What is "Mind?"

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i-b-goB

Social climber
Wise Acres
Apr 20, 2017 - 02:34pm PT


Credit: i-b-goB

Credit: i-b-goB

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Missing photo ID#496875
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Apr 20, 2017 - 02:49pm PT
Hey Jan I've really been appreciating your latest series of posts to this thread.

Thanks
DMT
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 20, 2017 - 04:32pm PT
But I don't believe awareness is an output, a product, or a function produced by brain anymore than I believe gravity is "caused" by or arises from falling rocks


OK. Thanks. That clarifies your position. I'm curious if anyone else, here, is of that opinion? It's certainly imaginative.

-----


Actually, John, I don't really consider it imaginative. When I was studying Whitehead and other Process philosophers in grad school I wondered why most all of them had consciousness as a given or starting principal, or why Kant and many others had what were essentially first principals (a priori conditions) or first assumptions on which they did their work.

My reasons for citing awareness as a first principal or given component of reality is that the alternative - that experience is reducible to objective functioning - renders what to me is a logically incoherent argument. And even if it were true, your are left with the brain itself being conscious (not CREATING consciousness, but rather BEING conscious), which can only be explained by way of an inherent quality, not an output. Any output, including emergence, still has to answer Chalmers' Hard Problem per how experience itself is reducible to firing neurons, and the even greater task of explaining how that belief even makes sense, or is comprehensible in any way shape or form. In fact the explanations are so far fetched or vacant ("consciousness is what the brain is doing") they have in many cases driven people - perhaps even Uncle Dennett, to write off consciousness as illusory, knowing as they do that bridging matter to conscious awareness was an entirely different matter than going from water to steam, say, or from mixing water and liquid nitrogen.

However I have learned to believe that even more important than the conviction is the reasoning about how you arrived at your particular position.

My view differs from Whitehead, Chalmers and others who posit panpsychism (consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things) to understand consciousness. The reason is that I've done too much brain study to doubt that neural functioning means the brain can absolutely function like a sentactic engine, but when you blend objective functioning with awareness you get consciousness. So in my view, its awareness that's the primordial feature, not consciousness itself.

All other ways I have seen or studied has either conflated information processing with awareness (which even basic meditation would show a person otherwise), or relies on a magical step during which your Uncle becomes your Aunt, so to speak. Trying to explain the magic away with complexity arguments, and fifty other strategies, mostly based on computer modeling, are anything but convincing when closely studied. You invariably end up with the brain making a decision which implies awareness in the first instance.
WBraun

climber
Apr 20, 2017 - 06:45pm PT
So your view (hypothesis) is that there is NO spiritual soul and that conscious awareness arises out of the brain which makes the mind?
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Apr 20, 2017 - 06:54pm PT
John, you just used the word magic in trying to describe the relationship between a brain and mind.

Magic is the occupation of people who do card tricks and saw you in half while you are placed in a big box.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Apr 20, 2017 - 07:11pm PT
Now tell us the reason you feel it is possible for you to mistaken about your own awareness.


If, for example, I thought that my awareness was not a consequence of the way my brain is built, I believe that I could be mistaken.

A person who thinks that awareness does not have a biological basis could be mistaken.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Apr 20, 2017 - 07:16pm PT
The bell that rings inside your mind,
Is challenging the doors of time,


It's a Kind of Magic
Queen

jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Apr 20, 2017 - 09:05pm PT
Actually, John, I don't really consider it imaginative

I am on board with awareness preceding consciousness, and I go a step further citing awareness existing in the absence of consciousness, as I explained in my previous post. But most people perceive consciousness and awareness existing only in tandem.

However, I don't think for a moment that awareness is a kind of fundamental feature of reality, other than its promulgation in the developing brain is a commonality. Once you philosophically remove it from its physical origins you are in essence left with no recourse other than shifting into another mental state and bearing witness - a strategy of "proof" doomed from the very start.

And so you are forced to cast about for analogies amongst physical processes like QM that seem to dwell half in physical reality and half somewhere else. The difference of course is that physicists can predict outcomes accurately regardless of a current inability to part the veil of mystery surrounding the subject. You need the tools of neuroscience to make comparable strides - but you reject these, it seems, in favor of weaving philosophical tapestries as if the sheer number of words should suffice.

But you're an interesting fellow whose speculations provide entertainment.


;>)
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Apr 20, 2017 - 09:08pm PT
And so you are forced to cast about for analogies

Best to endlessly cite the classics rather than like, teach a girl to fish.

DMT
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
Apr 20, 2017 - 10:10pm PT
WHAT ?
MikeL

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Apr 20, 2017 - 10:36pm PT
Atta girl, Jan.


Jim Brennan: Magic is the occupation of people who do card tricks and saw you in half while you are placed in a big box.

You could do with a little more reading, Jim.

Magic is a term also used to describe primitive awareness based purely on association (without an understanding of cause and effect).

You can also look up “participation mystique” for another instantiation of the notion of magic. When folks cannot clearly distinguish (and separate themselves from) objects, then that is an example of magic. When primitive men would create small dramas with artifacts before a hunt, what occurred to the artifacts is what would occur in the hunt (it was believed).

There are many ways in which planning tools in business mimic magical thinking: “if the model behaves this way, then so will our experiences.” Projection is a form of magic. Doing anything for luck is also a form of magic. Anyone who practices visualization techniques before a competition is using magic. Charisma is magic.

As I’ve said earlier, we think we are so technical and logical and rational, but if anyone looks closely, they’ll see plenty of evidence that today’s human beings are also greatly instinctual, mythical, and magical . . . actually not so very logical, rational, or technical. The literature in psychology and decision theory provide much to give anyone pause.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 21, 2017 - 04:52am PT
My reasons for citing awareness as a first principal or given component of reality is that the alternative - that experience is reducible to objective functioning - renders what to me is a logically incoherent argument.

Maybe you're over-thinking it and with a philosophical bent I suppose that's not surprising. And coming at it top-down like you are I can certainly see why it's hard to even get off the mark because you immediately get caught up in exactly the logical conundrum you speak of.

That's why I keep encouraging folks to look at the [progressive] neural sophistication of extant species. If you were to do a hierarchal sort and play those behaviors bottom-up like a time-lapse movie it would hopefully be obvious from the progression of primitive sensory-reaction loops on up through human subconscious and conscious behavior that 'awareness' is unavoidably rooted in and sourced by physical biological functioning.

Hell, look at advanced behaviors like multi-generational butterfly and long-distance bird migrations - behaviors which are physically encoded in those species' genomes. Successfully pulling off such migrations requires attending high levels of 'awareness' sourced from a set of biological capabilities which are highly targeted and finely tuned to the demands of those migrations and also embedded in their genomes.

Similarly, look at the behavior of social insects - all behaviors wired into their genomes. Or look at specialized sensory capabilities like Chameleon, Jumping Spider and Mantis Shrimp eyes which all lend them quite unique forms of 'awareness' and, subsequently, behaviors which depend on them.

Are we/you really prepared to say those awarenesses aren't or can't be sourced by "objective functioning" (genome -> organism) or that those behaviors are sourced elsewhere than their genomes? Or are we/you prepared to say those forms of animal awareness are somehow fundamentally different than many of our own?

For me - starting bottom-up - it's just damn hard to escape that reality and fact that both behavior and awareness can be physically programmed into a genome and successfully passed from generation-to-generation. Add to that the intense and ever-escalating evolutionary pressure of predator/prey relationships driving the sophistication of awareness and subconscious processing and I'm personally very hard pressed to see how the emergence of consciousness could be anything but inevitable.

I also think you either inadvertently or deliberately wrap up a vast universe of biological sophistication in the rubric of "objective functioning" and then summarily dismiss it out of hand. I personally believe that is a grave mistake regardless of one's views on consciousness and mind. Abstraction is great and I make a living at it, but when it comes to things like consciousness and mind I prefer a more nuanced approach which embraces and encompasses both ideas and physical reality.

That all said, can I point to an exact hard demarc or species where awareness makes the leap to consciousness? No. But abstract, hard problems aside, I know it when I see it looking back at me. For me the "logically incoherent arguments" are more the abstract ones which dismiss physicalism out of hand because that (as John points out) leaves you groping pretty damn hard to fill the void with equally abstract things like panpsychism, first principle, component of reality, etc, etc.

But, it is good after 15k posts to finally hear some clear words around what it is you actually do believe.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Apr 21, 2017 - 07:19am PT
what about awareness itself, not WHAT you are aware [of], has given you reason to doubt that you, or others, are mistaken about being aware.



When you say, "awareness itself," you sound as though you regard awareness as a thing so obvious, unambiguous, and indisputable that no one could doubt its existence, and moreover no one could be mistaken about being aware.

You ask:

what criteria would have to be met to abolish all doubt that you, MH2, are aware of reading these words?

Does my reproduction of your question mean that I was aware of reading those words?

If an algorithm designed to pass the Turing test could do the same thing, would that mean that the computer was aware?



Does a tiger have awareness? Does a virus?

What happens to awareness when you sleep, dream, are delirious, take drugs, experience extreme fear or hardship, or go under general anesthesia?

If we are wrong about reality itself, and say for example we are a sort of computer simulation ourselves, could we not be mistaken about our awareness?



Again, why do you say, "awareness itself," instead of just, "awareness?" Could you know that you had awareness if you had no memory? Awareness by itself is just one word among many. To help suggest ways you could be mistaken about it, here are synonyms for awareness from an online thesaurus:

alertness
appreciation
attention
consciousness
experience
information
perception
realization
recognition
understanding
acquaintance
acquaintanceship
aliveness
apprehension
attentiveness
cognizance
comprehension
discernment
enlightenment
familiarity
keenness
mindfulness
sensibility
sentience
bodhi

Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
Apr 21, 2017 - 07:41am PT
as though you regard awareness as a thing

Bingo. Physics! There's no escape....

DMT
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 21, 2017 - 07:53am PT
Now tell us the reason you feel it is possible for you to mistaken about your own awareness.


If, for example, I thought that my awareness was not a consequence of the way my brain is built, I believe that I could be mistaken.

A person who thinks that awareness does not have a biological basis could be mistaken.
---


You're still not getting this MH2. I'm not saying you can't be mistaken about you ideas about awareness, whether it is this or that, biological or fundamental, brain artifact or whatever. I am saying that when the thought, "I might be mistaken about awareness being A or B," you cannot doubt that you are ware of the thought, or being aware in the first place to HAVE a thought, whatever that is.

Once again, to understand this you have to be able to recognize the difference between awareness and content - content, in this case, being the thought, "I might be mistaken about (fill in the blank)..."

The problem, MH2, is that you never dug into either the Turning Test, or syntactic engine "machine registration," whereby a machine registers an input, and so for you, an input by a machine is the same thing as a conscious subject consciously experiencing some content. Of course this is a take derived entirely from a 3rd person perspective so it will of course look like this to you.

And John said, "Once you philosophically remove it from its physical origins you are in essence left with no recourse other than shifting into another mental state and bearing witness - a strategy of "proof" doomed from the very start."

For starters, you are the one demanding that awareness is a product of "physical origins," and then presuming that it, that is, awareness, resides IN these physical origins, possibly as a physical property OF the brain. That can only translate to the brain BEING aware, itself. If you have awareness emerging from the brain, as an emergent function as Healje suggests, in a bottom up process, then you are left with Chaslmers Hard Problem, which Healje tries to explain away (a common strategy) by way of biological complexity and processing processes. What's more, I never said that awareness is some freefloating quality that is "located" somewhere else. And certainly you cannot ever bear witness from some remove. It's all a unified whole. There is no "other place." An no witness. Only witnessing.

And Healje, my approach is actually bottom up, except it fundamentally takes place in the 1st person dimension.

More later. Gotta work,
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 21, 2017 - 08:27am PT
...that experience is reducible to objective functioning...

And Healje, my approach is actually bottom up...

Well, 'reducible' generally means starting with awareness and working top-down reductively whereas one can just as easily start at the bottom with 'first [biological] behaviors' and work up the evolutionary trail of behavior to both awareness and human subconscious and mind.

An Arctic Tern migrating from the Arctic to Antarctica is definitely aware in some very specific ways or none of them would survive the journey or end up in Antarctica. Those specific navigational awarenesses are in fact hard-coded in the Tern's genome - i.e. the bird's first-person navigation-related experiences during migration are wholly dependent on an accurate rendering of those same awarenesses in its genome. That genome-> organism -> first-person awareness is about as bottom-up a construct as you can get.

The idea that its awareness is somehow sourced or emergent from anywhere but a genome realized as a living organism seems far-fetched and unavoidably leads to an immediate leap into the ether of magic of one sort or another.
WBraun

climber
Apr 21, 2017 - 08:36am PT
An no witness. Only witnessing

And no witness .... Only witnessing

In order to have witnessing there must be a witness!

And no witness .... Only witnessing

This is the hallmark foundation of the mayavadi philosophy unbeknownst to even you.

Make everything one without differentiation, variegatedness, and personality.

Homogeneous oneness.

But each and every living entity is individual.

No wonder you're confusing these people so terribly .....

jgill

Boulder climber
The high prairie of southern Colorado
Apr 21, 2017 - 01:28pm PT
^^^^ Duck makes sense.

It's all a unified whole. There is no "other place." An no witness. Only witnessing

You seem to be caught up in an Eastern philosophy/religion and continue to attempt to make it mesh with western science. Good luck with that.
MikeL

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Apr 21, 2017 - 01:46pm PT
OP: What is Mind?

What isn't?

(Try showing anything without the use of one.)

:-)
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 21, 2017 - 03:39pm PT
FYI, the concept that awareness is itself an algorithm, or part of an algorithm, is a non-starter, for several simple reasons.

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm "is a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks." This is, an algorithm is only understood in terms of DOING something. Of a task.

Any beginning meditation student can tell you that one's direct experience of being aware is always intensified the moment you STOP doing and shift into simply being present, placing no attention or focus on any thought, feeling, sensation or memory.

This little passage takes the idea a step further:

Any algorithm, by definition, can be implemented on a Turing machine. A Turing machine can be implemented using a punch card system. So, assuming that awareness is merely some particular algorithm, you get the wonderful result that this punch card machine is experiencing the world (and moreover, only when running this particular algorithm or class of algorithms).

Now, depending on how you define "experiencing the world," this could be perfectly sensible - or utterly preposterous. As Thomas Nagel would ask, does it feel like something to be this machine? Does the machine itself have an inner sense or experience of witnessing and being present with the task at hand? And once the task is completed, is the machine's sense of presence amplified, sans task?

Those who answer "yes" to this question seem to be conflating the content of experience with the sheer fact of experience itself, of simply BEING AWARE.

But even if consciousness is not reducible to an algorithm, this doesn't make it "supernatural" for two very simple reasons:

* Tons of things going on in the physical world are not algorithmic (e.g., quantum processes)

* Lacking a scientific explanation for something (let alone an algorithmic one) hardly makes it "supernatural." In response to any scientific observation, you can ask "why?" Eventually you'll bottom out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36GT2zI8lVA
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