’d like to point out as I did to KF, disliking the consequences of a logical argument based on the evidence (inescapable evidence and logic, in this case) is a fallacy. Essentially, you’re saying “let’s stick in a whole other, entirely superfluous and unavailable realm to avoid a distasteful conclusion.” (Which, by the way, is entirely ideological in nature, which proves my point. Ideologically, you’re committed against solipsism. What else are we going to do when it comes to forming a hypothesis and constructing experiments in order to serve that ideological position? It’s no different than materialist scientists going out of their way to come up with theories and explanations to avoid the intelligent design conclusion.)
However – fortunately – we’re not even talking about solipsism; our theories of mind are generally so vague and poorly thought out that most people just lump it all into a single category that only serves as a kind of minor companion to the real work which concerns some hypothetical world external to mind. Do you see how horribly, wrongly lop-sided that is? Theories of mind are so weak and vague that people immediately leap from “mental monism” to “solipsism” as if that is the only possible perspective under mental monism.
Even though it is blatantly obvious that there are universal, objective values and forms in mind (note: I didn’t say “my” mind or “your” mind), along with what appears to be completely personal, subjective mental phenomena (which we often call “imagination”), and even though all critical thought is entirely mental, and even though we recognize a distinction between intentionality and whatever is derived from or caused by that intentionality, all these concepts are pretty much just mashed together as an afterthought because the supposed real work is about some hypothetical world external to mind.
People are far more interested in that hypothetical external world than in better understanding the factual root of all experience: mind.
There is a difference – as you and others have written about – between different categories of consciousness, which might roughly be subdivided into a “now” awareness, observation, intentionality; a subconscious, which I agree is extremely important and powerful; and an unconscious which I consider to be the “deep space” portion of our existence. One might consider alert “now” awareness the surface of the Earth; the subconscious the entire rest of the planet and atmosphere, and the unconscious the rest of the universe – at least in terms of our investigation and discovery.
You bring up an interesting point about “other consciousnesses”; but that is poorly framed in my opinion because it suffers from the “mashing-up” of what should be carefully thought-out categorizations of mental experience (at least, in any proper theory of mind). This goes back to what I’ve lamented as a materialist mindset utilized by non-materialists when considering the mind: they try to frame it with the same basic concept forms that materialists use in describing the world.
BA77 often posts summaries of scientific research that obliterates “external (to mind) world” conceptual norms. Consider the fact that observing a photon here on Earth not only instantaneously collapses a current, enormous wave potential that probably exceeds the size of the entire solar system; it defines the path of that “photon” backwards through perhaps millions of years of time. This causality-redefining fact has been demonstrated in quantum eraser experiments.
What is the outcome of such research? The attempt to protect the ideology of an actual, physical external (to mind) world, usually by cobbling together monstrous ad-hoc theories attempting to undermine or explain away the inevitable conclusion that “time” and “causality” are not what we think they are. Information travels instantaneously through both time and space. How can any external-world paradigm account for that? Answer: it cannot.
Similarly, the necessary universality of platonic forms and values fundamentally discoverable in the “external world” simply cannot be accounted for other than via some vague proposed “connection” of the external world to the platonic. Jeez, how much more efficient and easier is it to just admit that what we are experiencing is itself some kind of manifestation of platonic forms and values?
In physics, the natural computational results of quantum potentials results in an undesirable answer: there is infinite mass, and thus infinite energy, at every point (zero-point energy). Due to ideology, this computational fact is largely ignored because it is “unreasonable”. However, mass and energy are ultimately nothing more than descriptions of behavior and potential behavior. We don’t know what “mass” or “energy” is; we can only describe observational behaviors and provide mathematical predictions of behavior. So, what does infinite mass/energy mean? It means infinite information in terms of behavioral potential. Where does information exist? In mind.
If I remember correctly, a few threads ago hazel was having difficulty in accepting that although she would be discovering the algorithmic results of some future program she writes, that meant that the information already existed in the platonic realm. That would mean that the platonic realm has in it all information that is discoverable. Yet, the scientific evidence (even if ignored) demonstrates this, which contra-indicates a classic ID trope: humans do not create information. We discover it and use it.
It may seem (and it may be) that I’m meandering a bit, but as I intentionally pointed my conscious attention at potential information concerning this discussion, “things occurred to me” (meaning: I discovered information and interpreted it into coherent thoughts) that I wanted to write down here – if nothing else, then for my own reference.
However, the point to this was to show how the ideology of an external world affects everything we do and think. If something we discover contra-indicates the idea of an external world, we consider that either an error or a novelty-style useless artifact of the math or the experiment which will later be cleared up with a “better” or “more complete” theory still rooted in dualism (or, in the case of materialism monists, a better theory of matter/physicality).
Solipsism is what mental monism looks like from an external-world paradigm, or IMO from a sloppy, vague mash-up of categories of mental experience. Platonic laws, like that of identity, or platonic forms, like circles, or math, like 1+2=3, are directly experienced as absolute, real and eternal – more real and absolute than any experience of any supposed external physical world phenomena. Critical thought – that by which we find true statements about anything – lies entirely within the mind.
Neither you or I invent or simply imagine these things. We discover them by directly accessing them in mind. We experience other varieties of “external world-ish” phenomena, like dreams or daydreams in the same superset (mental experience) as the absolute, eternal reality of platonic forms, laws and values and critical thought. This is all experienced as if internal. The idea that our mind cannot house a consensual physical experience (like it does with those platonic ideals) or that critical thought cannot be used to discern the difference between the categories, or that without the externalization of consensual experiences we necessarily devolved into “solipsism” or “delusion” is nonsense. If we cannot trust mental experience as both consensual and real (at least in some categories) , the game is lost before it even begins. Ergo, a consensual mental experience of physicality is not only possible, it is a necessity whether or not any supposed external world exists.
Because, even if a consensual external world existed, without the consensual mental experience, we’d all be practicing solipsists by logical necessity. The consensuality of mental experience (at least in some categories) is a necessity regardless of whether or not worlds might exist “outside of mind”.
Which, again, shows the utter uselessness (I’ll go one further: foolishness) of adopting a paradigm that anything exists outside of mind.
Couple of questions:
Is god a solipsist?
Have you ever wondered if the “other people” in your dreams are consciously aware from their perspective?
I’ve been trying to follow your interesting discussion with WJM here in this thread.
It’s interesting to see you so deeply engaged in this kind of philosophical discussion, while one of your purely scientific discussion threads still remains among the most popular the last 30 days. 🙂
Should all scientific discussions be based mainly on observed facts? How about philosophical discussions?
Should serious scientists refrain from making the observed facts mean more than what they really mean? How about serious philosophers?
Do these questions somehow relate to what you have stated lately in this discussion?
William J Murray at #130:
Wow! A lot of interesting stuff here. 🙂
I still think that we agree on more things that you expect, but there are certainly differences too. For me, it is really difficult at this point to clarify the differences, because the discussion is too big, and includes many different planes.
However, I will try to add some ideas (to the many that you have already expressed).
A real difference is that you insist that we should have a shared general worldview to make science together in a good way. As already said, I don’t agree.
The difference between science and philosophy is a big issue. Very humbly, however, I will say that IMO a difference exists. Those two forms of human cognition are in no way antagonistic, indeed, if well applied, they support one another. But they are still different things.
Deciding what is the final nature of reality, of mind, of matter, and so on, remains, always IMO, a philosophical issue. However convinced we may be of our ideas, I think that we shoud remain humble in philosophy. There has never been any philosophical consensus about the big questions, and frankly I am afraid that never there will be one.
Final choices in these issues are not only a matter of facts or reason or logic: they involve our whole being, our free will at many different levels. Our personal desitny strictly depends on them. So, I believe that we should accept that different people have different worldviews, and stick to them. We should respect that, even if we don’t like it (of course, there are worldviews that need to be opposed, in the measure that we can realistically do that: but we cannot oppose all worldviews that are different from ours).
Science is slightly different: while there is certainly an effect of our personal worldview, a cognitive bias that cannot be erased completely, good science has wide margins that are shareable. Not all (I am rather a Polanyite), but much is shareable.
That derives from the “limitation” of science as mainly deroived from observable facts and good inferences. Observable facts are usually shareable, and good inferences can be discussed with some objectivity, when people are not too committed to their personal philosophies.
That’s why I believe, unlike you, that good scientists can work together constructively in the search for scientific truth, and still have completely different ideas about the ultimate nature of reality. It’s only when they betray that empirical comiitment that communication becomes impossible (that’s what happens now with physicalist reductionists).
So, while I apprecite your philosophical ideas, many of which I certainly share, I cannot accept your idea that some general worldview should be accepted as the foundation of science. That is not good epistemology, IMO, But, as said, we can certainly differ,
Personally, I feel no need to depend on any general ideas (and I have many of them) when I try to make science. I really do my best to stick to facts, and to good inferences. Even when I discuss consciousness in a scientific context (not in a wider context, like in this thread), I try to remain wholly empirical.
There are things that are part of my general worldview, but that cannot be explained or inferred scientifically. Free will is one of them. I have defended libertarian free will passionately here, for years, but I have never stated that it is supported by scientific arguments. It is, certainly, supported by good philosophical arguments that make a good use of what science knows.
Also, my refusal of solipsism is neither scientific nor philosophic. Solipsism cannot really be refuted. I am simply sure that it is a wrong idea about reality. If one considers himself a solipsist, I have nothing to discuss with him. But I am confident that very few people would believe that way.
A scientific approach has no limitations: it can well consider platonic forms, simple objects, individual minds, anything, as possible observables. And study those things that can be observed, trying to build good inferences about them.
In my discussions about Intelligent Design in biology, I have always stated that available facts show with absolute empirical strength that biological objects are designed. That the logical scientific consequence of that is that some form of conscious, intelligent and purposeful agents must exist who have designed them. These are scientific statements, IMO. They have nothing to do with a general worldview. This is science, and that science can be accepted by all who accept the priority of empirical facts in science.
Philosophicall, I agre with you on more things that you can expect. I will simply list here some of your staments in your last post with which I philosophically agree:
Now, a few statements about I want to comment:
But I have never said that. I have said that the possibilities are (excluding physicalist monism that we are not interested in here):
a) You accept the existence of an objective reality outside of mind (both your personal mind and others’minds), and different in nature from mind. Then you are an ontological dualist.
b) You accept the existence of an objective reality outside your personal mind, that includes both other personal minds and the apparently objective world, but you beleiev that all that is some form of mind. That you are a mental monist.
c) You don’t accept the existence of any reality outside your personal mind. Then you are a solipsist.
As you can see, it’s not a dichotomy.
OK. But if you read carefully what I said in comment #129, you will see that I was referring to this statement of yours:
” We know the realm of mind exists; it’s the only thing we directly experience.”
I agree. There are things that we know by direct experience and others that we infer.
Our personal menatl experiences are the only things that we experience directly. You derive from that tha we experience “directly” the realm of mind. That is true only is you limit it to “the realm of our personal mind”.
My point is that we cannot limit our conepts to what we directly experience. Because both the minds of others and an external world that is not mind are inferences, not direct experiences.
So, if you refute inferences, you have to refute both the minds of others and the external objective world, And I can’t see how you can derive the idea of a “realm of mind” that is not just our personal realm of mind. Because, to do that, you need to believe in the minds of others. And that is an inference.
My ony purpose here is that our good knowledge is made of both direct experiences and inferences. You cannot refure the possibility of an external world that is not mental only because it is an inference, and not a direct experience. You need other arguments.
Regarding physics, quantum mechanics, entanglement and so on. I agree with you that modern physics speaks of an external world that is very different from ehat it was believed to be. Certainly less “objectual”. It is true that the possibility that the external world is is some way mental is strongly supported by moders physics. But I don’t agree that modern physics inevitably implies that everything is mind. Maybe we will get to that. Physicists are much less biased toward reductionism than biologists. They are constantly trying new ideas. But it is not easy. Because in physics you cannot simply believ something, you have to show scientifically that it is really the best explanation of known facts.
Finally, I am rather surprised by the following statement of yours:
1) I can agree, philosophically, that we discover information, rather than generating it from scratch. IOWs I agree, philosophycally, that all ideas probably already exist in a platonic realm.
2) However, I would never say that this is a scientific statement. IMO, at present, it is wholly philosophical. You will disagree, but it’s exactly what I believe.
3) Whatever may be, the surprising statement is that you say that the above idea would:
“contra-indicate a classic ID trope: humans do not create information. We discover it and use it.”
Why do you say that?
In my discussions about ID, I have always passionately affirmed that complex functional information, if observed in objects, allows to infer safely that the object is designed.
I have also cleraly defined what I mean by “designed”: it means that the specific complex functional information we observe in the configuration of the object was inputted into it by some conscious intelligent purposefule agent, from his conscious representations.
IOWs, the whole point of design is that conscious representations of the form precede the implementation of the form in the object.
I have also stated that the ability to design, and therefore to generate complex functional information, is linked to the conscious experiences of meaning and purpose.
I have said those things many times, always in the same form.
But I have never debated the philosophical issue of how understanding meaning and having purposes make the generation of information possible. And I have never debated the philosophical issue of what understanding and feeling are.
Because, you see, I try to stay empirical, and to avoid philosophical aspects in my scientific discussions.
So, either the understanding of meaning and the ability to have purpose are independent qualities, or they are linked to the paltonic realm, makes no difference to ID theory. The point is simply: complex functional information can only be observe in objects that have beem designed by a conscious, intelligent, purposeful agent. That remains true in all cases, whatever our general philosophy.
Your two final questions:
1) God exists, and everything else exists in Him. I don’t think that is the same as being a solipsist. I believe He is well aware of all that He has created. And He knows exactly how real or not real different planes of existence are. Better than me, certainly.
2) Yes, many times. I simply don’t know. If I should bet, I would say: mostly not, but sometimes maybe.
PaoloV at #131:
No, philosophical discussions have a wider range. Of course they must consider known facts, but they also try to provide wider frameworks, and are less depednent on observable facts. But it is always a good principle to avoid contradicting known facts! 🙂
They can certainly do that, at a philosophic level. A scientist has all the rights to make philosophy too, like anybody else. But they should never present their philosophical ideas as scientific theories.
Serious philosophers can certainly help scientists make good science, by making good philosophy of science.
I hope they do! 🙂
News linked to this article recently, although her post on it was months ago: Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything?.
First, an empirical observation
Second, a philosophical speculation
This reminded me of wjm’s thoughts: The universal mind manifests as multiple instantiated minds as multiple personalities.
Anyway, it’s an interesting article.
thanks for answering my questions.
I really appreciate it.
William J Murray,
Do you fully agree with everything gpuccio wrote in #133?
Do you fully agree with everything gpuccio wrote in #133?
re 137. Gpuccio made reasonable comments in 133. However, since they are just short statements that could include a variety of different details and interpretations to different people, I couldn’t say I “fully agree”. Every one of those sentences could lead to a substantial discussion, I think.
Well, that is an unexpected and pleasant surprise. I enjoy it greatly when that happens. I appreciate that you not only took the time and mental energy to try to understand what I’ve been saying, but to also think about the implications and come up with the resource concerning universal mind. Well done!
William J Murray at #139:
I believe that a serious and sincere discussion is always a source of inspiration to all involved. Whatever the individual positions.
re 139. Thanks, wjm. To be honest, I just bumped into the article due to my interest in abnormal psychology, and then noticed the philosophy at the end. (FWIW, I taught high school psych for a few years long ago, and remember showing a film about a person with multiple personality disorder, as it was called then, in which one of the personalities was allergic to orange juice, and the other not.)
Hazel @138 expressed my sentiments concerning your questions and Gpuccio’s responses quite eloquently.
To elaborate some (as hazel said, each question/response would require a full discussion), let’s look at the term you use that imply categorical distinctions: “scientific investigation” vs “philosophy”.
Scientific methodology is intrinsically rooted in philosophy. In fact, it’s necessarily a subset of philosophy. Experiential data doesn’t categorized itself; it doesn’t interpret itself; it doesn’t create models to describe it. What experiential data means is necessarily ordered around a philosophical model, whether it is material monism, some form of dualism, or mental monism. The terminology utilized and what that terminology means is entirely rooted in the philosophical metaphysics of those involved in the enterprise.
Now, let’s look at the term you use that ties all those questions and responses together: facts.
Let’s take an example of a situation where we can express a fairly non-controversial “fact”. Let’s say we’re all standing in front of a brick wall. We all agree that we are experiencing a brick wall, both to the feel of it and the sight of it. Is it a “fact” to say: this brick wall exists?
Well, what does “exist” mean? If one’s metaphysical stance is that there is an actual, exterior (to mind) physical world, that “fact”, as stated means something in particular – there is an entire metaphysical context to stating even a simple, non-controversial “fact.” One might say it is a “scientific fact” that an external brick wall actually exists.
But, is that statement of “fact”, in that metaphysical framework, a true statement? Well, it might be true – an actual, physically external of mind wall might exist, but that is something we cannot ever possible know. All we can know is that we all agree that we are experiencing in our minds what appears to be a physical, consensual brick wall.
Statements of facts can only be about mental experience. Yet, in science, they are not phrased in any such way, nor do they carry such meaning. Statements about a hypothetical external (to mind) world can never be known to be factual statements. They might be, but that would only be by chance.
Here’s something else to consider: all investigation into any aspect of our existence begins in mind, is carried out in mind, is organized, categorized and interpreted in mind, and ultimately is modeled in mind. How on Earth do we expect to do any of that properly without first developing a proper theory of mind?
What would the development of a proper theory of mind be a part of? Philosophy. Philosophy precedes concepts of facts and scientific methodologies. And all we really have now as far as a proper theory of mind is concerned is a vague mash-up of poorly-defined terms and concepts largely ignored as relatively unimportant to scientific research. This is why I consider Gpuccio’s idea that scientific research can be based on raw data and “facts” a ill-considered position. Of course it matters what your metaphysical perspective is.
The idea that anyone can conduct objective or neutral science regardless of the metaphysical philosophy is a non-starter, because that philosophy determines what something so basic as a “fact” means and how it is innately characterized.
IMO, “good” science and philosophy cannot even begin until we first admit the primary, inescapable, logically-necessary, absolute fact that precedes everything else: all experience is in mind. Until we understand (at least to some degree) what that means and the implications, we’re just apes groping around in the dark with a bunch of nonsensical supposition in our heads about the nature of our existence.
Thanks for your comment.
Thanks for your comment.
In your opinion, how much progress have we (humans) had in understanding the mind? What is missing in our understanding of the mind? How long do you think it could take to understand it? How could we reach that goal faster? How could we know that we’re on the right track? Any suggestions?
re my discussion with Gpuccio: the article on multiple personalities has stimulated me to add another remark about the subject of consciousness from an experiential perspective, and particularly about the self:
We all have a personality: a global, overriding set of characteristics: the intonation and pattern of our speech; the way we move our bodies, and especially our facial expressions; our basic attitude, such as cheerful, somber, witty, introverted or extroverted, etc; and so on.
For most of us,our personalities are just there: they seem to function fairly independently of conscious control. Our personality is an overarching structure in which our immediate consciousness’s activities and our actions, consciously taken or otherwise, take place.
Also, our personalities can, and do, shift somewhat in different environments. I can put on my business persona, or my party persona (which is fairly subdued), or my teacher persona, but all of them still largely present as “me”. I don’t have multiple personalities, but I do have multiple sub-personalities, if you will.
Most of us can’t control our overall personality, although we have some control over our personas. I would have a very difficult being anyone but me. However some people, including those who become professional actors, seem to be able to take on more dramatic personality changes: they don’t “just act” but rather “inhabit” a character. They seem to have more control over having “multiple personalities.”
And then there are the cases such as the people mentioned in the article that have “dissociative identity disorder” where there is significant separation and lack of common characteristics between the personalities. There also the remarkable stories of people from, say, Texas getting hit on the head and waking up speaking with an English accent.
So personality is an important aspect of our being that seem to exist in a more “spreadout” fashion in our subconscious and forms the background of our immediate conscious experience and the manifestation of that conscious in our actions, and that can be in certain situations dramatically restructured to various, and sometimes large, degrees.
Just food for thought to add to our summary of what consciousness is like from an experiential perspective.
Have you heard of your namesake biology professor at MIT?
A biology professor named Hazel? I googled and found Hazel Sive, who is probably who you mean.
However Hazel is just a nom de internet, so this doesn’t mean much.
Hazel at #146:
Well, I agree of course.
Personalities have different levels of “depth”. In general, I would consider them as “frozen mental structures”. And of course, many of those mental traits may depend more or less on information stored physically in the brain. But not only. As you say, in the human condition there is always some mirroring of the mental and the physical, in both directions.
Being mental structures, personality traits can change. But the deeper they are, the more “frozen” they are, the more difficult it is to change them.
One of the main tasks for our free will is to react constructively to, and when possible change, our personality traits.
In a sense, a dissonant personality trait is like a drug addiction: a habit of the mind, more or less rooted in what we are at present. Free will can act on those traits (but it can be a very difficult tassk, if the trait is deeply “frozen”). Or, if badly used, let them get stronger.
On the other hand, constructive personality traits are like good instruments. Free will can use them well, and help their development. Or, if badly used, let them fade away.
“The universal mind manifests as multiple instantiated minds as multiple personalities.”
That’s very interesting.
Is each of those minds independent from the others?
gpuccio, do you agree with Hazel @138 and WJM @ 142?
How would you answer the question @151?
Hazel, WJM, gpuccio:
This is copied from Wikipedia:
“Deprivation from social and emotional care causes severe delays in brain and cognitive development. Studies with children growing up Romanian orphanages during Nicolae Ceau?escu’s regime reveal profound effects of social deprivation and language deprivation on the developing brain. These effects are time dependent. The longer children stayed in negligent institutional care, the greater the consequences. By contrast, adoption at an early age mitigated some of the effects of earlier institutionalization (abnormal psychology).”
How does “deprivation from social and emotional care” affect brain and cognitive development?
Jawa, you quoted this line at 151:”“The universal mind manifests as multiple instantiated minds as multiple personalities.”
This is a line from the article I linked to. The whole philosophy discussed at the end of the article, including the line you quoted, isn’t something I personally believe is true.
to Gpuccio at 150: it’s interesting how we have to rely on metaphors so much to discuss these things about that mind. I think of personalities as large frameworks within which the daily activities of our mind take place. They are solid, stable, and in general only change slowly. I wouldn’t use the word “frozen”, but I think, once again we are saying somewhat the same things (but not exactly) but have to resort to metaphors to try to describe the slippery ideas we have about our conscious understanding of how we work.
I believe that some of the Eastern traditions point out a central dilemma of this process: the self we are trying to describe is the same self that is doing the describing, so it’s sort of like trying to see your own eyes (another metaphor). Trying to describe our experience of our self involves using the every qualities we are trying to describe, and thus colors our efforts. Thus the difficulty, and the reliance on metaphors rather than direct description of experience.
Hazel @ #8
‘Software is not immaterial. It is just bits embedded in something physical. Of course, the logic of the arrangement of those bits was designed by a person, but the software itself is material. I don’t think this is a reasonable analogy at all.’
Does not the constancy of the speed of light hitting objects moving at different constant speeds, predicate a non-human mind/agency, always conscious of the existence and movements of all human beings – or how could the agency propellng light commensurately adjust the latter’s speed. So, the truth has to be personal and theistic. This agency behind light’s personal interest in each one of us, seems to have been left out of all calculations by atheists. It exposes their twaddle for what it is.
It seems, moreover, to beconsistent with my postulation that we each live in a little world of our own, integrated and coordinated by an omniscient, omnipotent God.
However, I think you boffiins have let the atheist dim-wits get away with murder with their evocation of ‘counter-intuitiveness’ in cases wwhere the issue has nothing whatsoever to do with intuitiion, but entirely to do with logic.
They cannot accept genuine paradoxes, ostensibly, absolutely contradictory – repugnant to reason, and hence the ingenuous, facile insult they deliver to their own intelligence. As if, at the classical level at which logic operates, it requires a flash of intuition to recognise that a wave and and a particle cannot be both at the same time.
PaoloV @145 asks:
Some, usually referred to as “mystics” or the equivalent, have spent (accumulatively) hundreds or thousands of years exploring and organizing categories of mental experience. Most others – such as the scientific endeavors in the western world – are entirely focused on one particular mental experience/location – what we refer to as the external, consensual physical world. So, it just depends on the group of humans you’re talking about.
If your talking about most people who aren’t “mystics” who spend their lives devoted to such exploration and understanding, we’re missing pretty much everything. IOW, we don’t even have a kindergarten-level understanding. We don’t even understand the basics.
IMO, the basic rule of mind is incredibly simple. Understanding it is incredibly simple. Accepting it is the hard part.
Well, if that’s one’s goal, I’d say a relentless use of logic can get anyone there pretty quickly, if they are willing to accept what the logic dictates.
IMO the only available intellectual guidance is logic, and the only emotional guidance is following a heart unimpeded by fear.
Mind is an infinite resource of information. Point your intention in a direction and let the information in. That last part is the tricky and difficult part, because our local identity construct will do just about anything to reject anything it considers substantively threatening to the status quo.
I have no idea how your question pertains to the discussion. I’m not a neurologist nor a psychologist. How the heck would I know?
Jawa asks @151:
Answering this question in order that it is understood properly is not a matter of the reader’s intelligence, but rather how versed they are with the necessary contextual language, models, ideas, etc. But, to give it a go, there are no “independent minds”; there is only mind. We all share that realm. Individuals might be characterized as particular arrangements of information through which consciousness operates and acts as individuals simultaneously, which hearkens back to a question I asked Gpuccio: “Do you ever wonder if the other characters in your dreams are seeing things in the dream from their perspective?”
Further to my #157, in an earlier post, I had mentioned that a rabbi had asserted in the Talmud that when a person dies, a whole world dies with him. Anyway, in another thread KF has just supplied the references to the rabbi’s dictum.
‘Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’
Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)’
And I suspect that the rabbi’s words anticipated QM by many years.
William J Murray @160:
How did Gpuccio answer your question?