On Oct 22, 10:42 am, Stathis Papaioannou <stath...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:
> >> When I read the newspaper this morning the light
> >> has a physical effect on my retina which through a series of complex
> >> neural relays modulates the output of the motor neurons to my larynx,
> >> tongue and diaphragm producing sound waves relating to what I am
> >> reading.
> > You're inventing a connection where none exists. There is no neural
> > pathway for eye-voice coordination. You see through your eyes and you
> > speak through your voice. Both processes require that you are
> > conscious and voluntarily moving your eyes and larynx. That vocal
> > expression has a physical characteristic which we can observe
> > externally as motor neuron behaviors.
> How do my vocal cords know to produce output relating to the
The vocal cords don't know that what they are doing is related to the
newspaper. There are parts of the brain which relate the aural
expectation and the semantic intention through the articulation of the
voice. On that level the vocal cords are not included within the
perceptual inertial frame. On the level where the vocal cords are
being considered, the other perceptual aspects are not relevant.
> There must be *some* causal chain, otherwise it would be
There are all kinds of mechanisms and motives which are intertwined,
some causally and some acausally. There is no basis to announce that
all phenomena in the universe must be part of a causal chain or are
disqualified from being real.
> It would be magic if I could know what is happening on the
> other side of the world without a causal link between me and the
> event, and it would be magic if I could talk about it without a causal
> link between my eyes and my mouth.
The eyes are connected to the brain and the mouth is connected to the
brain. They aren't connected directly to each other though. Not in any
causally efficacious way.
> >> If any component in this pathway, such as the optic nerve, is
> >> replaced with an artificial device that relays the electrical signals
> >> in a physiologically appropriate way do you claim that the downstream
> >> neurons would respond differently because the artificial nerve lacks
> >> the "sense" of the natural nerve?
> > It depends on the nature of the device and the nature of what it is
> > the device replaces. You could replace the retina and your visual
> > cortex will learn to use it. If you replace the visual cortex the rest
> > of your brain will be able to compensate functionally but you will be
> > blindsighted. If you have partial visual cortex replacement your brain
> > could adapt and learn to use it.
> If the rest of my brain receives the normal electrochemical stimuli
> from the replaced part how could it know that anything had changed?
Even if the rest of the brain believes that the substitute neurons
have not changed, the neurons themselves are now missing so that
whatever feelings they contribute to the overall conscious experience
will be absent. If the whole brain is replaced, all feeling is absent
and there is unconsciousness.
> You would have to say that the visual cortex has some non-physical
> influence on the rest of the brain, but no such effect has ever been
5. No, there is no non-physical influence, there is non-physical
experience. Our visual experience is the actual subjective
phenomenology of the visual cortex. Our visual experience is not the
consequence of an 'influence', it is a phenomenon unto itself which
has a physical aspect and an experiential aspect.
>What has been observed is that neurons fire in response to
> the electrochemical signals from the other neurons with which they
Yes, neurons often fire in chain reaction to other neurons, but not by
any means all the time. All chain reactions in the brain originate
somewhere, usually in thousands of separate locations simultaneously.
As long as you deny this neurological fact, you cannot understand how
low level processes supervene upon high level processes. It is to look
at a CRT monitor and say that every pixel can only be illuminated
sequentially by the electron gun during it's horizontal scan, and
completely ignoring that the whole point of those scans is to produce
a high level image composed of thousands of simultaneously illuminated
The human brain has thousands of 'electron guns', able to fire
unilaterally or in concert with many other interconnected neurons.
It's a community of hundreds of billions of interconnected living
organisms. It is *nothing* like the response-machine that you imagine.
Such a thing doesn't even make sense in theory as it conceives of
living organisms no less passive than a lump of coal. It's not even
worth serious consideration.
> >> If so, then you are claiming that
> >> neurons affect other neurons by something other than physical factors,
> >> going against not only all of neuroscience but also against all of
> >> science.
> > I forget what number I was on. I'll guess 6.
> > 6. I have never claimed anything that goes against any neuroscientific
> > observation. I repeat again, if you think that I am claiming that,
> > then you do not understand what I am saying. My view is more
> > scientific because it accounts for all of the phenomena that are
> > involved and not just the ones that show up under a microscope.
> You are clearly saying just that, since you deny that there is a
> physical cause behind the neuron firing. If there is a physical cause
> then we can explain why and predict when a neuron will fire; if there
> is not we can't. You claim that a neuron can just decide to fire and
> go ahead and do it where all the observable physical factors suggest
> that it should not.
No, I'm saying that observable physical factors only suggest that a
neuron will fire or not fire immediately before or after a firing. We
can see that a neuron is depleted of serotonin and therefore can't
fire (or fires blanks) or that a neuron is sufficiently saturated with
serotonin such that it could fire, but we cannot say why any
particular neuron that can fire does fire, except when it is downline
in a chain reaction.
Spontaneous neural activity, whether you like it or not, accounts from
most of the activity in the brain and it is not the response to a
neurological chain reaction, but rather the instantiation of a new
chain reaction or a cooperative event between several neurons.
>That is contrary to science, by definition.
There is no scientific consensus as to what the fundamental physical
'forces' are. We have no idea what causes charge or it's consequences.
By your definition, physics is contrary to science.
> >> For an artificial neuron I think the timing of the action potential in
> >> response to environmental factors is the main thing to get right. I
> >> think the neuron's shape is important to take into account in this
> >> regard since the shape affects the electric field and excitability,
> >> but I don't think its mass is important. But I might be wrong: it
> >> could be that neurons sense their neighbours' tiny gravitational field
> >> and therefore the network with the artificial neuron would behave
> >> slightly erratically until this was taken into account. The
> >> engineering project would involve sorting this sort of thing out until
> >> eventually the artificial neuron would slot into the network with the
> >> level of tolerance that is acceptable for biological neurons.
> > If the neuron doesn't feel anything, then there is not going to be any
> > feeling at the higher processing level. These are living organisms.
> > They may not have a level of tolerance that is acceptable, just as
> > there is no substitute for water or carbon that is acceptable.
> Assume the artificial neuron feels nothing, and all it does it get the
> timing right in stimulating neurons to which it interfaces. Could that
> still result in those biological neurons firing erratically? How, if
> they get the same inputs?
It's not that they fire erratically, it's just that they are missing a
certain fluidity and responsiveness. Think of how CGI animation looks
versus live action. You might be fooled for a moment, but over time
the inadequacy of the simulation reveals itself. In the eyes and
faces, in the overuse of certain techniques, in the dissociation
between expressions, words, and situations. This effect would be
magnified many times in an intimate biological context. These things
probably taste each other on the other side of the brain. They have
all grown together as one thing.
> >> Qualia are not observable directly by a third party (you knew this is
> >> what I meant).
> > Why does that matter though? If you connect your brain to theirs then
> > you could observe qualia directly, as some conjoined twins do. Why do
> > you privilege third party observability when dealing with a first
> > person phenomenology?
> Because I'm asking what would happen to the qualia if you ignored them
> and just took care of the observable behaviour, which must be
> explainable in terms of observable causes.
What is observable in 3-p is both a cause and an effect, as are the 1-
p subjective observables. Without the qualia, the 3-p behavior of
cells makes no sense. They can be understood mechanically, but what
would be the point of the mechanism?
> If the observable behaviour
> were not explainable in terms of observable causes then biologists
> would have discovered magic.
No, they would have discovered ordinary subjectivity. It is observable
though, just not with primitive electromagnetic instruments. We
observe them subjectively all the time.
> Magic is where the observable behaviour
> is not explainable in terms of observable causes:a table levitating
> with no force on it; a neuron firing because the ion channels open
> even though the laws of physics demand that they stay closed.
The laws of physics don't demand that they open or close. They just
demand that if they must have the capacity to be able to open or
close, but they are free to open or close whenever they or their
situation calls for it. You are just making physical law into God,
micromanaging a meaningless universe for obscure and arbitrary
microcosmic reasons. Magic, as you use it, is a derogatory term to
undermine the credibility of all thoughts which dare to extend beyond
an extremely narrow and parochial view of eliminative materialism that
you are emotionally attached to.
> >> What is the mechanism determining the timing of the motor neurons
> >> controlling the muscles of speech? Please don't say "the sense of the
> >> qualia": what *specifically* at the cellular level causes a particular
> >> motor neuron to fire?
> > The motor neurons each feel that it is time to fire, based upon a
> > collective feeling that the organism as a whole is attempting to say
> > something. What we think of as the charge and voltage across the cell
> > membrane is actually just the physical end of a larger phenomena which
> > includes sensorimotive phenomenology. The cell feels something, and
> > that feeling looks to us from a great distance like a contraction or
> > relaxation of pores, depolarization, action potential, etc. Just as
> > the circulation of traffic through a city would look to an alien
> > observer like regular patterns of circadian respiration among groups
> > of automotive cells.
> But what causes a particular ion channel to open, for example?
Changes in it's charge.
> purpose of scientific research is to answer this question. The answer
> that has been discovered is that some ion channels open when there is
> an electric field of sufficient magnitude across them while others
> open when a neurotransmitter binds to them. You would say that
> somewhere in the brain ion channels open because they feel like it, in
> the absence of either the requisite electric field or
4. No. I am saying, over and over and over again, that the feeling
*is* the electric 'field'. There is no such thing as a field or a
force. They are all feelings and experiences which are outside of our
perceptual inertial frame, and as such appear as quantifiable
behaviors of objects across space. When they are within our perceptual
inertial frame, then we either experience them is feelings through
time or infer them as feeling-driven behavior in other organisms. I
*never* say that there is an absence of physical behaviors associated
with particular feelings. They are part of the same event. Sometimes
that event is driven by a feeling and sometimes the feeling is the
consequence of the neurological changes. It's only the direction of
the narrative in our estimation that changes.
> If that were so then it would have been observed,
> overturning all of science.
If I were suggesting that free will occurred because some mysterious
force were controlling the chemistry, then I would agree - the math
would show that to be wrong. The reactions wouldn't work out as we
expect. I'm not suggesting that at all though. I am saying that the
chemistry only seems different from the experience because we are
perceiving both phenomenologies from a biased perspective of a
subjective agent. We see our own processes as feelings over time, and
processes outside of our direct awareness as increasingly objective
> >> No, no, no. If neurons are coordinated in the spontaneous or even
> >> apparently purposeless activity they must have some physical influence
> >> on each other, generally thought to be synaptic connections, although
> >> there are speculations that the electric field may also be important.
> >> Physical influences are observable, understandable scientifically and
> >> computable. Henry Markram's group in Switzerland simulating rat cortex
> >> observed spontaneous gamma wave-like activity. This wasn't "programmed
> >> in", it was emergent behaviour given the basic computational model of
> >> the rat neuron when multiple such neurons were connected in a
> >> physiological way and the program run on a supercomputer.
> > The influence that they have on each other has a physical aspect, but
> > it has an experiential aspect as well. Sometimes the experiential side
> > drives the physical and sometimes it's the reverse. Computational
> > models can tell you about the physical aspect, and provide insight in
> > how to influence the behavior of neurons and therefore influence the
> > nature of the experience, but they can't tell you anything about the
> > experience itself and it's influence of intentionality the brain.
> You claim the putative non-physical influence is ubiquitous in living
> cells, so it would not be unreasonable to expect that it would have
> been observed, overturning all of science. But it has never been
3. There is no non-physical influence. There is one phenomenon with a
subjective side and an objective side to it's topology. Think of a
tree with roots in the ground that suck up water and nutrients to
express as branches and leaves, which feel the sun and air which cycle
back into the organism as a whole as motive power. Both ends of the
tree define each other. You can't have a tree without either roots or
branches. This is like how a neuron works. It has roots in physical
law which support it's growth and articulation through the flowering
of sensorimotive qualia. Qualia is it's product. It's not non-
physical, it's infra-physical. It is the experience of the neuron
which gives everything the neuron does it's purpose, just as our own
experience gives our bodies and brains purposes for doing what they
> >> But there is a chain of events between telling a person to think of
> >> something and the fMRI changes. Even if at some point there is a
> >> triggering truly random quantum event there is a causal chain and the
> >> quantum event can be modelled probabilistically.
> > The chain of events has no beginning. It's arbitrary. Your view is
> > that everything that happens in the brain can be understood in purely
> > neurological terms. Telling a person something requires that the
> > patient understands what they said and voluntarily chooses to respond
> > by controlling their own low level neurological events. You
> > pathologically leave out that detail and try to imply that the high
> > level consciousness of the patient is an irrelevant epiphenomenon.
> The choosing and understanding, everything to do with consciousness,
> cognition and free will, is *as a result of* the mechanistic neural
> activity. That is the conventional scientific view.
I agree that is the conventional view of science, and I think that it
is almost correct, however, being almost correct in this particular
way makes it precisely wrong. It makes no sense to have consciousness
at all if the mechanistic neural activity is sufficient to explain
anthropological function. There is no need to have 'a result' at all.
The mechanism would be it's own result and subjectivity would be a
metaphysical, unexplainable non-function.
> > By always cherry picking the point at which your chain of causality
> > begins, you misdirect your attention to the consequences of the high
> > level decisions (the fMRI changes, quantum events, ion channel
> > depolarization) rather than the decisions themselves (telling a person
> > to think of something, the person choosing to comply, the person
> > thinking of something). The decisions have meaning to us regardless of
> > the mechanism, whereas the mechanism has no meaning whatsoever outside
> > of their relation to our signifying experience. This should be a clue.
> The mechanism has no absolute meaning but if it leads to consciousness
> it results in meaning in the person thus created.
Why would there be a thing such as consciousness to create 'meaning'
for 'people'? If it's all low level events driving the bus, why and
how could there be high level events at all?
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at