On Oct 13, 12:47 am, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 4:17 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >>The model of a neuron does not include the inputs. A
> >> larger model of a network of neurons includes inputs and outputs from
> >> all the neurons in the network but does not include external inputs.
> > Without any external inputs, and without any recognition of internal
> > spontaneous activity, what is it that this closed circuit of neurons
> > would be inputting and outputting that would be worth modeling?
> The external inputs themselves are not modelled, they are provided by
> the environment.

What is an 'external input' made of? Are you saying that there are
physical pieces of the outside world stuck inside of your brain?

> >> I really can't understand your emotional objection to the idea that
> >> consciousness may be epiphenomenal and supervenient on mechanistic
> >> processes. It doesn't worry me or affect my behaviour; why should it?
> > If consciousness were epiphenomenal and supervenient on mechanistic
> > processes, you would not have a choice whether or not to worry. You
> > would have no opinion, and there could be no such thing as an opinion.
> > My objection is that it's a nonsensical position.
> It's not nonsensical: I can understand it and it is not self-contradictory.

It's directly contradictory. If everything is either deterministic or
random, where does an opinion come from?  What would be the function
of an opinion in such a world?

> >> Physical events in my brain lead me to choose the words and on top of
> >> this process is the subjectivity of choice.
> > What do you mean by 'me'? Your whole position is that it is impossible
> > for your brain to lead anything except itself to do anything except
> > what it has to do by physical law. Where does a 'subjectivity of
> > choice' come in? Where is it located? What is it made out of? How does
> > it relate to the brain?
> "I" am the result of the activity of the ensemble of neurons in my
> brain.

Why does the activity of neurons 'result' in something other than what
it is? Why can't it just as easily be that the activity of neurons in
the brain is the result of the activity of the 'I'? If you have no
idea whatsoever what the 'result' of subjectivity is, how do you know
that it isn't making choices that are passed down the nervous system,
starting from the brain?

> Subjectivity results because that is what it feels like when
> information is processed the way it is in the brain.

Why should it feel like anything? How could there be any such thing as
feeling at all? If your view of neurology were true, there could be no
phenomena in the brain which is not explained by chemistry and physics
- how do you explain 'feeling' in terms of neuron function? How does
it magically get connected to the brain? Even if you say that feeling
is an illusion, how does that change the fact that it's part of the
cosmos? How do you account for it?

>"Choice" is when
> I have two alternatives and I feel I can freely choose between them,

I agree. Choice is a feeling of being able to select a motive to
actualize from a group of motives.

> which is consistent with the decision being ultimately either random
> or determined.

Huh? No, it's consistent with the decision being intentional and

If it were random or determined, any kind of feeling about it one way
or another would be unexplainable. It wouldn't even be magic because
magic at least has a purpose. It is to say that a box of paperclips
just happens to have a memory of doing a Jack Nicholson impersonation
at a party in 1986, and since that's the case, it must help keep the
paperclips from oxidizing or something.

> >> What is this "electromagnetism" you have mentioned several times? The
> >> action potential generates an electromagnetic field and some theories
> >> of consciousness hold this to be important, is that what you mean?
> > An action potential is just a word for the electromagnetic change
> > within the cell membrane which passes on to other cells.
> The action potential is the spike in potential difference between the
> two sides of a cell membrane that propagates down the membrane,
> generating an electromagnetic field.

If you want to understand awareness you have to go deeper than that.
You have to question what an action potential and electromagnetic
field actually are. I think that you will find that we have no idea
what they are, or how one atom knows that another atom has too few or
too many electrons. What you are saying now is basically 'the water
comes out of the faucet when the valve turns from one side to the
other, which generates a volume of water that propagates down the
drain'. It tells us nothing about why the faucet turns in the first

Your description doesn't even allow for the ordinary functioning of
cellular biology let alone neurology. You make no distinction between
living tissue and falling leaves, seeing each as equally passive to
random currents outside of themselves. That's not how cells work. They
are small animals. They survive, grow, etc. They don't just cycle
mechanically at the mercy of outside circumstances.

> >> It's not mainstream neuroscience but in any case, electromagnetic
> >> fields are well-understood physical phenomena, probably more easily
> >> modelled mathematically than biochemistry is.
> > Do you agree that neurological activity corresponds to human
> > perceptions?
> Yes.
> > Do you agree that neurological activity is chemical and electrical
> > activity?
> Yes.
> > Do you agree that chemical and electrical activity are both forms of
> > electromagnetic activity?
> Chemistry is ultimately the result of the electromagnetic force.
> > If so, then it is not possible that human perceptions are not in some
> > way electromagnetic.
> I don't know in what sense it is accurate to say that.

Why not? I just laid it out for you. We observe that electromagnetic
activity in the brain is precisely synchronized with perception. We
observe that electromagnetic activity is an excitation of cells, which
is chemical, which is electromagnetic. If perception is
electromagnetic at all, then electromagnetism must also partially be

> Consciousness
> is somehow different to the brain activity, though some hard core
> reductionists insist that it is identical to it and there is nothing
> further to explain.

You are trying to have it both ways. You say that nothing in the brain
can occur except brain activity, yet you say consciousness is somehow
different from brain activity. It sounds like you believe in a
disembodied soul?

> >> There are two types of ion channels, voltage-dependent and
> >> ligand-dependent. The votage-activated ones open when the potential
> >> difference across the membrane is at a certain level:
> >> the electric
> >> field generated as a result of this potential difference changes the
> >> shape of the ion channel, which is a transmembrane protein, and this
> >> opens the channel to allow the specific ion to pass through.
> > What changes the potential difference in the first place? What relates
> > any of that to our subjective experience?
> >> Ligand-activated ion channels open when a specific neurotransmitter
> >> binds. The transmembrane potential changes as a result of ion fluxes:
> >> potassium is more concentrated inside the cell so when potassium ion
> >> channels open potassium ions exit leaving the inside more negative,
> >> while sodium is more concentrated outside the cell so when sodium
> >> channels open sodium ions enter making the inside more positive. The
> >> sodium and potassium fluxes are responsible for depolarisation, the
> >> action potential and repolarisation. There can't be an action
> >> potential without these ion fluxes, there can't be ion fluxes without
> >> the ion channels opening and closing, and the ion channels can't open
> >> and close without the appropriate voltage or neurotransmitter
> >> stimulus. Spontaneously active neurons have voltage-activated ion
> >> channels that open at the cell's resting potential.
> > All of these processes supervene upon the spontaneous changes to
> > electromagnetic conditions. You are talking as if the brain is just a
> > sponge which fills up with electrolytes and discharges them regularly
> > without any control over the process. If you can move your finger
> > deliberately, then that means that the neurons associated with that
> > movement are also being depolarized intentionally - through sentience
> > and actively engaged teleology, not just passive inertia. You don't
> > have to keep reciting neurology 101 to me, I can read Wikipedia too.
> I have given a basic account of the electrophysiology of neurons
> because you don't seem to understand it,

Why do you think that I don't understand it? It's simple. Microscopic
pores open and close in cell membranes because of their voltage
status, releasing "charged" molecules (ions) for no reason other than
they automatically do that when the physical conditions match those
which it's programmed to be triggered by. If you get enough of them
doing this at the same time, a nothing-like something begins to think
that it exists, and hallucinates a world of streets, music, Fred
Flinstone, and rhubarb when all that really exists is neurochemistry
mindlessly metabolizing itself . Sound about right?

Again, what you are overlooking again and again is where this
meaningless chain of mechanism begins and ends. What is charge? Why
does one atom having more or less electrons mean anything at all to
another atom?  We don't know. All we know is that we can plot out
patterns in space which correlate to patterns in matter which can be
detected in other material instruments. To me it's obvious that charge
is a sensorimotive experience on the molecular level. Attraction and
repulsion between molecules have a subjective quality to the molecules
involved. There is no electromagnetic field at all. What changes the
voltage of an ion channel is how the neuron feels (and/or how it is
made to feel by other neurons, substances, etc.). How the neurons feel
is how we feel. We are the feelings of the neurons in our brain.

> and you still don't, since
> you ask above "what changes the potential difference in the first
> place?" The membrane potential changes due to the balance of positive
> and negative ions, and the ions move passively by diffusion through
> the membrane and through ion channels and actively as the result of
> energy-dependent ion pumps such as sodium-potassium ATPase.

How do you know that the membrane potential doesn't also cause the
changes in the balance of positive and negative ions? If you
electrocute a frog's leg, you are changing the membrane potentials
directly. That's what your mind does - it changes the membrane
potentials directly, because it is the membrane potentials of billions
of membranes at once. As you said, 'the result of the activity of the
ensemble of neurons in your brain'. For some reason you're just stuck
on this bizarre misconception of the cosmos that high level phenomena
can only arise from low level phenomena and not the other way around,
even though that is clearly not our ordinary experience of voluntary
vs involuntary control of our body.

> You have
> misunderstood what spontaneous neural activity means.

There is no misunderstanding. It's not even controversial, you're just
plain denying the uncontested facts. Don't you think that if there
were any other term besides 'spontaneous' that could be used they
would have used it? Look at the animations. (http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=uhCF-zlk0jY)  Can you not see exactly what that is with your
own eyes? Your impression of neurology being reducible to a passive
chain reaction running through the brain is not even wishful thinking,
it's factually incorrect.

> It doesn't mean
> that the neurons decide to choose coffee rather than tea and then
> depolarise their membranes accordingly.

Neurons don't choose coffee or tea, billions of neurons choose coffee
or tea. It's us. We are the neurons. We choose tea and that choice
*is* the depolarization of a group of neurons. Not just the choice,
but all of the micro-conscious deliberations and subconscious images,
expectations, memories, and associations. If we are addicted to
caffeine, increasingly the physiological side of the neurological
activity runs the show, and we find ourselves automatically choosing
our more familiar drug without thinking about it.

> >> So at some point the psyche, not being the normal neural mechanisms,
> >> acts on the neurons and starts off the chain of events. Can you
> >> describe this further? What exactly happens in the neuron at the
> >> molecular level when the psyche acts?
> > The neural mechanisms of a particular region of the brain are the
> > 'shadow' of the psyche - the 1-p / 3-p inflection point, like a 2D
> > Flatland slice of a 3D object (I assume you are familiar with this.
> >http://www.wardrobe-dweller.org.uk/Flatland.htm) which contains only a
> > small fraction of the phenomenology which intersects that 'plane'.
> > Whether those mechanisms are 'normal' or not depends how 'normal' the
> > subject feels. At no time will anything impossible occur on that 2D
> > plane, but the overall pattern of the 2D phenomena over time is
> > influenced by the progress of the 3D phenomena as it is revealed
> > dynamically over time, one moment at a time.
> > When the psyche acts it works like an electrical transformer or
> > rectifier. Let's say that I am making a list of things that I like and
> > I decide that I like the Red Sox. What happens is that my feeling of
> > attraction to a (3D) complex of images, ideas, associations, and
> > experiences (baseball, Red, Boston, etc) manifested publicly (2D) as a
> > change in the charge of thousands of neurons at once in different
> > regions of the brain. It's like clenching and relaxing your fist. The
> > fingers move, the fingernails move with them, the dirt under the
> > fingernails moves with the fingernails, the atoms in the dirt move,
> > etc. It's all one energy event with a multitude of related
> > electromagnetic aspects and consequences.
> You haven't answered what you think actually happens at the molecular
> level in one of the neurons that spontaneously decides to depolarise.
> Do sodium channels distort without any force on them to let the ions
> through, do the sodium ions materialise out of nowhere, or what?

The sodium ions aren't material to begin with. They are just sodium
with an attitude. We can measure the consequences of that attitude but
in living organisms, cells are able to change the charge their
membranes. They can expand and contract in group synchronization, not
just in response to the presence of electrolytes but through active
communication and group decision. Are you aware of what quorum sensing

The depolarization can either be due to physiological causes which may
manifest as a change in the subject's experience, or it can be the
subject's will which manifests as a depolarization of many neurons at
once. It looks about the same physiologically, so that whatever
happens on the molecular level to make me breathe unintentionally is
no different from the types of processes which happen when I choose to
change my breathing intentionally.

The only physiological difference is that the signal originates from a
different part of the brain. Your view has no way to explain why I
feel that I am in control of my breathing when the signal comes from
one region, and why I feel nothing when it comes from another,
especially since they both have the same effect on the same organ. It
would be redundant to have two separate regions of the brain do the
exact same thing except one is regular and another comes with 'extra
zesty metaphysical subjective illusion sauce'.


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