What is "Mind?"

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Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2018 - 10:51am PT
Chemistry may be the cause, but the perception of the effect can't be the cause as well.

Au contraire mon frere. Biological systems are often built on what are known as " feedback loops" or " biofeedback loops" resulting in the perception being a real time contributor to the cause of the given response.

Furthermore, if this perception is effectively stored in memory, said perception, once adequately reactivated, can produce the identical response as originally produced by the de novo stimulus, or stimuli.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:02am PT
This is a key point but one I feel you have vastly misrepresented. I was not arguing that many in neuroscience and cognitive science BELIEVE there is a direct causal link between brain generated content and processes, and the indisputable fact that we are aware creatures. My reference is toward those who have tried to PROVE it, or supply some physical model per how objective processing CREATES awareness.

That camp (which is very small) breaks down into two camps: One camp says outright that they can't imagine what the mechanism would be - thy can't even construct a physical model of how it might happen. The second camp TRY and imagine what might be involved, and every one of these theories has one or more fatal flaws, or more likely, the jump from objective processing to awareness is so vaguely present as to be meaningless. This link provides a scholarly overview (from Scientific American) of most all of those who have sought some manner of mechanistic explanation for subjectivity.

The point is that while many feel they are onto something, when you look closely, it's simply not there. At all.

I would say you are the one doing the misrepresenting. Worse, you are mischaracterizing the nature of the research. No one who considers themselves a scientist (and isn't cluelessly arrogant) has been trying to PROVE anything to date; what everyone has been doing is proposing models for various aspects of attention (awareness) and consciousness doing the experimental work in an attempt to support those models. Anyone who can't imagine a how it could be possible is clearly not among those doing the work and as a result really have nothing more than opinions to offer. Those doing the work have lots of ideas and lots of models.

And fatal flaws? A meaningless pejorative in in terms of science. Again, there's lots of actual science being done to validate a lot of different models with varying success. And the models themselves are undergoing an rigorous evolution of their own. They don't get deemed fatally flawed but rather graded on how well the data supports the various assertions of the model. Some aspects of the models survive to a next generation, other aspects do not, but the models evolve no differently than philosophical thought and ideas.

As for "it's simply not there", it's a patently ridiculous and derogatory assertion that doesn't hold any water whatsoever. If that were the case then you wouldn't believe in "mechanical content creation" (and it still leaves me a bit agog you don't seem to understand just how badly that undercuts your position).

You didn't answer the question, but rather you answered another one. This kind of switch and bait is, as Chalmers pointed out, is common in these discussions.

It is absolutely not bait and switch, but rather the very essence of the issue of biochemical complexity. It's not a random bag of potential, it's entirely a matter of how it is organized and what functionality and behavior it exhibits. A hundred million 14nm transistors in a bag gets you squat; organize them into an Intel I-7 processor and now you have something. It's a ridiculous question on the face of it just exactly like Moody's is.

What you've done above is to try and reckon awareness by virtue of a "response" (output) observable from a 3rd person perspective.

Hmm. This is such a bad misinterpretation of what I said it really doesn't bear a response, but Moody-related detection response has nothing whatsoever to do my comments on biochemical complexity beyond showing how utterly wrong both questions are. Again, in Moody's case what counts is not detection but the response to detection; in the case of biochemical complexity it isn't about the quantity, it's about the functional organization.

What's more, the unconscious does not organize any objective phenomenon into "sound." Until a subject is aware, "sound" is nothing more than biochemical activity. "Sound" is a conscious phenomenon requiring experience. The source is simply a pattern of disturbance caused by the movement of energy traveling through a medium (such as air, water, or any other liquid or solid matter) as it propagates away from the source,the source being some object that causes a vibration, such as a ringing telephone, or a person's vocal chords. We unconsciously register this movement of energy and our neurons are excited, but "sound" is not real till it hits awareness and the consciousness process. What's more, you cannot trace the evolution of awareness, thought you CAN trace the apparent evolution of consciousness. Even bugs show awareness, but they lack the conscious process to know what it is. Again, so long as you have awareness and consciousness conflated, you end up with a muddled look at this, IMO.

This is entirely wrong as I've explained several times now - your subconscious doesn't hand your conscious awareness 'sounds', it hands you fully contextualized words and phrases. And those words and phrases were recognized, interpreted, and contextualized long, long before you ever become consciously aware of them and I know that to be the case from years of firsthand experience of being handed plausible but wrong words and phrases on occasion. The lack of understanding or acknowledgement of just how much intermediate work is being done by subconscious processes is the other huge failing in your position. Again, without subconscious awareness and processing you wouldn't have consciousness or subjective experience.

This is not strictly true. Find ONE example of a viable esoteric tradition that says awareness itself is a thing or function that has qualities that one can "interpret." You will never find one. The process is one of elimination, and what you are left with is no thing you can interpret because awareness HAS no qualities. Nothing. Any and all interpretations are based on what is NOT there. What IS there is totally ungraspable. From Tibetan to Tantric to the Upanishads to Zen to Vapassana to whatever you like, the saying is: Awareness is ungraspable. What's more, at depth, raw awareness is the exact opposite of a "state," which can be contrasted with another state with qualities one can grasp and define. Not so with awareness. Whatever you can say about awareness pertains to content.

Horribly twisted semantics at best. Experience is interpreted, not awareness. What awareness is though is open to interpretation as well. Your assertion of ungraspability, statelessness and nothingness, while refreshing on one hand because we agree it is stateless with nothing to be directly learned in that black pool once there, entirely falters because being in that nose-to-nose-with-nothing meditative state is still experiential and identifiably associated with a brain state. Again, you interpret it as an ungraspable and immaterial; I interpret as the [subjective] experience of a particular brain state. [ P.S. you provided no SciAm link, but if it's Kastrup then don't bother as it's incredibly weak]

Another common misconception: All meditators are doing so as compensation for unspoken wounds, and are seeking comfort and redress.

Another sad misinterpretation. At no point did I mention meditation in the statement you are responding to here. I did mention metaphysics but in no way coupled them to meditation; that's entirely on you.

Active flow states have to do with a subject encountering external or internal content. Not what I'm talking about. You don't really have two different awarenesses in the split brain experiments, rather two different consciousness that are not mediated by a coherent or central "I" or self. Awareness will reflect back and reify whatever "shows on the screen," so to speak. But this is a tricky one to reckon for sure. In any event, below the level of conscious awareness we only have machine registration, not awareness as we consciously experience it. And it gets trickier from thre, IME.

I would disagree with your description of active flow states, but that's not the point. I was listing both meditation and active flow states as two of a myriad of normal and abnormal states of consciousness. And, yes, with split brain you do have two different awarenesses - i.e. the machine on one side isn't registering and neither attention nor conscious awareness. You can split hairs in dissecting the causal train from stimuli to conscious awareness anyway you like attempting to separate 'machine registration' from [singular] conscious awareness. But the problem with that is again the subconscious processes which you are want to ignore. On top of that you can't seem to decide whether awareness and consciousness are two things or one.

I agree with this entirely, except that consciousness IS both simultaneously. One way of looking at it is that awareness and reality are sources and as sources they are continuous and analogue, so to speak. Consciousness is capable of digitizing the analogue into the discrete, lest we would never be able to deal with the "things" in our lives. The "trance" mentioned is our habitual enmeshment with the discrete, and our discursive rambling about it, however true or false. Worth noting is that for humans, though few realize it, the source is continuous, and as mentioned, consciousness can digitize the continuous into manageable parts or bits much as a video camera digitizes reality into 30 free frames a second. For a machine, the source is always digital bits, and machine "knowing" is digital as well, resulting in nothing but mechanical processing and a mechanical output. In a sense, to create a conscious machine you'd have to try and build it in the continuous aspect of the universe, which you can't because you cannot create the continuous out of spare (digital/discrete) parts.

The first sentence is conjecture I don't happen to agree with. The rest of it kind of rambles on once again entirely either missing or dismissing the massive amount of stage-setting being done by subconscious processes. Sorry, the bottom line is much of the work you want to assign to conscious awareness is fiat accompli long before being handed off to that agency.

The fact that I am aware is not a belief. Awareness is the one phenomenon for which we cannot possibly be mistaken.

I wasn't speaking of 'awareness', but rather your beliefs around awareness and consciousness in general. We can agree awareness is a phenomenon, where we again disagree is in regard to what awareness is. You think it is ineffable; I happen to think it's a brain state (which, no, isn't a kind of thinking, but rather a kind of being). But to each his own.
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:28am PT
Au contraire mon frere. Biological systems are often built on what are known as " feedback loops" or " biofeedback loops" resulting in the perception being a real time contributor to the cause of the given response.

Furthermore, if this perception is effectively stored in memory, said perception, once adequately reactivated, can produce the identical response as originally produced by the de novo stimulus.

I don't buy it. A drug induced psychosis requires a normal structure in which to create a pathology. That structure is separate from the chemical that affects it. That structure then experiences the chemical or some other invasive procedure but the structure is not the cause and does not become the cause and when the chemical is taken away the structure returns to normal. And what is that normal structure but the unknown system that allows for a realization of the self as individual and apart, realizing and knowing. As Carl Sagan said "...the (structure) that allows the universe to know itself." Again this is a meat vs. spirit issue I suppose and evidence beyond subjective experience is hard to come by. But a self examination of our own feelings or our own mind reveals a powerful sense of a self we understand as a knowing, experiencing individual whose thoughts seem to stand apart from the meat that produces them.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:34am PT
But a self examination of our own feelings or our own mind reveals a powerful sense of a self we understand as a knowing, experiencing individual whose thoughts seem to stand apart from the meat that produces them.

"...seem to stand apart from..."

indeed.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:42am PT
But a self examination of our own feelings or our own mind reveals a powerful sense of a self we understand as a knowing, experiencing individual whose thoughts seem to stand apart from the meat that produces them.

Again, a matter of perception and interpretation. At no time have I personally ever considered myself as standing apart from my brain [and body].
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 11:58am PT
"...seem to stand apart from..."

indeed.

And to dismiss that "seemingness" would be to dismiss an important piece of evidence in a very difficult problem.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:00pm PT
not to be dismissed, certainly, but to give it unexamined authority just because it "seems" to be something is incorrect.

you must admit the possibility that what it "seems" to be isn't what it is.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:08pm PT
That structure is separate from the chemical that affects it.

Let us fetch another, to me a more appropriate example. It has to do with Sting's tune Lithium Sunset:

...all elements on the periodic table have a specific light frequency they emit in the solar spectrum and this is their light fingerprint or bar code. This fingerprint can travel 93 million miles to Earth to interact with chemical that contain this element and it will react to this similar frequency via a vibration. We call this molecular resonance. You need to understand how this light fingerprint can be used to activate Lithium in your brain to change your mood. That is how all elements and all bio-moleculres work. We've been conditioned to believe it is a lock and key mechanism but this is a very simplistic linear way of thinking about chemistry. Light controls all chemicals by imparting information and energy to their valence electrons and once the light frequency matches the element or chemical the distant element or chemical reacts. This is how sunlight can affect a depressed brain. It turns out lithium light from the sun is more abundant in AM and sunset light so Sting was right about his song.

Fill my eyes
O Lithium sunset
And take this lonesome burden
Of worry from my mind
Take this heartache
Of obsidian darkness
And fold my darkness
Into your yellow light
I've been scattered I've been shattered
I've been knocked out of the race
But I'll get better
I feel your light upon my face
Heal my soul
O Lithium sunset
And I'll ride the turning world
Into another night

Apparently Sting used this process, and still does, to jump-start his creative process.
Have fun in creating degrees of separation in this example.




paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:14pm PT
Again, a matter of perception and interpretation. At no time have I personally ever considered myself as standing apart from my brain [and body].

Well good on you. But the birth of a spiritual life is a notion deeply imbedded in the entire history of human culture and is, of course, where we get the notion of soul, eternal or otherwise. What is the animating force that leaves the body or ends when death occurs and where does it go? Fascinating to consider.

A thought problem:
"Suppose that a scientist were to begin replacing your cells, one by one, with those of Greta Garbo at the age of thirty. At the beginning of the experiment, the recipient of the cells would clearly be you, and at the end it would clearly be Garbo, but what about in the middle? It seems implausible to suggest that you could draw a line between the two—that any single cell could make all the difference between you and not-you. There is, then, no answer to the question of whether or not the person is you, and yet there is no mystery involved—we know what happened. A self, it seems, is not all or nothing but the sort of thing that there can be more of or less of. When, in the process of a zygote’s cellular self-multiplication, does a person start to exist? Or when does a person, descending into dementia or coma, cease to be?"

you must admit the possibility that what it "seems" to be isn't what it is.

Sure. But what better evidence do we have currently?
sycorax

Boulder climber
Yoknapatawpha County
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:25pm PT
Nah, Trotter, Coleridge's laudanum-fueled verse puts Sting's to shame. Being so well-read, Sting would be the first to admit it too.

He alludes to Nabokov (Lolita author) in Don't Stand So Close to Me.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:29pm PT
Coleridge's laudanum-fueled verse puts Sting's to shame

Oh I agree, but having written both song lyrics and poetry the differences are stratospheric.

Have you ever penned a song lyric -- set to a delineating chord structure and syncopated beat?

I thought not.

Can you imagine the flagrant bad taste of applying Milton's lines to say, Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues? Or worse yet to the Stone's Sympathy for the Devil
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:43pm PT
Apparently Sting used this process, and still does, to jump-start his creative process.
Have fun in creating degrees of separation in this example.


The poem is not the lithium.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:44pm PT
But the birth of a spiritual life is a notion deeply embedded in the entire history of human culture and is, of course, where we get the notion of soul, eternal or otherwise.

Lots of notions are deeply embedded in the entire history of human culture, that doesn't make many of them any more than just that: deeply embedded feelings and ideas. Mankind has held an endless litany of notions of human origins, souls and gods as we're endowed with fertile imaginations.

What is the animating force that leaves the body or ends when death occurs and where does it go? Fascinating to consider.

Life. Life is the animating force that ends with death. Nothing further is, as we've been talking about, necessary.

The poem is not the lithium.

Well, maybe not, but having been around a lot of folks on and off their lithium I would guess it's just as likely the poem wouldn't exist without the lithium...
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:48pm PT
The poem is not the lithium.

This is similar to saying the little child's "I love you mommy" is not the DNA, or not the TCA. Cycle in the cells, or the mitochondria that produced the energy for such a beautiful utterance.

As far as we know without these things there is no child, no mommy, no love.

But I'm open to alternative theories??
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:54pm PT
Lots of notions are deeply embedded in the entire history of human culture, that doesn't make many of them any more than just that: deeply embedded feelings and ideas. Mankind has held an endless litany of notions of human origins, souls and gods as we're endowed with fertile imaginations.

What you ignore is the natural inclination toward such a belief because that's the way it feels intuitively right or wrong.

Life. Life is the animating force that ends with death. Nothing further is, as we've been talking about, necessary.

When you demonstrate that through the scientific process enjoy your Nobel Prize.

The poem is not the lithium.

Well, maybe not, but having been around a lot of folks on and off their lithium I would guess it's just as likely the poem wouldn't exist without the lithium...

Look, the form is not the content, the map is not the territory, the poem is not the lithium and the brain is not the thought.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jan 3, 2018 - 12:56pm PT
Look, the form is not the content, the map is not the territory, the poem is not the lithium and the brain is not the thought.

This is a false construct, frankly.

Up to this point, as far as I know, the only individual on this thread willing to firmly identify non-empirical sources for these things would be Werner-- and he posits Hindu deities, as we all know.
MikeL

Social climber
Southern Arizona
Jan 3, 2018 - 01:53pm PT
Largo: . . . Reality is ALWAYS a moving target, . . . .

+1

The matrix, so to speak, is being stuck in a perspective in which one or the other side of the coin appears to be paramount. This is the trance. 

A funny way to say it, but +1 again.

Healyje,

You and Largo are arguing what neuroscientists are finding (or not), and I’d be tempted to demur. Neuroscience appears to be a compilation of various approaches together. But they don’t really seem to add up to much (fMRI data notwithstanding). The problem for them, IMO, is that they’re trying to do too much with too little data. Look at how cognitive science has approached the issues. They are taking a very small parcel of the problem and trying to come up with solutions (knowledge representations, mental modeling, neural networking, analogies / metaphors, etc.). I am not the only one who has real doubts that neuroscience is not much more than something that people are attracted to: i.e., “THE BRAIN.” I challenge people to put together multiple disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, cognitive science, psychology, etc.) into one grand scientific investigation program. If you’ve actually ever “done science,” you’d recognize how grand of an project neuroscience seems to be. But, pretty much only looking at colored pictures of a brain in-process leads to . . . a lot of speculation.

Healyje: Life. Life is the animating force that ends with death. 

What is THAT? LIFE? “The animating force?” Ha. A poetic term, at best. What ARE you talking about? (Werner!!)

I’m sorry not to have responded those who wrote about the question I posed about “necessity” being a misplace modifier. We have a little artistic vision meeting I host, so I’m a little busy. Will get back. Interesting conversations, here!
paul roehl

Boulder climber
california
Jan 3, 2018 - 01:59pm PT
This is a false construct, frankly.


This is a false construct, frankly.


I like this form of argument.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
Jan 3, 2018 - 02:23pm PT
MikeL,

If you have any interest in neuroscience, you should read Eric Kandel or Hubel and Wiesel.

That is only a start, but a good one.

Try to separate the wheat from the chaff.


edit:

The Big Book of Concepts is chaff. Serious chaff, but chaff.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Cascade Mountains and Monterey Bay
Jan 3, 2018 - 02:36pm PT
Ed, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

I have been familiar with much of what your related on the subject, but you obviously speak from an insider viewpoint within the community of physicists, and I am more of an admiring associate.

I tend from my personal level of ignorance to agree with the perspective of the material universe as essentially a mathematical construct; quite amazing, intricate, and delicately balanced.

There seems to be plenty of evidence that the material universe is actually not material at all, but an ocean of energetic wave-forms which do not manifest into matter until observed by a conscious entity....aka quantum weirdness...

Leading straight back to the basic question on this thread...does consciousness arise as a rare and weird property of matter...or does matter arise as a thought form from a universal consciousness...

I am bothered by the apparent phenomena that every time physics tries to avoid the concept of universal consciousness, we wind up with another level of wild and wonderful mathematical explanations such as Hilbert Space, strings, multiverses and dark energy/matter....all very interesting...

I think the universe is more than enough complex and wondrous without trying to explain everything minus a prime mover consciousness.

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