On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 2:45 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Actually, Stathis's interpretation is the one shared by most of the
>> neuroscientific community. By and large most scientists do not take
>> seriously the idea that the behavior of neurons and other cells is
>> explainable in terms of anything except physical processes. Your
>> interpretation of 'spontaneous' specifically, and of subjectivity in
>> general, is on the fringe.
> My interpretaton of subjectivity is certainly on the fringe and I have
> no doubt that my view of how spontaneous activity ties into subjective
> intentionality, but I would have to read some formal special case
> definition of spontaneous to believe that some other idea is meant. My
> sense is that there is no special definition or consenses since the
> spontaneity within the system is clear.
>  > That doesn't mean it's wrong, but you are
>> talking as if your view is well-accepted and obvious to everyone, when
>> it is anything but.
> If spontaneous doesn't mean spontaneous, why does everyone keep using
> that term? I understand of course that they are not considering the
> implications that I am, but ther is no confusion as far as the
> categorical description goes.

I think spontaneous in the context of the video and papers you linked
means, "unexplainable activity in terms of what you would expect
neural circuits to be doing when the organism doesn't appear to be
doing anything".  But it certainly does not mean (from the mainstream
pov) unexplainable in terms of physical processes. It just means these
circuits are firing, and there is no well established theory that
predicts that activity. That this spontaneous activity accounts for so
much resource consumption suggests that it is important, or else
adaptive pressures would have snuffed it out.

In short, I think spontaneous simply means "we have no idea why these
circuits are firing when the organism is at rest".

>> I echo Stathis's challenge to email the authors
>> and ask them yourself what is meant by 'spontaneous'. The video itself
>> doesn't really add anything to the conversation, although it is pretty
>> awesome, so thanks for linking to that.
> I'm not interested in what the authors think or intended to say. I'm
> only interested in the fact that much of the brain's activity is
> observed to be irregular and without obvious linear cause.

The brain is an incredibly complex non-linear system. Almost all of
its behavior can be characterized as "without obvious linear cause".

>> Your account demands an explanation of how something like "will" can
>> exert influence on physical things like neurons;
> it doesn't exert an influence, it is the influence. It is charge and
> voltage experienced first hand rather than observed.
>> that is what Stathis
>> keeps pressing you on. You cannot say both that will causes changes in
>> neurons, and there is no magic involved. So, how does will cause
>> changes in neurons, specifically?
> Through induction. Will is the subjective facing end of
> electomagnetism. Just as moving a magnet makes an electric current,
> moving your finger does as well. However change occurs in molecules,
> cells, bodies, that is also how will occurs.

OK, then all you're really saying is that will supervenes on a lower
level (atomic) than what the majority believe (the level of neurons).
Electromagnetism is computable and therefore you are saying comp is

>> But your view has no way to explain the difference between voluntary
>> and involuntary action either - not without an explanation of how will
>> causes changes in neural behavior.
> All changes are the same thing. Whether we see them as will or
> deterministic depends on our relation to the changes.
>> At least with Stathis's
>> (mainstream) account you can hypothesize about brain architecture, for
>> instance distinguishing between areas of the brain associated with
>> self-reflection (neocortex), where the decision to breathe would
>> originate, and other areas of the brain associated with automatic
>> functions that are not directly influenced by the former regions. It
>> is not well understood at all. But invoking a magical cause like
>> "will" just because the problem is difficult to conceive of otherwise
>> isn't even wrong, to use your phrase.
> Will isn't magic, it just looks like 'energy' when we see it outside
> of ourselves. (not eben wrong I think is Feynman, btw). Without will,
> how do you explain the existence of a different feeling in breathing
> intentionally and not?

If you want my explanation, will is a psychological epiphenomenon. We
don't actually will our behavior, not from a single "command and
control center". Our bodies and minds simply behave, according to all
sorts of instinctive, conditioned, and even contemplative impulses,
and our egos tell the story of it as if there was a single source of
all of our impulses. We say, "I ate the pie", but really, our eating
the pie can be more accurately described as a desire to satiate
hunger, and/or a desire to experience pleasure, or in some situations,
a learned response to the desire to reduce anxiety. Will is a story we
tell about ourselves, but it is just a narrative that unifies many
disparate impulses. This is evident when we behave in a way we can't
explain... "I don't know why I snapped at her."

To be more specific about breathing: our diaphragm is controlled by an
ancient part of the brain that we do not have conscious access to
(meaning, there are no inputs from this ancient circuit to the higher
levels of the brain where self-reflection is processed). When we take
control of our breathing, a higher-order layer of the brain (the
cortex) exercises control of the diaphragm by supervening on that
ancient circuit (those higher levels manipulate the ancient circuit).
I'm aware there's a lot of holes in this account. I'm offering it not
as a precise or robust theory but as a possible explanation - one that
allows for the feeling of will but without invoking any magic. It is
very counter-intuitive because the illusion of a single "I" is so
strong, the ego having been conditioned in us at such a young age, but
there is some evidence for this explanation.


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to everything-list@googlegroups.com.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to 
For more options, visit this group at 

Reply via email to