On 18 Oct 2013, at 15:23, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

On 18 October 2013 12:24, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

The decision to go to the store, A, is associated with certain brain
processes, and the getting in the car and driving to the store, B, is
associated with different brain processes. The brain processes
associated with A *cause* the brain processes associated with B. That
is to say, a scientist anywhere in the universe could observe the
physical processes A and the physical processes B and see how the
former lead to the latter without necessarily having any idea about
the supervenient consciousness.

Ok, I can work with this. First let me say that, given your assumptions, your reasoning is absolutely correct. The assumptions themselves, although I don't think they are even conscious, are also completely reasonable. That is a perfectly reasonable expectation about nature, and it is one that I myself
shared until fairly recently.

Starting with the first assumption: >"The decision to go to the store, A, is
associated with certain brain processes"

To that I say, lets slow down a moment. What do we know about about the
association? As far as I know, what we know is that

1) measurable changes in brain activity occur in synchronization to
self-reported or experimentally inferred changes in subjective states. 2) the regions of the brain affected have been mapped with a high degree of consistency and specificity (although the anomalies, such as with people who live seemingly normal lives with large parts of their brain 'missing' makes
that kind of morphological approach potentially naive)
3) that externally induced brain changes will induce changes in subjective
experience (so that brain changes cannot be epiphenomenal).

What we do not know is that

4) the entirety of our experiences are literally contained within the
tissues of the brain, or its activities.
5) that the brain activity which we can observe with our contemporary
instruments is the only causal agent of subjective experience.

OK up to here.

6) that subjective experiences cannot cause observable brain changes (to the contrary, we count on subjects being able to voluntarily and spontaneously
change their own brain activity).

We don't know this for sure, but it goes against every scientific
observation. If a subjective experience is supervenient on the
underlying physical process then the observable brain changes can all
be attributed to this underlying physical process.

The subjective experience cannot be supervenient on the underlying physical process *only*. It can only be supervenient with some abstract type that the underlying physical process can incarnate locally. This made eventually the "underlying process" itself supervenient on infinities of computations (or perhaps more general abstract processes in case comp is false). Of course we can see only one process, as we cannot feel the differentiation of the computations supporting us. But comp predicts that we can detect them indirectly below or substitution level, and that is arguably confirmed by the quantum nature of matter. As far as commenting Craig's point, this remark does not make your comment non valid.
I put it for the general interest.

If not, then the
observable brain changes cannot all be attributable to the underlying
physical process; i.e., a miracle will be observed. But no miracles
have actually been observed.


l make another remark below.

7) that neuronal activity is not also associated with microphenomenal
experiences which are subconscious to us at the personal level. (The article at the top of the thread shows that the opposite is true, in the sense that we can access and control individual neuron behaviors strictly through
direct subjective attention).

The next assumption I think takes a turn from the relatively innocuous to
the ideologically biased.

To say "The brain processes associated with A *cause* the brain processes
associated with B." doesn't really work. Let's say that some alien
neurologist thinks that the world financial markets are the activity of a global brain. She observes that certain numbers that come out of the NASDAQ are associated with the construction of new suburban houses. Having access to a precision magnetic stimulation instruments, she is able to change the numbers in the NASDAQ computers, and sure enough, most times the expected effect materializes. She concludes therefore, as you would in her position, that the market indicators associated with the real estate development A *cause* the market indicators associated with commercial development months later (B). This view assumes that the actual participants in the economy, and the actual conditions of their experienced lives are not functionally
necessary to transform A into B.

If the alien neurologist is wrong she is wrong about details. She is
not wrong about the fact that the building of new houses in the
suburbs is caused by antecedent physical events.

In the same way, we could say that a drug like cocaine changes brain
activity to match that of a person who was living a very exhilarating life, and by the logic that you are suggesting, as long as the drug supply did not run out, the person's life would eventually have to change automatically to
match the enhanced brain activity.

The cocaine may cause a feeling of exhilaration but it will not cause
all the other thoughts, memories, achievements etc. of an exhilarating
life. The two situations have different physical antecedents and a
different result.

By underestimating the role of consciousness, and overlooking its obvious significance in creating and shaping its activities *through* the brain, rather than activities *of* the brain, you wind up with a worldview in which
no form of consciousness could plausibly exist. For that reason, the
hypothesis you assume must be abandoned with prejudice. Not only should we resist falling back on the whole set of hypotheses which fail to account for consciousness in any way, but I recommend that we start from the polar opposite assumption, in which the association of brain states A and B are not the relevant causes, but are actually the event horizon of a completely different set of causes which are impersonal but intersect the personal, sub-personal, and super-personal ranges of awareness. It is like the stop motion video that I linked, where impossible things seem to happen without
any camera tricks.

There will always be a plausible chain of causality to explain how A becomes B, but it is wrong. If we look at traffic patterns of a city, we can imagine that a flood of people leaving a parking lot is not leaving a concert at the same time, but just a statistical inevitability because of the nature of how traffic events are distributed around cities. It's a perfectly reasonable
and scientific view, and it may be statistically successful even in
predicting these parking lot evacuations accurately. It's still the wrong way to look at it. It still doesn't work if you try put a thousand cars in
the middle of the desert and expect them to build a city.

That you can't exactly account for the physical cause of something
doesn't mean it isn't there. Traffic patterns like weather patterns
are entirely due to the motion of atoms bumping against each other.
They can be roughly, but not precisely predicted. The lack of, or
indeed impossibility of precision does not mean they are magic.

Can you see how modeling nature from the outside in has a big hole in it, and why that hole would be a catastrophic mistake to overlook when studying

No account of consciousness is needed in explaining behaviour.

Here I disagree. We can recover, possibly, all behavior, just by applying physical laws. But this will not provide an explanation.

If we detect atomic bombs on a far away planet, the explanation will need to invoke fear and thus consciousness.

For the same reason than to explain why some computer win or lost a game, we will need higher level concept, despite a low level can account for the whole game activity. It will not been an explanation.

Likewise, if a person kills another person, and is asked to *explain* why he did that, nobody will understand an explanation like "I did it because I am obeying to schroedinger equation. The explanation will have to rely on higher level notions, and some might rely on consciousness, or mental token.

account of consciousness is needed in explaining the weather either,
even though for all we know, weather patterns have associated
subjective experiences too alien for us to guess at.

I think you need consciousness to explain a lot of humans activity, even if comp and/or physicalism is correct. Like you need the concept of (first) person to explain the appearance of physical laws, all this despite the additive-multiplicative structure of the numbers can account for everything, including consciousness.

An ontological reduction, even if correct, is not an explanation, which might need higher level features, may be in some necessary ways.

Computationalism illustrates this well. It gives an ontological reduction (all what exists is 0, s(0), s(s(0)), etc. and the only laws are addition and multiplication), but it prevents the reduction of the person to any of this. Person are abstract high level entity having a partial autonomy, will, responsibility, etc.

This is important to avoid the elimination of persons and consciousness which is, notably, a consequence of maintaining both materialism and computationalism.


This is according to the scientific
account of nature. If the scientific account of nature is wrong then
the scientist would look at the physical processes B and declare that
there must be some supernatural influence,

Not supernatural, just transmeasurable. How would the scientist presume to speak for nature? A terrible scientist if you ask me. "Whatever doesn't fit in my microscope is supernatural". This is the problem. We already have, with our own consciousness, a better window into neuroscience than any instrument could possibly give us. Not that the perspective of a non-human system is not valuable, of course it is, but nothing about the brain would be worth the effort were it not for our own subjective appreciation of what it does. No fMRI machine has the faintest idea what a brain is or why is has to generate images of it. From the perspective of non-humans, the brain is
food, or a source of energy, or just a blob of decaying ooze.

The scientist might be wrong about what exactly goes on in the brain
but is probably not wrong in the assumption that the only influences
on brain behaviour are physical ones.

as he cannot explain how
they come about given the antecedent A and the laws of physics.

IMO, there are can be no 'laws' of physics. There is only sense. Incidents
and co-incidents of orderly 'seems like'.

The "laws" are just observed regularities.

Stathis Papaioannou

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