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Leibniz’s Problem with Materialism — Guest Post by The Cranky Professor

In this essay, I shall consider a popular view in the philosophy of mind known as emergentism. Emergentism is a type of materialist view that says that the brain or some material in the body directly creates consciousness or more specifically that the brain is the bearer of mental states. Emergentism says that the brain, in addition to having physical or natural properties like size, weight, shape, electric charges, etc., the brain also has mental properties. This theory essentially differs from other theories like substance dualism and idealism where the conscious subject is seen as an immaterial substance of mind that somehow interacts or at least correlates with the brain. Before examining some of the problems of emergentism, a couple of things need to be pointed out.

First of all, in order for emergentism to be minimally a coherent idea it has to assume that consciousness in all its forms is distinct from the brain and other material beings. By Leibniz’s Law of Indiscernibility of Identicals, or by the principle that if two things differ in their features, then they cannot be the same entity, mental states are not identical with physical objects since they essentially differ in their features.

While material objects may have certain features like weight, size, definite measurements, divisibility, electric charge, gravitational force, being composed of smaller bits of matter, etc., mental states do not have any of these features and are therefore not strictly identical with the brain or with any material object. This holds true even if mental states are produced by the brain. After all, a causal relation does not imply an identity between consciousness and the brain just like fire producing smoke does not indicate that smoke is identical with the fire.

As a matter of fact, the way the materialist typically lays out the causal relation between consciousness and the brain implies a real distinction between consciousness and the brain. The materialist wants to say that the brain causes consciousness to exist but not the other way around and this implies a real distinction between the two entities. So emergentism, in order for it to be intelligible, has to be essentially property dualism or the idea that the brain has mental properties in addition to physical properties.

Secondly, it is often argued that since both science and experience point to the fact that the mind depends on the functions of the brain that the theory of emergentism must be true. But the problem with this argument is that the dependency of consciousness on the brain is logically compatible with other theories like idealism, substance dualism and dual-aspect monism. So emergentism is not the only theory available to explain why consciousness depends on the brain. Moreover, much of the debate about the philosophy of mind doesn’t revolve around the idea that there are correlations between brain states and mental states since that is granted by nearly all thinkers, but rather about the nature of the conscious subject.

The fact that the brain can have an impact on one’s mental life is not proof that the brain literally is the conscious subject just like the appearance of temporal flow is not proof that time actually flows. For the conscious self could be something that is distinct from the brain and the brain simply impacts the conscious self and enables the conscious self to carry out her mental life while being embodied.

While emergentism may appear to be the commonsense view of the mind and body, it is however saddled with serious problems. If one identifies the conscious self with a material object then certain problems immediately arise such as how can unconscious matter become conscious? How can a material object be clearly defined as the conscious subject? How is free will possible with emergentism? There are many problems with emergentism, but I shall only focus on a particular problem with it, viz., the problem of getting consciousness out of unconscious material.

How can unconscious matter become conscious? This problem can be illustrated in different ways. Many scientists believe that the animal kingdom started from primitive life forms like cells and bacteria and that all this evolved into more complex, conscious animals. We also know that human beings begin as a single zygote cell lacking consciousness and then later becoming conscious as they physically grow and mature. We can also illustrate this problem with science fiction scenarios and futuristic questions like will A.I. robots become subjectively aware? Could a scientist with an enough knowledge and skill, create a Frankenstein monster?

This problem is also brought forth by the famous philosopher and mathematician G.W. Leibniz who made an argument against materialism relating to this subject. Leibniz calls us to imagine a complex windmill and says that all we can observe is simply the mechanical workings of the windmill. He argues that from the mechanical operations of the windmill there is no reason at all to think that consciousness could arise from it. In other words, simply putting material parts together and having them work as a cohesive whole does nothing to explain why any thought and perception processes should arise.

In other words, the underlying metaphysical problem with unconscious matter becoming conscious is this: how can something come from nothing? If we start out with no conscious beings whatsoever, then how are we going to end up with something conscious? If a mad scientist were to try to create a Frankenstein monster starting with material that has no mental activity within it then shouldn’t the experiment end up with only organs and brains that have no consciousness in them? It’s like if one starts with nothing but orange Lego blocks then one will only get different objects composed of orange Lego blocks and not blue blocks. In similar way, it seems that if one starts with nothing but unconscious material then one will only get unconscious material in the end no matter how one assembles the material together. After all, from the lack of consciousness comes the lack of consciousness. From nothing, nothing comes. Non-existent things have no causal powers and no effects in the world, and non-existent things simply cannot bring themselves into existence.

So how might the emergentist answer this problem of getting something from nothing or mind from unconscious matter? According to JP Moreland, who has written extensively on the mind and body problem, there is one possible solution that the emergentist can offer to explain how matter can become conscious. The materialist could say that consciousness does not arise from nothing per se, but rather from potentiality. This idea of “potentiality” or “potency” comes from Aristotle. According to Aristotle, in order for things to change, they must have a potentiality or capacity within them to change from one thing to another.

How Aristotle would explain why a piece of paper becomes ashes through fire, is that paper has a potential or capacity to transform from being a sheet of paper to a pile of ashes. Notice the change doesn’t occur from nothing nor does the change come about from a thing presently being itself, the change occurs because the thing has an ability to transform into another thing or take on new properties. So the materialist could say that matter can become conscious because it has a “potential” or inner capacity to become subjectively aware.

Moreland doubts the idea that matter can have a potential to become conscious. He thinks that the problem is that it is vague and unclear how matter may have a potency to become conscious. Nonetheless, in my mind, there are at least two major problems with the solution that matter has this “Aristotelian potency” to become conscious. One, the Aristotelian theory of potentiality assumes a certain A-theory of time, and secondly, the idea that material beings can become conscious actually takes the Aristotelian notion of potentiality a step further beyond itself and implies that matter can create something out of nothing.

Let’s look at the first problem. The Aristotelian notion of potentiality and the theory of hylomorphism relies on the presentist theory of time. Take for example, a piece of a paper turning into ashes through burning up. If the paper has this potentiality in it to become a pile of ashes then this assumes that time is a series of passing moments in which only the present moment is real. This is because in order for a thing to become something else then that thing has to cease to exist and become absorbed into the new thing. So at moment 1, one has a piece of paper and that moment ceases to exist and then moment 2 comes into existence and the paper is burning; and finally moment 3 comes into being and now the paper has become a pile of ashes. Notice that in order for the paper to become the ashes the paper has to cease to be and become absorbed into the new thing. Hence, if there is to be any real metaphysical becoming then one must endorse a presentist theory of time.

However, things are different when one grants a B-theory of time where all past, present and future events are equally real. Does the paper literally become ashes with a block time theory? The answer is no. This is because the whole series of events are equally existent and so the paper cannot be said to ever be annihilated and become absorbed into the new thing. So when we see the pile of ashes at moment 3, the paper still technically exists at that earlier moment 1, and so the paper cannot be said to literally become the ashes with a B-theory of time. Hence, an Aristotelian notion of potentiality is unintelligible given a block universe theory and this seems to be at least one reason why the B-theory of time undermines materialism. Hence, not one collection of material that was once originally unconscious could be said to later become conscious given a B-theory time. After all, if the materialist cannot posit a potency in matter to become conscious with a B-theory of time then the only alternative left for the materialist is the problem of getting consciousness out of nothing or from its complete absence.

Nonetheless, leaving aside how the B-theory may undermine emergentism and the notion of potentiality, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the presentist theory of time is true and that things really “become” other things. The materialist could say that since only the present moment is real, that it may be intelligible to say that matter can become conscious. At moment 1, there only lies this collection of unconscious matter and then that moment ceases to exist and now this same collection of matter organized a certain way is now conscious at moment 2. But the problem with this is that we no longer have matter becoming something else that is strictly similar to paper becoming ashes. Instead, we actually have an instance of creation out of nothing.

In the normal process of material things appearing to become other things like water into ice, paper into ashes, honey into crystals, one has a situation in which one begins with material and then ends with material in a different formation. But to say that matter has the ability to become conscious or to produce consciousness is tantamount to saying that matter has the ability to create something out of nothing or to create something without simply configuring any pre-existent material.

Consciousness in itself is immaterial; it is not composed of matter or energy. It makes no sense to say that my thoughts about Missouri are composed of two electrons and one proton and weigh a miniscule amount. So if matter creates an immaterial thing like consciousness then it would have to create it ex nihilo. It may be for the materialist, that when matter comes under a certain structure like the brain then we can expect mental states to occur; but the mental states themselves cannot be identical with any material structure or formation like the brain. In other words, the material in any form would be producing something wholly in addition to itself if it were producing consciousness. And that is essentially a form of creation out of nothing particularly if we are assuming that all matter was originally unconscious from the start. How can matter or material substance produce something out of nothing?

Another way to illustrate this problem is to think about David Chalmers’ “zombie thought experiment“. Chalmers calls us to imagine a world where people are alive and have identical brain states and behaviors like normal people but whom all have no consciousness. These people are thus “zombies” since they have no subjective awareness and thought going on. Is it logically possible for there to be a person with identical brain states and behaviors and be alive like a normal person and yet have no thoughts and awareness? It certainly seems so as Chalmers points out because there’s no logical contradiction in the idea of a person being alive and having identical brain states and behaviors and yet having no consciousness. The idea of a zombie or a person with similar brain states that lacks consciousness is thus not a contradictory idea like a “circle-square” or something that’s a circle and at the same time not a circle but a square.

It’s evident that when we see other people with normal behaviors (and brain states going on) we can reasonably assume they are also conscious. However, the real difference between a zombie and a conscious person is not some missing chemical or some different material or bodily formation, the real difference lies in that one living organism has subjective awareness and the other does not! Therefore, since consciousness is a unique phenomenon in its own right that differs from matter and energy and the different structures and states it can take as such, then it seems that if matter creates the mind then it would have to create the mind out of nothing just like how some people think that God created the universe out of nothing about 13 billion years ago (or 10,000 years ago).

But then how can matter have this god-like power to create something out of nothing? How can it really just push consciousness from complete non-being to being? How can we expect that given a certain material structure and formation that perception and thought will immediately arise? And why does consciousness arise only from certain material structures and not from other ones like a heap of sand? If consciousness could all the sudden come into existence when a living brain is formed then why doesn’t consciousness jump into existence with other material forms like a calculator or a Lego castle? This is a problem with the traditional materialist notion that when the right states and formations of matter are met that consciousness all the sudden comes into existence. It is essentially a problem of how can we bridge the gap between non-being and being and make something that is totally non-existent become something real and existent. To my knowledge there is no reasonable solution for the materialist in this regard.

There is, of course, another possible idea known as panpsychism or the theory that all matter is conscious at least at some primitive level. In the case of panpyschism, there would not be this problem of getting something out of nothing or deriving consciousness from unconscious matter since all matter would be conscious from the beginning.

With panpsychism, consciousness simply develops as material bodies develop and evolve. Now panpsychism is another idea altogether that differs from traditional materialism or emergentism and I will treat it more thoroughly in another article. But even if we were to accept the panpsychist solution, it would only switch the problem from “how can unconscious matter become conscious” to “how can primitive conscious matter move to more intellectually developed conscious matter?” In other words, panpsychism seems to only complicate things only in a different manner. Nevertheless, my point remains the same, if the materialist or emergentist assumes that matter is initially unconscious and that it can later become conscious then this view is saddled with the severe problem of how can consciousness be moved into existence out of nothing by merely configuring matter.

48 thoughts on “Leibniz’s Problem with Materialism — Guest Post by The Cranky Professor Leave a comment

  1. “Hence, if there is to be any real metaphysical becoming then one must endorse a presentist theory of time.”

    This is not quite true. What an Aristotelean hylomorphist is committed to, is to the reality of time as the measure of change. This per se does not entail a presentist theory of time — one could endorse a growing block theory of time for example. Presentism, in its usual sense, is a narrower commitment.

  2. One is always reminded of, and cautioned by, Paul Churchland’s concept of ‘folk physics’ when it comes to popular discussions of theory of mind. The way that “we think we think” is, putting it mildly, not coterminous with sophisticated ancient, medieval, or current philosophies of mind.

    And bringing up Chalmers’ ‘zombies’ as an illustration/defense/support of an argument re materialism and mental states, should not and cannot serve the naive reader very much, because the coherence, even the conceivability, of such ‘zombies’ has been vigorously disputed. Chalmers of course has responded, but he has far from convinced his critics. For a general discussion, see here:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/

    In crude summary, critics of Chalmers’ ‘zombie idea’ say that a ‘zombie’ is a rhetorical device, not an actual coherent argument — an ‘imagination pump’, to use Daniel Dennetts’ phrase. It leads our thinking in a particular direction, without being an actual advance of the argument.

    By extension, obviously, Leibniz’s windmill analogy is well-known to current philosophers of mind; and yes, few of them could possibly be as smart as a real genius like Leibniz; still, many of these ‘dullards’ are as little convinced by windmills, as by ‘zombies’. Perhaps even blind squirrels find acorns occasionally; or perhaps it is as simple as, even geniuses will have holes in their thinking, and make mistakes.

    Or maybe Leibniz and Chalmers are right. My only point is, it is not ‘obvious’ that they are right, in the sense that current philosophers of mind, who study these kinds of things for a living, can find no reason to doubt them. In fact, many do find reasons to doubt these illustrations, and they have said so.

    On behalf us us amateurs, who only know “how we think we think,” and that’s about all, I’d welcome a super-genius who can resolve these issues to everyone’s satisfaction, but until then….

  3. robots become subjectively aware

    Subjectively? As in, it’s only their opinion they are aware?
    How does “subjective awareness” differ from “plain old awareness”?

    So the materialist could say that matter can become conscious because it has a “potential” or inner capacity to become subjectively aware

    Not “could say” — they ARE saying it.
    The entire paragraph is a waste of bandwidth.

    how can unconscious matter become conscious

    The problem is seeing the brain and nervous system as a pile of meat essentially identical with a pile of steaks and ignoring that how it is put together could lead to consciousness.

    Consciousness in itself is immaterial; it is not composed of matter or energy.

    This may be the root of the problem. We don’t really know what “Consciousness” is although we have some categorical and functional definitions of it and we certainly don’t know how it might arise. That it is “immaterial” just seems “right” but we really don’t know that.

    It may be for the materialist, that when matter comes under a certain structure like the brain then we can expect mental states to occur; but the mental states themselves cannot be identical with any material structure or formation like the brain. In other words, the material in any form would be producing something wholly in addition to itself if it were producing consciousness.

    If “consciousness” comes about because of the way neurons are interconnected and the interconnection causes the neurons to change physical states are those states immaterial? Is any resulting energy flow immaterial?

    Those states won’t be in addition to the formation of the brain. The brain would be physically changing along with those state changes.

    A CPU chip is defined by the way its components are interconnected. The components change state as the CPU changes state. Is a working CPU immaterial? Or is it composed of physical energy states corresponding to the states of its components?

    Asking how a consciousness can occur from a pile of meat (neurons) seems the same as asking how a bunch of transistors can become a CPU.

    Note that a “working CPU” must be powered on to function as a CPU. The interconnections alone won’t act as one without the addition of power. But that’s life.

  4. Trying to find proof of god again via a cockamamie philosophical argument shamelessly designed to preserve the notion of “soul” (aka consciousness) are we, again?

    Not saying that’s the underlying motive, but not saying it isn’t either.

    But it looks that way: “…how might the emergentist answer this problem of getting something from nothing or mind from unconscious matter?”

    Why resort to philosophy when we can test, experiment, collect objective data?

    A section of brain dies, so departs a particular facet of consciousness. And when the same part of the brain is damaged/destroyed in different people the same type of loss of consciousness occurs. There’s correlation suggesting causation, predictably and reliably.

    If one wants to believe consciousness (a manifestation of “soul”) is real and is a separate entity from the body (matter), where does it go in stroke and other brain-damage victims? Is god, or Satan, harvesting some souls in bite-size chunks incrementally over time? Might some parts go up and some down (i.e., might god & Satan split a soul)? And if that’s what’s happening, why are the same parts of the brain being damaged at the same time? If conscious is not linked to brain matter, where is it going and how is the brain so consistently correlating if not being a causal factor?

    Given what we know, what we can see and literally even touch, brain produces consciousness. Just because we don’t know how is no basis to conclude that can’t be what’s happening (any more than not understanding gravity is a basis for the ancients to assert the Earth must be flat, not a sphere).

    Applying philosophy to problems having tangible, testable, features (and, yes, even experimental features via animal testing) is a very effective way of pretending one is addressing a problem while sidestepping inconvenient elements of the problem. Of course, for those inconveniences simply invoke “scientism” to dismiss them out of hand.

  5. Strokes kill parts of the brain, portions of consciousness depart in predictable ways. Correlation or cause & effect? After enough observations, one can be confident that such tangible observations constitute cause-effect relationships.

    Just because we don’t know/cannot explain how consciousness arises out of a brain (“matter”) doesn’t mean that ignorance is justification for refuting repeated/repeatable observations that consciousness is a manifestation of brain — anymore than asserting that because we cannot explain gravity that therefore this force doesn’t exist and the Earth must be flat. There’s a profoundly compelling logic supporting the false conclusions, and those false conclusions can be maintained only if other relevant facts are excluded from consideration.

    The whole piece is a contrived attempt to prop up a belief that consciousness is somehow intangible and severable from a body, that consciousness is “soul” (making this an indirect proof for god) — though this extrapolation is not stated we can be confident of the motivation (that per past precedents). The contrivance is presenting flimsy philosophical arguments, then refuting them, when tangible measure able, physical observation & experimentation exist, but are ignored.

    It’s kind of like this:

    “In the year of our Lord 1432, there arose a grievous quarrel among
    the brethren over the number of teeth in the mouth of a horse. For 13
    days the disputation raged without ceasing…”.
    – The parable is usually attributed to Francis Bacon (1561-1626),
    rarely to Roger Bacon (1214-1292).

    Or, accept the view that consciousness is independent of the body. Where does it go when it departs in bits & pieces such as observed in stroke, accident (especially soldiers) victims?

  6. Paper becomimg ashes is a composite object (complicated arrangements of atoms) becomimg different composite objects, the atoms are arranged in another way (oxygen has been added and water and carbon dioxide has moved away). So you have paper and oxygen atoms at one point in time, and ashes and water and carbon dioxide vapours the next time. The reaction itself also takes a tiny bit ot time, probably, as changing the arrangements takes time, at what point in time is the water molecule a separate composite object, given that it has a finite size and a finite speed.

    Regarding the brain state, there is such a thing as the state of a running program. It consists of particular arrangements of electrons, one arrangement representing a 0 (zero), another arrangement representing a 1 (one). A bunch(like 8, or 16, or 12) of 1 and 0 is a number, and that number can represent something else, like a letter, or an CPU instruction.

    Looking at the state of a running program then consists of looking at the representation all those numbers together generate. A proper computer even allows you to look at the different levels, the top end showing the highest level of abstraction, the things the prorgram shows to the user, all the way down to the numbers the CPU uses while executing the program.

    So at the lowest level you have a clearly defined physical state. You cannot see the text I am writing right now at that level, but you can see all the 1’s and 0’s. Move up a couple of levels and at some point you see the letters, and at an even higher level you see words and sentences. At the top level you see this post.

    And the only way to see the post itself is at that highest level. Go to the level, at which the characters are visible, and you still do not see how these characters are being arranged in order to make up this post. All the other 1’s and 0’s inside the computer will guarantuee the arrangement (if the program is properly written) but it is completely invisible at the character level.

    So, even if a computer were consious, which is much harder to arrange than a post on a website, you still could not see it happening when you look inside the computer at the instructions and data that make the computer concious.

  7. Grodrigues, yes it’s possible to outwardly endorse hylomorphism and a growing block theory of time. I think Linda Zagzebski would be one example of this. There is, of course, a kind of temporal becoming or change with any A-theory of time in terms of a moving exclusive present moment going on. But the point remains the same, if something is literally to become another thing then that thing has to cease to be and become absorbed into the new thing which requires a presentist version of the A series. You always have the paper remaining at that earlier moment even when the ashes come about at the later time with a growing block theory. And if potency per se is compatible with a growing block theory then would it be compatible with an eternalist theory like block universe? Something to think about

  8. Ok so Dav states,

    “Those (mental) states won’t be in addition to the formation of the brain”

    Yeah they would, otherwise why say that anything in particular arises from the brain? Besides conscious states,( feelings, sensations, beliefs, thoughts, desires and memories )are not literally identical with the brain or with neurons firing in electro-chemical processes even if consciousness is produced by the brain. My thoughts are about something, my neurons are not about anything, they just are. My brain has a certain weight and mass to it, but I can’t say the same thing about any of my conscious states.

    Moreover, the problem with identifying mental states with the brain or with matter in motion in the brain, is that not only does this seem to be wrong with the contrasting features among them, but it’s also inconsistent with the materialist definition of a physical entity. The materialist wants to say that material objects (matter and energy) exist as EXTRA-MENTAL, external physical substances or particulars with properties. That is, they want to say that a chair, or table or a brain exists as an external object that’s outside my mind or conscious states and that such objects exist outside other minds and that physical entities are not something merely mental. So if material entities are extra-mental or non-mental entities given the materialist paradigm then how can consciousness be identical with something that is extra-mental ? Otherwise, if material objects can have an identification with the mental then perhaps idealism would be the way go since an idealist like Berkeley would say that material objects are only mental entities or perceived objects among minds.

  9. All Christians are idealists, or should be.
    “since an idealist like Berkeley would say that material objects are only mental entities or perceived objects among minds.”
    The claim is not that the material world isn’t real.
    Objects exist, but they need a mind to experience them.
    In such a world view God makes perfect sense.
    Mind is not derivative but in some way a foundation for the universe and matter.
    So matter relies upon the mind.

  10. Tom Vonk told me years ago that people who had no experience working in hilbertian spaces would find it mysterious!

    So if that’s the really real then everything experienced empiracly in order to have reached that state of hilberian superior knowledge has derived from mind first.

    Brain states exist, but only the same way that “cell states” do.
    “Brain states” are imagined frozen moments in time. Consciousness requires real time as well.
    In my view.
    Talk of Brain states is an explanatory thing. Real minds and bodys are rolling, never static.
    Mind affects the body. Body affects the mind.

  11. DAV: “If “consciousness” comes about because of the way neurons are interconnected and the interconnection causes the neurons to change physical states … Those (mental) states won’t be in addition to the formation of the brain”
    dan: Yeah they would, otherwise why say that anything in particular arises from the brain?

    Because when it arises the brain has changed. It is now in a different state. The formation of the brain didn’t stop. If what was meant was “in addition to the INITIAL formation of the brain” then OK.

    Besides conscious states,( feelings, sensations, beliefs, thoughts, desires and memories )are not literally identical with the brain or with neurons firing in electro-chemical processes even if consciousness is produced by the brain. My thoughts are about something, my neurons are not about anything, they just are.

    How do you know they aren’t identical with the brain or with neurons firing in electro-chemical processes? Just because no one has found a correspondence yet?

    My brain has a certain weight and mass to it, but I can’t say the same thing about any of my conscious states.

    When a CPU changes state its weight doesn’t change — at least not in an appreciable or measurable way. Why would the brain’s weight be different when changing states?

    The materialist wants to say that material objects (matter and energy) exist as EXTRA-MENTAL … That is, they want to say that a chair, or table or a brain exists as an external object that’s outside my mind or conscious states and that such objects exist outside other minds and that physical entities are not something merely mental

    I think I captured the essence of what you said. I don’t want to repost the whole thing.

    I’m not so sure they do want to say that. In fact, I think they are not. Nonetheless, I don’t see how something that is immaterial (i.e., non-physical) can affect anything physical. How for instance can non-physical thoughts cause an arm to move? If the brain could interact with the non-physical it would be the only thing in the world which can. How would it do that?

    Saying that thoughts are somehow non-physical reminds me of “scientific” ghost chasers trying to measure the presence of immaterial things (i.e., ghosts) with physical measurements like EM field strength. So that is claiming that not only does the non-physical (the mind) interact with living brains during life but continue to interact with the world in general after death. And why these things can’t be detected in a living person is curious.

  12. Joy,

    Brain states exist, but only the same way that “cell states” do.
    “Brain states” are imagined frozen moments in time.

    I think they are synonymous with neuron states. At any given time, a neuron is either activated or not (assuming only two states). Seems like “cell states” to me. The brain’s state would be the sum of these. There is no reason to imagine them frozen in time but it may be convenient when discussing state changes.

    Mind affects the body. Body affects the mind.
    If the mind is non-physical how would that happen?

  13. I still contend that the brain is only the physical organ that connects the physical world of sense and motor with the metaphysical mind of Understanding.

    If the communication lines are lost it does not mean that either the sender or receiver do not exist.

  14. Anyone who believes the neural architecture can be compared to the operations of a CPU, and, in particular a Von Neumann architecture, is full of completely digested steaks.

  15. Joy,

    No rush. It’s a hard question to answer.

    Trigger,

    I suspect you have in mind all of the differences between CPUs and brains. Until similarities become overwhelming (as in say, facial recognition) finding differences is trivial to the point that it could be encoded in one or two lines of software.

    The similarities I see are: a large number of identical components (transistors in one and neurons in the other) and it’s the interconnections between them (and thus the restriction of energy flow) that defines their operation. I picked the CPU because of its complexity and also because both the brain and CPU have areas devoted to particular functionality. I mentioned these in another post.

    All too often, there is a kind of myopia that leads to an inability to see beyond particular implementations. For example, the clocking within the CPU which is an elegant solution greatly simplifying the design. Scale is another. So is sequential operation. The brain certainly beats any CPU design in terms of scale; is vastly parallel; and doesn’t seem to employ any clocking (at least in a general way). There are however algorithms that don’t need clocking. But that’s for another day.

  16. For a full explanation of “awake”, that physical experience, requires a physical and an experiential part.

    ““Seems like “cell states” to me. The brain’s state would be the sum of these.”
    Yes, it’s a description of brain activity at a given time in a given example.
    Awareness is as real as matter. It appears completely distinct from it. It’s not simply a different kind of matter.
    “There is no reason to imagine them frozen in time but it may be convenient when discussing state changes.”
    They are said to correlate with thoughts and experiences. The side effect seems to be that mind is (not deliberately) explained away during an explanation of process. Like so:
    “The brain decides”, “Our brains decide”, “we weigh the world” at a given moment. The brain state is correlated with what we experience but who is we and us? Who’s in charge of perception? It always struck me with anatomy and physiology of vision. The visual cortex itself still hasn’t explained the leap to vision. Even with all the association centres to the personal experience. Same for all the other brain functions relating to human experience.
    …?“~Mind affects the body. Body affects the mind.~
    If the mind is non-physical how would that happen?”

    If there is nothing but physical matter then the concept becomes impossible. I don’t think you meant that.

    If the entire person were only physical it’s not clear to me how consciousness could happen. Brain activity alone couldn’t because there’d be nothing to witness it! The being is doing the perceiving with the associated material. So how the two connect is mysterious but they do. Not like train carriages. It’s not impossible though. Other experiences lead me to decide it must be so.
    Humans develop from experience.
    Science, books, experimentation, are expression of knowledge and parcels of information, which all start with experience. Both are essential to learning but I think the mind came first.

    Something has to transcend the material to be able to ‘recognise’ or realise the material, to judge, to appreciate it.

    The system isn’t only digital. “Fire or not fire” is binary, mechanical and unconscious. Consciousness then would seem to be superfluous.
    When some pain *or pleasure, occurs the brain weighs the situation, using all the inputs from the source, influenced by many incidental general matters to do with wellness, memories, beliefs, which affect whether pain is necessary and whether to produce endorphins. It happens so fast as to seem totally subconscious.
    It’s only mostly subconscious, automatic. It requires both elements. Without the mind, it cannot happen. Pre-existing belief and knowledge come in. Patients who are, or believe they are, trapped, at time of serious injury are likely to continue as it were in a tangled ‘pain state’. Not due to some insanity, either. Hope and despair aren’t made of anything but their effects are real. I’m saying those things are not material.
    People just mind their language to keep things looking objective/clinical. Not to be deceitful. “brain” not mind. “brain state”, not thought, and so on. Objectivity is vital for sorting out complex problems.

    It is a clue not incidental to the bigger picture. Matter doesn’t explain itself, it takes a person.
    Tissue damage can be measured. It isn’t necessarily correlated with symptoms. Awareness of, knowledge of, beliefs about, the situation and other situations play a role in the resultant, actual, “physical experience”. Thresholds and other physical parts of body make up alone don’t explain this. Belief, information, good or bad, have a profound effect. Belief or conviction about any thing not fully known. How does matter alone explain? A flow chart isn’t the experience. Matter alone is not experiential. Beings are needed for that.
    If the world is to be assumed dogmatically material then all the rest is a waste of time. Literally., yet somehow, people know it isn’t.
    Sometimes I think this way of thinking is considered too easy and therefore must be wrong. I can see It’s certainly not a help in ‘ai’ R and D.

  17. If the entire person were only physical it’s not clear to me how consciousness could happen.
    Well, since no one knows how consciousness happens that would seem to be a tautology. One thing, though, is if consciousness is metaphysical, our understanding of how it comes to be is forever stymied. Seems best to assume it is physical.

    Brain activity alone couldn’t because there’d be nothing to witness it!
    Not at all. It would be the brain witnessing its own operation.

    The system isn’t only digital. “Fire or not fire” is binary, mechanical and unconscious. Consciousness then would seem to be superfluous.
    Binary is not a bad thing. Neither is digital. FYI: digital computers built today are actually assembled from non-digital components. The binary states are imposed by design. When a gate is transitioning between states it passes through a region which is neither one nor zero. Clocking is used to ensure looking at the gate only after its output has settled.

    Why is “mechanical” “unconscious” ? Because it is purely physical? That seems to be conceding that “consciousness” is something non-physical. Other than saying, “it just seems so”, how do you know that is non-physical?

    Something has to transcend the material to be able to ‘recognise’ or realise the material, to judge, to appreciate it.

    Essentially, “understanding” the material.

    “Understanding” is one of those vague words we think we know the meaning of but really don’t. If seems clear though that it entails that our “knowledge” (another vague word) is highly linked. This linking is what we likely mean by “understanding”. This “understanding” likely consists of concepts linked together with other concepts to form larger concepts. (Which of course, leads to “whatever is a concept?”).

    When pressed to say what you mean by “chair” you will probably give a small overview of this concept linking; some of which may involve idealized chairs.

    When asked what does “God” mean to you, you would do the same thing but using different concepts starting perhaps with the word itself and the proceed to describe how it links to other concepts.

    I see no reason why this linking can’t be encoded physically within the brain. People with brain damage seem to lose knowledge which indicates that it does indeed reside within the brain.

    So, earlier you said: Mind affects the body. Body affects the mind.
    Not only do I ask “How can this happen?”
    but also “Why would the mind need the brain?”
    and “If the mind is non-physical, how can it interact with a physical brain?”
    and “Why is the brain the only known thing that can communicate with the non-physical?”

    YOS’s (and presumably philosophy’s) answer to the above, despite all of the verbiage, is: “It just does”.

    “Consciousness” just seems to mean the focus of attention. That focus darts about. We are only briefly aware of our surroundings from moment to moment but weave those moments into a coherent tapestry. There are many things we do that we remain blissfully unaware of.

    Using reading as an example:
    o) level one: image impinging the eye are rendered as pixels
    o) level two: pixels are arranged (connected) into lines and circles
    o) level three: lines and circles are assembled into letters
    o) level four: letters are assembled into possible words
    o) level five: words are assembled into sentences
    o) levels six and beyond: the sentences are assembled into concepts and compared to other concepts.

    Of the above, we are likely only aware of things starting at level six. The first five (which may include feedback that I’ve omitted for brevity) can pretty much be done with software using today’s computers employing recognizer algorithms. Recognizers are binary operators (or at least can be represented with only binary operators). They form the lexical analysis part which is basically driven by syntax. Level six is where “understanding” begins to come into play (not that it can’t influence earlier levels). The latter is a hard problem to date and may never be solved using current technology (assuming it is entirely physical). Primarily, it needs massive parallelization that only a brain can provide as yet.

    “Self-awareness” is just another layer of recognizers and linked concepts. I see no reason that it is essentially different than lower layers.

    FWIW: syntax is not devoid of information but is restricted to determining what kinds of words and word arrangements are to follow. Why anyone would think it is sufficient in itself is beyond me. Even a computer language processor doesn’t rely on syntax alone.

  18. Empiricists! Materialists! If thought and understanding are just chemical then their ridiculous ideology that deliberately ignores the simple and the obvious must be the result of some serious chemical deficiency.

    The simple and obvious: what is the difference between a freshly dead organism and a live one? All the chemicals in a dead body are still present in the right proportions and organisational complexity that never ever occurs outside of a living thing… surely it could spontaneously regenerate into another living organism… all the “Evolutionary” magic that supposedly takes millions of years is already done!

    Answer: The metaphysical “thing” or “stuff” that we call “life” that makes it all work is gone. Life does not create itself out of chemistry. A dead organism always begins to degenerate into the chemically simplest components. Life must be antecedent and transmitted from another life to organise the chemistry of a live organism. Too simple, no doubt, for anyone pretending to be smarter than God! because anyone at all with the use of reason and observation can “see” that it is always and everywhere the case.

    As Joy is cautiously proposing, mind cannot be explained by mere “brain chemistry” any more than life can be explained by physical/chemical metabolism. I contend, again, that the brain is the physical organ that connects the physical world of sense and motor to the metaphysical mind. If the brain is damaged or otherwise impaired it only means that the connection is faulty… that the mind cannot be reliably fed by the senses and/or vice versa.

    The main problem with Materialism is that it is an ideology technically insane (out of touch with reality) on every level.

  19. The simple and obvious: what is the difference between a freshly dead organism and a live one?
    Same as the difference between a car with the engine running and one which is not: it is off and has no power. All the chemicals in a running one are still present in the right proportions and organisational complexity. Surely it could spontaneously turn back on.

    Actually, it’s doubtful that the same organizational complexity exists in the body after death. In fact, it was probably vanishing prior to death. Death occurs due to old age where the body has run itself into the ground or by accident where the body is destroyed. Either way it isn’t the same in death as when living. it likely wouldn’t be possible to turn it back on even if we knew how.

    I contend, again, that the brain is the physical organ that connects the physical world of sense and motor to the metaphysical mind
    The brain then is the only thing in the world that can interact with the metaphysical. There are no other instances. What supports this idea of interaction between the physical and metaphysical worlds?

    If the brain is damaged or otherwise impaired it only means that the connection is faulty… that the mind cannot be reliably fed by the senses and/or vice versa.
    If it can interact with the brain then why can’t it interact with the world without it? Why does the mind, which exists in the metaphysical world, need the brain at all? What is so special about the brain that allows this interaction which doesn’t seem to occur in any other physical thing? Why, for that matter, does the mind need to interact with the physical world at all?

  20. No Dav, consciousness is obviously not physical or material per se. It’s not of itself composed of atoms or any material. Consciousness is simply being aware of something in some form or another. It’s what it’s like to be a human being, a cat or a mouse so to speak. A material object by contrast is an entity that occupies space and generally has features of weight, size, motion, electric charge, gravitational force, energy and divisibility. Consciousness and thought doesn’t have those features. That’s already a difference right there. The difference between a normal living conscious person versus a zombie of Chalmer’s description (if one were to exist) is not a physical difference but a mental difference. Both have normal brain states and behaviors it’s just that one has consciousness or what it’s like to be human and the other does not.

    You even admit that you don’t quite know how the materialist would define a material object as you say “I’m not so sure they want to say that in fact I think they are not” . Then why accept a position you don’t quite understand? Physicalism, which is a type of materialism is the idea only physical entities exist and it holds that nothing but extra-mental material particulars and their properties exist. But this is evidently false because consciousness exists and so not everything can be a non-mental, external material object. And nor can consciousness be reduced to material objects if they are extra-mental entities themselves. That would be like saying that thought can be identical with a platonic form. And consciousness cannot be identified with material objects at all. That would be a fallacy of reductionism.

    Moreover, if physicalism were true there would be no truth and no logic. Why? Truth and logic require entities of meaning that bear truth and falsity and logical validity and invalidity. And meaning – that which we understand as expressed by language and thought – is immaterial and not material. There are logically valid and invalid syllogisms or arguments or lines of meanings but there are no logically valid or invalid chairs, tables, neurons, and computers. And if you doubt this then gives us one example of a physical object that is logically invalid or valid.

    Also with computers and CPUs there is only syntax but no semenatics or understanding of language. And the same is true of robots. So the mind cannot be wholly explained by how a machine works because minds have understanding of meanings.

    Now a lot can be said about the so-called “interaction” problem in substance dualism viz., Descartes’ dualism. But I’ve never seen a definite proof that two substances of different orders cannot causally interact. And asserting that they cannot causally interact is not the same thing as proving they cannot interact. Plus there are many different forms of dualism, some of them that may better avoid the interaction problem then that of Descartes’ version. Moreover, even if the interaction problem were a knock down proof it wouldn’t even absolutely disprove substance dualism per se since the substance dualist could deny that the two substances causally interact but only appear to interact and endorse parallelism.

    Also it’s worth noting that with idealism like in Berkeley and Edwards, or what Joy seems to be advocating here, there’s no interaction problem or a causal interaction between the mind and extra-mental physical substances like in dualism since physical substances are denied and physical objects are reduced to mental entities or ideas among minds. So cause and effect would only exist in the realm of the mental for the idealist. And this seems to be an advantage according to the proponents of idealism or the idea that only minds and their ideas exist.

    And yeah I would agree with Old David that the origin of life is also a problem for materialists. I’m not sure how I would define life but it’s problematic to think that a bunch of unliving material is going to assemble itself together by blind chance and form a single living cell and start a whole chain of evolution despite all the huge mathematical probabilities against it. But that’s a whole different subject altogether.

  21. consciousness is obviously not physical or material per se. It’s not of itself composed of atoms or any material. Consciousness is simply being aware of something in some form or another. It’s what it’s like to be a human being, a cat or a mouse so to speak. A material object by contrast is an entity that occupies space and generally has features of weight, size, motion, electric charge, gravitational force, energy and divisibility. Consciousness and thought doesn’t have those features.

    So then software, which doesn’t occupy space and generally has no features of weight, size, motion, gravitational force is also non-physical?

    Actually, software can exist within a computer only by state changes which in turn exist because of electrical charge positions in RAM or by changes in energy flow paths with physical connections in, say, ROMs with fusible links.

    Oh, yeah, you threw in electrical force.

    How do you know the mind doesn’t exist because of interconnections and energy state flows within a brain? Why is this “obvious”?

    there’s no interaction problem or a causal interaction between the mind and extra-mental physical substances like in dualism since physical substances are denied and physical objects are reduced to mental entities or ideas among minds
    So, somehow the mind is composed of some other substance (which is apparently a non-physical) that can interact with physical substances.

    You do realize that this is merely saying there’s a body and a mind that are separate things — which is the point of contention. How does this deepen our understanding? It’s a bit like explaining life by saying there are living things and non-living things and there is something different between the two.

    Yes, there is a problem with mind/body interaction if one of them is non-physical.
    1) how does it work?
    2) why does it only work with a living brain?
    3) why can’t this non-physical substance interact with other things?
    4) basically, why is the brain necessary?

    he origin of life is also a problem for materialists
    Yes but mainly because humans can only recognize the existence of “life” but otherwise have no idea what it is. We, meaning materialists and non-materialists alike, are in the same position as earlier humans trying to explain why birds fly while lacking an understanding of aerodynamics. In fact, the problem is similar n many ways to understanding the mind and consciousness.

  22. SOMEBODY: The materialist wants to say that material objects (matter and energy) exist as EXTRA-MENTAL … That is, they want to say that a chair, or table or a brain exists as an external object that’s outside my mind or conscious states and that such objects exist outside other minds and that physical entities are not something merely mental

    DG: You even admit that you don’t quite know how the materialist would define a material object as you say “I’m not so sure they want to say that in fact I think they are not”

    What I was saying is that I don’t know of any materialist that wants to say material objects (matter and energy) exist as EXTRA-MENTAL and outside my mind, in particular the brain, but am leaving open the possibility that some have said so. Still, I think that none have.

  23. Also with computers and CPUs there is only syntax but no semenatics or understanding of language. And the same is true of robots. So the mind cannot be wholly explained by how a machine works because minds have understanding of meanings.

    But syntax IS a an understanding of language if only rudimentary. What you meant, apparently, was that the meaning of the sentences is unknown to CPUs and robots.

    First, the CPU is the medium and is a general purpose machine. It becomes a specific machine when software is added.

    Secondly, you are embedded in the myopia that current implementations are the only ones possible. You can’t say that once we get a deeper understanding of the mind we won’t be able to build machines with minds.

    For the longest time, we didn’t understand how birds can fly but along came aerodynamics and we now have flying machines. Without the understanding that aerodynamics supplies we were stuck with guessing things like pasting feathers on planks would enable flight and then realizing that doesn’t work. What you are doing is the similar.

  24. “But syntax IS an understanding of language if only rudimentary”

    Really? So you think your computer actually understands “1+1=2”?

    “What I was saying is that I don’t know of any materialist that wants to say that material objects (matter and energy) exists as EXTRA MENTAL and outside my mind”

    Well if that’s the case, and material objects are only perceived mental entities among minds like in a dream then you have idealism, not materialism and not physicalism. If a chair, a table or even the brain has no existence independently of being perceived by minds then material objects are then mind-dependent entities which means the physical world here has its origin in mind and not the other way around as the materialist often wants to say with their view that the brain produces the mind.

    I think you got your metaphysical philosophies mixed up here. At any rate, I don’t see how unconscious matter assembled in any form is going to produce consciousness. That would be too big of leap here.

  25. “But syntax IS an understanding of language if only rudimentary”
    Really? So you think your computer actually understands “1+1=2”?

    Not from syntax which says etc.
    It doesn’t give the meaning of an expression.
    When a number is encountered with this syntax, the next thing expected is an operator or end of expression. There is nothing else to understand given the syntax.

    Looks like you don’t know the difference between syntax and semantics.

    Well if that’s the case, and material objects are only perceived mental entities among minds like in a dream then you have idealism, not materialism and not physicalism. ….

    You clearly haven’t a clue as to what I have said, do you?

  26. Not from syntax which says etc.
    Rats. I used angle brackets to represent metasymbols. The blog ate them.

    Should have said (sans metasymbol flags): Not from syntax which says number operator number etc.

  27. Dav,
    It does seem reasonable to assume it’s only physical in certain/most, situations. Until anything happens to make you change your mind.
    …?On self awareness as purely physical“
    It would be the brain witnessing its own operation.” Yes if it’s just physical but the word witness would be overelaborate, even false, without awareness as we perceive it..
    If it were constructed artificially, It would be concluding what was prewritten into it’s system wouldn’t it? It couldn’t be free from it’s master mind, or architect.
    I don’t think binary or digital are bad per se. In other contexts. The flash harry false dichotomy is used and abused by people with ill intent, and is even a deliberate way to induce hopelessness. It was to point out the insufficiency for anything to cross to appreciation of matter. Considering what you said about reading, isn’t it at ‘level six ‘, where the limit of human understanding restricts any horizon that’s depending on it for validity?
    It seems to be the level of not just intellectual type juggling which is just complex, but being alive, that type of knowing.

    Were you referring to firmware? Introduction of
    time for processing sequences? Processes must be orchestrated and controlled, moderated. I don’t know enough about computer architecture.
    The gate example: Isn’t it an example of requiring another mind to have anticipated the need for the system to check?

    “Why is “mechanical” “unconscious”? Because it is purely physical? That seems to be conceding that “consciousness” is something non-physical.“
    All mechanical and computational things I know are just physical. So it would seem to follow as you argue that consciousness is more of the same, nothing different.
    I just don’t believe I’m personally constructed differently, nor that the existence of metaphysical things, ‘meaning’ itself, implies that they are just more evidence of the same matter but in self check mode, or even a by-product, which would make each person a slave.

    “Other than saying, “it just seems so”, how do you know that is non-physical?” Life experience, (Personal, things, won’t say.) Metaphysical things are not physical and that’s a clue, we interact with them. I’m not saying the brain isn’t physical but there are two aspects to living brains.

    People with brain damage seem to lose knowledge which indicates that it does indeed reside within the brain.”
    It also resides within a CD or a book. Without a brain to build that complex tapestry, to experience all or part of the universe, there is literally no universe! Meaning is primary, matter is secondary. A materialist would argue this is just what happens when you’re dead. I have good reasons to strongly suspect that death is not the end. It is an end. When I doubt it, something happens to make me change my mind.

  28. “So, earlier you said: Mind affects the body. Body affects the mind.”?That is not a controversial statement. It is the state of current understanding except it is not actually viewed that way in practice. It is all one thing. Splitting it up is for explanation and investigation, examination. Substitute “brain” instead of “mind” in that quote. So what I’m saying is there is more to the body than process. Processes have purpose. Why is it only when it comes to life that purpose is said to be absent?
    …?“Why would the mind need the brain?” Why would the person need the brain? To communicate, interact and participate within the universe as it is.
    ?and “If the mind is non-physical, how can it interact with a physical brain?” In the way that you know the concept of ‘meaning’ or ‘value’ even before you know all about it. I’m Emotion is all part of thinking. It’s all tied together. Anything else is a pretence, as dodgeball games demonstrate. ?(“…and ,
    “Why is the brain the only known thing that can communicate with the non-physical?”
    I’m not sure why it matters. It seems it’s just the only ‘known’ thing. Why do you ask?
    To say consciousness is only the focus of attention is sufficient in most circumstances, not a bad description. It ignores the participatory, aspect. Not needed for making cups of tea or brain surgery. Which are highly procedural.
    For the robotophobes, the world’s first prostate surgery was done by a Robot in The London Clinic if I recall correctly.

    “Self-awareness” is just another layer of recognisers and linked concepts. I see no reason that it is essentially different than lower layers.”
    The difference seems to be in the combination of being and understanding compared with the passive nature of the computer. A genius may have a greater and greater ability to ‘handle’ and manipulate abstracts but what he’s doing is no more amazing than a child where it comes to consciousness. In some ways he’s less aware. If he can’t tell anybody about it either, then there is no use nor purpose in it. So participation and communication is key. Perfect information and the pursuit of it.

    Syntax is computer grammar isn’t it?

    Why anyone would think it is sufficient in itself is beyond me. Even a computer language processor doesn’t rely on syntax alone. “
    Didn’t mean to oversimplify the situation.
    There’s an element of arguing from incredulity in both sides of this discussion because nobody really knows the future. I don’t blame you for being incredulous! I am.

  29. Joy,
    A lot to process 🙂
    Let me start here on language:

    Syntax is computer grammar isn’t it?

    No. Syntax is that part of language involved with the construction of sentences and expressions. That stuff you learned in grammar class about parsing sentences was learning English syntax. “Grammar” generally means just syntax but syntax alone is useless.

    Computer languages do have syntax but they also have semantics: what the statements and expressions mean. Most, if not all, computer languages are translation tools to convert higher level statements into the basic language of the machine. The current level of development restricts the machine’s knowledge of meaning (semantics) to what the higher level constructs mean in terms of the machine’s internal language. The machine’s internal language is extremely specific and, for human’s very error prone and hard to verify correctness. It’s the reason why higher level languages were developed The machine didn’t acquire its language knowledge on its own which, to some, implies they have no understanding. I disagree. It’s just built-in.

    Some computer languages allow the computer to modify its own programming. The line between high level and low level becomes blurred.

    Didn’t mean to oversimplify the situation.
    You didn’t but YOS frequently does. He seems to be under the impression that computers only understand (he would object to that word as well) syntax and they are merely pushing symbols about without knowing the meaning. Granted, the machine’s knowledge is far from deep but it’s still knowledge and the meaning isn’t the same as a human’s.

    Humans seem to have a built-in language ability. Language is a code (vs. a cipher). Codes are impossible to break without a key. Humans seem to be born with that key.

  30. “Why is the brain the only known thing that can communicate with the non-physical?”
    I’m not sure why it matters. It seems it’s just the only ‘known’ thing.

    Because nothing else in the universe can be affected by the non-physical so the non-physical is effectively not there and (if it is there) is completely undetectable because you can’t interact with it to do the detection.

    Along comes a mind and suddenly we have a non-physical whatever interacting with the physical and only through the brain. Why the brain and only the brain? What is so special about the brain that allows this?

    This violates all that we have learned about matter. It’s an extraordinary claim and the evidence for it is we can’t find anything material that composes it so therefore it MUST be non-physical. That is to say, we can’t find any material that we would call “the mine”, so we assume that it is non-physical so then logic tell us it IS non-physical! Looks like circular reasoning to me.

  31. “Consciousness” and “awareness” seem to actually refer to the focus of attention — an action of the mind. Cats and dogs do this too. Just watch them hunt. So cats and dogs must also have minds which are “conscious” and “aware”. Again, all within their brains.

    Not even sure how we got to “consciousness” and “awareness” anyway. It’s basically what the mind does. It however would occur regardless of what form (physical or non-physical) the mind has. At least it isn’t ruled out with the mind being physical energy states.

    This “consciousness” from “unconscious” matter is a red herring as it is just the mind in action. The question is: what makes the mind? Anyone making the claim is just objecting to the mind being a physical entity. It shouldn’t be a stumbling block.

    D: People with brain damage seem to lose knowledge which indicates that it does indeed reside within the brain.
    J: [Knowledge] also resides within a CD or a book.
    Well, no it doesn’t unless you are willing to concede that knowledge can be contained within a physical, non-active medium.

    Before going down that road we need to define what is meant by “knowledge”. To me, it is the way concepts within the mind, however the mind is constructed, are linked. They aren’t really linked in a book or CD. Brain damage seems to be able to destroy that linkage which, to me, implies it physically resides in the brain.

    In any other endeavor this interaction of non-physical and physical inside the brain would raise red flags that indicate possible error. Apparently not in philosophy.

  32. Dav,
    I will process this and produce my output. I had a heart sink moment when I thought about arguing semantics with a computer!
    “I’ll be back.”

  33. Materialism is a superstitious ideology that cannot define itself (or be defined) from its own tenets.
    It is based on a litany of fanciful metaphysical assumptions that cannot be sustained by observation and reason constrained by logic.

    Most fundamentally, it assumes that Nothing turns itself into Everything without any first or final cause. That is, that a life, intellect and will that didn’t exist can cause itself by a random jiggling of atoms and molecules… never observed and philosophically (scientifically) impossible according to ALL known, relevant, laws of physical nature. As Julian Huxley once said when he was trying to flog this idiocy (the spontaneous formation of even one protein molecule) to vulnerable adolescents; “It’s impossible, but it has happened because here we are”. (Great “science”, eh?).

    Now then, philosophy is not the art of rationalising fantastic superstitions. It is “the search for knowledge and understanding of reality using the scientific instruments of observation and logic”.

    One cannot be really, really, idiotically wrong without the clever use of rhetoric to create an “apparent reality” to conform to the ideological superstitions assumed.

    So, on to more empiricist irrationality; if you can’t physically see it and measure it then it doesn’t exist. Well, there are many things even in the physical world that we can’t take a chunk of into a laboratory to dissect to see what it is and how it works. Gravity, electric charge, for example… even an electron cannot be directly observed. But we know that they exist and they work because we can see what they do. There is no coherent reason to ban metaphysical realities like life, intellect, will, and their subsidiaries like knowledge, understanding, and much more, just because some irrational ideology doesn’t know how they work. Can’t see the “stuff” but we can sure as Hell see what they do.

  34. So, on to more empiricist irrationality; if you can’t physically see it and measure it then it doesn’t exist.

    Physically seeing and measuring requires interaction with the physical world. If you can’t physically see a “metaphysical reality”and measure it then there is no interaction. Gravity and electric charge may not be directly seen but their interactions with the physical world can be measured. They are physical phenomena.

    Yet we have a “metaphysical reality”, the mind, which cannot be physically seen or measured implying it has no interaction with the physical world, interacting with a physical brain.

    How can this non-physical mind interact with a physical brain and also cause the body to move? What is so special about the brain that allows it to be a conduit for this physically unseeable and unmeasurable “reality”?

  35. If your mind cannot communicate with your fingers you cannot relay your irrational ideology via the written word. As I said, there are many things that can’t be physically seen or measured but we know that they exist by what they do.

    If your mind is only random physical (chemical) activity in your brain then I suggest that you are seriously deficient in some of the necessary chemicals.

    Isaac Newton couldn’t understand how bodies separated by space could interact (gravity, electric charges, magnetism) (and neither can anyone else, up to date; but there are some interesting, somewhat credible guesses (hypotheses) out there) but the fact remains that they do and observable reality consistently says that they do… consistently.

    Take a big dose of mineral and vitamin supplements, DAV, and let’s see if it makes you omniscient.

  36. there are many things that can’t be physically seen or measured but we know that they exist by what they do. … Newton couldn’t understand how bodies separated by space could interact (gravity, electric charges, magnetism)

    Those are physical phenomena which interact with the physical world. They can indeed be measured. What do you think gravimeters , electrometers, and magnetometers do? We may not know why it is they can interact but we certainly can measure the interaction.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravimeter
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrometer
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetometer

    You are claiming the mind is not physical; can’t be seen; and can’t be measured all implying that it can’t interact with the physical world. Yet insist that it still does despite your claims.

    Who is being irrational?

  37. Uh huh. So if life, intellect and will don’t do anything you don’t need them, eh?

    But your Materialist lot claim to measure life by some stage of physical development or decline. (Foetal immaturity or aged infirmity). And you claim to measure intellect by some random comparison called “intelligence quotient” that is very dependent on prior learning. Then there’s will; which, to a Materialist, is just the propensity to follow the mob… which can be fairly easily assessed by a willingness to take the line of least resistance and repudiate what is good and true in order to avoid being branded an “enemy of the State”, or some such, depending on the circumstance.

    Surely, all your concentration camps, gulags, psychological re-education facilities etc. must attest to the mind interacting with the physical world… for better or worse.

  38. Surely, all your concentration camps, gulags, psychological re-education facilities etc. must attest to the mind interacting with the physical world… for better or worse.

    Wow!

    All deduced from my contending the mind is physical.
    You definitely are, er, strange!

    I will instead charitably think it an example of Godwin’s law in action.

  39. Dav,
    “Granted, the machine’s knowledge is far from deep but it’s still knowledge and the meaning isn’t the same as a human’s.”
    I see what you’re saying and admit that my use of the word knowledge is vague and shifts! The problem as I see it is that there are not the words to describe it properly. Not that they aren’t known. There’s not one word. If there was, then sensible people wouldn’t disagree. If someone made one up, nobody would be any the wiser without proper object linkage.
    Insisting on one definition of something so open is a recipe for disagreement, or not admitting that it is open. Sometimes, it’s taken on faith that people are singing from the same hymn sheet. Sometimes, people try to tell you you’re singing the previous song! This won’t work in engineering, or logical debate. Someone has to come up with the goods!
    So I don’t disagree with this:
    “The machine didn’t acquire its language knowledge on its own which, to some, implies they have no understanding. I disagree. It’s just built-in.”
    The understanding in that instance is just different quality and context than that of a human. They are distinct.
    So the computer is internally consistent. Self monitoring, once it is instructed in a specific task. It can’t lie, for example, unless the lie is written in. Even dogs and cats are deliberately naughty. Computers lack purpose. I see that they don’t in the sense that the purpose is written in, but why then in life itself, living things is there said to be no purpose?
    “Codes are impossible to break without a key. Humans seem to be born with that key.”
    Maybe that key is the ability to be self aware and know the truth before being told? Computers have to be given these by humans. A computer has to step through every possibility of a problem. Humans know without having to do this. Computers are certain things. Living-knowing is objectively uncertain and knows that, too.

  40. “J: [Knowledge] also resides within a CD or a book. ?Well, no it doesn’t unless you are willing to concede that knowledge can be contained within a physical, non-active medium.?
    The ‘knowledge’ that is stored within a CD or book is information, that information has meaning, if you have the code. (reading ability or a CD player).
    The player has the innate ability to render that information meaningful to a mind. Even the computer’s internal understanding and knowing is all as slave to a mind or a brain.

    The book has words which have meaning only to a mind. An optical character recogniser, and speech software is a channel for information. It cannot care about the story, it cannot anticipate the end, sense the irony. If you could write all the necessary code, it is possible, you might say, but then you’d have written a brain and would also be claiming that it’s just computing. So that’s jumping to conclusions.

    Consciousness from unconsciousness red herring:
    “In any other endeavor this interaction of non-physical and physical inside the brain would raise red flags that indicate possible error. Apparently not in philosophy.”
    I see your point but believe that it is the purely materialist which is a kind of philosophy, that has written off the notion and therefore can only return an error signal without more experience or data.

    The mind as physical energy states? My own experiences which cannot be explained can best be summed up with the word information for action. I don’t think information is a physical energy state but if it turned out to be so, it wouldn’t change anything. Until it is realised by the action of something physical that can be directed and detected. It doesn’t explain how the information ‘arrived’.
    “Why is the brain the only known thing that can communicate with the non-physical?”
    It is the only known thing. How can anyone be sure?

    There is the other problem of the ‘you’, the individual. It all makes sense while only considering the universe as ‘out there’, as if you don’t exist. Each person is a red flag as they view the universe that something more mysterious is happening. It’s fine to ignore it, even necessary much of the time in procedural and fitness for purpose matters.
    I think that includes doing maths and logic although I’ve never tried!

    So if there’s some other dimension of physical energy state going on I hardly think it matters. My own conviction is that there is such a thing as experience. What do you think it is made of? I know it’s a brutal teacher.

    Animals are conscious and they think. Their capacity is different and watching them for me, is more evidence of mystery, not less. The more domesticated ones learn from our superior knowledge. They are given extra information that wild nature alone doesn’t necessarily teach them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoUEQYjYgf4

  41. “Codes are impossible to break without a key. Humans seem to be born with that key.”
    Maybe that key is the ability to be self aware and know the truth before being told?

    Could be. It’s at least as good a guess any other. No one really knows. There seems to be a common grammar in all human languages.

    One possibility is that all languages stem from a single language which was carried along as people migrated. But languages change rapidly. The first time I was in the Bahamas, I had a conversation with the cab driver while coming from the airport. I had little trouble understanding him. However, when we got to the hotel, he had a brief exchange with one of the maids. I almost asked him what language was being used. Glad I didn’t. It was English — sort of. Took some time for me to catch on to it.

    A perhaps more reasonable possibility is that the rudiments of language are with us from birth.

    A computer has to step through every possibility of a problem. Humans know without having to do this.

    Computers, as we currently build them, are more or less restricted to serial operation. That we see things much more quickly may be a direct outcome of being able to process things in a massively parallel way but are unconscious of it. Consciousness also seems sequential with the focus rapidly changing. It’s a lot like a computer doing task switching. It has been shown that we do this for visual processing. Whether this carries over into other processing remains to be seen. I just note that Nature seems to be good at repurposing hardware. Given the sequential nature of consciousness, it is unlikely it has the capacity to follow massively parallel efforts. They would likely be forever relegated to the subconscious.

    The ‘knowledge’ that is stored within a CD or book is information, that information has meaning

    Not really, There a difference between information and knowledge. We use our knowledge to understand the information. There is a three dot pattern on the page would be information. By itself, it would mean nothing. Our knowledge tells us what that pattern might mean.

    There is an entire branch of AI devoted to knowledge representation and searching. Briggs’s claim that AI is just curve fitting is a highly restricted view. The devices we call computers have very little capability. We supply our knowledge when programming them because it’s easier and cheaper — the essence of engineering. When computers approach the processing power of a human brain, things could be very different.

    Note that knowledge encoded within a program remains within the program. We don’t have to keep using our minds for it to exist. For example, when &ltnumber&gt &ltoperator&gt &ltnumber&g is found then generate the following instructions. Effectively, the computer program ‘understands’ the meaning of the former and translates it to the latter. The former is the syntax and the latter the semantics. Granted, it’s not a rich knowledge but is sufficient for the purpose of the program.

    D: “In any other endeavor this interaction of non-physical and physical inside the brain would raise red flags that indicate possible error. Apparently not in philosophy.”
    J: I see your point but believe that it is the purely materialist which is a kind of philosophy,

    If you apply logic to your assumptions and arrive at pi=Kansas then you likely have made a mistake and should be looking for it. This never seems to happen in Philosophy circles.

    This interaction flies in the face of all we know about the physical world. Since only the brain seems capable of this interaction this implies that there is some special physical construct in the brain allows this interaction. There is no evidence of it.

    D: “Why is the brain the only known thing that can communicate with the non-physical?”
    J”: It is the only known thing. How can anyone be sure?

    I think we can safely say we are sure of what we know. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean other things can’t but we have no evidence for it. Any interaction remains an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence. There isn’t even evidence to support the brain’s supposed interaction.

    There is the other problem of the ‘you’
    I don’t see it as a problem. It’s a thing born of consciousness which is nothing more than the attention of the mind.

    The real problem with “you” was examined years ago in a book edited by Feigenbaum and Feldman (Computers and Thought) IIRC. There were a number of thought experiments exploring questions like: “What are you?” (examining what happens during a gradual replacement of body parts — in particular, neurons) and “Where are you?” (examining how viewpoint might affect your sense of position). The questions, of course, aren’t actually answered. The purpose was to instill thinking about them. I can’t find my copy. I don’t know if it’s still in print. If you can find it, you may find it interesting reading. It’s an intro to AI.

    Another interesting read is The Mind’s Iby Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter. Explores what one means when one says “I”.

    Gato Malo reminds me of a cat I had years ago. We had a greenhouse window in the kitchen. The shelves were rather flimsy so we only let the cat on the lowest shelf. One day, I heard a thump and discovered that the cat had leapt about six feet from the floor to the top shelf. I yelled at her to get down. She slowly climbed down while muttering what sounded a lot like “can’t do anything around here”.

  42. Dav,
    I didn’t want to post four pages so I’m still thinking about this.
    It’s all very interesting and a discussion for a proper conversation really.

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