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Mind, body and ME

Discussion in 'Neurological/Cognitive: Brain Fog, Concentration' started by boolybooly, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. boolybooly

    boolybooly Established Member (Voting Rights)

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    Moderator note: These posts have been moved from another thread. They previously followed this post:
    https://www.s4me.info/threads/ethic...dom-2019-diane-oleary.8082/page-8#post-144988



    I apologise for fulfilling Godwin's law in my last post, which was a bit rambling because I was tired but trying to join in.

    I am interested by the body mind duality at a philosphical level, not least because I was not diagnosed with ME for ten years and it affected my mind tremendously. I had all sorts of strange cognitive experiences due, I believe, to the affect of ME CFIDS on my nervous system.

    I tried to find help and solace in many different practices and ideologies, e.g. different forms of buddhism and new age healing, because of friendly people who offered help or hope and simple kindness due to their beliefs. But I could never quite accept them as my own since I have the mind of a biologist and below is the link to my take on body mind dualism which I published in a blog some time ago.

    For your interest, IMHO I see it as a cognitive tendency linked to the innate development of the cognition of location, somatotopy, power politics, displacement and the evolution of altruism.

    https://boolosophy.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-biological-soul-rationalising-body.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 22, 2019
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  2. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    @boolybooly.

    I started looking into the mind-body business about fifteen years ago and came to the conclusion that the popular narrative is backwards. The 'soul-body' duality that gets stick these days comes from the early scientific arguments of Descartes, not from religion. Descartes reasoned that a perceiving or experiencing soul had to be a single indivisible entity with only one relation to the world. Matter is always an aggregate of entities, each with a different relation to the world and to the other bits of the aggregate. So he decided that as well as inert matter there must be units of action or force. The popular story is that this turned out to be wrong and was abandoned but the true story is that by 1680, Hooke, Huygens, Newton, Leibniz and Wren had built a new physics that DOES have both matter and action or force. It comes in to F=Ma. And modern physics is based on Planck's units of action, which Leibniz correctly predicted would turn out to be the basic units even of material aggregates.

    So modern physics is at least as dualist as Descartes. It is worth noting that Descartes never said the souls outside physics - that is a misreading that has come in the twentieth century.

    My understanding is that persons are stories. The body is a bit like a Kindle, the houses the story and re-runs it when needed for a reader. But there also has to be at least one reader, a reader cannot be the body. it must be some unit of action in the brain. It cannot be an aggregate because then it would have lots of different points of view. My interest in the last ten years has been in trying to pin down what the mode of action could be. There are people in anaesthesiology who have some useful ideas.

    The strange thing I came across in my studies of this is that it seems that we have to accept that there are probably lots of reader-souls in each brain, each thinking it is the 'person'. This is something that many people find hard to get their heads around but the arguments are pretty powerful. Where Descartes probably WAS wrong was in postulating a single soul for each of us.

    Anyway, we are drifting off into metaphysics.
     
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  3. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I am in two minds about this.
     
  4. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Soul searching is tricky at the best of times, but when you don't even know how many you may have! ...
     
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  5. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Then of course there's 'great minds think alike' especially if they are in the same head.
     
  6. dave30th

    dave30th Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I have too many great minds in my head that all think differently.
     
  7. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yes, but they all think differently the same way at any one time.
     
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  8. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    And as they say: Talking to yourself is one way of having an intelligent conversation.
     
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  9. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It adds a whole new meaning to 'phone a friend'. If the answer to a crossword puzzle clue is not immediately obvious, souls in one's head pause and wait until other souls (that have read the clue) chirp up with 'baker's dozen' or 'Huckleberry Finn'.

    If you think about it, there have to be lots of souls to tell grandmother from a motorbike. When your eyes alight upon a certain object the incoming signals have to be fed to a vast array of places in each of which something is set up to recognise either granny, or a motorbike, or a cheeseburger, or Big Ben or various other things. If it is granny then only the granny places will call 'Bingo' and sooner or later the rest of the brain will be informed that granny is in town.

    (For those unfamiliar with my other hobbyhorses the rough idea is in an article in nothing less than Frontiers in Psychology. Not that I normally publish in psychology journals but they asked me to!)
    https://www.ucl.ac.uk/jonathan-edwards/publications/distinguishingrepresentations.pdf
     
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  10. TiredSam

    TiredSam Moderator Staff Member

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    For anyone else who likes a picture to help visualise things, here's a granny place calling bingo:

    upload_2019-2-22_0-54-26.png
     
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  11. boolybooly

    boolybooly Established Member (Voting Rights)

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    The narrative identity I recognise from my experiences, as a cognitive stream which is almost always present, though there have been times when I have experienced consciousness without it, but only for moments when recovering from 1. waking with a very bad hangover (in my youth after celebrating May Day) and 2. a blackout due to coming off my motorbike, flying through the night air and waking up not dead in a ploughed field, which luckily afforded me a softish landing. In both cases I forgot who I was for a while as I was waking up and it took several seconds for the narrative identity to return, which was a strange experience.

    Pathology being instructive, as with anaesthesiology. From an evolutionary perspective this suggests the narrative identity process may be lower on the physiological priority list than others, constituting a set of socially significant memories less vital than physical survival and perhaps something which evolved later which is an essay's worth in its own right.

    3. When I was really addled with ME living in a bedsit in Cowley I completely lost track of time and history of events from about 1988 to 1990, living from hand to mouth, wandering lonely as a befuddled cloud. As I began to try to pull myself together I had to painstakingly reconstruct a history of events. It took a while and several attempts because my memory wasnt working very well at all, I could not even remember phone numbers long enough to dial them.

    I would suggest it depends on ones own perspective and history how one encounters and reflects on dualism in human thought. You mention Descartes and I find myself reflecting on the evidence from burial sites of ancient cultures which believed in an afterlife long before. Pharoahs, Chinese Emperors and Viking warriors were all laid to rest with chattels, evidence of a tendency to believe in an object distinct from the body which was seen as the human soul, persisting after death. Anthropological examples of belief in an afterlife are ubiquitous. Which is why I think body mind dualism is an innate human cognitive tendency and a result of the way we empathise with and understand each other.

    My feeling is that the human brain needs to coordinate behaviour and therefore has ways of tying the many lobes of the cauliflower together and arriving at decisions. Though naturally if one tries to analyse one's thoughts the component parts will tend to stand out. I see this as an artifact, similar to pathology, dissecting the mind as it were. Though when I was doing voluntary work for MIND in Cowley I met people with schizophrenia diagnosis for whom there appeared to be a very real and difficult pathology of whatever holds the mind together. I dont think talking therapy will cure them either, but such is our social nature that it often helps to chat with benevolent folk :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  12. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Didn't know that.

    Here's my short take on the whole consciousness-question.

    I think Descartes' philosophy is the most intuitive way to look at it, namely that there is a coherent identity, a soul, that experiences things and although it is able to influence physical matter, it is composed of whole different laws of nature. By studying how unreliable our memory is and how patients with brain injury can experience a coherent narrative and course of events where there clearly isn't one, we realized that that intuitive notion of consciousness isn't true.

    I think (I suppose most philosophers and scientists do) that consciousness isn't really a thing, but more of a way of describing things. Sort of how a computer interface summarizes and represents the many 1's and 0's behind the scene. The interface makes it easier to navigate and classify events and actions.

    A simplified way of describing events probably had to do with being social creatures. Having all sorts of mental schemes could have been necessary for the social game our ancestors had to be the fittest at, in order to survive. So instead of seeing a banana and monkeyman 1 picking it up, our mind would use intentions as a sort of summary/prediction in the overload of socially relevant information. So that would become: "monkeyman 1 wants the banana".

    By using such mental schemes on others, social creatures could have started using them on themselves to have a simplified user interface for their own behavior and incentives.
    I suppose that's what consciousness is mostly about. It would explain why creatures we consider to have the most consciousness are usually social creatures with complex and fluent hierarchies like dolphins and primates. It would also explain why most of our consciousness is about social events. We don't have consciousness of the insulin production in our pancreas or the many calculations our brain makes to walk or pick up an apple (robotics have shown that calculations to make such simple actions are actually quite complex, so possibly consciousness shouldn't be seen as a tool to use for complex actions).

    That's sort of how I see it, but there are still so many things I can't make sense of. Like how we sometimes do things with consciousness (like driving a car or tying your shoes) and at another time do the exact same thing without consciousness (for example because we were daydreaming or thinking about something else). If we can do these things without consciousness, then why do we have it at other moments?
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
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  13. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I fear we may get into deep water here and nothing much to do with ethics but at least Diane is familiar with my published writings on consciousness and seems to approve.

    What Descartes argues in the Meditations is that the one thing we can be sure of is something here that senses patterns around it and seems to be able to form logical ideas about those patterns. His faith requires him to see this as an immortal soul, or at least one that persist throughout life. But he understands that memory and the collation of inputs may be at least in part delegated to other parts of brain than the pineal-based soul.

    Descartes does not put the soul outside physics. He sees it as a unit of action, or perhaps force. Everywhere else in the universe apart from the human soul action is provided directly by some all-encompassing reason called God. Physics is really just a description of the way God works - Descartes's justification for the existence of a God is the beautiful regularity of physics.

    Descartes created a problem for himself by inventing a set of rules for interactions between pieces of matter that, oddly in view of the above, did not include any action. It depended on mutual exclusion from space. Shortly after his death the error of this was sorted out, and it gradually became clear that everything in physics is the relation of action, or force, to matter and that matter itself is the way it is because of actions within it.

    Descartes is followed by Locke and Leibniz. Locke realises that, as you say, the idea of a persistent soul that has memory is untenable. Leibniz sticks with persistent souls but has a much more sophisticated framework that does actually work, although it is very hard to follow. Leibniz also maintains Descartes's point that perceiving souls must be single indivisible actions, not material objects made of parts. I think he is right on that just as Locke is right about the evanescent nature of the perceiving units.

    Following Leibniz's central insight, now enshrined in modern field theory, consciousness is not a thing because there are no things. There are only actions, each of which is a change in the universe's patterns of potentials. Moreover, consciousness is an abstract noun, as is action (without an or the), that covers a class of events we call experiences. It seems likely that each of these is an action, and an indivisible action.

    So the computer interface seems the right analogy, but only in the sense of an action of interfacing. It is not the pattern of 0s and 1s that is an experience but the action of signals of value 0 or 1 on whatever experiences them. This is where standard digital computers don't quite work because there is nothing in a computer that receives more than 2 signals at a time: 00, 01, 10 or 11. Human experiences are much more complex.

    I don't buy the social story, which has got very popular in the last fifteen years. As far as I can see complex experiences are of equal value to solitary animals like owls. And it has never seemed to me that there is a reason to think we are 'more conscious' than fish or lobsters. We may be better at arithmetic but that to me is not a measure of consciousness.

    There is also a problem about the idea that 'we' are not conscious of the insulin production in the pancreas. That is true if 'we' refers to those conscious units in our brains that are connected up to behaviours like speech in such a way that discussions reflect the content of experience of those units. There is no reasons why there should not be all sorts of other units in our brains or pancreases that are not connected up to discussions but are just as conscious. It is often said that the cerebellum is not conscious but there is no way to ask it if it is or not. It may be more conscious than the units that indulge in discussions.

    The business of consciousness being sometimes involved in riving a car and sometimes not seems to be pretty well covered by the idea that the consciousness we discuss has an information content that is selected for salience and is passed to cells that are involved in the ongoing content of short term memory. Lots of other cells deal with information that is not promoted to salience status and is just dealt with, without being passed up to the consciousness we discuss. This is handled by the 'workspace' theories of people like Baars and Dehaene.

    That may in a sense seem to come full circle with consciousness seeming to be linked to things that we like to discuss with social contacts, but the crucial thing is that we can only know that is so for the consciousness units that can access discussions, so it is rather circular. And since owls probably have short term memory streams about things they do not discuss with friends it seems likely that the social aspect as just something that humans use consciousness for but not in any way crucial to the nature of consciousness.
     
  14. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I fear we may get into deep water here and nothing much to do with ethics but at least Diane is familiar with my published writings on consciousness and seems to approve.

    What Descartes argues in the Meditations is that the one thing we can be sure of is something here that senses patterns around it and seems to be able to form logical ideas about those patterns. His faith requires him to see this as an immortal soul, or at least one that persist throughout life. But he understands that memory and the collation of inputs may be at least in part delegated to other parts of brain than the pineal-based soul.

    Descartes does not put the soul outside physics. He sees it as a unit of action, or perhaps force. Everywhere else in the universe apart from the human soul action is provided directly by some all-encompassing reason called God. Physics is really just a description of the way God works - Descartes's justification for the existence of a God is the beautiful regularity of physics.

    Descartes created a problem for himself by inventing a set of rules for interactions between pieces of matter that, oddly in view of the above, did not include any action. It depended on mutual exclusion from space. Shortly after his death the error of this was sorted out, and it gradually became clear that everything in physics is the relation of action, or force, to matter and that matter itself is the way it is because of actions within it.

    Descartes is followed by Locke and Leibniz. Locke realises that, as you say, the idea of a persistent soul that has memory is untenable. Leibniz sticks with persistent souls but has a much more sophisticated framework that does actually work, although it is very hard to follow. Leibniz also maintains Descartes's point that perceiving souls must be single indivisible actions, not material objects made of parts. I think he is right on that just as Locke is right about the evanescent nature of the perceiving units.

    Following Leibniz's central insight, now enshrined in modern field theory, consciousness is not a thing because there are no things. There are only actions, each of which is a change in the universe's patterns of potentials. Moreover, consciousness is an abstract noun, as is action (without an or the), that covers a class of events we call experiences. It seems likely that each of these is an action, and an indivisible action.

    So the computer interface seems the right analogy, but only in the sense of an action of interfacing. It is not the pattern of 0s and 1s that is an experience but the action of signals of value 0 or 1 on whatever experiences them. This is where standard digital computers don't quite work because there is nothing in a computer that receives more than 2 signals at a time: 00, 01, 10 or 11. Human experiences are much more complex.

    I don't buy the social story, which has got very popular in the last fifteen years. As far as I can see complex experiences are of equal value to solitary animals like owls. And it has never seemed to me that there is a reason to think we are 'more conscious' than fish or lobsters. We may be better at arithmetic but that to me is not a measure of consciousness.

    There is also a problem about the idea that 'we' are not conscious of the insulin production in the pancreas. That is true if 'we' refers to those conscious units in our brains that are connected up to behaviours like speech in such a way that discussions reflect the content of experience of those units. There is no reasons why there should not be all sorts of other units in our brains or pancreases that are not connected up to discussions but are just as conscious. It is often said that the cerebellum is not conscious but there is no way to ask it if it is or not. It may be more conscious than the units that indulge in discussions.

    The business of consciousness being sometimes involved in riving a car and sometimes not seems to be pretty well covered by the idea that the consciousness we discuss has an information content that is selected for salience and is passed to cells that are involved in the ongoing content of short term memory. Lots of other cells deal with information that is not promoted to salience status and is just dealt with, without being passed up to the consciousness we discuss. This is handled by the 'workspace' theories of people like Baars and Dehaene.

    That may in a sense seem to come full circle with consciousness seeming to be linked to things that we like to discuss with social contacts, but the crucial thing is that we can only know that is so for the consciousness units that can access discussions, so it is rather circular. And since owls probably have short term memory streams about things they do not discuss with friends it seems likely that the social aspect as just something that humans use consciousness for but not in any way crucial to the nature of consciousness.
     
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  15. ScottTriGuy

    ScottTriGuy Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I'm intrigued by the biocentrism theory by Robert Lanza:
    https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biocentrism

    Biocentrism is a theory given by the American biologist Robert Lanza which states that nothing is absolute in the universe. It says that the universe exists relative to us and can't exist without living beings. It says that space and time are just our perceptions. There is no real existence of anything outside us. This theory can be considered a theory of everything. Young's double-slit experiment supports this theory.

    Sort of like, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound? (Or: if no one is around, there is no sound)

    Biocentrism is: if there is no consciousness, there is no universe.
     
  16. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    erm...so logically nothing existed before consciousness? As there was nowhere and no time for anything to exist in?

    This presents a few small issues for me. Such as how could any consciousness develop without a host organism, and how could a host organism develop without a place to exist, and how could a place to exist erm..exist until certain necessary steps of stellar formation had occurred. None of which could have occurred unless there was somewhere and some time for that to happen in.

    Unless of course a god is invoked, or some form of extrauniveral simulation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  17. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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  18. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    nobody has any proof, but its hard to believe, that the universe collapses if we were all dead. if no life in the universe.

    one may also think, that in such a case it couldnt have been created, without life in the first place?

    perhaps, if no life anywhere, the universe would freeze (stagnate).
    with life and some energy created by life, it may expand or be in movement.
     
  19. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Interesting.

    I think I mostly disagree with your broad definition of consciousness. It seems to me like you're talking about complex information processes in general. I wonder if you would say that (modern day) computers and plants also have consciousness. Or chemical substances when they interact with other chemical substances. There are some philosophers who take the view that consciousness is everywhere and in everything like a separate element of nature, next to energy and spacetime. I don't think that helps to solve philosophical problems. It seems more like giving up on finding an explanation.

    To me being aware of oneself, one's action and being to think and reflect upon that is what characterizes consciousness. I think it's that experience that requires a philosophical explanation. I don't see a problem with our body producing insulin unconsciously. I don't understand why we should attribute consciousness to parts of the human body that can be understood without. It seems far fetched to attribute consciousness to body parts and mechanisms we intuitively don't think of having consciousness, to help explain our own consciousness (especially if it isn't clear how it would help explain our consciousness).

    It all seems to make things more complex rather than simple. For the same reason, I can't see why a discussion on the nature of reality has anything to do with understanding consciousness. If someone asks what a diamond is, you can explain the molecular properties or perhaps the geological processes that formed it. You don't say: a diamond is not a thing, there are no things only actions... I don't see any reason why that discussion about the nature of reality and physics is any more relevant to the question of what consciousness is compared to what a diamond is. Perhaps that has to do with me having a different definition of consciousness.

    Don't know Baars or Dehaene but they seem to restate the problem rather than offering an explanation. I don't have anything better to say about this though.
     
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  20. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    seems, big thinkers define the most advanced organ and the closest thing to the "soul" in the head / brain.
    true, important senses are there. smell, eyes, ears.
    by definition, all decision making originates in the brain and there the "consciousness" is located?

    the egyptians believed strongly in an afterlife.

    for them, the center of all reasoning (consciousness?) was the heart.
    faik, the liver was important, too.

    in mummification the brain was just pulled out with hooks, through the nose.
    no fuss about that one.

    perhaps reasoning / decision making does not only happen in the brain ?
     
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