On Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 2:41 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> But you are saying that the cell will do something impossible, since
>> you're saying the high level processes may direct it to do something
>> that cannot be predicted from the physical configuration.
> It's not impossible at all. It's ordinary. You can't predict when I'm
> going to move my arm based upon a physical condition of the arm, or
> the cells in the arm. When I move it there is no physical law which
> determines whether I will move it left or right, fast or slow. Cells
> can be influenced by physical conditions or they themselves can
> influence physical conditions - just like we do. Quorum sensing
> provides a hint on how this works in the microcosm. Group decisions
> are made.

That's obviously not true. Maybe you just haven't looked at it in a
simple enough way. Taking any individual particle in your arm, it can
only move in a direction determined by its own physical properties and
the forces acting on it. If it's a water molecule inside a skin cell
on your finger tip, there is the force of gravity, the force from any
electromagnetic fields (since it is slightly polarised), its own
thermal motion and momentum, and the forces from all the other
molecules around it which are constantly jostling it. It won't do
anything magical contrary to these physical factors, which is what you
are claiming when you say there is no physical law which determines if
you move your arm left or right. The same applies for every other
particle in the body, and indeed every other particle in the universe.
You move your arm because you decide to move your arm, but the
decision to move your arm consists of a large number of particles
jostling each other in a particular way. The only point of contention
here is to what extent quantum randomness plays a part in the brain;
but even if it does, randomness is just another aspect of the physical
world, not a mysterious non-physical life force.

>> Otherwise
>> there would be no problem in principle making an artificial cell that
>> takes the place of the biological cell and leaves the overall
>> behaviour of the animal unchanged.
> Behavior is only half of the picture. An audioanimatronic puppet or an
> interactive video can approximate human behavior to an impressive
> extent, but they can't approximate human experience to any extent
> whatsoever.

They can't approximate human behaviour, as you would know in a few
moments if you talked to them to see if they had human level
cognition. If they could really approximate human behaviour there
would be reason to think they approximate human consciousness.

>> What you call the mind influencing the brain is consistent with the
>> mechanistic interaction of particles.
> What do you mean by consistent? Is it consistent with the mechanistic
> interaction of serotonin that it would want to conduct a symphony or
> invent a new word for 'cool'? If you deem all phenomena in the
> universe to be a priori mechanistic, then that word has no meaning. If
> you want it to mean something then you have to allow that some
> phenomena are not mechanistic. In that case, if you had to say that
> something in the cosmos was not mechanical, what might that something
> be if not human feeling, imagination, creativity and free will?

You can say, if you like, that consciousness is non-physical but
supervenes on physical processes. To give a definition of
supervenience from Wikipedia:

A-properties supervene on B-properties if being B-indiscernible
implies being A-indiscernible. The reverse does not hold. That is, if
A-properties supervene on B-properties, being A-indiscernible does not
imply being B-indiscernible. The properties in B are called the base
properties (or sometimes subjacent or subvenient properties), and the
properties in A are called the supervenient properties. Equivalently,
if two things differ in their supervenient properties then they must
differ in their base properties.

To give a somewhat simplified example, if psychological properties
supervene on physical properties, then any two persons who are
physically indistinguishable must also be psychologically
indistinguishable; or equivalently, any two persons who are
psychologically different (e.g., having different thoughts), must be
physically different as well. Importantly, the reverse does not follow
(supervenience is not symmetric): even if being the same physically
implies being the same psychologically, two persons can be the same
psychologically yet different physically: that is, psychological
properties can be multiply realized in physical properties.

>> There is a certain physical
>> chain of events and you say, "yep, that was my mind influencing my
>> brain to have a cup of coffee". Just as in a computer there is a
>> certain chain of events and you say "yep, that was the computer
>> calculating the digits of pi".
> It's not only a chain of events. It's also simultaneously orchestrated
> across many different regions of the brain. The thing is alive. It is
> not a mechanism that does the same thing over and over. It can behave
> that way also, but it's not very good at that - which is why we need
> machines and computers to do the repetitive tasks with high precision
> that are somewhat alien to our capabilities.

A finite machine has a finite number of states, and an organism is a
finite machine. The organism's repertoire can be increased by
modifying it or adding to it but you would need an organism of
infinite size for it to have an infinite number of states. Therefore,
like a machine of finite size an organism will start repeating given
enough time. At present, human brains have greater information
processing capacity than computers but computers are improving all the
time, whereas brains aren't.

> I understand why the simple existence of free will seems threatening,
> but it's really nothing to be afraid of. It's just the complement of
> determinism arising from the 1-p topology of temporal privacy rather
> than the 3-p public spatial topology. You cannot deny that we care
> whether we live or die, and that implies that we differentiate between
> the two. Substance monism can't explain that fact without tortured
> logic which nullifies ordinary subjectivity.

We do something either because it is determined or because it is
random. That exhausts the possibilities. Some people say that they
have free will if their decisions are determined, some that they have
free will if their decisions are random, some that they lack free will
if their decisions are determined, and some that they lack free will
if their decisions are random. Some say they lack free will whether
their decisions are determined or random, others say they have free
will whether their decisions are determined or random. Disagreement
can occur about whether free will is present or not despite everyone
agreeing on the facts. It therefore appears that the definition of
free will is a matter of taste.

Stathis Papaioannou

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