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Post 60

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 3:04pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah:
>Scientifically speaking, yeah, it's over. It has been for a while.

Well thank Christ for that! Took long enough. Guess I should really keep up with the papers.

>There is an argument in neuroscience about the causal efficacy of consciousness.

Oh, is *that* all? Just some minor remaining neuroscientific quibble about "the causal efficacy of consciousness"?

No worries. With that damn pesky mind/body/free will/determinism problem now solved, we'll have those other minor details sorted by lunchtime.

;-)

- Daniel



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Post 61

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

Ahem, I detect a miniscule hint of sarcasm in your last post.

How the brain works is one of the things we know least about in the universe. Of course we're not going to have everything "worked out by lunch." But mind/body dualism? We don't need to know details for that. Any claim that a non-physical entity can have any influence on a physical entity is outright bullshit.

Sarah

(Edited by Sarah House
on 7/11, 8:15pm)




Post 62

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 3:24pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah:
>Ahem, I detect a miniscule hint of sarcasm in your last post.

Heh. Of course. The whole problem *is* "the causal efficacy of consciousness"! This merely rephrases the old problem, rather than solving it.

>Any claim that a non-physical entity can have any influence on a physical entity is outright bullshit.

As it happens, it there are reasonably good arguments for this from the likes of physicist Roger Penrose, neuroscientist J Eccles, mathematician/philosopher Karl Popper among others. They may indeed turn out to be bullshit, but I do not think they are *outright* bullshit. Are you familiar with their arguments?

On the other hand, I consider physical determinism a very credible position, if a very unpleasant one. Is this where you're coming from, or are you a compatabilist like say Laj or Roger Bissell?

- Daniel



Post 63

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 3:40pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

I brought up the causal efficacy of consciousness in this case because it was being talked about from a scientific perspective rather than philosophical. The argument itself, which I didn't do justice, did not simply restate the problem, but made a case for it based on evidence and reasoning.

My official stance: We lack the understanding and technology at this point to form a definitive answer to this question. It is a scientific question and we'll have to use science, not wishful thinking, to find the answer, whatever it may be. In the meantime, it is best to assume volition because that leads to the most beneficial outcomes from whatever viewpoint you want to take.

I am not familiar with those arguments but non-physical/physical interaction is not a tenable position. It's like a guy trying to reproduce with a grapefruit; it's just not gonna work.

Sarah



Post 64

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 4:22pmSanction this postReply
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Rich,

I just caught your post 56. (Don't know why I missed it.)

LOLOLOL...

What the hell are you talking about?

Measurability being a necessary attribute of an existent like Luke's article said? Some other post? Some poster? What?

I normally like your oblique in-outs, but I couldn't make heads or tails of this one.

Dayaamm!

Michael



Post 65

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 5:39pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah:
>My official stance: We lack the understanding and technology at this point to form a definitive answer to this question.

Yes. Exactly.

>I am not familiar with those arguments but non-physical/physical interaction is not a tenable position.

Well I might very well say the same thing about the idea that chemical and electrical events magically have 'free will' just because they happen inside a brain! Do you think that is a very tenable position? See what I mean? There's lots of problems with *everyone's* position on this one. Objectivism is as widely divided on the issue as anyone else ( I always recommend Diana Hsieh's overview as a good summary - http://www.dianahsieh.com/docs/mio.pdf)

Fact is, the problem is *very mysterious*. And the more you take the problem seriously, the more complicated and mysterious it gets. Which is why it is an exciting and interesting problem in the first place! It's well worth drilling down into further.

- Daniel



Post 66

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 5:46pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel, you just wrote:

"Well I might very well say the same thing about the idea that chemical and electrical events magically have 'free will' just because they happen inside a brain! "

Um... Where else does "free will" happen if not inside a conscious brain? I can't seem to find it anywhere else...

Michael
(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/11, 5:47pm)




Post 67

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 6:11pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote:
>"Well I might very well say the same thing about the idea that chemical and electrical events magically have 'free will' just because they happen inside a brain! "

MSK replied
>Um... Where else does "free will" happen if not inside a conscious brain? I can't seem to find it anywhere else...

This is *exactly* the point. If you want electrical and chemical reactions to have 'free will' you have to explain why, magically, this property is only available when those reactions occur *inside a brain*. If it's just physics, why can't you just create 'free will' inside a lab? No-one says, oh, you can only have nuclear reactions in the heart of the sun, where it occurs naturally. And this is basically what the AI guys are trying to do, create consciousness in the lab.

What you're saying is actually the *heart* of the strict determinist argument. Because of course the laws of physics apply *no matter* where in the universe you look - in nature, in a lab, in your brain, wherever. Otherwise they're *not laws* in the first place! (Do you think a physical brain is not subject to the laws of gravity?)

So...if you want to be a physicalist, you must obey the laws of physics. Therefore it is very likely that *if you can't reproduce it anywhere else, then you can't reproduce it in the brain either*. It is in fact an illusion, something that can be determined with chemicals or algorithms or whatever.

Geddit? It's nowhere near simple as it first seems.

- Daniel





Post 68

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 6:30pmSanction this postReply
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Sarah: “The concept of 'chair' cannot be "transmitted from brain to brain." Each person must form his own concept of chair. Otherwise we could take a person with a severe learning disability and implant concepts in their head to save them the trouble of having to generalize the knowledge themselves.”

“Communicated” is probably a better word than “transmitted”, and I agree that each person must form his own concept. The point that I was trying to make is that if one believes a concept is a physical mental entity, one could, at least in theory, achieve that sort of implantation. After all, we can do that now with physical organs. But I’m dubious that mind can be reduced to little bits of physical stuff “inside” our heads.

Brendan




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Post 69

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 6:30pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

I get the feeling that you would be one of the people of yesteryear who would have explained that electricity could not have physically existed because you could only find it in lightening.

That is until man harnessed it and lit his cities with it. Then you would have had to shut up or become an outright religious nutcase.

So give it a little time, dude. The science for this is still in its infancy. Inside a brain is where it all happens and where it all has happened for ever and ever and ever - ever since the beginning of recorded time.

Let the scientists study the damn brains, not some imaginary ectoplasm.

Postulating ectoplasm goes nowhere. It is like trying to study the uga-uga of the skies sending down lightening bolts in order to understand electricity.

Michael



Brendan - Our posts crossed. You wrote: "...if one believes a concept is a physical mental entity, one could, at least in theory, achieve that sort of implantation..."

Did you read the link I posted to you? People are starting to do it already on an elementary basis - and they have patents and licenses for their gadgets. Doubt if you like. The military isn't.

On a biological level, the study did not cover this, but I believe implanting a brain in another brain is merely a matter of time. Then smaller units will start to be grafted. These will come with their concepts. Then - if it is economically interesting, the concepts themselves. I see that as a huge possibility.

Who would have thought of grafting stem cells or altering DNA 100 years ago?

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/11, 6:40pm)




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Post 70

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 6:35pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: “Ya caught me with my pants down, dude. You are absolutely correct about the experiment and I was completely wrong. I stand corrected and apologize.”

Thanks, Michael, that’s very gracious of you. I enjoy urban legends, because they reveal something about our penchant for confirmation bias. The popcorn and coke one has legs, partly because it was an actual experiment, and we tend to defer to the authority of science, but also because we fear the meddling of “mad” scientists.

Allied to this is the fear of contamination by foreign influences – a strong motif anytime, but especially in the 1950s, and of course today – and you’ve got a long-running story.

The other thing about urban legends is that some stories that sound like urban legends are actually true. You were probably in Brazil about the time General Motors introduced its new Nova range into South America, to very poor sales. The reason: nova means “no go” in Spanish. But the car was a real hit in Brazil, where of course they speak Portuguese. I know this for a fact because the father of one of my schoolmates used to work for a rival motor company.

Brendan




Post 71

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 7:36pmSanction this postReply
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MSK:
>I get the feeling that you would be one of the people of yesteryear who would have explained that electricity could not have physically existed because you could only find it in lightening.

Always with the personalities, MSK. Tsk tsk. Actually, no one cares about your various silly "speculations" about me - "You'd be the kind of person who lost a loved one/believed electricity couldn't physically exist"etc etc. What's up with that? What's your point?

So please cut it out in future. Thanks. And by the way, *I'm* not the one busted on the forum for spouting urban legends as if they were scientific fact! So when you try to make out that it's *me* putting forward some kind of uga-uga pseudoscience, I can only laugh out loud.

- Daniel





Post 72

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

No problem - but busted? LOLOLOLOL... Is that how you feel when you are wrong?

Dayaamm!

Personally, I'm glad I got corrected. I was under a misconception for years and Brendan did me a favor. Were got a bit out there, but I thank him. LOLOLOLOLOLOL...

(not sarcastic laughing in this post - real belly-laughing)

Ahem...

Back to business. Care to address the issue of why you affirm that an idea like ectoplasm is superior to saying we don't know all that much about what physically happens in brains yet? You always seem to sidestep that point.

Michael


Edit - About your discomfort, I was not trying to be offensive. I was being absolutely serious. Really. I was trying to illustrate your stance from the perspective of another age.

You have been seriously saying for a long time now that there is a ghost in the machine and that a "non-physical" existent (i.e. ectoplasm, ghost, spirit, you merely use the word "consciousness" but it is the same thing) connects with and inhabits physical brain cells and processes. The implication is that physical science is incapable of studying or harnessing this. Hmmmmmmm... Sounds an awful lot like uga-uga to me...
(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 7/11, 8:00pm)




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Post 73

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 10:45pmSanction this postReply
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MSK
>Care to address the issue of why you affirm that an idea like ectoplasm is superior to saying we don't know all that much about what physically happens in brains yet? You always seem to sidestep that point.

Not to my knowledge have I sidestepped it. In fact I have gone on and on ad nauseum about it. But anyway: I postulate a non-physical 'self' to preserve something like 'free will' and avoid the strict determinism that to me seems to follow strict physicalism.

So that's why I think 'interactionism' is preferable as a theory.

You may call it 'ectoplasmic' if you like, although my 'ghost' is a figure of speech - originally a term of mockery by Gilbert Ryle. I believe our consciousness is dependent on the brain, and dies with us. I prefer the term 'abstract'. Our brain is physical, our 'self' or 'consciousness' is abstract, or non physical. Abstract things *exist* - just not, obviously, physically. Concepts themselves - the product of consciousness after all - are abstract, at least according to Ayn Rand. So it's not that hard to imagine really that abstract things might be the product of something equally abstract.

I admit it is, prima facie, a quaint and even laughable theory. But that's ok. I prefer it to the clockwork nightmare of determinism, even tho I agree this is a very plausible nightmare.

- Daniel




Post 74

Monday, July 11, 2005 - 11:43pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

I don't care much for the term "determinism" since it smacks too much of limiting knowledge to what is already known and predestination. (As you already know, I don't like "isms" in general.)

But as I see it, you are positing the following:

1. Physical properties are determined by their own physical nature (hence predetermined).
2. It is patently impossible for physical properties (or a combination of them) ever to result in volition.
3. There is a special category of existents called abstracts that are not physical, but are dependent on and housed within physical supports (living brains).
4. Abstracts cannot be physically measured.
5. Abstracts cannot be physically proven.
6. The nature of the connection between abstracts and their physical support is not known.
7. The only option to positing non-physical abstracts is accepting a condition you call determinism.

I believe this is correctly stated from what I have read of your posts.

I ask, why is it impossible for physical properties ever to result in volition? Cannot how this occurs merely be a lack of knowledge at the present? And cannot an abstract have a physical existence with a very specific nature?

Not all physical entities have the same physical properties. These vary widely. Many are yet unknown. So why on earth make up something like "non-physical"?

Michael



Post 75

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 1:22amSanction this postReply
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MSK:
>And cannot an abstract have a physical existence with a very specific nature?

I suppose that is really what all of your questions above turn on. Well, let's think it through step by step and see what happens:

"Hmmm. Can I say that an abstraction can also be physical ie: concrete? If I did, I could take things we normally call "abstract" and simply say they have a *'very specific' type of physicality*. I could then draw a distinction as follows - say certain things - buses, rocks, the Eiffel Tower - are perhaps *physical* physicalities, and certain other things - ideas, free will, concepts - are *abstract* physicalities. Now, as a very important part of their "very specific nature", these 'abstract physicalities' also DO NOT have to obey the formulas of the laws of physics the way that *physical* physicalities like rocks or the Eiffel Tower do. I mean, the thought that a future physicist with the right formula could, in principle, predict every word I write in this post, and every other future thought in my head, just as they predict the movement of very distant stars to 1/500,000 of a mm obviously destroys the idea that I have any free will at all - a position clearly incompatible with Objectivism. So obviously this get-out clause from the usual laws of physics is essential. Excellent! Now with this special differentiation of 'abstract physicalities' and 'physical physicalities' firmly established, and the proper exclusions allowed for, I have now achieved the main aim, which is to preserve the word 'physical' in my system at all times. Now, when I debate the subject of determinism and free will with Daniel, I will remind him that he really should refer to "abstract physicalities" and 'physical physicalities' instead of just 'abstractions' and 'physicalities'."

Seriously: that is how it shakes out as far as I can see - a lot of heavy lifting to create a purely *verbal* distinction. In my view, this sort of thing doesn't really increase one's understanding of the actual problem one iota, it just adds a layer of confusion. However, as I don't argue over terms, I am happy to adopt this kind of usage and declare that consciousness is an *abstract physicality*, in sharp distinction a *physical physicality*, or "physicality 1" and 'physicality 2', or however *you'd* like to describe it.

And if *this* is physicalism, then I happily declare that I AM NOW A PHYSICALIST! Problem solved!

;-)

MSK:
> Not all physical entities have the same physical properties. These vary widely. Many are yet unknown. So why on earth make up something like "non-physical"?

I certainly didn't "make up" the idea that something can be non-physical. It is what the word 'abstract' means! Do you disagree?

From Dictionary.com
Abstract (adj)
1. Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.

- Daniel






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Post 76

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 2:06amSanction this postReply
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Michael: “Did you read the link I posted to you? People are starting to do it already on an elementary basis - and they have patents and licenses for their gadgets. Doubt if you like. The military isn't.”

The link referred to the manipulation of the brain’s electrical activity, and was hedged with a lot of “maybes” and possibles”. I don’t deny that the mind depends on a physical brain, and that it’s possible to produce various effects on the mind by manipulating the brain, via drugs etc. But that doesn’t establish that the mind is nothing but the physical brain.

And I’m not sure why patents should confer credibility on these gadgets – after all, patents have been filed for all sorts of things, including perpetual motion machines. And of course you’ll be aware that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron.

“On a biological level, the study did not cover this, but I believe implanting a brain in another brain is merely a matter of time.”

But wouldn’t this result in a personality conflict? What if one brain went into ecstacies over Mario Lanza, and the other brain thought Mario was dreck. Which brain would have the right to put the other on moderation, as it were? I can see a whole new field of rights disputes opening up here.

Brendan




Post 77

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 12:24pmSanction this postReply
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MSK
>Personally, I'm glad I got corrected. I was under a misconception for years and Brendan did me a favor.

Now I have to say that I find this attitude entirely admirable. It is exactly this sort of thing I respect, and is indeed the basis of Critical Rationalism. It is always a favour when someone corrects a error, even if that error is a formerly cherished belief (that is the hard part). That is why I particularly respect people who have questioned their religion, for example, especially if they have been brought up within its arms. They finally meet arguments that they can't answer - what Rand called a 'blank out'. It doesn't happen in a moment, like the evangelical 'getting of religion', but is more the slow accumulation of snow before the final avalanche.

- Daniel



Post 78

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 12:27pmSanction this postReply
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Michael-

Here, this is the root of it: the argument of the article was based on the proposition that New-age touchy-feely...etc. etceteras use immeasurability as an argument for the existence of God. Yes, some of them do. The smarter ones don't. That whole tack is goofy, people get glassy-eyed and emotional when they use it. I totally don't get it, whatever... What I'm saying is that is not something I run into, unless I'm trolling around the trailer park looking for metaphysical discussions.




Post 79

Saturday, July 23, 2005 - 12:57pmSanction this postReply
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If the universe operates based on principles why doesn't the mind? Or does it?

If something in our past changes our options for the future, does that mean freewill
never was?

If we believe in freewill do we have to believe in dualism?

Perhaps, there are 2 orders to the universe that are independent of the other.

Are we really "free to choose" if we didn't create the options?

Maybe we should call it "based on what I see before me I will decide to..."will.
what about what you cant see? If you are not concsious of it, then you cant know it, therefore you are not exercising freewill.

I feel that life is like the old game show " Lets make a deal. We don't always know what is behind the curtain but we can choose to see. But does that mean we have freewill or are we just contestants in life and hope to win? Hope to pick the right curtain?

I need a sandwich now.

jbrad




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