William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: Intellectual Substances Are Immaterial

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Some mop-up proofs about intellects being immaterial. The arguments are plain and there is really only one note of substance.

Chapter 50 That Intellectual Substances Are Immaterial (alternate translation)

1 IT follows from this that intellectual substances are immaterial. For everything composed of matter and form is a body: since matter cannot receive various forms except in respect of its various parts. And this diversity of parts cannot be in matter except inasmuch as common matter is divided into several by the dimensions existing in matter: for without quantity substance is indivisible. Now it has been proved that an intelligent substance is a body. It follows therefore that it is not composed of matter and form.

2 Moreover. Just as man does not exist apart from this man, so matter exists not apart from this matter. Accordingly, whatever subsistent thing is composed of matter and form, is composed of individual form and matter. Now the intellect cannot be composed of individual matter and form. For the species of things understood become actually intelligible through being abstracted from individual matter. And according as they are actually intelligible, they become one with the intellect. Therefore the intellect also must be without individual matter. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

Notes When you think of a stampeding herd of elephants (which you’re doing right now), a heard of stampeding elephants is not present materially in your intellect. This intelligible herd was abstracted from individual matter. This same example applies to the next paragraphs. When you think of fire, you do not produce fire. And it’s not just Empedocles who makes this error! All strict materialists are committed to the mistake. For if our intellects are strictly material, e.g. our brains, then a bit of fire must appear when we think of it.

3 Further. The action of anything composed of matter and form, belongs not to the form alone, nor to the matter alone, but to the composite: because to act belongs to that which has being, and being belongs to the composite through its form: wherefore the composite also acts through its form. Accordingly, if the intelligent substance be composed of matter and form, to understand will be the act of the composite. But action terminates in a thing like the agent, wherefore the composite in generating, produces not a form but a composite. If, therefore, to understand be an action of the composite, it would understand neither form nor matter, but only the composite. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

4 Again. The forms of sensible things have a more perfect being in the intellect than in sensible things; since they are more simple and extend to more objects: for by the one intelligible form of man, the intellect knows all men. Now a form existing perfectly in matter makes a thing to be actually such, for instance to be fire or to be coloured: and if it does not make a thing to be actually such, it is in that thing imperfectly, for instance the form of heat in the air that carries it, and the power of the first agent in its instrument. Consequently were the intellect composed of matter and form, the forms of the things understood would make the intellect to be actually of the same nature as that which is understood. And this leads to the error of Empedocles, who said that the soul knows fire by fire, and earth by earth, and so on. But this is clearly unreasonable. Therefore the intelligent substance is not composed of matter and form.

5 Further. Whatever is in something is therein according to the mode of the recipient. Wherefore if the intellect be composed of matter and form, the forms of things would be in the intellect materially, just as they are outside the mind. Consequently, just as outside the mind they are not actually intelligible, neither would they be when they are in the intellect.

6 Again. Forms of contraries, according to the being which they have in matter, are contrary: hence they exclude one another. But according as they are in the intellect they are not contrary: in fact one contrary is the intelligible ratio of the other, since one is understood through the other. Consequently they have not a material being in the intellect. Therefore the intellect is not composed of matter and form.

7 Further. Matter does not receive a fresh form except by movement or change. But the intellect is not moved through receiving forms; rather is it perfected, and is at rest, while understanding, whereas its understanding is hindered by movement. Consequently forms are not received by the intellect as by matter or a material thing. Wherefore it is clear that intelligent substances are immaterial as well as incorporeal.

Notes It is cheering, and obvious, to note that your intellect is perfected the more you learn of forms.

8 Hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv.): On account of the rays of the divine goodness all intellectual substances are subsistent, and are known to be both incorporeal and immaterial.

33 Comments

  1. Let’s place the materialistic view opposite the view of Aquinas. In the materialistic view, a thought is impossible without a brain (be it biological or artificial). There are interesting conclusions to be drawn from observations on patients with alzheimer’s disease where memory is slowly degrading. Hence no thought without a brain, and no intelligence without memory. In the view of Aquinas, there must exist some sort of external memory backup for all intelligent creatures, otherwise eternal life is not possible. In the materialistic view such a backup does not exist. The corrolary of the materialistic view is then that souls outside bodies, ghosts and gods also do not exist.

  2. @Hans Erren:

    “In the view of Aquinas, there must exist some sort of external memory backup for all intelligent creatures, otherwise eternal life is not possible.”

    Aquinas view implies no such thing.

  3. Catholics believe you can have a memory without a brain. (At least the catholics I know)

  4. Aquinas view implies no such thing.

    Aquinas per se maybe not but life after death would seem to do so unless it is very different after death than it is before death. The brain does seem to be necessary for thought and expression of personality.

  5. The intellect is immaterial should be proof enough of the existence of
    a higher power.
    1. Nobody can argue there is no mind or intellect.
    2. Nobody can argue that it is immaterial or they would have to produce it.
    3. Therefore there is a rational and immaterial entity.
    I call that God
    It is the mystery of the mind and it’s immaterial mainly which is the best evidence of God and we all have it.

  6. It is the mystery of the mind and it’s immaterial nature which is the best evidence for the existence of God.
    Is clearer.

  7. It is the mystery of the mind and it’s immaterial nature which is the best evidence for the existence of God.

    Not sure that follows.

    A lump of clay molded into an ashtray has an immaterial form (the ashtray form) to quote an earlier blog post. This immaterialness is not evidence for the existence of God.

    The mind could just be a result of a configuration of an operating brain (as opposed to a non-operating, i.e., dead, one). This configuration would be immaterial just like the ashtray’s configuration is immaterial. Neither would be evidence for the existence of God.

  8. “When you think of a stampeding herd of elephants (which you’re doing right now), a heard of stampeding elephants is not present materially in your intellect.”

    Indeed it isn’t. Nor is a HERD…

  9. @DAV:

    “The brain does seem to be necessary for thought and expression of personality.”

    If the brain is, as opposed to seems to be, necessary “for thought” then Aquinas argument’s go wrong somewhere, somehow. But what I said, namely that Aquinas view does not imply what Hans claimed, remains true none the less.

  10. Poor ole Tom must be roasting in Hell for his deadly sins of reification.

    He doesn’t just call an intellect a “thing”, he calls it a “substance”.

    Of course, I agree with him and I look forward to having a yarn with him in that place reserved for “reifists”.

  11. “For if our intellects are strictly material, e.g. our brains, then a bit of fire must appear when we think of it.”

    Is there a theory out there somewhere that submits that the intellect is a material thing as opposed to it being a behavior caused by a variety of material things?

    JMJ

  12. Sander van der Wal

    September 5, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Regarding point 3), is this not called ’emergence’ in modern parlance?

    The mind exists as a result of matter having a very specific form, the form of a brain. The difference then seems to be the notion that mind can exist outside a brain,

  13. @SvdW

    …Regarding point 3), is this not called ’emergence’ in modern parlance?
    The mind exists as a result of matter having a very specific form, the form of a brain. The difference then seems to be the notion that mind can exist outside a brain,…

    Indeed it is – it is known as an ’emergent property’ of a particular physical construction. See Douglas Hofstadter for (much) more detail – really, Hofstadter should be being referenced continually in this discussion.

    The point is that the mind – the consciousness or ‘i’ as Hofstadter puts it, is an immaterial construct created by a particular physical structure – and CANNOT exist without it. The physical structure does not have to be actual brain neurons – a similar structure in software would also have ‘consciousness’ (though that’s beyond the current state of the programmer’s art).

    The apparent strong division earlier philosophy made between material and immaterial objects should no longer be a feature of our thinking; ever since Einstein pointed out that there was a matter (material) and energy (immaterial) equivalence, and that each could be converted into the other…

  14. I’m not sure the clay ashtray quite explains the same situation and I think it’s a confusing analogy.
    I’ll modify what I said.
    It is the mystery of the mind’ and it’s nature being non matter but nevertheless still absolutely real which is the best evidence for the existence of a higher power beyond matter. Without somehow denying or diminishing mind, which seems to go against reality and rationality there can be no other explanation than a higher power. As our mind is a higher power over our own body.

    The existence of the brain or the body does not explain our rationality or any kind of rationality. Why rationality exists at all.
    rationality must be there for explanation to follow.

    Matter which comes from nothing cannot rise up and turn to look at itself and wonder why it’s there let alone give a reason using it’s own non rational non thinking ability (given the premise there is no ‘mind’) Mind had to have started first. Otherwise rationality itself is undermined. That is not to say rationality is at all being denied by anybody who is sane, of course, which means that it must have come first.

    A lump of clay molded into an ashtray has an immaterial form (the ashtray form).

    This is a mix of language, confusing words about things with names of things.

    An ashtray can ‘take many forms’ The clay can also take many forms before it ’sprouts’ into an ashtray. The thing which is the ashtray owned or held by a person does exist and has a form. It is not called clay and nor is its form metaphysical. The description of its generic shape is the only abstract non material issue. So it is to play with words to say ‘the ashtray is immaterial in form’ it is to use the generic ashtray and confuse it with the real one. It has a physical form.

    *However, the ashtray as a concept cannot exist without a mind to invent it. The rest is pottery.

    For that reason I don’t agree with the following sentence:

    1 ” to quote an earlier blog post. This immaterialness is not evidence for the existence of God.”

    The mind could just be a result of a configuration of an operating brain (as opposed to a non-operating, i.e., dead, one). ”

    Here, the word configuration has been introduced which implies a mind anyway in order that it is configured.

    For something to be considered configured it must be arranged, organised, selected or rationalised in some way beforehand.

    2 “This configuration would be immaterial just like the ashtray’s configuration is immaterial. Neither would be evidence for the existence of God.”
    If ashtrays popped into existence from nowhere ‘2’ could be true but the example used is of something which was created.

    Particles do not pop into existence from nothing either.
    ‘Quantum vacuums’ whatever they are, are not nothing.
    They are not nothing in the philosophical sense of an absence of absolutely everything. That is confirmed by a well known physicist in the relevant field.

  15. Here, the word configuration has been introduced which implies a mind anyway in order that it is configured.

    Shades of YOS. 🙂 form=configuration=arrangement. Its existence doesn’t imply design. Crystals have a form without design. Are snowflakes designed?

    Arguing that it only exists in the mind is useful at times perhaps. Seeing triangles (a purely mental concept) is an example where it pays to remember it is forced upon the world by the mind. But, assuming there is such a thing as reality, are trees a mental concept or a thing in reality? If you are viewing a tree does it go away when you close your eyes and exist merely as a memory in your mind? Or did it exist only in your mind from the start?

    Matter which comes from nothing cannot rise up and turn to look at itself and wonder why it’s there let alone give a reason using it’s own non rational non thinking ability (given the premise there is no ‘mind’) Mind had to have started first.

    I agree the mind came first but only because “mind” doesn’t necessarily mean “sentient mind” in my view. It’s the gamut that runs the spectrum of at least all things with a brain. And, yes, it did apparently spring from matter. At least it’s quite possible. Insisting that it did not is insisting on something that cannot be proven.

    Sentience, self-awareness, didn’t pop into existence with humans. A brain is mostly a collection of recognizers or classifiers. (Memory can be a slightly modified recognizer — a topic for a different time). Even bugs are good at recognizing food else they couldn’t be attracted toward it. Sense of where body parts are is a type of self-awareness. It would be difficult to avoid collisions without it. Sentience seems nothing more than yet another recognizer layer directed toward self.

    And sentience doesn’t necessarily imply reasoning ability. All things with brains reach logical conclusions even if not aware of doing so. Cat sees a mouse and concludes this is something to chase. To do this, the cat must first assemble the pixels of the mouse; recognize it is a mouse (a conclusion); then associate mouse with things chaseable (a secondary conclusion). However cats do seem to chase small things that move but that still means assembling pixels into an object; recognize it is moving; then recognizing that it is small enough to be chased. Rudimentary logic but logic nonetheless. All without perhaps full (or any) awareness of self or even intent. We have extended this to an art form but I see it happening throughout nature.

  16. “’emergent property’ of a particular physical construction. ”

    To call anything emergent property means that we do not know how it emerged. It is a catch-call that seeks to hide the lack of understanding.

  17. On reading your comment it wasn’t clear to me whether you were using words figuratively or literally so forgive me if I misunderstand the argument you make on that basis.

    “Its existence doesn’t imply design. Crystals have a form without design. Are snowflakes designed?”

    I’m tempted to say that crystals aren’t alive or that the analogy is wrong and for the same reason that bringing the ashtray into the conversation is a dead end maze, a loop of henley within the argument.

    All that said, about snowflakes, triangles and configuration,
    We do notice and admire their patterns which are forced by crystal shape and we can also see how those patterns are the inevitable product of the building blocks. Given certain parameters such things have only a certain number of ways to go. If you have three pins only and a cork board then only triangles will appear when the dots join.

    However, given that you do accept mind exists all be it something which you observe from without. What about what you, Dav observe from within. What puts you in their looking out?
    That is a serious question by the way. A first year lesson on the birds and the bees won’t explain this. that only deals with matter. Just as the genome is a building block for the body.

    You can stare at bodies for years as I have and discover that what we know is useful but falls very short. At least computers are human inventions and so being an extension of our own mind and what we know for sure, they can only ever behave in a way expected or predicted. This gives a false notion when applying computer problem solving type logic to such things as cats or mice.

    Simplification has it’s uses but it is not the full picture. So you can break a problem down into smaller parts to help with understanding, produce ideas , solving small problems but the oversimplification is real. There’s no knowing where important information is discarded at any point during the process. I believe the learned word is methodological reduction.

    When you have ‘experts’ or ‘science’ telling you one thing and see that the reality is absolutely different you are constantly reminded that humility is the only accompaniment on Journeys of discovery. Especially honest scientific ones.

    “Arguing that it only exists in the mind is useful at times perhaps. Seeing triangles (a purely mental concept) is an example where it pays to remember it is forced upon the world by the mind. But, assuming there is such a thing as reality, are trees a mental concept or a thing in reality? If you are viewing a tree does it go away when you close your eyes and exist merely as a memory in your mind? Or did it exist only in your mind from the start?”

    I’m not sure you followed me as I intended. If you thought I didn’t subscribe to reality. (I know these people exist (in theory, reality deniers) but I have never met one and I have met a LOT of people in my short time. Even the truly insane still believe in reality, they just have reality out of true with what actually is the really real due to metabolic or spiritual or some other bodily acute or degenerative malfunction. The psychotic man really believes his eyes and his ears. Some can learn to recognise the difference between when their body is letting them down and giving false images or sounds. Violent drug takers and alcoholics believe their actions at the time are based on reality. So only on paper and for spurious or nefarious reasons do people pretend that some don’t believe in reality. I know we can agree on that.

    Clay can take many forms and obviously going backwards the clay was something or things in a circular fashion prior to the existence of matter itself. Considering the shape in our mind is an act of imagination which entails creatorial power all be it very small but not power in the sense that it can create atoms or pieces of atoms. That there is a generic word for the thing which holds cigarette buts is purely abstract. The name of the form is not the same as the form itself. So I argue that form IS real once we are both looking at the same ashtray but that what words actually are is not what I’m arguing about.
    In algebra the letters are representation of the abstract thing which is being imagined which is in turn in place
    of the real world thing under consideration. language and logic, exist and are tools for conveying meaning. This must be true. So how is it that it is argued that there is no why? The point you made about form = configure = argument touches on this problem: That there are names for things and generic names which are abstract in nature doesn’t alter the question about mind and reality.

    Consider:
    “I agree the mind came first but only because “mind” doesn’t necessarily mean “sentient mind” in my view. It’s the gamut that runs the spectrum of at least all things with a brain.”
    together with
    “Sentience seems nothing more than yet another recogniser”.”
    Sentient or not, if it must come first then how can it spring, from matter?
    In that case matter must have been there first for it to spring from.

    “Insisting that it did not is insisting on something that cannot be proven.”
    I thought you agreed with me that logically it must have come first. Every experience we have of the universe whether clever or not is that one thing follows the next or that logic can be relied upon.
    So it is irrational in the logical sense to say that something called mind which is not material but does exist can possibly have come about from matter. We are stuck with the circle that makes no actual sense.

    “Sentience, self-awareness, didn’t pop into existence with humans. A brain is mostly a collection of recognizers or classifiers. (Memory can be a slightly modified recognizer “ The last word is powerful but is overlooked. What is it to recognise? It won’t do to use analogy of a sensor’s circuit because that thing is a trigger, preset, prearranged and isn’t doing anything but tripping the mouse which it was set and bound to do! Who sets the trap? To recognise is not to eradicate the problem but to substitute the word recognise instead of know or understand.

    Incidentally the brain works as a system of inhibitory circuits. Most of the body works with inhibition. Something exceeds a threshold causing another thing to happen. Positive feedbacks always cause problems or dramatic effects!

    “Even bugs are good at recognizing food else they couldn’t be attracted toward it. Sense of where body parts are is a type of self-awareness.”

    Imagine having eight legs and feeling where each one is all at once! That made me shudder.

    I agree with you. Proprioception is a peripheral activity. Sit on your foot until it goes to sleep and you lose proprioception along with the other senses in the foot. It occurs primarily in joint capsules, ligaments where again, stretch and compression are detected so if you limb is held by an operator and you’re not looking you will know for sure where the limb is if all is well. However the knowledge itself of the limb’s position is something which only you can hold. It is yours and belongs to you. Why is that? Why is your limb’s position not something that I can experience? You might say, ‘because you’re not me’ which would be true but wouldn’t strictly answer the question. I don’t think the question is silly.
    Who are you?

  18. However, given that you do accept mind exists all be it something which you observe from without. What about what you, Dav observe from within. What puts you in their looking out?

    A fair question perhaps but I see it as a change of subject.

    Imagine discussing how a Ferrari is built and focus on a small subsystem. Steering perhaps. But dismiss the discussion with but “it’s not a Ferrari” or to insist on looking at the car as a whole and avoid all discussion of makeup.

    My general interest lies in how is that the mind is put together; so I’m interested in the parts and subsystems and how they might work. I’m also a firm believer in functional equivalents. If I were to assemble a Ferrari from equivalent parts, it would be a functional equivalent to one built in a factory. Some would dismiss this as a “simulated Ferrari”.

    … recognizer “ The last word is powerful but is overlooked. What is it to recognise? It won’t do to use analogy of a sensor’s circuit because that thing is a trigger, preset, prearranged and isn’t doing anything but tripping the mouse which it was set and bound to do! Who sets the trap? To recognise is not to eradicate the problem but to substitute the word recognise instead of know or understand.

    recognizer=classifier

    It is irrelevant how it came to be (at least until now).

    It could be a built-in thing set by genetics or it could be something learned. And it isn’t a substitute for know or understand. Ask yourself, what you mean when you say “I understand something”. There is no real definition for the word but I see it as acknowledging the dimensionality (different aspects) of whatever it is being “understood” and noting more. This dimensionality can be quite narrow or wide and broad. Each of these dimensions are a form of recognition. A collection of recognizers is all that is needed to achieve dimensionality.

    When a bug senses food it understands it’s food. It doesn’t need to understand much more than that. Bugs have been quite successful with this rudimentary understanding. In the progression of species, each has a deeper understanding of that which promotes their survival as a species. So maybe we “understand” things more deeply but maybe we needed to just to have survived. Seeing something special in this is like seeing something special in being able to climb a tree better than a fish. Fish don’t have any need to climb trees.

    Who are you?

    That in itself is an interesting question. Answering it here is next to impossible. If you get the chance read Hofstadter’s book: The Mind’s I which delves into the subject “what do I mean when I say ‘I’?”. It’s a really deep and multifaceted thing.I find it difficult to summarize without a lot of background which, of course, is not a summary. The best I can come up with is how I perceive myself. A deeper view is it’s how the collection of recognizer of myself interact.

    Also interesting is Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. where he discusses how small systems (neurons for example) through their interactions (he call them patterns) can lead to another level or layer with each layer’s makeup interacting with each other culminating, perhaps, in what is the mind’s ‘I’.

  19. I nearly missed your comment; glad you said all this as I didn’t actually get to the point.
    and certainly didn’t mean to change the subject.

    Imagine discussing how a Ferrari is built and focus on a small subsystem. Steering perhaps. But dismiss the discussion with but “it’s not a Ferrari” or to insist on looking at the car as a whole and avoid all discussion of makeup.

    “make up?”
    I don’t mean to avoid discussion of make up or bits and pieces. of course these things are important in the system and the brain is made up of functioning areas as is accepted. The analogy is wrong because the Ferrari can be dismantled and mantled. The steering system obviously isn’t useful or even pretty when it’s out and detached any more than a piece of meat is useful except for recycling.

    The functioning Ferrari with it’s engine management system and all it’s numerous sensors or recognisers does not generate original thought.
    You never implied this of a Ferrari but if I read your next part correctly it is your belief that if you could find enough of the parts and figure a way of keeping them perfect from different bodies purely as an abstract exercise that mind would inevitably exist in that Frankenstein example. Or perhaps you mean that if you can simulate the functioning parts made of whatever stuff, it will be possible to simulate a mind. In the latter case I disagree because

    1 it would have to be made of the matter to be even approaching a convincing mind. Which is impossible.
    2. As we don’t know what mind is we have no way of knowing how to simulate it. I would say it is ‘made of spirit’. Of course this conclusion is based on an acceptance that there is such a thing as mind. It comes before energy if it came first and so is beyond our understanding.

    “I’m also a firm believer in functional equivalents. If I were to assemble a Ferrari from equivalent parts, it would be a functional equivalent to one built in a factory. Some would dismiss this as a “simulated Ferrari”.

    I wouldn’t if the parts all were identical to the original parts, made of the same materials densities, dimensions and colours that it would be the same thing as a Ferrari but that the name was only disallowed because the factory didn’t make it. Of course it is made of matter and by comparison completely doable given enough money and time. If it cannot be detected as a counterfeit then outside of the moral question it is the same matter. It has been simulated though.
    Simulated diamonds are now, so I’m informed, the same thing in substance as the real thing. The difference is in the romance. The real one was made over millions of years by nature. Real ones have time.

    “recognizer=classifier

    It is irrelevant how it came to be (at least until now).”

    ..but why? You’ve taken away the fact that mind came first
    I don’t disagree with your definition of understanding. I do disagree with the idea that learning is the same in a man made thing compared with a living thing. however we are not like robots. We have original thought. We have experience and the reason we know this is because we all have it. It doesn’t need a proof. To say that the robot or artificial human will have experience because we will give a good impression of doing so because we know what makes our own experience and so we can just copy that. First the designer must understand what they’re copying.

    Biomimicry always has been a fascination for designers, artists, and engineers to produce solutions and achieve an aesthetic ideal and there’s nothing wrong with this. In the London clinic they performed the first operation using a robot. There are really good reasons to do these things.
    I just, as you know, think that it should be remembered that we can’t reproduce ourselves in any other way than the usual method. The one originally intended.

    I say it was intended perhaps you say it doesn’t matter or that it came about by unguided processes.
    They can’t be mindless because you already agree that mind came first.

    It would be silly to wonder why fish can’t climb trees. I know what you’re aiming at when you say this but which ever creature you chose, even the scariest ugliest ones with too many legs have a perfection and a kind of beauty about them, not in the human sense of beauty but in the design and engineering sense. The quest to copy them with other materials seems destined only to conclude that one must use the original material in order to produce something that can do all the things as efficiently and easily. The latest I heard was that they struggle to produce something that has the thinking power of a slug. Even slugs learn. This learning must be an outcome of the inevitable set of reflexes; because programmers know how this could be done with loops or whatever they call them, it is assumed that this is all there must be to a slug. Isn’t it the same problem as ‘random number generation”…original thought, I mean?

    Eventually they would conclude they must just build a slug! Of course that would be too easy. The quest is to build one from scratch, if they can find any.

    We, designers, not me, can’t get behind the original intention, we are stuck on the material side. Mind, it seems has something of the power of the original intention.

    So the point I wanted to make the other day was that there is some kind of junction between the mind and the body. Blended or joined in an invisible undetectable way. So they can’t be separated really other than for purpose of argument. Reading is important, I will have to add your recommended book to the list. It sounds like the writer argues somehow that mind is an illusion. Which seems to conclude that because artificial intelligence can create an illusion that this must be how original minds are made up.
    That with enough neurones and complexity, something amazingly profound just appears to happen.

  20. I have a background in Indian thought and can’t help but notice how, in western thinking, consciousness, intellect and mind are terms that are often used interchangeably, and therefore end up being somewhat ambiguous.

    In most Indian philosophical traditions, a clear distinction is made between these items, with consciousness as the actual causal agent, and intellect & mind as subtle material faculties. Intellect or reasoning is considered to be higher than the mind, which stores but does not manipulate information received by the senses. Consciousness is thought to be synonymous with self (atma), and intellect & mind are instruments of the conscious self, e.g. not ‘I intellect’ or ‘I mind’ but ‘my intellect’ and ‘my mind’.

    Proposing that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain argues uniqueness, which is a double-edged sword, because the fact that the brain is a unique assemblage of matter unlike any other material configuration, could be a reason why the brain is incapable of producing consciousness rather than being the producer of consciousness. Further, this uniqueness, by dint of its very nature, has no other material examples to compare it to in order to prove one’s proposal.

  21. Joy,

    But to claim the mind is something other than interactions within the brain is an unprovable position. What I have been trying to say is that it is possible (as opposed to inevitable). The fact that changing (damaging) a brain leads to a person making very different decisions to the point of changing personality is evidence that the mind is merely a manifestation of the brain in operation. Another piece is that various aspects of the human mind also appear throughout nature leading to the surmise that the human mind is the culmination of evolution.

    Of course, there are those who would attempt to narrow definitions apparently to retain a sense of distance from the animal kingdom. As in that’s not intelligence; it’s imagination. One of the marks of intelligence is to see sameness. To grasp the essence to use a recent word-of-the-day. Find difference is a trivial task. A computer can readily find that every pixel in a photograph is different. Getting it to ignore most of those differences and extract the image is downright hard.

    There are times, though, when the sameness can be overwhelming. Facial recognition, for example. Basically, we all look alike. Two eyes placed above a nose with a mouth underneath, more or less centered on an oval with a couple of ears to either side. Here, differences become important. So, is our relationship with the animals so overwhelming the same that we must resort to finding the differences? Those who continue to refine definitions are those searching for distinctions and in the long run accomplish mostly nothing.

    Yes, its operation cannot occur in a non-living brain. When it is dead it is a lump of meat. The same can be said for an arm — something far simpler. But why it seems necessary is another question. One answer perhaps is it only seems so because we aren’t yet capable of producing anything with the same complexity as that found in a living brain.

    As for ‘original thought’, so what? You can climb trees better than a fish, too. On the other hand, the fish can breath water. Can you? But, yes, original thought might be something that marks us as different but it in no way demonstrates that a mind cannot be a manifestation of matter in operation. Our brains are more complexly wired. That alone may be all that is necessary for ‘original thought’.

    Akinchana,
    could be a reason why the brain is incapable of producing consciousness rather than being the producer of consciousness.

    Ummm… the brain is incapable of being the producer of consciousness rather than being the producer of consciousness? What did you really mean to say?

    Consciousness seems merely the focus of attention. You are parsing speech too finely, I believe. ‘My’ just means ‘that in the observer’s possession’ and little more.The same can be said for ‘life’ as in ‘my life’ opposed to ‘your life’.

    Not sure about the lack of examples. There are plenty throughout nature. However, if one insists that all things of the mind can only be in humans then one likely will never see them. Eyes wide shut.

  22. God Bless the fish.
    Dav,
    I agree with your commentary and do understand what you’re saying.
    I did try to breath water once and it doesn’t work. On diving in, the water was so cold, I breathed a gasp as I wasn’t thinking but breathed it back out under water and only a fright ensued. I felt that water go right in.

    I see the point about brain damage showing that the brain is responsible in some way for the mind to function or at the least be seen in the way we all recognise as mind.

    However, I guess we all knew this from the first time we had a conscious thought or our earliest memory, Mine were at 2 and 3.
    You can feel that thoughts are coming from the head. so that isn’t what I’m arguing. I would think everyone’s experience is similar in that they didn’t need to be told a brain existed to be convinced that the action is centred at least in the head. Neuroscience has pinned areas of brain function to a high degree in certain instances. The classic and best example being the substantia Nigra. The horseshoe shaped dark patch at the base of the brain which is one of the places where movement is controlled or modulated. Dramatic effects can be produced when this area is stimulated or not.
    However there are many clinical cases where neurology and neuroscience obviously gets things wrong. Not that many neurosurgeons or scientists don’t remain humble and admit the brain is still beyond our real understanding but some truly believe that given time we will get behind the design by reverse engineering and find the mind or show it isn’t there. It’s just a mirage. My strongly held conviction is that this will never happen.

    The examples of patients doing things neuroscience says shouldn’t happen are rather too many. The brain is like an orchestra in the way it functions with respect to pain and that is only too simplistic. Intuition is one of the best ways to approach many patients. I have to go back after the fact and rationalise the interaction into some kind of sense that has some measure of objectivity but that is an illusion really.
    Dentists have it easy.

    That’s before we even get to talk of miraculous happenings which I won’t do on here ever with all the pirañas.

    In any event I appreciate you aren’t insisting anything but quite the opposite..

    This really only matters when serious decisions have to be made. That’s all.

  23. earliest memory, Mine were at 2 and 3.

    I have two gong back to a time when my mother tells me I was only 3 months old. She had gone to a baby shower or some such in the basement of our church and was wearing some kind of brooch mad of either edible things or a mixture of edible/inedible. It’s the only time that I saw it. I remember putting part of it in my mouth. It tasted awful so I spit it out. Only much later did my mother say she remembered it too I told me I couldn’t possibly remember it because I was too young,.

    My parents never took us to church until we were about 4 or 5. When I got to the church I said “I remember this place” but it used to have a revolving door. My mother at first said I was never there before but eventually remembered the party in the basement, I distinctly remember the ceiling rotating. I think perhaps what happened is my mother walked through the door backwards and the spun around. Probably the same day as the party.

    I have memories from before I was one year old.

    In any case, back on topic, I’m agnostic in most things. I don’t know one way or the other but I hear both sides. There’s far more evidence though for the material side than the metaphysical.

    We are going to have to stop meeting like this soon. I think there’s a time limit on posting comments. I thought it was a week but apparently not.

  24. Dav: “But to claim the mind is something other than interactions within the brain is an unprovable position. What I have been trying to say is that it is possible (as opposed to inevitable). The fact that changing (damaging) a brain leads to a person making very different decisions to the point of changing personality is evidence that the mind is merely a manifestation of the brain in operation. Another piece is that various aspects of the human mind also appear throughout nature leading to the surmise that the human mind is the culmination of evolution.

    Of course, there are those who would attempt to narrow definitions apparently to retain a sense of distance from the animal kingdom. As in that’s not intelligence; it’s imagination. One of the marks of intelligence is to see sameness. To grasp the essence to use a recent word-of-the-day. Find difference is a trivial task. A computer can readily find that every pixel in a photograph is different. Getting it to ignore most of those differences and extract the image is downright hard.

    Ummm… the brain is incapable of being the producer of consciousness rather than being the producer of consciousness? What did you really mean to say?

    Consciousness seems merely the focus of attention. You are parsing speech too finely, I believe. ‘My’ just means ‘that in the observer’s possession’ and little more.The same can be said for ‘life’ as in ‘my life’ opposed to ‘your life’.

    Not sure about the lack of examples. There are plenty throughout nature. However, if one insists that all things of the mind can only be in humans then one likely will never see them. Eyes wide shut.”

    Akinchana: Please define the function of mind and that of intelligence in a succinct manner, because you seem to be using the terms interchangeably as I pointed out earlier.

    It may be argued that the bodies of all creatures are animated by a conscious self capable of external expression at a level defined by the limitations of the body it may occupy. The type of body enveloping the conscious self is appropriate to the desires and objectives of that self. One may invoke a materialistic explanation for the existence of different species if one wishes, but it may be that the process of evolution is more properly that of the conscious self increasing its awareness via movement from a lower body to a higher body.

    A damaged brain or neurological system does not necessarily mean that the original causal agent is no longer there (conscious, immaterial self), but that an interface, e.g. the brain, is unable to convey the presence of that entity accurately (or not at all). This can be compared to a sound card (audio interface) in a computer which, when damaged, cannot produce audio properly. Depending upon the type and severity of damage, the audio may exhibit various unwanted distortions or no sound at all. Further, radio and TV stations still exist and broadcast a normal signal, even if your radio or TV is damaged and unable to convey the signal to you.

    If one claims that consciousness is an emergent property of a unique assemblage of matter, i.e. the brain, then without proof of such a conjecture, it may be argued that the stated uniqueness could just as easily be a reason why consciousness could not emerge from it.

    I disagree that consciousness is merely “the focus of attention”. In my opinion, this requires greater investigation. There is determinate (savikalpaka) and indeterminate (nirvikalpaka) cognition. However, a discussion of this topic requires much explanation and perhaps is best saved for another occasion due to time constraints.

    Yes, the use of ‘my’ in natural, spontaneous thought processes is that of the sense of possession from the point of view of an observer, but what or who is that observer or seer? I naturally think (and have always thought): “my brain”, “my intelligence”, “my mind”, “my body”, etc. I use my brain, mind and body for my purposes—the aforesaid items are instruments of mine, so I should not be any of those things, but something outside of them. When you enter your house you don’t think, “I house” or when observing someone else, “you house”. When one thinks “my life” (if one is referring to the duration of bodily existence), does this not involve the activities of instruments such as the brain, intelligence, mind, etc? This (to me at least) again begs the question, what or who is the observer of the activities constituting “my life”?

    Imagine a burning candle in a dark room with a large mirror and assorted furniture. The objects in the room can be seen directly by means of the light from the actual candle, but those same objects can also be seen by means of the reflected image of the candle in the mirror. However, the perception of the room’s contents revealed by the mirror will be inverted, i.e. distorted. So, think of the conscious self as capable of direct perception in an unadulterated way but, when interacting with (identifying with) matter, the subtle material faculty of intelligence acts like the mirror in my example by reflecting consciousness and revealing objects in a distorted way, i.e. reasoning distorts or fails to reveal the actual, ontological nature of objects of perception due to its natural limitations.

  25. Akinchana’s edit of previous post to DAV:
    If one claims that consciousness is an emergent property of a unique assemblage of matter possessing a specific complexity, i.e. the brain, then without proof of such a conjecture, it may be argued that the stated uniqueness and complexity could just as easily be a reason why consciousness could not emerge from it.

    I disagree that consciousness is merely “the focus of attention”. Such an explanation diminishes the complexity of the topic. To start with, there is indeterminate (nirvikalpaka) and determinate (savivikalpaka) cognition. A simple example of indeterminate cognition is the perception of a cow, whereas a simple example of determinate perception is the perception of a cow as being a cow. The first example is non-constructed whereas the second is constructed.

    It may be argued that to think “I’m tall”, “I’m short”, etc. provides a case for the ‘identity’ theory (brain and mental states are identical), but these thoughts are equal to thinking “my body is tall”, “my body is short”, etc. as there is always an observer observing ‘tallness’, ‘shortness’, etc. If something can be observed then how can the observer be the same as that which is observed?

  26. Akinchana: That should be ‘savikalpaka’ (determinate or constructed) not ‘savivikalpaka’.

  27. Dav, That’s a lovely story. So you see you remember when you weren’t Supposed to!
    Didn’t know about the time limit. I must have broken that rule a hundred times.
    Cheers!

  28. A damaged brain or neurological system does not necessarily mean that the original causal agent is no longer there

    Perhaps but one would not expect changes in personality and decision making to be affected. A common one is the release of inhibitions when drunk. It’s as if it is the brain that is in control vs. being a tool.

    If one claims that consciousness is an emergent property of a unique assemblage of matter, i.e. the brain, then without proof of such a conjecture

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I am conjecturing. Note the use of words like possible, perhaps, and maybe.

    Please define the function of mind and that of intelligence in a succinct manner, because you seem to be using the terms interchangeably as I pointed out earlier.

    “Mind” is the operational word to refer to the whole. I’m not into psychology which seems to be an open-loop science (if you have any experience with control systems you will know what that means). The same can be said about the ramblings of philosophers when they focus on this subject.

    There is no reason that I can see to postulate metaphysical mental organs that are the seat of aspects of the mind then delve into how these imagined organs may operate. That’s where you seem to be interested. In my view mind and intelligence (the ability to process information or perhaps also the how) are inseparable therefore synonymous.

    Consciousness, unlike intelligence, can be shut off albeit mostly unwillingly (say anesthesia). It’s just awareness but that is likely the wrong word. There are many things clamoring for attention that seem to bubble up into awareness from something that (Freud?) called the subconscious. Maybe “attention” is a better word or focus.

    This thread is old. More than a week. There once was a time limit on posting and there may still be but I don’t know when last call is. It’s a topic that continually reappears. I’ll look for any reply but may not respond.

  29. DAV: “Consciousness, unlike intelligence, can be shut off albeit mostly unwillingly (say anesthesia).”

    Akinchana: Consciousness is unlikely to have been shut off during anesthesia because if one enters a state of deep sleep and, after waking, thinks “I slept well, without dreaming”, how does one remember that one slept without dreaming? Logically, one cannot remember something one has not been conscious or aware of. Therefore, in my opinion, the self was there during the temporary shut down of the waking state bodily functions, and was conscious of that state. Also, there is a continuity of existence that is maintained through any sleeping state, otherwise one would not remember what happened prior to entering the sleeping state.

    DAV: “Mind” is the operational word to refer to the whole.

    Akinchana: When one goes to a dentist’s office and has some work done, there may be some music playing in the background (usually insipid like supermarket or elevator music). After leaving, even though one might hate a particular song that was playing (especially that version of it played by some cheesy, generic orchestra), one might find that song playing in one’s thoughts. Upon realising this, one might then purposely think of something else, eradicating the unwanted refrain. The function of the mind is different from that of the intellect in that the mind is capable of accepting information without the aid of reason/intelligence, but it is the intellect that manipulates the information accepted by the mind. The mind can be thought of as an inner sense organ, responsible for sensing internal states such as emotions, feelings, etc. as well as accepting or rejecting external stimuli. If one wishes to think of this in terms of different functions of a whole, then no problem, but one should at least recognise a hierarchy of distinct functions of the thinking process.

  30. Consciousness is unlikely to have been shut off during anesthesia because if one enters a state of deep sleep and, after waking, thinks “I slept well, without dreaming”, how does one remember that one slept without dreaming?

    I don’t remember any but the last dream and only if I wake up while it is progress. You must keep in mind that human memory is plastic and many details are filled in, i.e., embellished. When I’m asleep there is still a sense of time passing. For example, if I have to awake at a particular time and not necessarily a usual time, I will often awake just before the alarm. However, having been under anesthesia there doesn’t seem any time experience. I shut my eyes and when I open them the clock has moved substantially in an instant. It’s not the same as sleep.

    If one wishes to think of this in terms of different functions of a whole, then no problem, but one should at least recognise a hierarchy of distinct functions of the thinking process.

    The danger is in confusing working hypotheses with reality. Freud made this mistake. It’s a common problem in black box analysis in general. You appear to be making it as well when you talk about various aspects of the mind as if they were actual entities with distinct properties.

  31. “Consciousness is unlikely to have been shut off during anesthesia because if one enters a state of deep sleep and, after waking, thinks “I slept well, without dreaming”, how does one remember that one slept without dreaming?”

    DAV: I don’t remember any but the last dream and only if I wake up while it is progress. You must keep in mind that human memory is plastic and many details are filled in, i.e., embellished. When I’m asleep there is still a sense of time passing. For example, if I have to awake at a particular time and not necessarily a usual time, I will often awake just before the alarm. However, having been under anesthesia there doesn’t seem any time experience. I shut my eyes and when I open them the clock has moved substantially in an instant. It’s not the same as sleep.

    Akinchana: If one can say anything whatsoever about one’s experience under the effects of an anesthetic, such as: “there doesn’t seem any time experience” (sic), then it appears to me that one must have been aware of the lack of a sense of time, which one can now remember. Otherwise, how could one describe states such as anesthesia, deep sleep, etc. if one was truly unaware or unconscious, what to speak of the capacity to make comparisons between those states? The term ‘experience’, by definition, implies the presence of consciousness. The self/soul/atma (call it what you will) is always conscious, even if that entails being conscious of the suspension of material thought processes.

    Further, it can be said that abhava (non-existence) is a special type of perception where the senses do not come into direct contact with a sense object but, despite this, allows one to be as certain about the non-existence of something as one can be about its existence. For example, if one were to make the observation that there was no car parked in one’s living room, one would have the same surety that there was no car present as one would have by observing that there was a car there, if indeed there was. The reason I bring this up is to support the idea that the self can perceive the non-existence of material thought processes during anesthesia or deep sleep, just as it can the non-existence of a book on a table. The apparent lack of thought processes during the states under discussion does not equal a lack of consciousness, because the mind, brain, etc. are not the actual self. I know of intelligence, mind, brain, arms, legs, etc. These are things that can be observed, and that which can be observed cannot be the observer—the knower cannot be that which is known.

    “If one wishes to think of this in terms of different functions of a whole, then no problem, but one should at least recognise a hierarchy of distinct functions of the thinking process.”

    DAV: The danger is in confusing working hypotheses with reality. Freud made this mistake. It’s a common problem in black box analysis in general. You appear to be making it as well when you talk about various aspects of the mind as if they were actual entities with distinct properties.

    Akinchana: What is ‘reality’? Lacking a definition of this, it will be difficult to know whether the working hypotheses you speak of might or might not be veridical with it. It may not be provable but it’s certainly not irrational to think of intellect and mind as different levels or components of matter rather than as a monolithic entity, because we can observe that a computer, for example, conceived as a whole, exhibits different functions or aspects but those functions are in fact performed by distinct components possessing distinct properties, e.g. a CPU is not a hard drive.

  32. If one can say anything whatsoever about one’s experience under the effects of an anesthetic, such as: “there doesn’t seem any time experience” (sic), then it appears to me that one must have been aware of the lack of a sense of time, which one can now remember.

    Not at all. That’s a strange idea. It’s a conclusion made after I awoke and all I remember is the conclusion along with the before and after. There was nothing between.

    Sleep is different. The sleeper is just distracted. Jab a sleeper; shine a bright light; or make a loud noise and the sleeper will likely awake. Under anesthesia, you can cut the same person open or any of do any of the countless things that would awaken a sleeper and it won’t have any effect nor will they be remembered.

    I’m in too much of hurry today to address the rest.
    Until another time,
    Cheers!

  33. swordfishtrombone

    September 19, 2016 at 6:59 am

    “Now it has been proved that an intelligent substance is a body. It follows therefore that it is not composed of matter and form”

    This doesn’t seem to make sense. Missing ‘not’?

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