What is "Mind?"

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Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 28, 2014 - 11:54am PT
And therein lies the rub of this entire discussion.

You are what you, but that's OK.

Seek a way out or find a way in.



Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2014 - 11:57am PT
hat are the wormholes out of being trapped in a strictly mechanistic, determined" universe?

There are none. There is no escape.


Now this is where Fruity is taling beyond his pale. Clearly understnad that he is making this catagorical statement based entirely according to HIS UNDERSTANDING and expoerience, and has univdersalized it cover all mankind for all time, no exceptions. Kindly recall that this is the man who said that "he" decides what to eat in the morning, but can provide no definition whatsoever what this "I" is who freely decides on Rice Crispies, and who insists that past "confers" all choice on us mechanically. Ergo Fruity's "I" decides nothing whatsoever.

Tvash and Ed have given well thought-out responses that track a strict stimulus response model beholden to past experiences, perceptions, or bio coding, all of which mechaincally come to our rescue with their data in order to make a decision for "us."

FYI, most of modern sufism and most all so-called Fourth Way schold (eneagram etc.) work off this mechanical model to find the escape hatch. It is there to be opened, and I'll try and get to it soon.

What we have seen so far, I think prett conclusively, is that determinism and free choice are totally incompatable, and that so long as we are locked into a mechanical conditioned POV, someone called on to make a free choice seemkingly has no data or antecedent material to draw from or to source an respo0nse, ergo we are left fronzen in indecision.

But unlike what Fruity claims is strictly the case, it is not.

JL
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:08pm PT
Remember, it's not what I claim, it's what science claims.

.....

An important homework assignment for you, it would seem, is to do whatever it takes, incl "the heavy lifting," to come to terms with the concept, also the reality, of a machine choosing, of a machine making choices, of a machine deciding (this or that) all on basis of antecedent causes and/or "mechanisms of action" and/or physics. Do that and you'll be well on your way to a fuller understanding.

A fuller understanding of how a worm chooses. A fuller understanding of how a fish chooses. A fuller understanding of how a dog or cat chooses. A fuller understanding of how a primate chooses.

As others have pointed out already, sometimes these things are less about facts after a point and more about attitude.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:09pm PT
The escape hatch, like out of body, near death, religious epiphany, accepting Jesus into your heart as your personal savior - is just another experience that runs on the same old tired neural hardware that decides whether beer is or isn't a breakfast food. 'Feels' like you've entered the Undiscoverable Country That Floats Above It All, but that damn fMRI just won't tow that line.

They are great illusions, though. Good thing we're wired for creating fictional worlds or we'd miss out. From No Things to Thing One and Thing Two, that's where much of the richness in our life hails from, even if we have to suffer through Preachers and Seekers ranting on about their Better Way on occasion.

Are we physicalists 'trapped' - or just satisfied with, grateful for, or even overwhelmed by the richness, mystery, and complexity of the universe we actually live in?

What binds many 'seekers' - and brother, I'm from Sonoma County, where you can't swing a bottle of Zin without hitting one - seems to be an inconsolable dissatisfaction with the universe as is - and an lack of curiosity when it comes to wading through the science required to understand that universe fully. So often these seekers choose baroque spiritual journeys that just feel better and don't require so many math prerequisites.



High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:22pm PT
we're wired for creating fictional worlds

Yeah, this is what I've been wracking my brain on lately. In particular, fictional fantasy worlds and their adaptive value esp in relation to an ever evolving mechanistic indifferent nature.

http://edge.org/conversation/the-way-we-live-our-lives-in-stories

re: (1) adaptive value of religious narratives (bible stories, evolved theologies, etc.) (2) Is truth and its pursuit really that great a thing? ("Truth for truth sake." Really? Even after 50+ years old?)

.....

What binds many 'seekers' ... seems to be an inconsolable dissatisfaction with the universe as is...

Maybe esp acute in post-50 or post-60 demographic? Maybe it's another of Nature's (deep) ways? In the great circle of life - "Everything's gotta balance."

By "design" maybe She has Her finger on our motivation circuitry perhaps. When you're a teen, it's set to one gear; when you're post menopausal or its equivalent it's set to another.

Just see the energy level in kids. It's amazing. It's like they're automata on autopilot. Which of course they are, lol!


.....

Are we... 'trapped' - or just satisfied with, grateful for, or even overwhelmed by the richness, mystery, and complexity of the universe we actually live in?

Yeah, I was going to call this out also. As Tyson likes to say, it very much depends on one's attitude, how one thinks and what his or her expectations are going into it in the first place.

If you were raised to believe you're the center of the universe, that all the world was created just for you, and that you're the spittin image of God Jehovah Himself, then you're going to be disappointed, let down, if not shocked, from what science says.

"Prisoner" of the process or "participant" in the process or "player" in the process? It depends on how you (choose to) look at it, yes?
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:25pm PT

Possible worlds, scenarios - what's the worst that could happen? and the best? and the most probable? What should I then do? Usually serving us well... as secondary nature...
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:34pm PT
The real decisions, the truly important ones, so often come as a feeling. That's your body feeding back - telling you what to do. You can focus your4 awareness on the problem all you like, but in the end, the whole neural/body system gets into the act to inform your tiny conscious command center in the form of 'feels right', or not, that really calls the shots. There's a huge conscious to subconscious two way conversation going on there, but in the end, you just feel comfortable or not.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 12:41pm PT

In short: That actions and thoughts are "determined" is one thing, that they are predictable (down the line, at some future time) is quite another indeed.

In short; it is the ACT of actions, and the ACT of thoughts which is "Determined". Just like the ACT of our heartbeat. As to the act of eating. But what we choose from the menu is up to taste, or senses, ultimately what will make us feel the happiest.

Determinism is simply an autopilot to the material body.

Our senses and feelings are the Pilot, Judge and Jury in any given instance.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 01:13pm PT
From Toms post,

The physician offered a medical explanation for the bizarre sensations, too, but his explanation was the opposite of what modern day physicians name as the likely cause of near-death experience, Charlier said. Monchaux speculated that in all of reported cases of near-death experience, the patients were left with little blood in the veins in their skin, and abundant blood flowing in the vessels within their brains, giving rise to the vivid and strong sensations.

However, modern researchers think it is likely the lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain that puts the organ in a state of full alarm and causes the sensations associated with near-death experiences.

This author contributes the blood flow to the cause of sensations...

Whereas the fMRI shows that the excess blood flow to the brain which brings oxygen for energy for the prior activity of neurons.

It is in fact the sensations of the neurons that cause the blood flow!

fMRI machines are showing what the brain does AFTER the "minds thoughts" have already come and gone.

I think science needs to be forthright concerning this fact!
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2014 - 01:28pm PT
The escape hatch, like out of body, near death, religious epiphany, accepting Jesus into your heart as your personal savior - is just another experience that runs on the same old tired neural hardware that decides whether beer is or isn't a breakfast food.


Nope, you're still whiffing on this one big time. To equate what I am suggesting to "accepting Jesus into yur heart" is like comparing empirical observation to the delusions of an acid trip. What you are repeatedly saying, Tvash, is that anything that does not square with a staunch, mechanistic, deterministic belief system is peddaling delusions, fuzzy feelings, "experiences." and so forth. You hae stated so yourself that you cannot fathom anything in our field of awareness that is NOT thinking, or neural blowback, a consition we often called being "fused to content,' whereby your awareness is literally fused to whatever you are thinking about. Ed cited someone who went so far as to claim that awareness itself is "produced" and created by whatever we are paying attention to, thereby anchoring sentience to content, stuff, things, and so forth, by making awareness itself a thing, a consequence.

This is not remotely the case, and discovering as much, empirically, is not the ADVANCED COURSE at all, but beginning stuff one can get joiggy with in a few years of active study. Basically the "mind' equivalant of about 5.5 or 5.6.

It's interesting to see people hammering at some wonky model that includes some inference or play for the subjective (the "us" or 'we" or Ed's experiential/perceptual based "I," while at the same time according it no hegemony beyond operating obn auto pilot like a fully mechanized robot, determined down to the last bit, lest it freezes with it's programming runs dry. What you have here is a machine. It is consistant with a mechaincal model, but few see that the false assumption is in accepting that sentience is in sum and substance the same as any other objective "thing" out there. But in fact, consciousness is unlike anything else in the universe. There are no metaphors for being present with your own experience. It doesn't make consciousness "better" por special. But it certainly makes it different than an acorn or a Buick.

But again, the trick is to explore the ways in which Tvqash's guess (we ARE no more and can never be more than neuro blowback, and that everythign else is "magic") is incorrect. The stating point is to recognize the limitiations of the mechanical bio machine by investigatinig what it can and cannot do. that'sa Sufi approach but is might be useful here.

JL
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 01:36pm PT

And if so, from where would such a free choice arise?

This crowd can't go that deep. It's what's been left out of scientific discussion.

The Soul.

It is the magistrate of the body...
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jul 28, 2014 - 01:42pm PT
I would remind Tvash and Fructose that they live as privileged people in a privileged society. First world problems aren't everyone's problems, they're not even most people's problems.

I'm quite sure you would feel less satisfied with things if you had been born female in Somalia for example or a Shite in ISIS occupied territory, the wrong tribe in the civil war in Congo etc. You'd no doubt have less time to ponder the glories of the universe also.You might even hope there was a God who was less selfish and cruel than your fellow human beings.

I agree with E.O. Wilson that it is part of our genetic programming to believe in something greater than ourselves. I'm also sure this says more about the sorry state of the human race than it does about God or the Universe.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 28, 2014 - 01:44pm PT
fMRI machines are showing what the brain does AFTER the "minds thoughts" have already come and gone.

I think science needs to be forthright concerning this fact!


already mentioned many times upthread. It is a bit of physical evidence that indicates that your conscious thoughts occur after your actions... which is consistent with many of the scientific models of "consciousness," particularly the idea that consciousness is a behavior developed to explain to other people what your intention is, and is actually looking at your actions essentially "third person."

It is consistent with the observation that we make things up (confabulate) when we actually don't understand why we did something ourselves.

One conclusion you can draw from this is that if there is "free will" it doesn't reside in our "conscious" state, since we've already acted by the time we "have the idea"

This is a feature of our perception of attention, that perception is that we have the thought first... which seems to be at odds with the science you quoted above.

Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 01:48pm PT
I agree with E.O. Wilson that it is part of our genetic programming to believe in something greater than ourselves.

"Genetic programming" implies no choice in the matter...my eyes are hazel, from my genetic programming, I am half-bald from my genetic programming...I am agnostic because...wait a minute, my gentic programming according to Jan and Ed Wilson says I can't be agnostic.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jul 28, 2014 - 02:16pm PT
I think it is a construct to say that we do not have free will. Our actions are colored to some degree by reflex, instinct, and past experience, but not entirely. Most of our conscious actions are free will.

One example of free will is the ability to override an instinct.

Our entire society has evolved on the notion that we have free will. Take a court of law, for example. We are held responsible for our actions. The idea that you embezzled a million dollars from your employer is regarded is a choice which has consequences, not an act that was fully predetermined. If you can successfully argue otherwise, you could empty the prisons.

For that matter, all of our actions have consequences. We humans have the ability to imagine our choices and actions, and their consequences, before acting. I'm doing this right now.

Ed said:

calculation of the future

That struck me out of Ed's story.

I like Ed's mention of the action of contemplating future events. Is this is a symptom of self awareness and free will? The notion that every second of our lives is captive to a deterministic physics is just wrong. Again, I offer the example of complex, dynamic systems throughout nature. Sure we are captive to physics, but that doesn't mean that our entire lives are nothing but reflexes and instinct. Our brains are far too complex for that.

So I shine a light in Largo's eye. His pupils will contract, and this action can be seen in both humans and animals. That is a reflex. Reflexes and instinct also affect behavior. If you have a fear of heights, that can be an instinct which could be so powerful that you bail from Dolt Tower on a beautiful sunny day. Our actions are colored to a degree by past experience. I didn't bail from Dolt tower the next time I tried The Nose. I imagined the consequences of just not giving up.

Largo decided to have fruit for breakfast. His hunger was either a reflex or an instinct. He "felt hungry." That part is not a conscious act.

The choice of what to have for breakfast is free will. The hunger is not. From this analogy you can see that our decisions are often influenced by instinct, but how we react to that instinct is usually free will. Everything that isn't solely the result of reflex, instinct, or learned behavior is free will. Influencing human decision making is big business. That is why we have commercials and advertisements.

We can study the evolution of ourselves, and learn many things about human minds. We can also study reflex, instinct, and action of other species, and compare them. That isn't my area of expertise other than I accept deep time and evolution as a fact.

The fact that the human mind was pretty much fully evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago begs the question of where did our mental abilities come from? The hardware was in place. The software of our minds is what has changed. Jan's comments are important, but nobody seems to listen.

Imagine a spider, whose brain is very small and simple. Somehow all spiders of a particular species spin similar webs, and the webs can be quite elaborate. This is instinctual, and pre-programmed at birth. Spiders don't go to school and learn from other spiders.

Humans spend the first 20 years or so of our lives learning things which are important to our survival in modern society. There is a huge spectrum there to draw analogies from. There are other species which can be taught, and those abilities are important to understand if we are going to understand humans.

Consider the human brain. It appears to have fully evolved 200,000 years ago. Our complex modern society, and knowledge of nature, evolved later. It seems to have really taken off about 12,000 years ago, when sedentary agriculture showed up.

Our individual abilities are greatly influenced by how we were taught. The most notable ability of humans, the one that is solely owned by humans, is our ability to have symbolic language. This has made it possible to build a collective human knowledge base which can be handed down through generations with great precision. Societies without symbolic language are at a big disadvantage. Handing down knowledge orally is not precise enough for extremely complex ideas. It only took one guy to come up with a theory of gravity. We send spacecraft to other planets using Newton's laws, for example. If every individual had to figure out every fact of nature by themselves, we would not be able to accumulate information as a societal species. Whales might be smart, but they can't write stuff down.

That ability is uniquely human. If you were raised by wolves, you would probably look like one of our ancient ancestors. If you were raised in modern society, you have the advantage of being able to learn accumulated wisdom. From that, we can see the importance of being very social animals. As individuals we have very little knowledge. Collectively, we have accumulated a vast amount of information which we then share.

That is the software which evolved, not the hardware.
Tvash

climber
Seattle
Jul 28, 2014 - 02:48pm PT
Largo homeostatic systems tell him he needs breakfast that will include protein, fibre, sugar, caffeine. His memories - unconscious until accessed, tell him he likes bananas but that he doesn't have any, so he'll settle for grapefruit, which he does.

Sure, he decides what to have for breakfast, but most of that processing is below the level of consciousness. For the most part, the actual conscious decision is a rubber stamp.

Still, he can consciously opt for a bowl of Sugar Frosted Flakes and a shot of cocaine, instead - free will does offer the override.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jul 28, 2014 - 03:20pm PT

This is a feature of our perception of attention, that perception is that we have the thought first... which seems to be at odds with the science you quoted above.

Not at odds at all.

The fact that I was pointing at was indeed the minds thoughts (presumed to be manifested by neuron activity) came BEFORE the blood flows to replenish the neurons energy.

Example: I'm now thinking about when I climbed Ahab. As I pull in thoughts and details, certain parts of my brain are active reconstructing that nightmare. FOLLOWING the neuron synapses is the blood flow. The blood flow replenishes the neurons; (and maybe providing materials for building blocks of memory in the meat brain?)

Next question,
Does thought CAUSE neuron activity, or is neuron activity actually the thought happening?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2014 - 03:42pm PT
I would just point out the fact that most all of this discussion revolves around free will and choice per what we are going to DO, what ACTIONS we will or will not take, and the various mechanisms we attribute to this process.
Ed has now adopted a kind of utilitarian action model of consciousness he says spawns “conscious thoughts after our actions,” which is consistent with many of the scientific models of "consciousness," particularly the idea that consciousness is a behavior developed to explain to other people what your intention is, and is actually looking at your actions essentially "third person."
This makes some sense, but only in relation to actions. What happens to this “scientific model of consciousness” when we have suspended all doing (“actions”) , are neither moving toward or moving away from any “conferred” or imposed intentions, are focused/paying attention to no thing in particular, but are entirely alert and present and aware of being here and alive in real time. The subject (content/actions/impulses/determined this and that) of all the previous discussions becomes moot - and yet you are still there, more present than any time in your life. Ed’s “third person” suddenly becomes first person.
Again, this is not remotely the advanced course material. The break in point, the entry level stuff (5th class) is to separate out to where you are simply a “third person’ observer or your own mechanical processes, while suspending all actions, including paying attention (narrow focusing). You’re discursive mind will immediately grope for some content, some thing, some experience, state, or action to execute, some immediate thing to DO, and the matrix will have you once again. It’s a back and forth till the content starts sloughing away.
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jul 28, 2014 - 04:07pm PT
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/path-back-to-consciousness/

The anesthetized brain is not actually quiet. It shows patterns of spontaneous activity that can change over time. But as the brain wakes, how do these random splashes of activity morph into the vigorous chatter of the conscious mind?

To find out, researchers looked for common patterns in the brain activity of rats as they were put under anesthesia and brought back. And they discovered a number of patterns that took place consistently. A few seemed to serve as stepping stones from deep anesthesia to waking, as if the brain were finding its way through a maze of possible activity states on the way back to consciousness.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jul 28, 2014 - 04:58pm PT
What happens to this “scientific model of consciousness” when we have suspended all doing (“actions”) , are neither moving toward or moving away from any “conferred” or imposed intentions, are focused/paying attention to no thing in particular, but are entirely alert and present and aware of being here and alive in real time.

Graziani's model, which is based on a particularly astute observation that we use the same internal programming components to figure out what others are going to do, or what we might do given a particular situation.

The "program" recognizes the difference between stimulus coming from our "senses" and stimulus generated by the behavior of "thinking." So it's third person all the time... in that sense.

Who do you talk to when your discursive mind is going off?

So in a software sense, there is a "homunculus," and it is the actual brain parts that lead to action... except that our adaptation of it is to use it to test ideas, so there is a way to "propose" a problem, and to use the result as a predictor. Once again, this is all a part of our perception, which is the collective of our "hardware" and the memory of experiences.

An elaboration, probably an important one, is that with language we can transmit our experience to others, it is no longer solely our own. Our experiences, transmitted through language, become a part of others experiences, to be used in this predictive manner.

The discursive behavior has also adapted and allows us to not only communicate our intentions, but to "talk to ourselves" and propose these sorts of problems, submitted to the same sets of mechanisms that we use in that "awareness schema" our perceptions of our attention.

This has a lot of interesting parallels with the sense that the "real world" is not what we perceive, which I think we all would agree to. However, as we become more adept at teasing out the "real world" we find there are important implications to the answer of the OP question.
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