What is "Mind?"

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Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Aug 15, 2014 - 07:30am PT
So then ; What is mind?

A mental construct of the brain and an English word of which no one can agree as to definition.

Its a phantom.

You have a brain, Sir, but the mind is your imagination.

DMT
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 15, 2014 - 11:39am PT
Jgill: The more we learn, the more it seems we are indeed biological machines.

I just had my 67th birthday yesterday, and I would say that we just get tired as we get older, and we start to operate more and more on automatic pilot. Life wears us down. The awareness dulls, excitement is less available, energy seems to diminish (how can that really happen?), and physical and mental capabilities also seem to get dialed back. After 67 years of climbing, biking, running, weight lifting and reading far far too many journal articles (thousands, now) and books, I'm of the opinion that everything is always new and yet nothing is really different.

Buddhists might call this attitude a form of equanimity: nothing is more important, critical, useful, productive than anything else. I'd add: especially when seen in the rear view mirror. All the things that I thought were really important faded like the light in a twilight sky. Rather than trying to change the world, I just find myself weaving through it these days. What shows up was meant for me, and I try to harmonize with it. No pushing, no pulling, no arguing.

I guess I should say that I've learned that "I" am tiring.


DMT: the mind is your imagination.

In a way, I'd say this is true. But which word is the offending label or problem?

"The?" "Your?" "Is?" "Imagination?" "Mind?"
cintune

climber
The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Aug 15, 2014 - 12:19pm PT



Lightbulbs are getting dim
My interests are starting to wane
I'm told it's everything a man could want
And I shouldn't complain

Conversations getting dull
There's a constant ringing in my ears
Sense of humor's void and numb
And I'm bored to tears

I'm bored to tears, yeah...
I'm bored to tears, yeah...
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Aug 15, 2014 - 01:13pm PT
In a way, I'd say this is true. But which word is the offending label or problem?

It doesn't matter. Remember?

DMT
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Aug 15, 2014 - 05:11pm PT
I'm with Cintune. Although just a part timer here, it's clear that this thread has run out of gas. For one thing, "mind" is pretty much a catch-all for several, if not dozens of subjects. I was thinking of starting another thread that focusses specifically on free will. That subject seemed to get some traction and it is one I'm struggling with. I've made one pass at Daniel Dennett's critique of Sam Harris's book on the subject and, must admit, am still reeling... "but Basil, what does it all MEAN?" On the other hand, I'm not a particularly good thread owner.
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Aug 15, 2014 - 06:12pm PT
. . . it's clear that this thread has run out of gas (eye)

It's that darn blasted JL . . . he hasn't been around much lately for us to throw darts at! He has an endless supply of energy, being a mere youth.


;>(
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Aug 15, 2014 - 07:07pm PT

I was thinking of starting another thread that focusses specifically on free will.

Sorry you can't!

Your an evolutionist, you must be "Caused" to do something. Didn't you get that from Harris? Determinism!

i think it's a bit pretentious knowing what we do of fMRI's to say that the activity going on in the brain before we answer Cheeseburger! when asked what do you want for lunch, is "determinism". You may be seeing activity, but i don't think you'll see a pic of a cheeseburger, or even the word cheeseburger. Seeing this activity prior to making the decision of a cheeseburger over taco, certainly doesn't prove thats when the decision was made.

But that's just my GOD given Free-Will talk'in!


Edit: maybe since i said you couldn't, that will be the cause you need to do it?
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Aug 15, 2014 - 07:13pm PT
I'll only do so if you promise not to post to it blue. There's clearly nothing to be learned from you. People I would look forward to hearing (more) from on the subject include Ed (duh!), jGill, MH2, cintune, HFCS, Tvash, healje, several others.

Edit: This is a passage from Daniel Dennett's critique of Sam Harris's book on free will. This is the kind of subject that I find interesting.

All this is laudable and right, and vividly presented, and Harris does a particularly good job getting readers to introspect on their own decision-making and notice that it just does not conform to the fantasies of this all too traditional understanding of how we think and act. But some of us have long recognized these points and gone on to adopt more reasonable, more empirically sound, models of decision and thought, and we think we can articulate and defend a more sophisticated model of free will that is not only consistent with neuroscience and introspection but also grounds a (modified, toned-down, non-Absolute) variety of responsibility that justifies both praise and blame, reward and punishment. We donít think this variety of free will is an illusion at all, but rather a robust feature of our psychology and a reliable part of the foundations of morality, law and society. Harris, we think, is throwing out the baby with the bathwater

Now for a Graziano take.

How the brain attributes the property of awareness to itself is, by contrast, much easier. If nothing else, it would appear to be a more limited set of computations. In my laboratory at Princeton University, we are working on a specific theory of awareness and its basis in the brain. Our theory explains both the apparent awareness that we can attribute to Kevin and the direct, first-person perspective that we have on our own experience. And the easiest way to introduce it is to travel about half a billion years back in time.

Two smart people coming at this from different perspectives but from within the confines of a "scientific" worldview. This is what makes for interesting debate. I could no more believe in religion than I could in Santa Claus. What I don't know for sure...what I actually do believe I could entirely change my mind about, is free will.
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 15, 2014 - 09:00pm PT
eeyonkee: I'm not a particularly good thread owner.

Er, . . . does one have to be?

Doesn't look like it to me.

Ask the right question or take the most piquant pose.
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 15, 2014 - 09:04pm PT
". . Our theory explains . . . .

Among so many others.

Oye, look . . . at . . . what . . . he . . . is . . . writing.
BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Aug 15, 2014 - 09:13pm PT
sure thing Eokee

and we think we can articulate and defend

don't forget, EVERYTHING at this point is speculation. Your only trading your OPINION for someone else's OPINION.

Hint: if you want to get to the nitty-gritty, ask'em about objective morality, or the FACT that there cannot be free-will in Determinism.

Evolutionist know there's free-will. They also know Evolution couldn't provide it. Thats why their scurrying around like cockroaches when the light comes on trying to re-name it

Good Luck! hope ya find what ur look'in for
MH2

climber
Aug 15, 2014 - 10:09pm PT
I can't offer much on a debate I don't understand: free will versus determinism. But as a dodge around the issue I suggest taking the position that you do have free will. Then put the burden of proof on the person who argues for determinism, if there is any such person. To establish that you do not have free will the determinist would need to show that they can predict your choices. If your behavior cannot be foreseen then it makes no practical difference whether or not it is pre-determined. It would be a philosophical debate beyond resolution, and could go on making work for philosophers without troubling the rest of us.
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Aug 16, 2014 - 01:15am PT
My take as a social scientist is that human society is going to be under enough of a strain, particularly in the next hundred years until the planetary population stabilizes, that whether or not free will exists, we will have to conduct ourselves as though it does in order to survive. When faced with brain wave studies vs pictures of young children who have been beheaded, people are going to go with common sense rules that have worked over the millennia, not some scientific theory.

In fact, I think there is a real danger of the current pop interpreters of science like Dawkins and Harris, so alienating the general public, that they become even less supportive of science then they already are. Science's public image was much better served by someone like Einstein who looked and talked like an eccentric but kindly old grandfather and preserved an air of mystery about himself and science, or Carl Sagan who left the door open to a bit of mystery.

So perhaps one of the characteristics of the new technocratic society is that these experiments and discussions will go on quietly among the cogniscenti while the general public only encounters them in the form of scientifically researched advertizing, and otherwise carries on as usual, inventing new rules and new religions as needed.

Meanwhile, feel free ST cogniscenti, to carry on.


MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 16, 2014 - 10:05am PT
MH2: If your behavior cannot be foreseen then it makes no practical difference whether or not it is pre-determined.

I like this statement. Thoughtful and pragmatic.

These polarities (dark vs. light, good vs. bad, high vs. low, free will vs. determinism, this vs. that) all appear to be heavy-handed interpretations. Looking closely at any of them suggests they are not quite proper or accurate descriptions of the way things are. We cannot quite say the way things are.

We need to hold categorizations and classifications loosely, realizing that we're just talking. Our words (placeholders for concepts) get reified, and then there's hell to pay for what ensues.

One thing I think the millennials seem to be sensitive to (IME), it is just that: labels and categorizations need to be taken with a fair amount of salt. They are very suspicious of institutions (and hence institutionalization).

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/fashion/the-millennials-are-generation-nice.html?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 16, 2014 - 10:31am PT
the "free will" discussion is not just an issue that rests in the domain of philosophy disconnected from the "business of the people."

The concept of "free will" is the foundation of our laws, and probably comes down from our religious beliefs. The very idea that we have the freedom to choose between the "right" and "wrong" decision shows up in The Bible, in Genesis, with Eve deciding to take a bite of the apple of knowledge... which God had forbidden and "the snake" had suggested.

Eve made the wrong decision and ended up getting evicted, along with Adam, from the paradise that was Eden. The original sin was having the choice to make a decision, free will, and making the wrong one.

However, our modern legal system recognizes that a class of "diseases" affect a person's ability to make a decision. We have pleas of "insanity" which are very unpopular. This plea essentially absolves the person from the idea of "free will" essentially stating that their action took place beyond their ability to decide freely.

It is interesting that we see this as a binary condition, you have free will, or you are insane, but as with much of nature, we sense that there is a continuum of states between the two. This is essentially a scientific question, not a philosophical one, and it is eminently practical, and very important.

So confronted with this I don't see Jan's desire for scientists to climb up into their Ivory tower (an interesting religious reference) and grind out their amazing, but extremely arcane science (what is General Relativity and why was Einstein concerned with a unified field theory?) of which the fruits of their theories' applications allow the masses to engage in their daily activities (I'll have to find a way to reduce this response to a "Tweet", made possible by some high energy physicists sitting in a hallway at CERN wondering how to use the interconnectivity of computers to advance their arcane research).

Our legal system already recognizes that there are actions that people undertake that are beyond the binds of "free will."

I don't see any philosophical challenges to that legal doctrine. The horse has already left the barn. The question is how our scientific understanding, as arcane as it might be, could lend insight into how this legal doctrine will evolve.

That's as down and dirty as it gets.

TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Aug 16, 2014 - 10:49am PT
is it an exercise of free will to choose a deterministic philosophy
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Aug 16, 2014 - 11:35am PT
I knew my comments would very probably draw out Ed who gave as usual, a well reasoned response. It is true that we do recognize a continuum of free will in our legal system though no where is it conclusive or applied equitably. So far, this has been mainly based on findings from the social sciences which range from the scientific to the political to the down right silly. Schizophrenia, vs explanations like deprived childhoods, vs eating too many twinkies made him do it - the whole spectrum. If science including brain waves can add better precision to these findings, so much the better. They have already helped people come to terms with massacres in which the shooter (Texas U tower for example) had a brain tumor.

What I think is damaging the image of science is the in your face types who are aggressively dismissive of the common ideas and culture of the average person. These are not scientists at places like CERN, but folks like Harris and especially Dawkins, scientists or former scientists, who have taken it upon themselves to proselytize to the public.

The other danger, best seen in the flood of diet research that has been released in the past few years, is that results are made public before they are conclusive, and then other studies contradict them and people are left confused and finally just ignore them altogether. That also is not the fault of scientists but of the pop science media.
MH2

climber
Aug 16, 2014 - 11:46am PT
I will choose determinism when it is accepted as a legal defense.

The legal system does take into account the mental competence of a person. A child, a senile oldster, a person with Down's Syndrome, a person under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or someone the psychiatrists say is insane will not be punished for a wrong choice in the same way that a 'normal' person would be. However, the law, too, tries to make things simple. There may be many degrees of mental competence but I believe that the court is looking to decide between competent or not competent. A binary choice but I don't think it is between free will versus determinism.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 16, 2014 - 12:19pm PT
I should have looked at this earlier...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insanity_defense#History_of_the_insanity_defense

not a new idea (unless new is defined as anything with history), but even then pre-history may have had similar ideas...

as far as who a scientist is... well I know many who would not consider cultural anthropology to be a science. I happen to think it can be and probably is more and more...

as far as hewing to the constructs of cultural tradition because it is deemed more important than considering modern ideas, one only has to look at the various situations throughout the globe and wonder why these are such important issues... if teaching girls is prohibited by god in the old testament (remember that Eve was told not to eat that apple and did, brining us all a legacy of misery) is that something we should resign to? even though our science (and now I'll include sociology, anthropology, etc) seems to indicate that many benefits of modernization is derived from the education of girls and women?

If you want to believe in demonic possession as a model for human bad behavior it might not be so far from most people's understanding of the science of the mind...



Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Aug 16, 2014 - 01:58pm PT
Whether it is recognized or not---- a fair bit of determinism has steadily worked its way into our legal system and our society-wide views in general. This transformation has been underway for at least a century. Within the legal system this is partly reflected in the degree of punishment for especially serious crimes: in 1814 most murder cases tried in most courts resulted quickly in a death sentence carried out forthwith. In 2014 a whole legal library of "mitigating" and conditional factors are routinely brought into play to explain the behavior of murder suspects ----factors squarely outside the exclusive purview of "free will"

Broadly considered the current legal system seems to function transparently and macroscopically on a traditional "free will" premise ----- but simultaneously considers deterministic factors microscopically and largely out of view of the general public. A "sane and competent" convicted murderer is looked upon by the general populace as motivated by free will. The legal system increasingly in modern times , reflecting an empirical progressivism ,has come to view this same murderer as a bundle of causative social factors--- and therefore only partially responsible, if at all. In fact much of society in the developed world is coming over to this view. Especially in Europe.

When the negative effects of traditional attitudes are considered ,such as religiously-motivated "free will" ----conclusions are often reached which thereby set up a real world polemic between these two countervailing views. The "free will" view is very simple and very straightforward--- on the other hand the deterministic outlook is inherently fraught with byzantine levels of qualification and apparent contradiction.

The blatantly anachronistic "free will" remedy for anti-social behavior is obvious and easy to criticize: the chopping off of a thieves hand in Islamic Fundamentalism ,or the stoning of adulterous women, and so on. These punishments are extreme in the modern context, but not often lacking in effectiveness for the society in question.
What is not arguable is that such extreme punishments are squarely rooted in the religiously enforced foundation of free will. (Minus Satan being directly implicated)

The real world negative effects of determinism normally are not so sharply focused: a convicted murderer is lamented ,essentially as a victim of causative factors ---- who in court is given a 30 yr sentence ,but is subsequently reduced to half that time , and eventually emerges from prison in 10 yrs. --- often in time to kill his second innocent victim.






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