Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 09:03 pm
@Aedes,
This is what I want to talk about.:a-ok:
I'd also like to add that I meant "anaog" in a connotative sense but for equivocative purposes voltages fits well Laughing.

I meant analog as 'gradually', so its interesting how you bring up the pipe organ, because the lengths of the pipes are gradually increasing or decreasing. Neurons do differ in distance, right?

Consciousness is linked much to time from how I look at it because they both are illusive when comparing them from reality's terms to whatever actual sense they have.They are dependent on one another when time is an independent variable, to a point.

As neurons can't perceive time on their own maybe there are constant dendrites that occur in the brain signaled throughout lengthy networks of neurons, which have to be adept at measuring voltages. Perhaps a distance between relative synapses of certain neurons provides the answer to consciousness due to the link between the non-negotiable 'ness' between actuality in respect to our perception. Maybe there is a sort of redshift with voltages sent from neuron to neuron, and the difference when signaled across to different neurons is proportional to length.

Or is it much simpler than that.:whistling: (But my theory allows for the rate of neuron flow to be constant)

So no, memory would not serve purpose to how the consciousness develops, but how the brain functions would, obviously.:rolleyes: (except that memory allows for relative instances for general cognition)Laughing
When it comes to sound, sure, differentiating Hz would be appropriate, just have comparison to it and the rate of neuronal firing. I mean an inputted frequency could cause neurons that are pre-programmed to only output 1 given rate so a part of the neuron could receive only 1 given voltage to trigger the fire.

For example, a certain neuron would only recognize frequency 120 Hz and if true then respond by firing at it's programmed rate; however if false then stay innate.

But for relative variables of time (I doubt sound is directly related) it doesn't work.

"pulse sent down the axon will be constant and unrelated" - dominant nomad

What does pulse mean? Do you mean the rate of recurrence of the firing does not change or the actualy voltage does not change the whole way through neuron to neuron?, because that would ofcourse ruin my theory. :saddened:(Unless voltage remains contant but current 'redshifts'[redshift is obviously firgurative]):a-ok:.
dominant monad
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 05:51 am
@Holiday20310401,
Yeah neurons differ in their length, although the reason for that is to do with the function of that specific neuron. For instance the neurons attaching your finger to your spinal cord are long so that you can retract your finger when you touch something hot almost instantly. But no extra information is encoded in the length of the neuron's axon, just the speed at which the pulse travels.

Im not sure what you mean by your theory? You might want to check out again how a neuron works though, i dont think it works quite like you're hoping. By synapse i think you mean axon? Neuronal transmission is both a chemical and an electrical process. The neurons talk to EACHOTHER via neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft. Whether or not the neuron will fire depends on the NTs attached to its receiving dendrites. When enough receptor sites are activated, the neuron will reach a certain threshold, sending an electrical 'pulse' down the length of its axon to the terminal button, where more NTs are released across the next synaptic cleft to the next neuron and so on. The 'pulse', called an 'action potential', is sodium, with a charge pulsing down the length via gaps in the myelin sheath which replenish the charge and send it onwards down the axon. The pulse will pulse on and off for a short period while the neuron is activated, although this speed remains constant.

As far as time goes, im not sure if this is processed at a neuron level, but i know that all animals do have an internal clock of some description to measure the passage of time, and there's been a lot of research into this. There are lots of journals online, especially in animal experiments, im sure it wouldn't be hard to find out.

Sounds transmitted through hearing work in two ways. Neurons are attached to the basilar membrane of the chochlear via outer hair cells. Depending on the frequency at which the membrane vibrates (in response to changes in water pressure generated by the ear drum vibrating), different neurons are activated. For instance in high pitched sounds, the basilar membrane vibrates with a peak vibration very close to the front, activating neurons there. In low pitched sounds, the membrane vibrates most towards the back, activating neurons attached down there. This makes the membrane like a piano keyboard, and the neurons attached all along the membrane (via hair cells) transmit this frequency information to the hearing centre in the brain. This is partly how frequency of sounds are transmitted to the brain, very mechanical, very simple, no chemistry or anything, just moving parts. The other way i already described, the neurons tend to pulse at the same rate as the frequency they're tuned to (or said another way, the place at which they're attached to the membrane). Both ways are important, and there's more to it, but as far as neurons go, that's basically how it's done. The neurons in this example simply transmit information via their place on the membrane, and their rate of fire.
0 Replies
 
eternalstudent2
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 10:21 am
@Holiday20310401,
How do neurons behave that constitute for intuition, logic, emotion, etc.?

Your question is excellent, IMHO; the kind of basic question that children ask and adults forget how to, the most powerful kind of question. In a way, your question relates to the "supervenience" question. OK, I'm no expert on supervenience, but I roughly understand it through the wood / furniture analogy. I.e., wooden furniture takes a lot of its characteristics from the nature of wood. If cedar smells cedary, then cedar furniture also smells cedary, etc. So cedar furniture supervenes to cedar wood, for much of its nature.

So just what about mind and consciousness "supervenes" to the nature of the neuron? In what ways can neurons be looked at as having mind-nature? Can they be looked at in that way at all?

If you take a look at the classical functional description of neurons given by MuCulloch and Pitts back in the 40s, the answer to the third question above seems more negative than positive. Here's a link:

McCulloch-Pitts Neuron Applet

IMHO, the nature of mind and consciousness relative to neurons is more a question of large-scale / high-complexity system effects. I.e., "emergence", the effect that applies to higher-level things / events such as traffic jams and the red dot on Jupiter. Mental life is pretty clearly an "emergence" from neuron organization and its activity in response to body dynamics and, in turn, to the body's response to its environment. And that concept gets you down the road a ways in the struggle to understand mind and consciousness; but it still leaves you pretty far from home.

Another personal opinion: computer research on the nature of neural networks and parallel distributed data processing also takes you down that road from neuron ion events to falling in love or composing an opera or tasting a mango, etc. The development of PDP and neural network concepts and models in the 50s and 60s was a major step forward in understanding the brain's functionings on a very high level. The PDP field offers some remarkable insights into high level mental functionings.

Right now I'm slowly digging my way through a 1989 book by philosopher Andy Clark on PDP, called "Microcognition". I'm about 75% of the way through it, and though I don't claim to fully understand every last word of it, Clark really offers some great insights on the remarkable progress being made in understanding mental / psychological phenomenon through PDP models. Had they understood PDP back in the seventeenth century, so much of what Locke and Hume and Kant wrote about the mind would have been unnecessary. (Well OK, perhaps not 'unnecessary'; but certainly spurious or superfluous in many places).

And that was in the late 80s; I obviously need to find out more. I'd like to know just how much further PDP research has gone in the last two decades. Once I finally finish Clark's book, I will try to drill my way through Paul Churchland's 1995 intro to PDP, "Engine of Reason, Seat of the Soul" (with the dull blade that is my aging mind, alas). Churchland seems to go into a bit more technical detail than Clark, asking the reader to get up to speed on 'vector coding' of 'sensory state-space' and such. But hey, no pain, no gain.

Being a dualist, I personally don't think that PDP is going to unlock the ultimate secret of consciousness and self. But it will get us a lot closer. It offers some very powerful insights into the mystery of how the human mind (and possibly some animal minds too) forms abstract concepts from huge collections of sensory experiences and memories thereof.

Just don't ask too many questions about how it ultimately does this; at some point, once again, all you can say is that through the "magic of emergence", a highly parallel-distributed computing machine can form abstract, flexible, useful concepts such as heat versus cold, threat versus non-threat, etc. from repeated inputs. There's just something about this kind of machine that soaks up something of the character and essence of its surrounding environment. So it makes sense that evolution and natural selection eventually came across this trick, given the millions of years it had to work with in terms of arranging and re-arraigning neurons. (OK, sorry, natural selection doesn't have intentionality; excuse my anthropomorphizing) (say that three times fast!).

Thanks for listening, hope this is of some interest.

Jim G.

An Eternal Student Of / For Life
dominant monad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 10:49 am
@eternalstudent2,
I agree eternal_student about the emergence thing, i think that consciousness could 'emerge' from the integration of individual neurons in a similar way as the economy emerges from the interaction of individual people, but leaving at that is, as you say, kind of unsatisfactory. At the very least, it can't explain the very core of human consciousness, which is the creation of the sense of self, and 'qualia'.

I have to wonder though, what makes you say you're a dualist? By saying that consciousness supervenes on neurons, isn't that the very definition of physicalism? Can you explain how 'the magic of emergence' achieves this physical - nonphysical interaction in a dualistic theory? Or even if that's not clear, why do you still hold that dualism is necessary?
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 11:09 am
@eternalstudent2,
eternalstudent2 wrote:
There's just something about this kind of machine that soaks up something of the character and essence of its surrounding environment.


... some of Clark's more recent writings (e.g., "Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again") dive into this ... Clark expresses the concept of "external scaffolding" (pencil and paper, etc.) without which the human mind would be incapable of certain types of thought (long division, etc.) ... and if I'm remembering correctly, Clark actually asserts that such "external scaffolding" can be considered a functional component of the modern human mind ... a very interesting read.

Taking Clark's "external scaffolding" to its logical conclusion, are there elements of the environment without which there could not be human consciousness?
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 12:09 pm
@paulhanke,
I've been reading some stuff about the quantum mind. There are people who believe that the mind relies on quantum, or very small intermolecular actions to carry out the overall functioning of the mind.

Then some people believe that quantum mechanics has little influence on the mind at work, and that the classical functioning is a better approach. I haven't made up my mind but this quantum entanglement sounds interesting.
Quantum Entanglement

I don't really see how 100% correlation is possible with bound energy(if you read the link). An atom of carbon is not exactly the same as another atom of carbon in that the electrons are not in the exact same place, right? But I suppose that at one level, once particles get small enough, there must be symmetry, and 100% correlations.

Maybe there are particles for matter with little correlations.
Particles for energy with a little more correlations.
Particles for force with 50% correlations (thus waves, up or down, giving two possibilities). Gravitons, photons, etc.
Particles for dimension with 100% correlation. And when we reach small enough to these dimension particles we get to a point where those particles are the container for another universe, or rather perhaps our own. Because with 100% correlation all of those dimension particles are in essence all connected and thus become 1, or are actually one.
Laughing
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 12:47 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
I've been reading some stuff about the quantum mind. There are people who believe that the mind relies on quantum, or very small intermolecular actions to carry out the overall functioning of the mind.

Then some people believe that quantum mechanics has little influence on the mind at work, and that the classical functioning is a better approach.


... here's a question to ask yourself - how much influence on the "mind" does carbon have? ... that is, the chemical properties of carbon and its relative abundance in nature are key to earthly life and the human brain - but beyond simply providing a substrate, is there anything in the chemical properties of carbon that is responsible for the overall functioning of the "mind" (or is "mind" a process that is substrate-independent)? ...
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 12:48 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Oh and about those particles of dimension... I doubt now that I think about it, they would have actuality, they would just be a threshold to our gauge in how small a particle can get, and would simply act as the universe we exist in right now so in a sense, they are infinite in how big they are just as how small they are, so.... we probably would never detect them lol.
0 Replies
 
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 12:58 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke wrote:
... here's a question to ask yourself - how much influence on the "mind" does carbon have? (or is "mind" a process that is substrate-independent)? ...


Mind is a process, I believe, that relies on the contents. It depends on the substrates. And carbon, I suppose would have many effects on the structure of neurons, like say protection, as carbon can bind covalently very well, so less polarity with biomolecular fluid, making it more stable?
Even though I don't have a clue as to what the chemical structure of neurons are I suppose that only the hippocampus neurons can repair themselves, all other ones can not, which is unlike most other cells in the human body. And since electrical signals are going through this system I'm sure carbon is beneficial.

The mind I just look as a processor, like a computer, except obviously its structure deviates in complexity than a computer, making us conscious. Personally, thats all I think there is to it, I just want to know at what point does the consciousness occur exactly, what difference is there in neural networking that makes our cognitive abilities so abstract and superior to computers (except that a computer can process mroe than we can at a given time).

A computer can process time very well, we can only estimate it.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 01:38 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401 wrote:
Mind is a process, I believe, that relies on the contents. It depends on the substrates.


... for the moment, let's assume we were able to engineer a simulated neuron in silicon that interacted with its environment identically to a biological carbon-based neuron ... in your estimation, if we started replacing the neurons in a biological brain with the simulated neurons then "mind" would just disappear? ... or is it your estimation that there is no possible way to engineer a simulated neuron that interacts with its environment identically to a biological carbon-based neuron that is not also internally indistinguishable from a biological neuron? ... or?
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 02:30 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke wrote:
is it your estimation that there is no possible way to engineer a simulated neuron that interacts with its environment identically to a biological carbon-based neuron that is not also internally indistinguishable from a biological neuron? ... or?


Well I believe that different quantum materials used would result in a different mind, but not necessarily the absence of one. A mind in my view doesn't mean a consciousness follows. :a-ok:

It is possible to artificially create networks like in our brain. The outcome would be different and perhaps the only way to attain consciousness is through a biological system, but I doubt that. It is all a matter of the complexity of the links and systems.
0 Replies
 
eternalstudent2
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jul, 2008 06:56 pm
@dominant monad,
dominant_monad wrote:
I agree eternal_student about the emergence thing, i think that consciousness could 'emerge' from the integration of individual neurons in a similar way as the economy emerges from the interaction of individual people, but leaving at that is, as you say, kind of unsatisfactory. At the very least, it can't explain the very core of human consciousness, which is the creation of the sense of self, and 'qualia'.

I have to wonder though, what makes you say you're a dualist? By saying that consciousness supervenes on neurons, isn't that the very definition of physicalism? Can you explain how 'the magic of emergence' achieves this physical - nonphysical interaction in a dualistic theory? Or even if that's not clear, why do you still hold that dualism is necessary?

Thank you for an interesting question question. I fully accept the notion that consciousness "supervenes" upon the very-large-scale interaction of neurons and the living beings that host those neurons, and the environment that hosts those living being (especially upon the social interactions between those living beings in that environment). I.e., I accept that consciousness is an 'emergence'. And yet I identify my view of mind as dualistic. So, you seem to be asking: 1.) how a view of mind that accepts emergence can at the same time be dualistic (and not be hopelessly inconsistent or otherwise unworthy of further consideration by rational people); and 2.) why would that dualistic element be necessary given the full acceptance of what we now know about physics in general, neurophysics, and the dynamics of large and complex systems.

To fully answer these questions would take a lot of writing and further discussion. I am not adverse to that, but for immediate purposes, let me point out that I have presented my views regarding mind in detail on my personal web site at:

Consciousness, A Short Course

Now let me say a few things. As to what I am calling "question 1": Many people seem to think that when someone calls themselves a "dualist", they are fully embracing the classic Descartes view. I'm not sure if this includes yourself or not, but for the audience, please allow me to point out that dualism did not permanently fix its format in the 17th Century. It has undergone development and has responded to modern knowledge regarding the brain and its dynamics. This is not your grandfather's dualism, in other words. Modern science seems to increasingly admit that in its quest to more deeply understand the nature of reality, it must admit just how limited its currently accepted paradigms are. Physics is becoming aware that Einstein's relativity laws and quantum laws are incomplete, that more comprehensive and probably more complex theories will ultimately be needed involving further abstractions such as "curled dimensions" and spin networks and non-local phase entanglements. And then there's chaos theory and complexity and emergence, and the struggle to capture some new form of "laws" for large-scale behavior. Not to mention the "information layer" and the digital universe interpretations, the "it from bit" interpretations of fundamental reality. And what if David Bohm was right, that quantum phenomenon are not "just random" as in the Copenhagen interpretation, but that there are some subtle but substantial patterns to quantum behavior reflecting deeper reality layers. It seems to me that physics has not closed the door to a future extension of physics that would deal with the experience of consciousness, the system effect of "qualia" (qualia perhaps being in some abstract way comparable to the quantum particle in modern day physics, or the super-string in the proposed M theory). It seems to me that the more physics attempts to lock doors, the more open doors it discovers.

Interestingly, I believe that the current focus on "qualia" and the demonstrations of what PDP computing paradigms can explain about the cognitive workings of the brain indicate to the modern dualist that Descartes got it backwards. Our rational powers, our ability to think, however marvelous and unique compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, probably can (or eventually will) be explained by PDP. BUT, as to our ability to feel emotions, which Descarte seemed to dismiss as base and animal-like; well, that is actually where the "miracle" (for lack of a better term) occurs. That is qualia, that is what I conclude that physics does not currently explain. That is where the dualism is needed.


As to "question 2", just why would we possibly need an extension of physics to explain consciousness, any more than we need a special physics to explain unicorns or Santa Claus? Again, I could write all night about that, and already have wrote a lot on my web site about it. But let me just summarize the bare-bones of my own reflections on the subject.

a.) I feel that Frank Jackson's rationale about Mary The Colorblind Brain Scientist is right, i.e. that in being conscious and having experiences and emotions reflecting phenomenal experiences (or mixed phenomenal experience/memory and cognitive activity), there is "information" that is not captured by the physics of the brain and body, nor the current state of physics regarding the body's immediate environment and the universe at large.

b.) I feel that this can be detected, and perhaps some day even made empirical, in the human institutions of art, music and poetry. It seems to me that the "information" of experiencing emotions relative to qualia and cognitive states is reflected in that which informs the artist, the musical performer, and the poet. It never ceases to amaze me how a talented artist can capture a feeling that everyone felt that only they shared in the secure enclosure of their own subjectivity. I.e., how you can watch a movie and start feeling some emotions in response to the story as it unfolds, and then a song is presented that mimics (and thus intensifies) just that emotion that you were feeling. How did the filmmaker know? I agree that PDP does allow great flexibility in thought, such that humans can develop creative language metaphors such as "sharp cheese" (I think that's a Ramachandran example) -- perhaps the starting blocks to art. Sure, that's a PDP machine at work. But at some point, poetry and music and art seem to go beyond what a PDP machine would be capable of. (Although I remain open to rebuttal on that point; perhaps a PDP machine-poet or machine-artist or machine-piano composer exists that can make everyone cry, or is on the drawing boards tonight).

c.) I believe that there is something to the zombie rationale, i.e. that much of our behavior could exist without consciousness (thus hinting that consciousness has its own nature, despite its great entanglement with the physics of our "zombie-level" existence). I would go even farther and suggest that we have some idea of what zombiehood entails through cases of sleepwalking, absence automism, and semi-vegetative states. As such, consciousness does (to me) seem like "something different", something that came from a more complicated or more evolved set of laws and physics than that which got us to the point of "zombiehood" (zombie-ism actually covers a lot of our daily behavior, e.g. driving to work on an uneventful day). But I'm not an epiphenomenalist, so I won't go the Chalmers route and say that a zombie could do EVERYTHING we do, including talking and thinking and writing so much about consciousness. If we really were 100% zombie-equivalents, I don't think there would BE a consciousness question. Consciousness does have an effect on us, IMHO. It does affect the world of physics in which we are aware. But that's because, IMHO, it is a "trans-physics", something that encompasses but also goes beyond what we now know of physics.

d.) I wonder why natural selection and evolution, as higher mammals evolved, ignored the paths of adaptation that were so successful on the insect level, i.e. the eusocial organization models of ants and bees and termites. If the ultimate outcome of evolution and natural selection is the creation of a species that will gain the best control most of the planet's energy and resources so as to maximize its collective biomass, then you would expect humankind to be a bit more beehive like and much less individualistic. Something like the Borg on Star Trek. Evolution-wise, there should be no reason for tribal and nationalistic war, homicide and suicide (but occasional reason for quiet, unemotional self-sacrifice for the good of the overall species when threatened by the environment, as with bees and ants; but NOT for internecine threats and tribal wars, as we have long had sufficient cognitive and communicative capacities to recognize that humanity is one unified tribe). Creatures with those characteristics should have lost out to those without them, as the 'eusocial cooperatives' should have out-bred the 'warrior/individualists'. But, evolution and natural selection has to "follow the terrain" of the world in which it operates. It is constrained by carbon-based chemistry and the energy balances from the sun. I myself think that at the highest levels of organization, when biological agents have developed sophisticated sensing and information processing capability, another "set of physics" kicks in; that being the "trans-physics" behind our consciousness. This endows high-level creatures with personalities and individualities that preclude the eusocial model (for the most part) and allow the wastage of war, homicide, and suicide to take place; but simultaneously allow the joy of love, passion and music. OK, this is shaky ground, I know; natural selection is a very complicated thing that is still being argued and interpreted.

e.) Finally -- just my own subjective experience. I've read a number of recent books on the workings of the brain and how it hosts consciousness, by Ramachandran, Edelman, Damasio, Greenfield, and how such knowledge should be interpreted, e.g. by Pinker and Dennett. And every time I finish such a book I feel amazed. I feel like it all has been explained; this feeling lasts about 2 or 3 days. Then, at some odd moment, stopped at a traffic light or such, it strikes me: no, there's something more to being alive and conscious. Again, just a subjective notion.

Finally, just as a sidenote; I do consider myself to be an ultimate monist. I don't think that reality is fundamentally a blend of two different things. But, relative to what we now know and see, I think that dualism is a useful paradigm. Recall Jurgen Habermas and his "epistemic dualism / ontological monism" point of view.

Thanks again for the question. Jim G.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jul, 2008 07:57 pm
@eternalstudent2,
Jim G.,

Pardon me for not perusing the long version (your link), but it sounds like your dualism is a dualism of the reductive and the synthetic ... the reductive in the sense that you're looking to (quantum) physics to explain certain elements of human "being"; the synthetic in the sense that you're looking to the emerging techniques of chaos/complexity/emergence to explain others ... is that a reasonable summary, or am I missing the point of the modern dualism entirely?
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Sat 26 Jul, 2008 10:10 pm
@paulhanke,
I don't know if this'll complicate things but I am for the quantum view rather than classical. Sorry
0 Replies
 
dominant monad
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jul, 2008 05:12 am
@eternalstudent2,
Thanks for that amazing reply Jim, I'm dying to go over it again and think through some of the points, i do have a different interpretation of Mary and the zombies for instance. I did have an 'old school' definition of dualism in mind, 'substance' dualism is i guess what i was thinking of, whereas i guess yours is more 'attribute' dualism. I noticed on your website you seem to mention Chalmers' style of dualism, i think Chalmers is a fantastic philosopher, although i disagree with him..

But don't reply, it's late here and i want to re-read what you've said a couple more times before replying fully tomorrow.. until then, thanks.
0 Replies
 
bk-thinkaboom
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Jul, 2008 07:12 am
@Holiday20310401,
I don't know much about this, and I haven't read all of the thread, but from what I do know, I assume neurons are basically either 'on' with an electrical impulse, or 'off' without one, but when used in conjunction with other neurons in something like a pattern of impulses, can produce a thought or emotion, much like how digital music is produced.

Other then that, which may be entirely wrong anyway, the brain completely stumps me, but I'm not going to suddenly decide I must have a soul; I'd like to find out much more about i, exactly how it can produce the thoughts that we can then acknowledge having.
0 Replies
 
eternalstudent2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jul, 2008 05:42 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke wrote:
Jim G.,

Pardon me for not perusing the long version (your link), but it sounds like your dualism is a dualism of the reductive and the synthetic ... the reductive in the sense that you're looking to (quantum) physics to explain certain elements of human "being"; the synthetic in the sense that you're looking to the emerging techniques of chaos/complexity/emergence to explain others ... is that a reasonable summary, or am I missing the point of the modern dualism entirely?

Paul,

Hmmm, very interesting - the reductive and synthetic aspects of dualism; or the dualism of a dualism!

But yes, my own dualistic views, which do I believe reflect modern trends in dualistic thought (esp. Chalmers, although I would not stop at his property dualism), do have these aspects. They indeed look toward both the micro and the macro, and in both directions see scientific horizons that should not be seen as limits, IMHO. In the end, I hold out hope (even faith? with a healthy dose of skepticism, of course) that over those reductive and synthetic horizons lies an ultimate monism. But for now, I will remain agnostic as to what such a monism might entail.

Just a few comments: on the reductive side, I would not limit my views on consciousness to "the quantum". I don't think that quantum physics presently gives or will likely give an answer to the nature of consciousness, despite some very interesting thinking by Penrose and others on that topic. I do think it an interesting possibility that an interface between the dynamics / ontology of mental events and the workings of what we now know of our physical world could occur through some deeper patterns yet to be discovered within quantum behavior, as Bohmian mechanics might allow (a modern day "pineal gland" substitute, if you will). Non-local entanglement effects between quantum events might also offer some possibilities in transcending our known time and space dimensions. Also, currently evolving thinking on information ontology offers some clues to this potential 'interface'.

On the synthetic side, the developing understandings of what chaos , complexity and emergence patterns involve might also invoke notions regarding information ontology, which seem to be gaining more and more credibility. "Information", in the broader sense, may be influencing the universe from both the macro side (complex / recursive system dynamics) and from the micro side (the 'dance' of the quantum; too cute a metaphor, admittedly, but implying importantly that there may be more pattern amidst all the microworld motion than the Copenhagen interpretation would admit).

So yes, the synthetic-reductive 'yin-yang' does reflect an important aspect of modern dualism, i.e. that modern dualism needs to fully acknowledge and embrace modern physics, but also gains hope by what is going on at the expanding horizons of modern physics; by the notions that the universe is much bigger than Newton or Einstein or Hawking seem to think. Even a field theory unifying the four recognized forces might not be "the mind of God". Unfortunately, given the fact that dualism has not attracted much creative thought in recent decades, we dualists do have to adapt something like a "God of the gaps" rationale as found in the science / theology discussion. We do look for gaps in current physical knowledge in order to keep alive our suspicions that mental properties do not simply reduce to that knowledge. But as the horizons of science expand, those gaps just keep on coming, and seem to offer more and more interesting possibilities!

Obviously, other approaches to dualism, i.e. the Frank Jackson "information" approach, the study of what human (and higher animal) behavior might occur without consciousness, and the question regarding the nature of the human species (and other higher species) given the long-term arc of evolutionary history, are also important. And I'm also interested in what might be inferred from meditative experience regarding the groundings (or even "atoms") of consciousness. I've seen still other approaches, including those that try to use complex logic structures (e.g. Swinburne), but they seem rather frail and easily criticized; they fail rather quickly as their key assumptions are often rather uncertain conjectures. The dualist, IMHO, must array him or herself with a broad range of hints and potentials and correlations, and rely upon inductive implications and the occasional inter-relationship amidst his or her 'bundle' of supporting notions.

Other dualism-friendly philosophers seem to cite the strange epistemological nature of mental experience, the fact that it cannot ultimately be shared and made empirical as most other universe events can. They interpret this as implying a specialness, a unique ontology, to consciousness. I assert that this is NOT a "knockout punch" -- in fact, I don't think any of the approaches to dualism out there today are "knockouts"; but this might yet be considered in the discussion. But that's assuming that political trends and intellectual fashions within the academic realms allow such discussions to be held. I appreciate the many valid and powerful criticisms of dualism, but at some point even the brightest non-dualists sometimes resort to hubris in dismissing it.

Just to clarify here, as it seems to be related to some of the anti-dualist hubris: one can comfortably be an atheist and yet be a dualist, even a substance dualism. Most theists certainly do favor substance dualism, but I myself don't believe that "mental substance" necessarily implies a soul that transcends the physical realm that hosts it. Our presence in the mental "state space" may well need the tangible physical world in order to occur (but recall the idealists who say that the physical world requires the mental to exist). The state-space in which / from which our mental life finally "takes place" (again, not really the words I want, but can't find any better right now) might have a "life" of its own, IMHO, just as realism says that matter and energy have existence of their own beyond our perceptions. Or at least they have some kind of "existence potential", in a nod to idealist thought. But our own mental life need no more have a "permanent account" in the mental state-space than our bodies have a permanent account in the physical state-space. My view of it, anyway.

So yes, my apologia for dualism (an epistemological dualism hoping for an ultimate monism, given that we presently see the mental world through a glass darkly, despite increasingly bright progress in the physical and biological sciences) can fairly be said to include reductive and synthetic aspects. Regards, Jim G.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2008 07:07 pm
@eternalstudent2,
... there are lots of scientists out there searching for a "Theory of Everything" ... at first, it was thought that once we reductively understood the fundamental elements/forces of nature that we would have a "Theory of Everything" ... more recently, some would assert that a reductive understanding cannot lead to a "Theory of Everything" and that a synthetic understanding of the fundamental processes/organizations of nature will lead to a "Theory of Everything" ... do you think that either camp - on its own - can discover a "Theory of Everything"? ... asked another way, is your dualism merely keeping one foot on either side of the fence, or is it a belief that one has to embrace both reductionist and synthetic modes of inquiry in order to find that elusive "Theory of Everything"?
eternalstudent2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Aug, 2008 08:30 pm
@paulhanke,
paulhanke;21064 wrote:
... there are lots of scientists out there searching for a "Theory of Everything" ... at first, it was thought that once we reductively understood the fundamental elements/forces of nature that we would have a "Theory of Everything" ... more recently, some would assert that a reductive understanding cannot lead to a "Theory of Everything" and that a synthetic understanding of the fundamental processes/organizations of nature will lead to a "Theory of Everything" ... do you think that either camp - on its own - can discover a "Theory of Everything"? ... asked another way, is your dualism merely keeping one foot on either side of the fence, or is it a belief that one has to embrace both reductionist and synthetic modes of inquiry in order to find that elusive "Theory of Everything"?

Paulh,

I generally use the term "Theory of Everything" in regard to the search within modern physics for a theoretical / mathematically stated unification of the quantum world and the gravity / relativity world. I checked the Wikipedia definition, and it starts out a bit more ambitiously: "a putative theory . . . that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomenon". (Assumedly that could include human and social behavior and subjective conscious experience; any reasonable dualist who has read any modern neuroscience has to agree that consciousness has a strong and significant physical component to it.) But further down the article states that in modern physics, the TOE regards unification of the known fundamental interaction forces of nature, i.e. electroweak, strong and gravity forces. Phew, time to relax! That more or less comports with my own general usage of the term.

So, the TOE of modern physics appears to me to be quite reductionistic overall. But it also has significant synthetic aspects to it; notice that I addressed it in two ways, first regarding synthesis of the quantum and the gravity "worlds", and later regarding fundamental forces as intermediated by particles according to the Standard Particle Model of physics. The physicists working on these problems have to look at both the smallest phenomenon that we know (quantum interactions), and the most macro, i.e. via observations of galaxies and radiation signals coming in from "the heavens".

So, the quest for the TOE of modern physics is taking place on "either side of the fence" that you mention, the putative fence between synthetic thought and reductionistic thought. Regarding your final choice, modern physics is learning to embrace the synthetic and reductive, not just keep a foot on either side. That seems to be the only way for them to make progress, by moving away from their traditional focus on the reductive. The gravity vs. quantum mystery is forcing them to think more synthetically while not abandoning their reductionism, and IMHO, that's a good thing. (An example of how a type of dualism is doing some good!). String theory only came about because of the willingness to creatively synthesize many different aspects of math and physics that had been developed via reductionistic approaches. It may or may not ultimately prove correct, but it almost certainly will be a step towards their TOE.

If and when this TOE is achieved, physicists will be able to say more about how our universe began, how it will end, how atoms and photons and electrons and such do what they do, etc. But they won't be able too much more about this horrendously tiny, seemingly insignificant sliver of the universe where conscious and socially linked life-forms abound. We, in this infinitesimal spec floating in the universe concern ourselves with emergent phenomenon along a border of chaos and order, as you noted. The emergent aspects seemingly point us toward a reductionistic approach; but the chaotic effects that so often waylay the best plans of mice and men surely require a view into the doings of the micro world, perhaps even the quantum world.

So yes, I do assert that anyone interested in the workings of the mind and the human race (along with other forms of sentient life) has to embrace both reductionism and "big-picture-ism", just as the physicists are learning now to embrace both approaches in the search for their TOE.

Jim G.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2008 09:59 pm
@eternalstudent2,
... so if the "Theory of Everything" is a phrase that has already been taken to describe just the unification of current theories regarding the fundamental action forces of nature, what phrase can we use to describe a theory that takes that into account plus the "emergent" action forces of nature that suddenly appear when you bring together large populations of "agents" under conditions of disequilibrium? ...
 

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