Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

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Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby flipflop » Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:20 am

the contenders:

Dualism

1 - Cartesian (two substance) Dualism

A substance: a thing that exists that needs no other thing to exist. Two substance dualism = the essence of mental substance is thought. The essence of material substance is spatial extension - having three dimensions in space.

Problems:

Descartes must now say how exactly the mind and body interact. He believed this interaction happens in the pineal gland, but can offer no explanation of how this happens.

Descartes is also guilty of negative characterization: all he can say about describing mental substance is to say what it isn't - it doesn't exist in three dimensional space. He offers no positive characterization - this is always a suspicious procedure in construction of any mind/body theory (or any philosophical position). Has Descartes (unwittingly) invented this type of substance to solve a logical problem - in this case that of finding a way of making a given set of mental contents those of a single individual?

More dualism to follow.

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby nowonmai » Sat Oct 17, 2009 12:59 am

What a load of cobblers. Course the mind exists in 3D space, it exists in the neurons of the 3D brain. Proof of the pudding is 3D excisions by scalpel or bullet remove parts of the mind. These gits like descartes must have had too much time on their hands.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby flipflop » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:53 am

Mmmmm...ok, but what is it? It can't be studied by science, I can't open your head and study your mind, it's subjective whatever it is.

Try some more dualism, we'll get onto the materialistic monism you mention later - I'm setting out all the horses in this race, then back whichever you think is your own personal Desert Orchid (caveat: NONE are logically impossible)

2 - Occasionalism (two substance non-interactionist dualism)

Nicholas Malebranche - Accepts Cartesian Dualism insofar as he accepts correct concepts of mind and body as substance and qualia. Malebranche also accepts the Cartesian view that everything is divided into mental and material. His conclusion: each of us has two distinct yet totally dissimilar components - mind + body.

Malebranche branches off (wibble) from Descartes when he denies interaction between these two disparate components. The result? Constant intervention by God. So, when I decide to move my leg - God moves it. I burn my finger, God causes the sensation (quale) of pain to register in my brain. God intervenes on both occasions - hence the term "occasionalism" - and it appears that the two entities interact when in fact they don't at all.

Mal calls it "correspondence" - mind and body run parallel and by divine intervention, in synchronization, but they never interact.

Problems

No human freedom of choice. God is the only causal agaent in the universe. Occasionalism also depends on accepting that a christian God exists.
It is counterintuitive, going against our common sense idea of a mind interacting with and within a body.

These objections repudiate, but DO NOT refute Malebranche's theory. But, with that in mind, odd conclusions give prima facie reason to think something is wrong here. My conviction that I am a single integrated entity is false? That the influence of my mind on my body (and vice versa) is false?

According to Malebranche the answer to both is "yes" - humans are composed of TWO radically different entities.

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby nowonmai » Sat Oct 17, 2009 8:57 pm

It can't be studied by science, I can't open your head and study your mind, it's subjective whatever it is.


A monkey would think the same thing about a computer.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby flipflop » Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:57 am

Here's an example - you and I are standing on the edge of a summer meadow, the sun is shining. I say to you what colour is the grass - "Green" you'll say, the sky? "Blue" you'll say, that buttercup "yellow" you'll say. But how do I know what I call "yellow" might be what you call "blue"? Your "green" might be what I call "red". Yours and my version of the world may be completely opposite, but we will label things the same. This is called the spectrum inversion argument. What it demonstrates is that the "mind" is subjective. We can't be sure as individuals that other people see the world as we see it, we are all individually closed off.

Then they are the sceptics and even the solipsists, the first aren't even sure other people exist, they see them walking and talking but the others could be zombies who mimic the individual sceptic. The latter think that they are the only living thing that exists, and the world is either a dream (theirs) or some evil demon is manipulating them alone - the Matrix series of films was a great example of this philosophy. It may all sound far-fetched, but it is a logical possibility - we don't know what the mind is.

Another example - two people pop a chocolate each in their mouths. One asks the other "what does that taste like?" "Chocolate" is the reply, but the second person might be tasting what the first would call cheese. How can the scientist test for these qualia? He can take off the skull and lick the brain of both people, it won't help him. He can monitor chemical changes in the brains of people eating chocolate, but he has no way of measuring the quale of tasting chocolate.

Science is helpless in giving a theory of mind, this may change as many philosophers and scientists believe, and mind will be reduced to a physical theory, but it ain't happening yet, and my guess is it will never happen. Proponents of AI think they have the best chance and talk of "multiple realizability" i.e. mind will be found in CPUs, circuitry, silicon, even alien substsnce - not just our carbon-based brains.

More dulaism later, wait for the materialist theories, you'll love 'em

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby flipflop » Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:07 am

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby ktrout » Sun Oct 18, 2009 5:52 am

nowonmai wrote:What a load of cobblers. Course the mind exists in 3D space, it exists in the neurons of the 3D brain. Proof of the pudding is 3D excisions by scalpel or bullet remove parts of the mind. These gits like descartes must have had too much time on their hands.

They were just trying to explain something that they, and we still, don't have the technology to understand. Just as myth makers have been doing since the evolution of the species. Wait a few decades and it could very well be clear. I've been reading The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. If I'm doing my math right, he's said that each of our neurons are about the equivalent of a PC, circa 1985. Multiply by many billions of cells. We are very complex machines that can play very tricky games with ourselves.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby Jäeger » Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:09 am

The main problem in substance dualism is that Descartes never explained how the mental substance can exert any type impact on physical substance. This is the weakest part of his argument. Two seperate and distinct substances should not be able to exert any causal influence on each other. This is why Malebranche posited occasionalism and Berkeley went with idealism. Counter-intuitively, since Berkeley was a clergyman and Descartes a mathematician; Berekely's idealism is simpler to work with and more suited to empirical enquiry than Descartes' substance dualism.

If we accept the existence of some kind of "mental" substance, Liebniz has one of the better idealist metaphysical theories. The Monads are a logically and mathematically brilliant concept. Liebniz rejected dualism but also posited a type of parallelism in his Discourse on Metaphysics. When his methods are coupled with the monadology, it presents an excellent theory when dealing with logical and mathematical truths. Although I disagree with his position, Liebniz definitely had his shit together.

flipflop:
Here's an example - you and I are standing on the edge of a summer meadow, the sun is shining. I say to you what colour is the grass - "Green" you'll say, the sky? "Blue" you'll say, that buttercup "yellow" you'll say. But how do I know what I call "yellow" might be what you call "blue"? Your "green" might be what I call "red". Yours and my version of the world may be completely opposite, but we will label things the same. This is called the spectrum inversion argument. What it demonstrates is that the "mind" is subjective


It demonstrates more of a problem in the philosophy of language. In the socio-linguistic community of which you are a part, the word "yellow" or "green" has a meaning. The truth of that meaning is a product of both the correspondence to conditions of “yellow-ness or green-ness” in the environment and linguistic consensus in our everyday language game. You can go around calling the sky green and the grass blue, but these statements would be false in the context of the language game and in correspondence to reality as a consensus of our socio-linguistic group.

Even if you have faulty senses like colour-blindness that cause you to see “red” incorrectly; as an individual you cannot determine the meaning of “red” for anyone else. It holds true that common-sense “red” as seen and communicated by the rest of us, is “red” in spite of your inability to perceive it. It also holds true that any structure of wave-lengths that cause us to perceive common-sense “red” can be referred to in the common-language game as “red” without referring to the actual physical structure which causes us to perceive it as “red”.

We can't be sure as individuals that other people see the world as we see it, we are all individually closed off.


True, in that we can never perceive exactly what another is perceiving in the exact same way. However, there is a commonality of language and experience that suggests an objective reality interpreted by what we call "mind". If we took a straight phenomenologistic approach we could never have a substantially firm basis for believing anything we did not perceive directly. This is what people like Husserl tried to address with psychologism and I believe their answers are inadequate. If I use the Pythagorean theorem to square up the walls in your house and explain it to you and you misunderstand it, does that mean that the theorem is wrong? Does it mean that the theorem is subjective and only exists in your mind and / or that in your world it is objectively incorrect? Or does it mean that there is an objective truth in the theorem that exists independently (ala in Fregean Heaven) of you and that you fail to grasp in your "mind"?
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby ktrout » Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:22 am

Jäeger wrote:The main problem in substance dualism is that ...

they didn't have the science to understand the substance. Sorry, no philosophical hocus pocus for me.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby flipflop » Mon Oct 19, 2009 3:00 pm

Great stuff, now we have a philosophical debate. You bunch of argumentative tin foil hatted bastards ;-)

More dualism:

3 - Epiphenomenalism

(not even sure I've spelt this one right, certainly can't pronounce the fucker)

"Epi" means "which rests or depends on". An epiphenomenon is something which rests or depends on something else, where the something else is not affected by it. For example: As I input these words into my laptop, the depression of the keys makes a noise. The phenomenon is the inputting of these words, the noise is is an epiphenomenon of that action - it has no effect on the production of the words, the noise is an effect of that production.

So, the mental is merely an epiphenomenon of events in the physcial world, generated in the brain, nothing more. Some philosophers call it (mental) phosphorescence emitted by physical processes.

In a nutshell: It's an assertion that the mental is merely an epiphenomenon of the physical world. It is still a dualist theory but is radically different from substance dualism. Epiphenomenalists deny the mind is substance but remain dualists because they maintain that mind is not reducible to physical events, it's something else (yeah, what?).

Problems

Proponents of epiphenomenalism need to find a way, which is precise and literal, of saying what exactly an epiphenomenon is. Like occasionalism it entails a consequence that is counter-intuitive. That is the immaterial mind makes no input whatsoever to the chain of causes and effects through time and the universe. It simply doesn't make a difference to the course of history: it is always and effect, never a cause. That just looks odd.

According to this version of dualism it follows that to think all my decisions to act (mental events) result in my physical actions is just plain false, I'm in error.

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby Q » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:12 pm

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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby Michael » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:20 pm

Fascinating question. I haven't got a clue, so I'll just enjoy what's left of mine and continue to be mystified by it all.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby Jäeger » Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:29 am

ktrout:
they didn't have the science to understand the substance. Sorry, no philosophical hocus pocus for me.


Actually Decartes was a mathematician and one of the forerunners of the scientific revolution. Descartes actually hypothesised substance dualism to answer for the failings of science. Since science rested on faulty foundations like syllogistic logic and the scholastic tradition, Descartes believed that there was no truly certain epistemological basis for believing in what science and math proved to us. This was the logical dillemma that his substance dualism was created to solve and it changed the methods of higher education and enquiry throughout the western world.

So, while it was a faulty hypothesis by today's standards, it is actually directly responsible for the growth of what are today's standards. It was a well-defined argument and an excellent attempt at a philosophical theory as a foundation for science and mathematics. It's been shown to be faulty, but so has Newton's physical theory. So, not quite hocus-pocus at all.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby ktrout » Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:54 am

Well, a lot of the early guys got caught up in pseudoscience. Newton was also an alchemist, but fortunately he isn't remembered for that. Alchemy was also the progenitor of modern chemistry, but alchemy is only really interesting from a historian's perspective because we've pretty much figured it out. I think Descartes should be remembered for his real contributions to mathematics as opposed to his non-testable (non-scientific) philosophical efforts. Probably by the middle of this century we'll have the brain pretty well understood and philosophical notions of the mind will go the way of alchemy.
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Re: Is the mind nothing more than the physical?

Postby Jäeger » Tue Oct 20, 2009 5:05 am

In the same way that alchemist hypotheses generated alternative hypotheses that led to modern chemistry and Kant's Critique inspired Einstein to resurrect and refine Galileo's Relativity Theory; it is the job of philosophy to provide new hypotheses in the study of "mind". Whether mind is purely physical and deterministic or if it is a subjective metaphysical construct, the fact remains that it is important to study. Philosophy of mind and logic are providing direction for scientific research in fields like neurology and AI. Some of the theories of mind like Substance Dualism will probably fall by the wayside, while theories of consciousness, epiphenominalism and eliminative reductionism have more relevance in the generation of hypotheses for scientific research.

It's decidedly a practical application as well. If we could sort out why an idiot-savant can display prodigious talent in certain fields involving the mind, we can develop technology to open these cognitive abilities up to more people and produce geniuses. If we could sort out what produces mental illness (let alone what constitutes a mental illness) or anti-social behaviour, we could cure a host of social ills. We may even be able to finally give a perfectly justifiable epistemology to why we ought to believe what scientific method tells us like Descartes tried to do. Philosophy has always and will act as the prophet of science. The philosophical theories of mind today will be the scientific theories of mind tomorrow.

Probably by the middle of this century we'll have the brain pretty well understood and philosophical notions of the mind will go the way of alchemy.


And some may be confirmed. Then there will be other things to think about and other problems to solve in partnership with science which is simply a philosophical method of thought like logic anyway. Philosophy, when done right has a purpose even though many often confuse it with word play. It's no mistake that many of the greatest philosophers of yesterday and today are also mathematicians, scientists and physicians.
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