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Trick of the Language?

 
 
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 05:53 pm
@medium-density,
Brains are obviously very complex systems (understatement).
I attempted to start from some basic physical realities concerning how random behavior can create structure.
The "problem" that free will has always had logically is the need for evitability and a degree of "control".
In very simplistic terms a middle path between evitability and inevitability.
Free will wants the best of both.

Regarding Neural Networks:
The mechanistic reading is a difficult perceptual problem to overcome.
It is tempting to view systems with a strict hierarchy of causation.
Hierarchies implying levels, one level depending only on another level.
For instance you might say that this sentence depends only on the composition and order of it's letters and spaces.
This would be true.
This is not true in systems like neurons. The "signals" alter the substrate (neurons/axons), while also being dependent upon the substrate. Substrate is actually a misnomer neither is above or below the other.
The causal loops are actually much more complex than this, but as a perceptual exercise it may help.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 05:57 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
From my understanding of Sam Harris' work, his views on free-will are primarily a matter of attempting to distinguish conscious from sub-conscious behavior.


This seems to me to be a rather esoteric reading. Harris argues very strongly against the notion of free will. He cites neurological studies which show decisions being indicated in the brain prior to our conscious acknowledgement of them, for example, and talks about why the moral implications of unfree will shouldn't trouble us (i.e. we can still lock up dangerous criminals since they pose a threat to society whether or not they freely chose to act psychopathically).

He also says most behaviour is enacted in near complete ignorance of its prior causes. This is another way of describing subconscious behaviour.

Quote:
This is more a matter of self-identity than of free will. Are you your conscious activity or are you all of your mental activity? If this is interesting to you, you may wish to focus on the neurological/psychological explorations of "intuition".


I think we must surely be all our mental activity: I am my brain, not merely part of it. I am interested in most psychological explorations, but perhaps you have some reason for bringing up intuition beyond tickling my interests?

My first instinct is to ask whether intuition may be some exalted form of inductive reasoning, perhaps combined with strong empathy?
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 06:08 pm
@medium-density,
http://www.centenary.edu/attachments/philosophy/aizawa/courses/intros2009/libetjcs1999.pdf
Is this one of the studies you are referring to?
The distinction I want to make is between "self" and conscious activity.
Conscious awareness is actually a very small amount in the totality of cerebral activity. These studies don't actually show that conscious awareness has no volition, it seems particularly adept at "veto power", but most of the possibilities from which to decide come from "deeper" in cerebral activity. Wills may (and probably do) exist in all sorts of neural structures. There are systems within systems.
Again a problem of tangles hierarchies and systems which overlap and include each other.

So if you want to identify "self" as only that of which you are aware, you do still have free will, but there are limits. The flourishing of potential is primarily outside of your mental field of view. (on a subjective level of course)
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 06:12 pm
@medium-density,
Intuition may be a way of "catching a glimpse" of some of that cerebral activity beyond "conscious awareness".
Again, as will soon become my mantra Wink, the influence is in both directions. Intuition can "train" conscious awareness, and conscious awareness can "train" intuition.
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 06:28 pm
@MattDavis,


No, but Harris does discuss Libet's work. I was thinking of Soon, Brass, Heinze, & Haynes (2008). If you're not familiar with it the paper is called "Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain" and should be quite googleable.

Quote:
The distinction I want to make is between "self" and conscious activity.
Conscious awareness is actually a very small amount in the totality of cerebral activity.


Yes it seems perfectly clear that consciousness is the tip of the iceberg. Freud was very good on this point. Are we in agreement that the "self" is comprised of conscious and unconscious activity?

Quote:
These studies don't actually show that conscious awareness has no volition, it seems particularly adept at "veto power", but most of the possibilities from which to decide come from "deeper" in cerebral activity.


What they show is that conscious awareness is not aware of the origin of the decision. Given that our brains precede our awareness and volition how can we sensibly state that we were free to make the decision? I don't see that "veto power" should be any different to conscious awareness; it would also have arisen from unconscious brain processes.
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 06:47 pm
@medium-density,
I'll read up on Soon, Brass, Heinze, & Haynes (2008).

I personally extend my identity beyond my conscious awareness, but this is not true of all people, there is wide variance in the how far individual extend "self".
My thinking, my potential, my body, my family, ....etc.
This begins to touch on ethics however, so I don't know how far you want to extend the discussion. Wink

For the purposes of discussing individual "organisms" there is some real meaning to considering "self" to be the totality of at least all cerebral activities. Knowing also the intimate relationship with endocrine and other "systems".

From my previous reading regarding reaction studies, the "readiness potential" which chronologically proceeds conscious awareness is the same whether or not the respondent decides to perform the action.
The unconscious brain seems to be primed to act, but conscious awareness will or will not allow the completion of the act.

As I said though I will read the study you suggested and get back to you.
Very Happy

Cyracuz
 
  2  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:08 pm
@medium-density,
Quote:
If you're not familiar with it the paper is called "Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain" and should be quite googleable.


What proof do we have that decision making relates to the brain?
Do we know that the brain is the physical counterpart to the mind? Or do we just think so because it seems likely?

It might be that what we detect in the brain are merely indications of physical activity. We do not know if the intellectual life of a mind happens in that individual's brain.
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:12 pm
@Cyracuz,
Excellent point, Cyracuz.
0 Replies
 
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:22 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
I think that intuition can sometimes serve as a bridge to a modest understanding of some subconscious aspects of self.
Plus the subconscious activity is where most of the "work" goes on.
I wish that there was a better term than "subconscious"


It is possible to understand some preconscious thoughts and feelings/motivations. Subconscious is not the best word, I agree. The term pre-conscious represents thoughts/feelings/motivations that are within conscious reach with introspection. The deep unconscious or primative unconscious is not accessible except in derivative form. Still, it all contributes to our behavior and choices, given a variety of environmental, relationship, somatic realities.
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:27 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
Do we know that the brain is the physical counterpart to the mind? Or do we just think so because it seems likely?


Yes we do. What else would it be? The toe? There is a large body of knowledge available and growing. Now if you're talking a mystical something.......well, where would that be located?
MattDavis
 
  2  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:31 pm
@Lola,
Quote:
Still, it all contributes to our behavior and choices, given a variety of environmental, relationship, somatic realities.

This reminds me of the joke about the two behaviorist philosophers after sex:
"It was good for you.
How was it for me?
"
0 Replies
 
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:41 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
We do not know if the intellectual life of a mind happens in that individual's brain.

Well the most obvious answer is look at the effects of massive brain trauma on an organism.

The dispersion of conscious activity does perhaps deserve some consideration as it applies to "hive minds" such as in social insects (termites, ants, bees). The swarm/hive behaves much more intelligently than any individual.
This type of phenomena has actually been used to find solutions to problems which are very difficult for traditional computers (Turing Machines).
Problems like the traveling salesman problem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/AntColony.gif
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 07:48 pm
@Lola,
Lola wrote:

Quote:
Do we know that the brain is the physical counterpart to the mind? Or do we just think so because it seems likely?


Yes we do. What else would it be? The toe? There is a large body of knowledge available and growing. Now if you're talking a mystical something.......well, where would that be located?
[/b]

Why does the intellect, as an abstraction, need a physical location? I think we are altogether too used to thinking of literally everything in terms of the 'senses.' Like, if you can't taste or smell it then obviously it isn't there. I think that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in that philosophy. (Apologies to William of Stratford.)
Lola
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 08:00 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
Why does the intellect, as an abstraction, need a physical location? I think we are altogether too used to thinking of literally everything in terms of the 'senses.'


Because the intellect is not an abstraction, it's real. And it lives in the brain.....or more specifically, it is the brain. If you want to talk about magic, M.Andrei, you'll have to label it that way and talk to others because I don't do magic. But I don't mind if others do.
0 Replies
 
MattDavis
 
  2  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 08:10 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
I think that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in that philosophy. (Apologies to William of Stratford.)

I am no literary critic, but I think there has actually been some dispute as to where Bill intended the emphasis to be in that line.

Many (the royal many) think that it is:
Quote:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

As in Horatio's philosophy is deficient.
Not that philosophy is deficient. 2 Cents
0 Replies
 
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 08:14 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
Why does the intellect, as an abstraction, need a physical location? I think we are altogether too used to thinking of literally everything in terms of the 'senses.' Like, if you can't taste or smell it then obviously it isn't there.
Careful statements like this are going to have the constructionists and Buddhists come swooping in. Wink
0 Replies
 
medium-density
 
  2  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 11:19 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
I personally extend my identity beyond my conscious awareness, but this is not true of all people, there is wide variance in the how far individual extend "self".
My thinking, my potential, my body, my family, ....etc.
This begins to touch on ethics however, so I don't know how far you want to extend the discussion.


It seems to me this discussion has pretty much fully exploded now, so why not discuss the composition of the self? (I hope we won't completely lose sight of free will, however.)

I would be tempted to suggest that the "self" is limited to the brain as things like "My thinking, my potential, my body, my family, ....etc." should all have their neural correlates. At the very least the "self" would have to be limited to the brain in the context of the body (all those linked systems you alluded to: the endocrine, the nervous etc).
medium-density
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Mar, 2013 11:40 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
What proof do we have that decision making relates to the brain?
Do we know that the brain is the physical counterpart to the mind? Or do we just think so because it seems likely?

It might be that what we detect in the brain are merely indications of physical activity. We do not know if the intellectual life of a mind happens in that individual's brain.


Would you submit to having your brain removed as part of the honest inquiry into the nature of its relationship with the mind?

As soon as we italicise the word "know" we can see we're asking too much. We don't ultimately "know" that the brain is the physical counterpart to the mind, but there are very good reasons to believe it is. Faculties of mind can be damaged or permanently lost when injury is inflicted on the brain; you can cease to recognise faces (prosopagnosia) or the names of things (Wernicke's aphasia), for example.

Meanwhile can you think of an alternative physical system that even begins to approach the complexity of the brain, such that it could possibly run the software of consciousness?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  2  
Reply Thu 7 Mar, 2013 02:07 am
There are no minds without context (body's), from which the Universe is the ultimate correlation, "agency" as a reaction, depends on both, the inner and the outer body, so who is who and what is what resonates as a rather possessive perspective onto the matter...equally challenging, there's no way of telling if brains while in the processing of minds are not themselves being processed somewhere else...other then that, brains are deeply correlated to minds as far as we can experience ! All the while we can be certain that there are processes going on...

...nevertheless the old obscure question of what is "software" and what is "hardware" as increasingly becoming more meaningless, minds and systems also ever more indistinguishable...
Fil Albuquerque
 
  2  
Reply Thu 7 Mar, 2013 03:03 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:
...so who is who and what is what resonates as a rather possessive perspective onto the matter...


Classifying and defining is a relativistic necessity of processing something in relation to centers of perspective with progressive layers of complexity one might recon, information being the sub product of such relational condition...in that sense the idea of volition fades and the concept of minds is reduced to a wonderful holistic very determined effect...no less important the perception of "body" can no longer be materialistic in the classical meaning we used to have for mater...
 

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