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From Brain to Consciousness to Mind--the biological basis

 
 
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2009 04:32 am
The genesis of this particular thread formulated a good number of days prior to the date of this OP, and the underlying theme lies well within that of the the thread Consciousness is a Biological Problem. To that extent, the topic area is fairly much the same, with only a little expansion to include the matter of mind in relation to consciousness and brain, as well. Due to the above, therefore, I will bring in a collection of my posts from that thread, so as to reduce any need for linking or search. Also, I will later respond to some number of points which had been raised there--but only those which I reason reflect a proper element of relationship to the theme under discussion herein.


With the title, I am presenting the process of approaching the theme, along with the correlation of the three things--brain, consciousness, and mind--and their foundational situational basis, namely that of biological concern. This then means that we will approach the brain as an organ of a certain basic, yet distinct (when compared to other organs) constitution, and that because of this more natural and pragmatic approach, and because of all organs' being matters of biological concern, we have the brain as being of a biological concern. Consciousness--as generally used in this thread (as to be more precisely spelled out later on)--will then be that which can be shown in a position of having relation to the brain. We can thus (and for starters especially [see above]) take the aggregate of common English definitions in the raw, as follow, and apply them in general:
[INDENT]
Oxford English Dictionary wrote:
3. The state or fact of being mentally conscious or aware of anything. 4. Philos. The state or faculty of being conscious, as a condition and concomitant of all thought, feeling, and volition; 'the recognition by the thinking subject of its own acts or affections' . . . 6. The state of being conscious, regarded as the normal condition of healthy waking life. (Vol III, pp 847, 48)


Webster's International, 3rd. Ed. wrote:
2. the state or activity that is characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, or thought: mind in the broadest sense. . . 4 waking life (as that to which one returns after sleep, trance, fever) wherein one's mental powers have returned (p 482)


Webster's New World Dictionary, 4th Ed. wrote:
1. The state of being conscious; awareness of one's own feelings, what is happening around one, etc. 2. The totality of one's thoughts, feelings, and impressions; conscious mind.(p 310)


[/INDENT]As further, slightly more precise definitions come onto the field, we will be able to consider mind in relationship to both consciousness, and come to understand areas of overlap, and difference, in broadness of term/concept. At the same time, we will be able to explore the depth and nature of correlation between brain and mind, and by extension the foundational, biological basis of mind and consciousness. Thus in summation on the approach, we first arrive at brain (evolutionary history), and in consideration of that (neurosciences and plausible philosophical takes) look next to consciousness, and then mind (subjective observation leading to subjective investigation). However, it would be good to work back down again, in an effort to further refine the 'what, why and hows' of the relationship between the three things. In this manner, I argue the position that mind, and consciousness are robustly involved with, and foundationally determined by, brain, and that thus it is more accurate and especially fair enough to contend that they are foundationally biological concerns.


To make it clear, while I invite all and any to join in and participate, and also have no qualms about some matters which had come up on the above mentioned thread (or other related threads), being brought up here too, I will be strict regarding 'on-topicness,' and will appeal (to the extent that I have rights) to moderation quickly for removal of none-performance, less-productive-in-outcome posting. I specifically ask all those who do join in to evidence thought before posting, to not post single or near single line posts, and to refrain from posting You Tube links or irrelevant pictographs.
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2009 04:38 am
@KaseiJin,
Could you tell me the purpose of this thread ? it appears you want a definition that we can all agree on.
0 Replies
 
KaseiJin
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2009 04:41 am
@KaseiJin,
We know just a nuance above nothing about the three hominoids (or pongid) which walked that vocanic ash strewn plain in Africa some number of millions of years ago. They were bipedal. They had brains that worked to whatever degree, to which degree, they were concious. A break in their gate evidences paying attention to their surroundings. They were not H. sapiens.

From among the branches of mammals, what might generally be said to be a 'primate' line developed, on which we can find hominoid/pongidae such as P. robustus, P. boisei, H. eragster, H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, H. awtecessor, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neandertahlensis, and H. sapien; not to mention the more recent Great Apes, as well.

From studying the fossils, and applying empirical knowledge, the understanding that these forerunners of the primate line had working brains somewhat like those of the primate lineage today. In that there are differences in brain build among the primates of today, there will surely have been differences of brain build--genetic mutations, changes and enviornmental pressures, acquisition/learning--among the forerunners as well. Nevertheless, it will have been a slow, progressing building with yet quite similar genetically 'hard-wired' structures and functions on the molecular, cellular, synaptic, and global structure wiring levels that moved through developing stages towards and with the 'bigger brained' primates.

It is very misfortunate, however, that it is not taken into account nearly enough, that we primates by no means hold total market share on being brainy. In fact, a good look at the evolutionary record will allow us to make two very clearly evidence supported conclusions:
[INDENT]1) The prime condition leading to ganglion clustering, then brain, was spatial mobility within a given environment over a possible range of interacting enviornments, and 2) ganglion to brain 'procession,' and brain builds, represent a fairly smooth continuum of build, complexity, integration, and function over a great span of time.

[/INDENT]Therefore, when we approach this organ first, we must take it on the basis of its being an arrived at organ (just as lungs would be) AND (I feel it cannot be overstressed) as being a point on that continuum, not something different from and/or excluded from the group of other specimens of that fundamentally same organ. What this will entail, therefore, for inquiries into consciousness and mind, is the element of being conscious that is an element of all ganglion/brain as it leads up to that particular brain build that projects the consciousness, and by extension, mind, of the modern H. sapien. This will mean, without valid rebut, that we must first take the brain, and by extension consciousness (because it is simply a certain level of conscious [brain activity]), as the result of biological processes, thus a biological matter.
Hermes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2009 10:07 am
@KaseiJin,
Great post, that last one, KaseiJin Smile

I fully agree with you when you say that the "last in a series" origin of the mind tends to be overlooked. So of course, any model that explains "consciousness" equally has to address pre-sentient functionality, at least as far as the great apes are concerned.

I have my own opinions on this subject already, probably much in line with your own, but I don't want to jump in just yet... I look forward to what you and others will say on this topic. :Glasses:
ACB
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 06:35 am
@Hermes,
Regarding consciousness, opinions on this forum range from an entirely biological explanation to a primarily transcendental one. There seem to be three basic views:

1. Consciousness can be entirely explained as a biological function of the brain.

2. The objective, third-personal aspects of consciousness are entirely biological. However, there is a subjective, phenomenological, first-personal aspect which science cannot explain at present, and maybe never can. Subjective consciousness is dependent on objective consciousness (i.e. wholly on biological and environmental factors) for its content, but it is not reducible to it, since the two are fundamentally different kinds of entity.

3. Consciousness is a transcendental, panpsychic phenomenon with physically causative power, which is locally manifested in the form of individuals' consciousness. One view is that an individual thread of subjective consciousness can be carried over from one life to a subsequent one, resulting in 'creative growth' or 'creative development'. This idea can be linked to quantum mechanics and the collapse of the wave function.

My view is basically (2) above. I think the concept of epiphenomenalism, in the philosophy of mind, is plausible.

The fact that consciousness is a matter of degree, as pointed out by KaseiJin, is compatible with views (1) and (2) but not, I think, with view (3).
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 08:55 am
@ACB,
We could have this debate for ever but will one ever convince the other no matter what the evidence? I think by now we all know the differences in our views and that the biological arguments, that the brain is the sole creator of the mind and its allusive consciousness. We clap each others comments in a parade of well presented arguments , but is there one poster who has actualy changed their opinion?

Is there any real chance that we could ever be persuaded ? Is there any possibility that we could say we dont know for sure? any of us.

I can see the reasoning behind the argument that we are product of evolution down to the last entangled ganglion but my experiences will not permit me to accept these scientific facts as the complete truth.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 09:55 am
@KaseiJin,
People who have abstract, non-biological views of consciousness have never been able to account for the following points:

1) Damaging the brain will reliably alter consciousness

and

2) You cannot demonstrate the consciousness in a being that lacks a functioning brain.


Yes, questions are begged by the above, such as how do wo demonstrate consciousness. But let's accept that there is some common understanding of what consciousness is, as opposed to some idiosyncratic definition of it.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 10:10 am
@Aedes,
Aedes have you not heard the reasoning of those who oppose this view?

Consciousness rises above the normal functions of the brain and gives us our individuality, its the ability to recognise our own ego. If by chance the brain is damaged the conscious mind it has not the ability to respond normally or function as it would wish. Just as the operator of a computer could not function if his PC was damaged.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 12:48 pm
@KaseiJin,
The reasoning of an opposing view is very specious in my view.

Even if all you write is true, you can't escape from the fact that you can demonstrate a brain that lacks consciousness but you can never demonstrate consciousness that lacks a brain.

In other words, there is an absolute dependency of consciousness on a biologically functioning brain. Even if consciousness SEEMS like something greater than the sum of its parts, that is a dubious interpretation that has neither metaphysical nor biological necessity.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 12:59 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;93906 wrote:
The reasoning of an opposing view is very specious in my view.

Even if all you write is true, you can't escape from the fact that you can demonstrate a brain that lacks consciousness but you can never demonstrate consciousness that lacks a brain.

In other words, there is an absolute dependency of consciousness on a biologically functioning brain. Even if consciousness SEEMS like something greater than the sum of its parts, that is a dubious interpretation that has neither metaphysical nor biological necessity.
When we see the animal kingdom being aware but not conscious of its ego, then we see the brain without the mind. I'm sure if I could get my dear dog to look at the stars he may have some idea of his own ego.

I cant produce an ethereal entity without it having flesh and blood, i agree, but does my theory have less value than your inability to point to the conscious mind having no source to, point to.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 01:20 pm
@xris,
xris;93908 wrote:
When we see the animal kingdom being aware but not conscious of its ego, then we see the brain without the mind.
First, I didn't say mind. I said consciousness.

Second, for lack of communication with animals, we can't really know their degree of self-awareness.

Third, I did not say that all brains have consciousness. In fact I said the opposite, that I can show you brains without consciousness.

Fourth, you have not contested my point that consciousness cannot be demonstrated in the absence of a brain.

xris;93908 wrote:
I cant produce an ethereal entity without it having flesh and blood, i agree
Then if empiric demonstration has any value to persuade, it seems convincing that consciousness depends on a functioning brain.

xris;93908 wrote:
but does my theory have less value than your inability to point to the conscious mind having no source to, point to.
It does have a source. It has a functioning brain. Without a functioning brain, there is no consciousness.

Sure, I can get more specific. Let's say that you need a functioning human neocortex. And KaseiJin can go further than I. But even if this isn't 100% mechanistically explanatory, at least we can say that without X or Y in the human brain, that we can demonstrate no consciousness.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 01:41 pm
@Aedes,
Show me an animal that has the ability to look at the stars?

Show me a computer that has purpose without a user. Without a user it sits their blinking, performing maintenance tasks and absorbing energy.

You know darned well that if consciousness is the ability of an ethereal entity to influence the brain then showing this entity would need more than my mortals hand. Did you answer my question about the relative reasoning that you cant prove the source of consciousness ?
Hermes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 07:07 pm
@xris,
xris;93917 wrote:
Show me an animal that has the ability to look at the stars?

Show me a computer that has purpose without a user. Without a user it sits their blinking, performing maintenance tasks and absorbing energy.

You know darned well that if consciousness is the ability of an ethereal entity to influence the brain then showing this entity would need more than my mortals hand. Did you answer my question about the relative reasoning that you cant prove the source of consciousness ?


So your hypothesis that consciousness resides in some entity that is not known and not shown to demonstrate consciousness, requires the act of a higher power, also not known and not demonstrated, to uncover this entity.

:perplexed:

This cannot be called reasoned thought by any stretch of the imagination; in fact this is pure imagination that has no place in philosophical discussion unless you can offer some - any - logic or evidence.

Not only that, by not addressing the biological points already raised, you seem to be ignoring the thread title and OP and just derailing the discussion. Please try to comment on the points in discussion - a "thread" is called that because it is meant to have some continuity.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 07:37 pm
@KaseiJin,
Don't overlook the fact that consciousness in some degree can be demonstrated to exist in all living beings. Certainly sponges and jellyfish might have a very attenuated or minimal conciousness compared to human beings, but they nevertheless react to stimuli and demonstrate other primitive adaptive behaviours.

This demonstrates that consciousness as such is not an exclusive attribute of a functioning human brain. Certainly human consciousness, in the sense of individuated consciousness, is dependent on healthy brain function. But if the attribute of consciousness is something which has generally become more differentiated and apparent during the course of evolution, then one is justified in saying that consciousness itself might be something greater than just the functioning of this or that brain. In this sense, consciousness can be depicted as a continuum of development within which the human brain is an instance. So to repeat my position in various earlier threads, this suggests that the human brain demonstrates a capacity for consciousness. It is not proven that consciousness originates in the brain.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 07:38 pm
@xris,
xris;93917 wrote:
Show me an animal that has the ability to look at the stars?
The indigo bunting.

http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v084n04/p0463-p0489.pdf

Indigo Bunting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

xris;93917 wrote:
Show me a computer that has purpose without a user. Without a user it sits their blinking, performing maintenance tasks and absorbing energy.
Since when are we talking about "purpose"?

And I don't regard the ability to make calculations as "consciousness". A computer is a machine whose function depends on the functioning brains of its designers and users.

xris;93917 wrote:
You know darned well that if consciousness is the ability of an ethereal entity to influence the brain then showing this entity would need more than my mortals hand.
So would showing that the universe emerged from a lotus flower. So why should we pay any heed to that idea?

xris;93917 wrote:
Did you answer my question about the relative reasoning that you cant prove the source of consciousness ?
The source as in the ultimate source? Doesn't really matter to me -- ultimates are matters of speculation that offer no means of verification. So speculation on such a point is nothing more than a mental game.

But we can at least say to a large degree what is required for consciousness. Just as eyes are required for vision, a brain is required for consciousness.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 08:00 pm
@KaseiJin,
KaseiJin;93261 wrote:
What this will entail, therefore, for inquiries into consciousness and mind, is the element of being conscious that is an element of all ganglion/brain as it leads up to that particular brain build that projects the consciousness, and by extension, mind, of the modern H. sapien. This will mean, without valid rebut, that we must first take the brain, and by extension consciousness (because it is simply a certain level of conscious [brain activity]), as the result of biological processes, thus a biological matter.

We do associate ganglion/brain with consciousness. We associate consciousness with mind.

However, while it's true we think of the brain as a discreet organ, biology teaches us that the brain is an integral part of a whole organism. If we had the ability to keep a brain alive separate from it's body, we could verify that the brain is the soul seat of consciousness. Damaging a brain undermines consciousness in predictable ways. Damaging a lung will also, since hypoxia and hypercarbia create predictable changes in consciousness.

Just as we imagine that consciousness depends on the existence of a brain, we also imagine that a functioning brain is dependent on a larger organization of life. This larger organization of life, the biosphere, could be viewed as a single organism which has evolved over millenia. Consciousness is an aspect of life on earth. How do we get more specific than that?
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 08:05 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;93976 wrote:
Just as we imagine that consciousness depends on the existence of a brain, we also imagine that a functioning brain is dependent on a larger organization of life. This larger organization of life, the biosphere, could be viewed as a single organism which has evolved over millenia. Consciousness is an aspect of life on earth.
If you're going to go down that path, then you can just as easily say that defecation, piloerection, saccades, and the pentose phosphate pathway are aspects of life on earth. So that leaves us with consciousness being essentially meaningless because you've blurred it with anything else that can be part of a living thing.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2009 08:34 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes;93977 wrote:
If you're going to go down that path, then you can just as easily say that defecation, piloerection, saccades, and the pentose phosphate pathway are aspects of life on earth. So that leaves us with consciousness being essentially meaningless because you've blurred it with anything else that can be part of a living thing.

Ever heard the joke about the argument between the brain and the rectum about which one's the most important?
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 03:34 am
@Hermes,
Hermes;93967 wrote:
So your hypothesis that consciousness resides in some entity that is not known and not shown to demonstrate consciousness, requires the act of a higher power, also not known and not demonstrated, to uncover this entity.

:perplexed:

This cannot be called reasoned thought by any stretch of the imagination; in fact this is pure imagination that has no place in philosophical discussion unless you can offer some - any - logic or evidence.

Not only that, by not addressing the biological points already raised, you seem to be ignoring the thread title and OP and just derailing the discussion. Please try to comment on the points in discussion - a "thread" is called that because it is meant to have some continuity.
Why does it require the act of a higher power? So what do you wish for? those who make these scientific claims, to sit around agreeing with each other? I don't think so.

---------- Post added 09-28-2009 at 04:53 AM ----------

Aedes, dogs can follow the scent of a flower, it does not make them a connoisseur of fine perfume. Appreciating the magnitude of the stars is not the same as using them as a navigational aid.

If you want proof of my proposal, then I can not give it to you. If you want to talk in scientific terms, then consciousness arise from the ability of the brain to conceive of its ego. If that's it for you and all those who can not have the twinkling of a doubt about their firmly held beliefs, what more can be said? Let this be the end of it please, you will not persuade others who find the subject open, you are merely repeating old claims over and over again.
ACB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 04:47 am
@xris,
xris;94024 wrote:
dogs can follow the scent of a flower, it does not make them a connoisseur of fine perfume. Appreciating the magnitude of the stars is not the same as using them as a navigational aid.


Do you believe that there is a continuum of degrees of consciousness between (non-human) animal and human, and that human consciousness evolved along this continuum? That is basically what KaseiJin argues in his post #3. Or do you believe that our 'higher' consciousness is an all-or-nothing attribute?
 

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