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Mind-Body
Posted: 12 July 2007 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi all,

What is your position on the mind-body problem?


Mine is that there are two substances, not only the material.


It is impossible to take a picture of a dream ; it is impossible to take a picture of the visual memories and fantasies we have. It is also impossible to have a recording of the music that is “in our head”. Perhaps one day we will be able to reconstruct, but a reconstruction is not the same thing as the object itself… Even if scientists will be able to make a model of my visual imagination on the tv screen, it will not be the same as my imagination. Only i have access to my imagination, while everyone (including me) can see the TV. If the machine stops working, I will still have access to the imagination, but other people will not. So there are two different things here.
If we look at our brain with fMRI what we see is very different from the way we experience the world. Our emotions and thoughts do not have a physical volume, or mass, or density, or velocity. Still, all this exists, doesn’t it?

I am quite convinced by Nagel’s “How is it like to be a bat” article.

I do not believe in “ghosts”. No link between our inner mental states and some ghosts. Neither I belive in a “soul” simply because no one ever cared to give it a meaningful definition. But I do believe in emotions, thoughts, dreams, memories, and so on - and that they are not made from matter. Though they might be CAUSED by matter, but this is very different from being the same with matter. Nevermind what is their cause-and-effect with matter, they are of a different substance.

The big question is the cause-and-effect relationship of the mental with the physical. The intuition says that the mental has effect on the phisical. Scientists say it is impossible. I do not really know…

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Posted: 12 July 2007 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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wandering - 12 July 2007 06:16 PM

What is your position on the mind-body problem?

My position is that mind is what part of the body (the brain) does.

It is impossible to take a picture of a dream
...

Well, it’s impossible to take a picture of a dream, but we can see a brain dreaming and see what areas are working. Anyway, our limit about picturing a dream as if it were a movie is impossible doesnt give any ground to the idea of the unmaterial mind.

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Posted: 12 July 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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“Anyway, our limit about picturing a dream as if it were a movie is impossible doesnt give any ground to the idea of the unmaterial mind”

I think it does. If you dream of your mother, you cannot locate the atoms from which the face of your mother is made, weigh the face, and measure it’s volume. So the image is unmaterial. All you can is measure the physical causes for this - not the face itself. What it doesn’t give ground to is god, soul, reincarnation, “free-will”, and so on.


“My position is that mind is what part of the body (the brain) does”

Do you think that the mind exists, or that it doesn’t? (I met some people that say the mind doesn’t exist)

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Posted: 12 July 2007 10:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“wandering”]Do you think that the mind exists, or that it doesn’t? (I met some people that say the mind doesn’t exist)

I would say (as might John Searle from whom I’ve stolen this example) that consciousness exists in the same way that digestion exists.  Both are biological processes.  If something more than biology is needed to explain consciousness, what do you propose it is?  Nothing supernatural I hope.  Because we cannot yet “dump the registers” and re-compile the bits seems poor reason to propose such a thing.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There are different sorts of property-dualism (epiphenomenalism, supervenience dualism) that are entirely compatible with contemporary science and scientific results. Then the mental processes you speak of are totally dependent on the physical substrate for their existence—they “supervene” upon that substrate. The philosopher Jaegwon Kim has done a lot of very interesting work in that area.

The only difficulty is that these supervenient or epiphenomenal states really don’t have any causal power over the physical substrate, so if you use your fingers to write that you can’t take a picture of your fantasies, it’s your physical brain doing the causal work, not the mental states themselves ... that’s sort of an odd conundrum, no?

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Posted: 13 July 2007 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Doug, thanks for that reference.  I’ve ordered the two essays mentioned in Kim’s Wikipedia Entry.  They sound right up my alley.  I just don’t get how something can be “totally dependent on the physical substrate for their existence” and still not be explained by a reductionist physicalism.  It sounds like giving up.  Perhaps Kim will open a door for me.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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NB: they’re pretty tough going, written for professional philosophers. That’s to say, very dry with a certain amount of jargon. But Kim is a clear thinker. Not to say you will necessarily agree with his conclusions, of course.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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wandering - 12 July 2007 06:57 PM

I think it does. If you dream of your mother, you cannot locate the atoms from which the face of your mother is made, weigh the face, and measure it’s volume. So the image is unmaterial. All you can is measure the physical causes for this - not the face itself. What it doesn’t give ground to is god, soul, reincarnation, “free-will”, and so on.

Íf I dream of my mother, what I see is a mental image. ‘To see an image’ is a process produced by a certain state (physical state) in the neural network.

Do you think that the mind exists, or that it doesn’t? (I met some people that say the mind doesn’t exist)

I think it was very well answered by PC.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I think what this really comes down to is the question: “What is the mind?”  Now, we can easily describe the brain, the endocrine system and the CNS (plus it’s offshoots and autonomic equivalents as being material.  I would argue that the mind, however, is non-material.  The mind must also encompass the abstract concepts and emotions (which might actually be just a subset of “abstract concepts” now that I think about it.  To some extent their loci are within the matter of those material things I mentioned, but largely it is in electrical (energetic) processes and chemical events taking place in that material environment.  So at this stage in the discussion, I will say that the mind (as distinct from the nervous tissues and the chemicals that bathe them in response to stimuli) is a partially non-material entity comprised of chemicals, electrical activity and abstract concepts.  I also think there is nothing mystical or inexplicable within this definition.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 02:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Really I don’t get what a ‘non material entity’ could be. This emotions and other abstract concepts are the expression of material process, we interpret in one way or another.

I don’t want to fall in the fallacy ‘arguing against ignorance’, but I cannot image what thing could exists outside the material ones.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Barto - 13 July 2007 02:38 PM

Really I don’t get what a ‘non material entity’ could be. This emotions and other abstract concepts are the expression of material process, we interpret in one way or another.

I don’t want to fall in the fallacy ‘arguing against ignorance’, but I cannot image what thing could exists outside the material ones.

Well, you need to define what qualities are the qualities of a material entity. Choose a definition. I think that a material entity must be made of atoms, located in a certain place, have volume, mass, perhaps velocity. This clearly is insufficient ; but this is a must.  Then think if it applies to our mental images. Try to measure the speed with which the face of your mother moves, and the gravitational interactions it has with the environment. It might be that the mental images are caused\produced\expressed by the material brain, I am not arguing with that, there is no contradiction here.

I am quite convinced by the beginning of the buddhist article by Alan Wallace

http://www.alanwallace.org/ChoosingReality23.pdf

 


[quote author = “Pc Apeman”] Nothing supernatural I hope. 

How would you define supernatural, in this context?

[ Edited: 13 July 2007 03:12 PM by wandering ]
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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Barto - 13 July 2007 02:38 PM

Really I don’t get what a ‘non material entity’ could be. This emotions and other abstract concepts are the expression of material process, we interpret in one way or another.

I don’t want to fall in the fallacy ‘arguing against ignorance’, but I cannot image what thing could exists outside the material ones.

Whilst they are the consequence of physical matter, they are indeed things.  Are you seriously suggesting that you can’t imagine that thoughts exist or that they are material things.  Thoughts do exist -  I have them all the time. And they are not made of matter. If you can conceive of or imagine a thought then you can imagine a thing that exists but is not matterial.  What about other abstract concepts such as time - that exists.  All I’m saying is that the mind is different from the brain.  You wouldn’t consider Spinocereberal fluid to be a sensible answer to the question: “what’s on your mind?”, would you?  So this mind that we talk about is a term that we give to the thoughts we have and emotions we feel.  As I say, nothing mystifying about that.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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narwhol - 13 July 2007 01:47 PM

I will say that the mind (as distinct from the nervous tissues and the chemicals that bathe them in response to stimuli) is a partially non-material entity comprised of chemicals, electrical activity and abstract concepts.  I also think there is nothing mystical or inexplicable within this definition.

I agree with you on the whole, but the latter definition while not being mystical or inexplicable is simply conradictory.  :grin:

You say “a partially non-material entity comprised of chemicals.”

But if something is comprised of chemicals, it is material…

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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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wandering - 13 July 2007 03:09 PM

Well, you need to define what qualities are the qualities of a material entity. Choose a definition. I think that a material entity must be made of atoms, located in a certain place, have volume, mass, perhaps velocity.

Well, when a say ‘material things’ I don’t tend to be so restrictive. Photons don’t comply many of your restriction and I’d say that they are ‘material things’ (Yes, I know that there is beyond the physics definition of mater). When a say ‘material process’ I mean process which change state in the mater (as combustion) or change the mater itself (as fision).

I am thinking know I don’t have a very formal definition, but I tend to say: material process or material thing are the things that could be meassured and detected, directly or inderectly.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Thoughts can be detected.  I detect mine all the time.  I can even telepath them to people by having them carried in mechanical waves though the air via a special organ I have called the mouth.  Some people can even detect these waves and interpret their content.  Thoughts are things.  That “thing” I said earlier is a thing.  and it is not comprised of matter.

Now, to Wandering’s contention: the comma after chemicals is a thing that we grammarians use to separate items in a list, so there is no contradiction given that chemicals was just the start of the list.

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Posted: 13 July 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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narwhol - 13 July 2007 03:12 PM

Are you seriously suggesting that you can’t imagine that thoughts exist or that they are material things.

I must admit that I am not sure of what I think on this matter, so I can change my mind at any moment grin

Well, I guess thoughts are material process: signals running between your neurons. We associated this state of signals with things that ussually exist (or could exist) separatelly of ours thoughts. You can transforms your thoughts into air vibrations that impact on others people little skin on their ear, so they could translate back this air vibration into a neural state.

  You wouldn’t consider Spinocereberal fluid to be a sensible answer to the question: “what’s on your mind?”, would you?  So this mind that we talk about is a term that we give to the thoughts we have and emotions we feel.  As I say, nothing mystifying about that.

No, sure I wouldnt. But I would take for an answer the exact descriptions of neural network state and its evolution on time if I had the key to transform it in its representation. As far as I know, today we can have a couple of weak clues of what is going in the mind looking at the brain activity. I know that I have no right to forecast what could happen, but I tend to think that is a matter of time (an research) to get strong clues until we could finally understand it.

Let me see if I understand you: would you say that the mind is an emerging thing from the brain?. Or I am still on darkness on your point?


(Edited to include the thing about the spoken language).

[ Edited: 13 July 2007 03:53 PM by Barto ]
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