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Mind, body and ME

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

  1. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I think I might have held this view in my forties. I cannot really remember. You are expressing the view of people like Christof Koch, at least until recently, and the Patricia and Paul Churchland, I think. The problem is that neuroscientists are completely stuck precisely because they have not engaged with these fundamental issues. Michael Hausser, who is perhaps the most eminent neuroscientist in London, recently co-authored a review in Nature saying how stuck everyone was and that people from a wider range of disciplines needed to work together.

    The central problem is that you cannot work out what awareness is going to be until you have a hypothesis of what physical dynamic unit is actually aware. It is not a person or a bee that is aware - that is just lay parlance. Awareness has to be a property of whatever inside a central nervous system gets the information it is aware of. That is just a brute causal imperative. Yet neuroscientists dance around refusing to say what it is they think gets the information. Giulio Tononi and colleagues have recently tried to get around this by proposing 'systems' that have 'integrated information' (Integrated Information Theory, IIT). However, the Journal of Consciousness Studies has just put out a volume of essays on IIT, several of which point out that the theory's causal structural basis is invalid. I am preparing my own paper with a student where we try to pin down precisely where the error in causal dynamics is made.

    As William James pointed out 'Metaphysics means nothing but an unusually obstinate effort to think clearly.' The metaphysical issues around consciousness are issues around how the physics questions can even make any sense. As indicated, the key issue is what 'bit' is going to be aware? How are you going to address that without having some idea of what candidates would even qualify?
    I don't think that is right. Monkeys' good and monkeys' bad are just something monkey DNA encodes in the developing brain to further social interactions. Tigers' good and bad may be very different. But the sense of good or bad is something quite different - it is the sense that we allocate to whatever our DNA tells our brains to allocate it to. Assuming that we believe that physical laws cover all the causal dynamic interaction in the universe we then have to discover what interactions give rise to this sense, irrespective of the fact that it is triggered by different things in monkeys' brains and tigers' brains.

    So we have the question: what dynamic unit X in a brain will undergo a physical interaction which to X feels 'good' or 'bad'. For a crossbill that event may be triggered by seeing a spruce cone, for a parrot crossbill it will be a pine cone and for a two barred crossbill it will be a larch cone, but that is another issue.

    Put differently, the metaphysics is not extraneous to the physical arguments, it is the base they stand on. The problem with neurobiology at present is not that it is too 'physical' but that it is not physical enough. It does not respect the basic causal requirements that you need for a physical theory to be true or false.
     
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  2. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    brain

    little children in the zoo.
    protected by glass from the lions.
    they cant be certain, that its protective.

    some are afraid by the lion attacking the window, others dont seem to understand the threat, are oblivious or take it as a game.
    fear of lions must be learned.

    same as animals seeking colors, shapes, what they may learn that from their kin/parents.
    dogs and cats teach their offspring to hunt. knowledge inherited.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_transmission_in_animals


    no brain

    fact: parasites change host behavior in order to survive
    then: the parasite is deaf and blind, has no brain.

    e.g. with its parasite, the host-ant climbs on the brightest flower and waits - best place to be spotted by a cow.
    only in the cow the parasite can continue its life cycle.

    one could ask:
    - how does the parasite know of this flower-trick ?
    - how does he make the ant climbing the flower ?

    only one explanation ?

    with their natural excretions, some parasites would drive their hosts into a habitat, that would quickly kill them both.
    if this went too fast, the infected hosts didnt get far and had no chance to pass on its parasite to other hosts.
    == such parasites became extinct over time

    parasites dont act "intelligent" (conscious), its all just chance.
    by chance, there is a "beautiful" match with the ant-host.

    this parasite will have a good life with lots of offspring.
    one can live quite well without a brain.

    perhaps helminths in mammals could never be bothered to develop senses/brain.
    they lay some 200,000 eggs a day.
    humans 1 per year. without the ability to learn, our race wouldnt have made it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
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  3. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I admit that I know little about this, but I suspect that these were not neuroscientists studying elementary cognition in bees or ants, but neuroscientists disappointed because answers don't show up on their brain scans. Do these people really expect that answers about consciousness will somehow come along without us understanding the basics of how brains and AI work? I mean: the study of brain function and cognition in animals has only just started...

    This reminds me of early 17th-century scholastic thinkers lamenting about how mechanical philosophy is unable to explain miracles and the substance of angels, and that therefore a more thorough study of metaphysics is advised. By studying physics and explanation for natural events that had no direct connection to miracles, people got a grasp of why metaphysical speculation about miracles, gods and angels isn't very useful. I suspect that something similar will happen with consciousness because of increased understanding of brains and cognition.

    I honestly believe that they are stuck because they are looking at fundamental issues. Thinking what "physical dynamic unit" that is actually aware, is like Descartes guessing how the soul acts on physical matter. Like Descartes' notion of the soul or the scholastic idea of miracles or God, much of our intuitive sense of consciousness and experience is probably wrong or misleading. So working out a theoretical framework that encompasses everything we think consciousness is or should be, is probably going to obstruct rather than help our understanding. I think that's why most of these theories about consciousness are nonsensical or word-play riddles, much like scholastic metaphysics.

    Scientific understanding usually doesn't come by asking fundamental questions, but by making simple observations and simplifications. Gravity was pretty much contrary to the basics of mechanical philosophy and nothing would have come out of metaphysical speculation about how the planets are able to move without physical contact. Doing observations and experiments did work. I don't see why it would be any different for consciousness.

    It seems that we have a very different view on this. I get the impression that you're averse to the assumption that consciousness might be explained by simpler processes or that there may be nothing special about it, like the bile our liver produces.
     
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  4. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    what do parasites change - is it activating new unnatural behavior or the deletion of memory?

    two popular examples:
    a) suicidal ant on the brightest flower in the field
    b) rat tries to play with the cat (sapolsky toxoplasmosis experiment)

    it seems, "behavior" is changed by the parasite.

    but perhaps, its in fact the MEMORY that is deleted ?

    if the rat forgets that the cat is a danger (as the children in the zoo are unaware), then it makes sense, that the bored lonely lab rat tries to play with the only available guy (predator).

    it might be, that ants by their nature are attracted to the brightest flowers, but dont climb them since they have learned its pretty suicidal.

    perhaps, risk-avoiding is learned and stored in some memory.
    perhaps, parasites can erase (some of) this memory ?
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
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  5. Perrier

    Perrier Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yes, Dr Edwards, 'everything is action.' Of course, with the exception of severe ME; the slightest attempt at action or movement engenders horrific malaise and the poor person must lie still to quell it, lie still like rocks for hours, to bring down this intolerable malaise. The disease is against life, in some way, against movement in the body and the mind. At least this is my observation watching a very severely ill daughter. (Yes, I'm off topic. And what do you think of Vernadsky? Does his work complement your panpsychism; Vernadsky postulated that life and cognition are actually essential features of the earth's evolution, and must have been implicit in the earth all along. His work is poorly known in the West.
     
  6. Diane O'Leary

    Diane O'Leary Established Member (Voting Rights)

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    You've got an interesting view worked out, @Jonathan Edwards, and I think you defend it really well. It works. It does rely on a lot of assumptions, though, that I'd take issue with, so we just have a difference of opinion there.

    You're in good company resisting Chalmers' views on these grounds. Still, this approach doesn't disagree with him about the answer to the question. It disagrees about what the question is. If you think there's no mystery about sensations arising from matter then that's the end of it right there. You're dismissing the challenge before you get out of the gate. It's not that you won't find marvelously interesting things with your approach - much of what you're suggesting is fascinating. It's just that this approach can't answer the hard question. You can't answer it if you can't formulate it - and lots of brilliant people just don't see a question there.

    I do see a question there - because I don't think Chalmers is saying that experience is outside physics. He's saying that you're not asking very much of physics if you don't ask it to make sense of the difference between stuff and experience. That's a whole lot harder to do, and that's the issue I find pressing.
     
  7. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    No Mike Hausser has no interest in consciousness, that is the point. He is at the forefront of cell-level analysis of how neurons compute. We actually know a huge amount about how neurons interact and thanks to people like Mike, the fine detail biophysics. But the people doing the research cannot work out what to do with what they have discovered because it is completely divorced from experience and any attempt to define what it is that experiences.
     
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  8. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    That has not been my experience. The success I have had has been because I insisted on asking the most fundamental questions relevant to the problem!
     
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  9. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I would say there is nothing simpler than consciousness. It is just what it is like to be on the left hand side of a physics equation. But there is certainly something different about the way to find out its rules of correspondence with dynamics from the dynamics of bile.

    Perhaps we have to agree to differ.
     
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  10. Michiel Tack

    Michiel Tack Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yes. Thanks for the discussion. It has been interesting and informative.
     
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  11. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    what is it ?
     
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  12. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It's that thing, you know, that thing, that's nothing like a sedimentary rock, or a strawberry. It's not even much like a trowel, if you can believe that, it's more like a geranium, in a stripey blue pot, but not very much.

    I am pretty sure it's purple tho.
     
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  13. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    No, it is just that I can see from behind the gate that the path ahead is just a trompe l'oeil. There cannot be a hard problem of how sensations arise from matter if matter is defined as that which gives rise to sensations. It is interesting to read an ordinary dictionary. Physical stuff is anything that is known to us through our senses. Physicists don't even do matter. They just do the mathematics of dynamic relations. OK they talk about matter for convenience, but they do not mean what lay people mean. Russell tried to point this out to philosopher colleagues but they wouldn't listen - they did't want to know about what scientists actually do.

    Dave Chalmers really is very ignorant on this. As Galen Strawson says he should have read Eddington and understood what was said.
     
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  14. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I know there are lots of people who do not see the question because they do not see that the quale of red is a completely different category from the red it represents. There are lots of eliminativists around. But my position is diametrically opposite to that. I have no problem formulating the hard problem, but it is based on a false premise - that we know what matter is beyond its ability to give rise to qualia proximally.
     
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  15. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    No, David is not putting experience outside physics and nor am I. And, as I said, getting clear the difference between experience and dynamic causal relations (wha you call stuff) is the starting point. It isn't hard if as a scientists you have been aware of it for decades. But you can never get to the answer if you think of dynamic relations as stuff. Because the idea of 'stuff' is in fact just qualia language. The idea of real physical things that people feel they have to hold on to is just another illusion crafted in qualia. What are NOT crafted in qualia in this way are the mathematical structures of physics.

    In other words, for sure qualia and dynamic events are completely different things but the hard problem is not how you get one from the other. There is no language in which to pose such a question meaningfully. The difficult problem is finding the rules of correspondence between the two proximally.
     
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  16. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I don't know Vernadsky. My view is very close to Leibniz. Leibniz believes that all universes are possible, and indeed exist, but that by definition our world is one in which there is life and knowledge. That has to be so because in a world without life and knowledge we would not be having this conversation. And the universe we live in was always going to turn out the way it has turned out - again that has to be so because it must have been going to if it did. Leibniz also held that everything is alive - or that there is no very useful distinction between alive and not alive. To be alive for him was to be an action.

    So Vernadsky might seem to agree with Leibniz but Leibniz wouldn't have wanted to imply some sort of spooky purposiveness in the popular sense. And he would not have put 'cognition' (whatever that really means) before minds started cogitating. Telic or end-directed processes are very important in Leibniz's philosophy but end-directedness turns out to be a rather complex area with different things easily getting confused. I presented a paper on this at the 300th anniversary meeting on Leibniz in Hannover in 2016!

    ETA: I peeked at the blurb on Vernadsky. I think Leibniz and I would say that what Vernadsky proposed is obviously true for a priori logical reasons. But that may or may not have been quite what Vernadsky was thinking!
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2019
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  17. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Nice biscuits
    upload_2019-2-25_11-21-10.jpeg
     
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  18. Skycloud

    Skycloud Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Er no.. ;)

    3764365351_f0fc00a8d2.jpg
     
  19. roller*

    roller* Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    C - letter of the day: Cookies and Consciousness

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Er yes. The best of all possible biscuits.
    The only problem is that there aren't enough in the packet
     
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