On Sun, Oct 23, 2011 at 5:23 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> How do my vocal cords know to produce output relating to the
>> newspaper?
> 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
>> magic.
> 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.

Are you seriously suggesting that I can talk about an actual event without 
there be a causal chain between the event and the sound that comes out of my 

>> 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.

They are connected to each other through a network of neurons in which the 
output of a downstream neuron is dependent on the inputs of the upstream 
neurons. This so that the behaviour of the organism as a whole, controlled by 
its nervous system, is dependent on its environmental inputs; otherwise it 
would quickly die. If this sensitivity to environmental inputs did not require 
a causal connection between neurons then why has the nervous system evolved at 
all? Why don't the muscles just make decisions and contract on their own?

>> 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.

Yes, we assume that that is so. If the visual cortex is missing the visual 
qualia are missing. However, if neurons in the motor cortex controlling speech 
get the same inputs they normally get they will produce the same outputs, so 
the speech produced will be the same. It must be this way given the principle 
of no magical influences (to which you claim to subscribe). For if the qualia 
produced an effect on the neurons separate to that of the physical factors, 
which are replicated by the artificial neurons, that would appear as a magical 

>> 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
>> observed.
> 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
>> interface.
> 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
> pixels.
> 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.

You cite neurobiological research but you reject the most basic scientific 
principles of that research, which is that a neuron depolarises its membrane in 
response to physical factors that have been known for decades, and not 
seriously disputed. How the ensemble of neurons behaves, how this gives rise to 
intelligence, is still not well-understood, but how an individual neuron 
behaves is well-understood, and whether it fires or not is a function of its 
internal state and the inputs it receives. A neuroscientist would just have to 
show one example of a neuron doing the opposite of what science would predict 
and he would be famous.

>> 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.

If the physical state of the neuron plus the inputs it receives do not 
determine whether it will fire then the neuron behaves in a manner contrary to 
physics, like a table levitating without any force on it. The worst thing is 
not that you make the claim that this is how the brain works but that you 
repeatedly contradict yourself by saying this is how it works but it isn't 
contrary to the physics.

>> 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.

You're not saying that the neuron's behaviour is determined by as yet 
undiscovered physical laws, you're saying that its behaviour is not determined 
by any physical law at all.

>> 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.

This isn't really an answer, it's just a way of avoiding giving an answer. How 
is it possible if the artificial neurons produce output with the same timing as 
the biological neurons that the behaviour would look abnormal? You would again 
have to invoke the non-physical influences, since the physical ones are all 
taken care of.

>> 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?

They would be understood mechanically so that their senseless 3-p behaviour 
would be replicable. That would allow us at least in principle to replace parts 
of the brain without affecting the 3-p behaviour of the person. There is a 
serious problem when we consider a person whose behaviour is normal (says that 
he feels perfectly normal etc.) while he has a gross deficit in qualia.

>> 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.

So if they had better instruments they would see neurons firing for no reason 
at all?

>> 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.

Ion channels open and close in response to electric fields and ligands binding, 
just as doors open and close in response to an appropriate force on them. 
Whether there are qualia associated with the ion channels or the doors (and 
doors aren't really less likely to have them) makes no difference to what we 

>> But what causes a particular ion channel to open, for example?
> Changes in it's charge.

Not really. They are large polarised molecules which are distorted when in the 
vicinity of a sufficiently large electric field or non-covalent binding of a 
specific ligand. The temperature and pH also affects the configuration, as with 
all proteins. Given any set of physical conditions, the configuration of the 
ion channel is precisely determined.

>> The
>> 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
>> neurotransmitter.
> 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.

Saying that the feeling is the electric field doesn't change the fact that 
electric fields are well-understood mathematically and can be incorporated in a 
deterministic model without any reference to qualia. The standard position of 
neuroscientists is that the neurons do their thing and the qualia follow.

>> 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
>> observed.
> 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
> do.

OK, the objective side of the neuron is the only thing that can be observed. So 
if the neuron behaves according to what is observed of its objective side it is 
behaving in a normal mechanistic manner. But if it does something due to its 
unobservable subjective side, then it seems to the poor foolish scientist that 
it is doing something magical; that is, something not explainable in terms of 
objective scientific principles. Do you agree with that?

>> 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.

Subjectivity is consistent with the mechanistic view. You could worry about why 
it exists at all, as David Chalmers does, but then you could worry about any 
fundamental fact about the universe, even a priori facts.

>> 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 can't explain it any better. It's like invoking God to explain the 
universe, ignoring the fact that you now need to explain God.

Stathis Papaioannou

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