Why I Am Not a Materialist

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Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:36 pm

Why I Am Not a Materialist

(Just some sketchy thoughts. I’m not making a cogent argument really. I’m just being open and honest here - just posting what and how I think - and any intelligent critical response to any aspect of this post will certainly affect my outlook.)

Firstly, I’m pretty skeptical of the value of philosophical realism. What determines the reality of something is the context within which we’re talking about it. In the words of Les McCann and Eddie Harris, “real compared to what?” There is no meaning to the description “real” without a given context. A Tofurky® is a fake turkey, but is real food. A wax figure is likewise real or not relative to some initial criteria. The determination “real” cannot precede an understanding of the specified arena within which we are making a useful distinction.

A whole bunch of dominoes fall over, once the reality domino tumbles. Of what use is “substance”? “Foundational or fundamental entities of reality” can’t make much sense in the absence of a useful definition of “reality” as describing that which doesn't depend on my understanding of an arena within which we can make that distinction. Or to put it the other way around, assuming there is a reality independent of my creation of a conceptual arena within which I can make a useful distinction, this reality lies beyond my ability to grasp it in any meaningful conceptual way.

The fall of the substance domino surely leads to questioning the claims made regarding supervenience. Supervenience itself is a benign concept, but its application in conversations about the nature of mind and matter by supporters of materialism is misguided and undermines materialists’ claims to having achieved a meaningful solution to the mind-body problem. Rather, this is just a form of “greedy reductionism” (to turn Dennett’s words against himself). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy opens its article on supervenience with this statement: ”A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties. In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference”.” What goes without saying here, is that if there can likewise not be a B-difference without an A-difference, we don’t have supervenience as understood by materialists. But we don’t necessarily have identity, either. What we do have is some kind of entanglement.

There is a fundamental error in the thinking of many materialists, when they state something along the lines of “brain gives rise to mind”. This is plainly an error, as it presumes a separation between mind and matter. If a brain state “gives rise to” a mental state, is there a lapse in time between the two states? If so, how can this gap be accounted for? But if there is no lapse in time, then how can we make the claim that the brain state is ontologically more fundamental than the mental state? If we look at the issue in a macro rather than micro way, how can we look at, say, the evolution of human consciousness as being filled with these lapses? Commitment to the idea that mind has no causal efficacy, but is just a result of physical processes giving rise to illusions is the only possible answer. But then we must commit to trivial notions – we must claim that nuclear blasts (which obviously have causal efficacy according to any theory of natural selection) weren't created by minds making decisions, but by the processes of the physical world absent the real consequences of will and intention.

Note that all of the previous concepts are metaphysical concepts. As such, they subtly or not so subtly obstruct the ability to think and investigate scientifically.

It is interesting to note that most people don’t take issue with sky/earth dualism, light/dark dualism, or most other fundamental distinctions we make, such that we can usefully divide the world into parts according to some hierarchical scheme or other. Absent any reference to substance at all, then, some kind of dual aspect theory is perfectly natural, eminently useful, and not subject to any of the problems that any kind of substance dualism (of which substance monism is a subset – I’d argue that it is a more radical form of substance dualism) is subject to. “Mental” and “physical” describe different things, functionally speaking. They supervene on each other. We cannot say that they are the same, and we cannot say that they are different. Given our current knowledge, we can’t imagine mind independent of matter. But if we are to be coherent in our thinking, we shouldn't be able to imagine matter independent of mind. Does this mean that rocks are conscious? Not at all. What it means is that we shouldn't think we can coherently talk about rocks as fundamentally separate from consciousness. All matter has a mental nature. All mentation has a physical nature. The urge to use the word “basis” rather than nature, to turn the mirror-like quality of the equation into a lopsided account, has certain degraded effects.

The primary effect of this degraded metaphysic (materialism), is confusion about what kinds of problems are best solved “physically”, and which solved “mentally”. The emphasis on psychotropic drugs to solve “mental” problems (in fact, the problems these drugs are meant to solve are not just “mental” problems, but the materialists’ obsession with the brain as a fundamentally independent object of inquiry ironically makes them such) is misguided. An alteration of brain states from without (through physical manipulation, whether through surgery or the use of drugs) cannot have the same effect as a transformation from within (through changing one’s attitudes, ways of seeing things, conceptual tools, habits, social involvements, etc.). This is not an all or nothing situation. If I take aspirin for a headache, I have removed a burden which might be obstructing me from undertaking some project. But the materialistic metaphysic leads to a muddying of these kinds of distinction.

Ultimately, I am not a materialist because I don’t believe that any amount of physical manipulation of the brain (or anything else) can solve the problem of suffering. I believe the root of suffering is ego-fixation. Now if ego-clinging is an everyday name for a simple mental state, then I have no doubt that medicine can come up with a cure. There are modern Buddhists who think of ego in such reductionist terms, and given this fundamental error in defining the problem, they are bound to make a fundamental error regarding a solution – given a drug that claims to overcome the suffering caused by “ego-fixation”, they will take it. And it will “work”. But identity is not of an atomistic character. It is this tendency to think of ourselves in an atomistic way that is, fundamentally, the problem. Therefore, the “solution” is like trying to put out a fire using gasoline. “Love”, for instance, is more or less characterized by materialists as a feeling. There is a certain kind of naive materialist that apparently cannot think of love in any other way. The idea that love is a description of an entire network of relations, both within and beyond any individual body or bodies, is foreign to such a person. For such a person, mind is just what the brain does. “My” “mind” “is” “within” “my” “brain”.

But dualism is no problem, from a non-dual point of view. Drop the metaphysics and the problem dissolves without further thought.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:52 am

I consider myself a property dualist and think properties are natural non physical entities.

EDIT: One thing that might strengthen your argument is contracts. They cause us to do things but they aren't physical, etc. Just a collection of properties assigned to situations, kind of like marriage.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Mr Reasonable » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:06 am

captaincrunk wrote:I consider myself a property dualist and think properties are natural non physical entities.

EDIT: One thing that might strengthen your argument is contracts. They cause us to do things but they aren't physical, etc. Just a collection of properties assigned to situations, kind of like marriage.



Bundle theory ftw.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Mr Reasonable » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:07 am

Anon, I think I'm a weird kind of materialst. I can have stuff that isn't made of some basic form of matter. Abstract things even, so long as they follow at least the most basic rules and stem from the same tautologies at the descriptions of the physical world that we have do.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby statiktech » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:19 pm

Great post anon! You brought up some things that i haven't thought critically about in a little while, so it was kind of a refreshing read for me. I suppose I'd consider myself a property dualist, like you and cap'n, but I also seem to have a good bit in common with the likes of Dennett.

If a brain state “gives rise to” a mental state, is there a lapse in time between the two states? If so, how can this gap be accounted for?


I'm not sure how one could even go about measuring something like this, but, if it were true, I'd attribute that lapse to chemical reactions. Or even time taken to process sensory data.

A whole bunch of dominoes fall over, once the reality domino tumbles. Of what use is “substance”? “Foundational or fundamental entities of reality” can’t make much sense in the absence of a useful definition of “reality” as describing that which doesn't depend on my understanding of an arena within which we can make that distinction. Or to put it the other way around, assuming there is a reality independent of my creation of a conceptual arena within which I can make a useful distinction, this reality lies beyond my ability to grasp it in any meaningful conceptual way.


You seem to be talking about phenomenalism here, but do I also detect a hint of solipsism?

The primary effect of this degraded metaphysic (materialism), is confusion about what kinds of problems are best solved “physically”, and which solved “mentally”. The emphasis on psychotropic drugs to solve “mental” problems (in fact, the problems these drugs are meant to solve are not just “mental” problems, but the materialists’ obsession with the brain as a fundamentally independent object of inquiry ironically makes them such) is misguided. An alteration of brain states from without (through physical manipulation, whether through surgery or the use of drugs) cannot have the same effect as a transformation from within (through changing one’s attitudes, ways of seeing things, conceptual tools, habits, social involvements, etc.). This is not an all or nothing situation. If I take aspirin for a headache, I have removed a burden which might be obstructing me from undertaking some project. But the materialistic metaphysic leads to a muddying of these kinds of distinction.


On the nose. Well said.

But we don’t necessarily have identity, either. What we do have is some kind of entanglement.


Can you explain the sort of entanglement you're talking about? Are you saying we essentially describe ourselves in terms of that which we interact with?

substance monism is a subset – I’d argue that it is a more radical form of substance dualism


Can you explain this a bit more as well?
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:01 pm

Cap'n & Smears, I don't really have any response, but thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:00 am

statiktech wrote:Great post anon! You brought up some things that i haven't thought critically about in a little while, so it was kind of a refreshing read for me. I suppose I'd consider myself a property dualist, like you and cap'n, but I also seem to have a good bit in common with the likes of Dennett.

Thanks Statik. I don't consider myself a property dualist, so maybe if there's a bit of conversation we can sort out some things.

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:If a brain state “gives rise to” a mental state, is there a lapse in time between the two states? If so, how can this gap be accounted for?

I'm not sure how one could even go about measuring something like this, but, if it were true, I'd attribute that lapse to chemical reactions. Or even time taken to process sensory data.

What I'm trying to get at here is the incoherent idea that brain precedes mind (I'm not sure what else "gives rise to" could mean, if it didn't occur in linear time). No matter what kinds of chemical reactions take place, there must be some point in time where mind arises, according to this description. But if some particular brain state "gives rise to" some particular mental state, did it exist prior to the mental state? If so, why did it exist for even the briefest of moments without the corresponding mental state arising? But if they arose simultaneously, on what basis do we determine that the brain state is primary, the mental state secondary? This is obviously just a sketch of a line of reasoning, but the crux of it is that we can't separate brain from mind (as materialists do when they claim that "brain gives rise to mind"), yet we can't say they are identical because they present differently, and most importantly, they function differently. Or more accurately perhaps, they are names for different ways of functioning. And without bringing in realism as a sidetrack, when two things function differently, this just is what makes us describe them as two different things.

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:A whole bunch of dominoes fall over, once the reality domino tumbles. Of what use is “substance”? “Foundational or fundamental entities of reality” can’t make much sense in the absence of a useful definition of “reality” as describing that which doesn't depend on my understanding of an arena within which we can make that distinction. Or to put it the other way around, assuming there is a reality independent of my creation of a conceptual arena within which I can make a useful distinction, this reality lies beyond my ability to grasp it in any meaningful conceptual way.

You seem to be talking about phenomenalism here, but do I also detect a hint of solipsism?

I can see why you say that, but I don't think I am. I'm simply saying that the concept "reality" only makes sense relative to previously established (or assumed) criteria. I started a thread on substance here, though it's a little bit unconventional (some talk about faith, etc. in there). I'm basically just not sure how the concept provides any meaningful criteria, by which we can judge the ontological status of various phenomena. I think it makes more sense to judge phenomena by their function and use.

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:The primary effect of this degraded metaphysic (materialism), is confusion about what kinds of problems are best solved “physically”, and which solved “mentally”. The emphasis on psychotropic drugs to solve “mental” problems (in fact, the problems these drugs are meant to solve are not just “mental” problems, but the materialists’ obsession with the brain as a fundamentally independent object of inquiry ironically makes them such) is misguided. An alteration of brain states from without (through physical manipulation, whether through surgery or the use of drugs) cannot have the same effect as a transformation from within (through changing one’s attitudes, ways of seeing things, conceptual tools, habits, social involvements, etc.). This is not an all or nothing situation. If I take aspirin for a headache, I have removed a burden which might be obstructing me from undertaking some project. But the materialistic metaphysic leads to a muddying of these kinds of distinction.

On the nose. Well said.

Thank you.

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:But we don’t necessarily have identity, either. What we do have is some kind of entanglement.

Can you explain the sort of entanglement you're talking about? Are you saying we essentially describe ourselves in terms of that which we interact with?

I'm not sure if I was saying that, but I like it! About identity, I meant that it still makes sense to talk about mind and body in terms of interactionism. From one point of view we can talk about A supervening on B, from another we can talk about B supervening on A. A and B move together, whether in harmony or not. But B is not merely another name for A.

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:substance monism is a subset – I’d argue that it is a more radical form of substance dualism

Can you explain this a bit more as well?

I just tried, but I deleted what I wrote. I'm having a hard time explaining that at the moment. But it's not important.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Only_Humean » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:12 pm

anon wrote:What I'm trying to get at here is the incoherent idea that brain precedes mind (I'm not sure what else "gives rise to" could mean, if it didn't occur in linear time). No matter what kinds of chemical reactions take place, there must be some point in time where mind arises, according to this description. But if some particular brain state "gives rise to" some particular mental state, did it exist prior to the mental state? If so, why did it exist for even the briefest of moments without the corresponding mental state arising? But if they arose simultaneously, on what basis do we determine that the brain state is primary, the mental state secondary? This is obviously just a sketch of a line of reasoning, but the crux of it is that we can't separate brain from mind (as materialists do when they claim that "brain gives rise to mind"), yet we can't say they are identical because they present differently, and most importantly, they function differently. Or more accurately perhaps, they are names for different ways of functioning. And without bringing in realism as a sidetrack, when two things function differently, this just is what makes us describe them as two different things.


Arguments for primacy of the physical: we can have a brain without a mind, but we have no evidence for a mind without a brain. Introducing alcohol to the bloodstream (and hence the brain cells) seems to affect our mental states, but thinking drunkenly doesn't cause alcohol to appear in our bloodstream. Or more concretely, a lobotomy will alter ones mind, whereas a mind that thinks like a lobotomised person won't physically separate the frontal lobes.

Of course, this shows that it is not the brain itself that causes mental events, but the motion of charges (through the pathways defined by the brain). Just as a city doesn't cause traffic jams, but certain cities are more prone to gridlock than others.

The reason that problems arise is that brain and mind are different categories. Humans interacting in a certain way give rise to a book club. You can point to each of those people, at various times of the day and night, but you can't point to the book club. The book club is a way of describing the interactions of people (and paper), and it has its own grammar distinct from the physical world; we don't need to be book-club dualists or see a plane of book clubs parallel to and intervening on the plane of humans in certain places, nor believe that the book club is something more than just the people and the books - we just need to be aware that we're talking about things in a different way.

Similarly, we don't need to conclude that because scientists have observed a dozen people sitting together talking, that we've found evidence for book clubs :P
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:53 pm

We can have a brain without a mind? You mean like we can have a computer that doesn't work?
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Only_Humean » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:29 am

anon wrote:We can have a brain without a mind? You mean like we can have a computer that doesn't work?


Pretty much exactly.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Moreno » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:53 am

Only_Humean wrote:
anon wrote:We can have a brain without a mind? You mean like we can have a computer that doesn't work?


Pretty much exactly.

Would it still be a computer in the sense we use the word for a working one or would it be some other kind of thing, at least while it was not working?
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby Moreno » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:54 am

Only_Humean wrote:
Arguments for primacy of the physical: we can have a brain without a mind, but we have no evidence for a mind without a brain.
We don't really have evidence of minds, except, perhaps, our own. We just have behavior and meat.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:56 am

Only_Humean wrote:
anon wrote:What I'm trying to get at here is the incoherent idea that brain precedes mind (I'm not sure what else "gives rise to" could mean, if it didn't occur in linear time). No matter what kinds of chemical reactions take place, there must be some point in time where mind arises, according to this description. But if some particular brain state "gives rise to" some particular mental state, did it exist prior to the mental state? If so, why did it exist for even the briefest of moments without the corresponding mental state arising? But if they arose simultaneously, on what basis do we determine that the brain state is primary, the mental state secondary? This is obviously just a sketch of a line of reasoning, but the crux of it is that we can't separate brain from mind (as materialists do when they claim that "brain gives rise to mind"), yet we can't say they are identical because they present differently, and most importantly, they function differently. Or more accurately perhaps, they are names for different ways of functioning. And without bringing in realism as a sidetrack, when two things function differently, this just is what makes us describe them as two different things.


Arguments for primacy of the physical: we can have a brain without a mind, but we have no evidence for a mind without a brain. Introducing alcohol to the bloodstream (and hence the brain cells) seems to affect our mental states, but thinking drunkenly doesn't cause alcohol to appear in our bloodstream. Or more concretely, a lobotomy will alter ones mind, whereas a mind that thinks like a lobotomised person won't physically separate the frontal lobes.

On the last point, thinking can change physical states.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby victorel21 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:08 am

there is no cure to suffering? ofcourse there is, suffering is caused by associations memories, to eliminate suffering you need to erase them, so drink alcohol drugs are good aswell i heard.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:17 am

Only_Humean wrote:
anon wrote:We can have a brain without a mind? You mean like we can have a computer that doesn't work?


Pretty much exactly.

I don't think it make sense to think of it like this. We have to give an account for the existence of brains, and we can't do that without giving a parallel account of the existence of minds. It is the same story told from two different perspectives. Just as with the computer we can't give an account of computers without also giving an account of what they are for - what they do, how they are used, why they were invented, etc. A broken computer says nothing, ontologically.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:19 am

anon wrote:
Only_Humean wrote:
anon wrote:We can have a brain without a mind? You mean like we can have a computer that doesn't work?


Pretty much exactly.

I don't think it make sense to think of it like this. We have to give an account for the existence of brains, and we can't do that without giving a parallel account of the existence of minds.

did you mean this the other way around?

anon wrote: It is the same story told from two different perspectives. Just as with the computer we can't give an account of computers without also giving an account of what they are for - what they do, how they are used, why they were invented, etc. A broken computer says nothing, ontologically.

goddamn this was good, ignore the first part of my post you just blew my mind
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:25 am

Only_Humean wrote:
anon wrote:What I'm trying to get at here is the incoherent idea that brain precedes mind (I'm not sure what else "gives rise to" could mean, if it didn't occur in linear time). No matter what kinds of chemical reactions take place, there must be some point in time where mind arises, according to this description. But if some particular brain state "gives rise to" some particular mental state, did it exist prior to the mental state? If so, why did it exist for even the briefest of moments without the corresponding mental state arising? But if they arose simultaneously, on what basis do we determine that the brain state is primary, the mental state secondary? This is obviously just a sketch of a line of reasoning, but the crux of it is that we can't separate brain from mind (as materialists do when they claim that "brain gives rise to mind"), yet we can't say they are identical because they present differently, and most importantly, they function differently. Or more accurately perhaps, they are names for different ways of functioning. And without bringing in realism as a sidetrack, when two things function differently, this just is what makes us describe them as two different things.


Arguments for primacy of the physical: we can have a brain without a mind, but we have no evidence for a mind without a brain. Introducing alcohol to the bloodstream (and hence the brain cells) seems to affect our mental states, but thinking drunkenly doesn't cause alcohol to appear in our bloodstream. Or more concretely, a lobotomy will alter ones mind, whereas a mind that thinks like a lobotomised person won't physically separate the frontal lobes.

These are examples how differences in how brain>mind versus mind>brain approaches function. This is central to what I'm saying. You can't perform brain surgery by thinking really hard. You can't change your attitudes and relationships by undergoing brain surgery.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:26 am

anon wrote:These are examples how differences in how brain>mind versus mind>brain approaches function. This is central to what I'm saying. You can't perform brain surgery by thinking really hard. You can't change your attitudes and relationships by undergoing brain surgery.

both of these things are wrong. thinking can change neural wiring. changes in the brain from external sources (lobotomy for example) can change attitudes and relationships (after the surgery anyway)
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:28 am

I love appreciation as much as the next guy. Thanks Captain. And now I need to sleep.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:10 pm

captaincrunk wrote:
anon wrote:These are examples how differences in how brain>mind versus mind>brain approaches function. This is central to what I'm saying. You can't perform brain surgery by thinking really hard. You can't change your attitudes and relationships by undergoing brain surgery.

both of these things are wrong. thinking can change neural wiring. changes in the brain from external sources (lobotomy for example) can change attitudes and relationships (after the surgery anyway)

Hmm, yes I agree. But I guess we're saying somewhat different things. I mean, it's a different kind of brain surgery. The results will be different. You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery. I go back to my aspirin example.
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"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:38 pm

anon wrote:
captaincrunk wrote:
anon wrote:These are examples how differences in how brain>mind versus mind>brain approaches function. This is central to what I'm saying. You can't perform brain surgery by thinking really hard. You can't change your attitudes and relationships by undergoing brain surgery.

both of these things are wrong. thinking can change neural wiring. changes in the brain from external sources (lobotomy for example) can change attitudes and relationships (after the surgery anyway)

Hmm, yes I agree. But I guess we're saying somewhat different things. I mean, it's a different kind of brain surgery. The results will be different. You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery. I go back to my aspirin example.

you know about phineas gage right? he had a pretty consistent change in all his relationships after the brain injury
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:23 pm

captaincrunk wrote:
anon wrote:
captaincrunk wrote:both of these things are wrong. thinking can change neural wiring. changes in the brain from external sources (lobotomy for example) can change attitudes and relationships (after the surgery anyway)

Hmm, yes I agree. But I guess we're saying somewhat different things. I mean, it's a different kind of brain surgery. The results will be different. You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery. I go back to my aspirin example.

you know about phineas gage right? he had a pretty consistent change in all his relationships after the brain injury

Just read about him. I'm not sure why you're bring him up though, to be honest. Are you disagreeing with something I'm saying? Agreeing?
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:43 pm

"You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery."

I think Phineas Gage did, except for instead of surgery it was a lot of iron through the brain. For at least a few months, probably longer, his personality and subsequently the relationships he had with coworkers, neighbors, etc changed dramatically. There is controversy as to when (or if) he ever returned to normal but the primary sources seem to indicate that there was a period of time where the injury significantly altered his behavior without diminishing (to the same degree) neural function.
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby anon » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:26 pm

captaincrunk wrote:"You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery."

I think Phineas Gage did, except for instead of surgery it was a lot of iron through the brain. For at least a few months, probably longer, his personality and subsequently the relationships he had with coworkers, neighbors, etc changed dramatically. There is controversy as to when (or if) he ever returned to normal but the primary sources seem to indicate that there was a period of time where the injury significantly altered his behavior without diminishing (to the same degree) neural function.

I guess that's not what I'd consider "unified and extensive". Sure, a dramatic change changes everything. And such a change can even be of a positive sort. But to be of a constructive sort, a person has to more or less unify intention, outlook, emotional health, thought, action, etc.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: Why I Am Not a Materialist

Postby captaincrunk » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:31 pm

anon wrote:
captaincrunk wrote:"You really don't change your relationships in a unified and extensive way just by having surgery."

I think Phineas Gage did, except for instead of surgery it was a lot of iron through the brain. For at least a few months, probably longer, his personality and subsequently the relationships he had with coworkers, neighbors, etc changed dramatically. There is controversy as to when (or if) he ever returned to normal but the primary sources seem to indicate that there was a period of time where the injury significantly altered his behavior without diminishing (to the same degree) neural function.

I guess that's not what I'd consider "unified and extensive". Sure, a dramatic change changes everything. And such a change can even be of a positive sort. But to be of a constructive sort, a person has to more or less unify intention, outlook, emotional health, thought, action, etc.

The idea was that his ability to form intentions was significantly impaired. Inhibitory functions of the frontal lobes were fucked, and it took him a long time to regain control. The point being that it isn't a far cry from what you just suggested, given that it was done by launching a tamping rod in the general direction of some guy's face. You have to imagine that with some tinkering and scalpels instead of sticks we might have some greater changes, were we unethical enough to try them.
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