A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Fri Feb 08, 2013 9:56 am

anon wrote:
lizbethrose wrote:I've tried to find my original sources re fetal sensory development, but couldn't--this, however, says pretty much the same things:

http://birthpsychology.com/free-article/fetal-senses-classical-view

If, as I said, consciousness starts to develop when the senses start to develop in the fetus, is it fair to say that sensory data has a great deal to do with consciousness? Yet sensory data are physical, aren't they? To me, it's reaction to the data--and the memory of that reaction--that becomes phenomenal, and that makes each mind unique. There's more to it than that, but that'll suffice for now.

anon, I've thought about a totally artificial person, but I think the complexities of the human body, not just the mind, are such that it won't be possible at any time in the near future. Even with the miniaturization of a lot of the parts (electrical, optical, etc.) it would end up pretty big, imm. Just think about the skin--our largest organ--and all of its functions--even with neuromorphic silicon neuron circuits which have already been developed.

FJ, Imm a lot of people think the metaphor of 'mind as a computer' is fact rather than metaphor. But the metaphor has only been used to illustrate how some workings of the mind/brain can be understood--imaged, if you will. If I felt my statement needed more explanation, it would only be an explanation or definition of 'metaphor'. Other than that, you're quibbling--mostly about language. You have all my good wishes for success in your studies.

anon, If you "...don’t think it’s [a created human brain] because of anything ontologically spdecial about human brains." Yeah, the human brain is an evolved organ--all brains are. Are you saying that the human brain is no different than the simian brain? Then what makes us 'other' than apes?

Liz, just a partial response for now, for lack of time...

First, it seems like maybe you've changed your story. Before, you said consciousness developed "due to" the senses, where now you're saying they develop together.

Also, I don't believe we will ever create human beings through artificial means. But that's not what I've argued.

And I do think humans are different from chimps. I'm not sure why you brought that up.

I'm curious by the way - would you say that a sense of self is a necessary aspect of consciousness?


First, I believe I posited my statement as a conditional--"If you believe..." or as a question--"Do you believe..."

Whatever. I have no desire to quibble.

Consciousness starts to develop as a result of the ("due to") development of the senses. I believe this is true. If it were possible for a human to be born without any of the senses, would it be 'human'--even animal--or would it be a blob?

Consciousness is a lot more than individual reactions to sensory data. If I didn't say that in this thread, I've said it in others.

Consciousness, depending on what you think consciousness is, is learned and involves the gradual acquisition of self-awareness--ego. Humans aren't born with ego--but humans aren't born fully developed--we're only born with the physical tools needed to develop and interpret our sense reactions, and our consciousness.

But, hey, all I'm trying to do in this thread is explain why I'm not a materialist.

The 'mechanics' of the mind/brain may be explained neurologically--but the way the mind translates--the how the mind translates has yet to be understood.

anon, please stop using company time and a company computer to 'play' on ILP. Bosses don't like that--it cuts into company profits. :wink:
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:49 pm

James S Saint wrote:
anon wrote:There is no rational reason why it shouldn’t occur though, just as there is no rational reason why a ball, kicked, should react in an “equal and opposite” way. And the “equal and opposite” law serves as a scientific explanation, because a broad range of such observations have been distilled into a robust abstract principle. A little Hume goes a long way towards dispelling certain kinds of confusion.

Yes, this was an argument in support of materialism, even though I’m not a materialist and I have made various arguments against materialism. But this kind of argument against materialism has always bothered me as not compelling at all.

That is at best an argument for plausibility, not probability.

To me, this isn't even an issue. It is like arguing that an automobile could never go faster than a horse.
My concern for the whole thing is the extreme and fatal danger of creating such an AI, not that it couldn't be done.
It already has been. People just don't know it.

For the plausibility of what? Of materialism? Of AI?

I don't mind the tangents at all, but to be clear my OP was about one very specific thing - that simple incredulity regarding how mental stuff could be caused by physical stuff, because it just doesn't seem intuitively possible (mental stuff seeming to be so unlike physical stuff) doesn't make for a compelling argument against materialism. It may seem like a miracle of some sort that such a thing could happen, but it is no less miraculous that a ball, kicked, flies through the air. But that latter we have seen happen, many times. So we accept it as one aspect of how the world works. Why? Because we see it work that way.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:42 pm

lizbethrose wrote:
anon wrote:
lizbethrose wrote:I've tried to find my original sources re fetal sensory development, but couldn't--this, however, says pretty much the same things:

http://birthpsychology.com/free-article/fetal-senses-classical-view

If, as I said, consciousness starts to develop when the senses start to develop in the fetus, is it fair to say that sensory data has a great deal to do with consciousness? Yet sensory data are physical, aren't they? To me, it's reaction to the data--and the memory of that reaction--that becomes phenomenal, and that makes each mind unique. There's more to it than that, but that'll suffice for now.

anon, I've thought about a totally artificial person, but I think the complexities of the human body, not just the mind, are such that it won't be possible at any time in the near future. Even with the miniaturization of a lot of the parts (electrical, optical, etc.) it would end up pretty big, imm. Just think about the skin--our largest organ--and all of its functions--even with neuromorphic silicon neuron circuits which have already been developed.

FJ, Imm a lot of people think the metaphor of 'mind as a computer' is fact rather than metaphor. But the metaphor has only been used to illustrate how some workings of the mind/brain can be understood--imaged, if you will. If I felt my statement needed more explanation, it would only be an explanation or definition of 'metaphor'. Other than that, you're quibbling--mostly about language. You have all my good wishes for success in your studies.

anon, If you "...don’t think it’s [a created human brain] because of anything ontologically spdecial about human brains." Yeah, the human brain is an evolved organ--all brains are. Are you saying that the human brain is no different than the simian brain? Then what makes us 'other' than apes?

Liz, just a partial response for now, for lack of time...

First, it seems like maybe you've changed your story. Before, you said consciousness developed "due to" the senses, where now you're saying they develop together.

Also, I don't believe we will ever create human beings through artificial means. But that's not what I've argued.

And I do think humans are different from chimps. I'm not sure why you brought that up.

I'm curious by the way - would you say that a sense of self is a necessary aspect of consciousness?


First, I believe I posited my statement as a conditional--"If you believe..." or as a question--"Do you believe..."

Whatever. I have no desire to quibble.

Consciousness starts to develop as a result of the ("due to") development of the senses. I believe this is true. If it were possible for a human to be born without any of the senses, would it be 'human'--even animal--or would it be a blob?

That's fine, Liz. I'm just trying to understand what you are saying. It's funny - unlike you, I don't think the development of consciousness is caused by prior development of the senses. But I don't understand that last sentence (question). My thought is, can you imagine the existence of the human eye, without the presence of human consciousness? That's why I think the development of the senses and the development of consciousness are the same development. They flower together - the development of a particular human life from its embryonic form is a flowering.

I'm not sure how to answer your question (would it be a blob?). I can imagine a human being without the traditional senses, but I follow most Buddhist teachings in counting "the mind" as its own sense organ. Call it a sense of internal "touch" - the mind senses its own architecture. This might take some explanation:

A human being isn't a mere arc from birth to death. A human life doesn't have an absolute beginning and end (we could differentiate between "beginnings" and "origins" here, if it helps). Genetically we are an extension of our ancestors, and we are born into a culture of attitudes and ideas that we likewise inherit and pass on. Genes and memes. If a human being can be born without the senses - no sight, no smell, no taste, no touch, no sound... he might still have a functioning mind, because there are mental contents that don't depend on the information that the senses in this particular life have collected. As to what that would be like - I have no idea. But I think it would be like something. It's like with that brain in a vat idea. You can't account for the existence of brains if you think of them as "in vats", whatever that could possibly mean (doesn't "vat" just mean context? I never really understood what this was supposed to mean), but you may be able to take a particular brain and put it in a vat (some kind of nourishing fluid I guess, rather than a normal body and context) - and there will be experience. Can't guarantee the practicality of all this of course - this is just theory.

Liz wrote:Consciousness is a lot more than individual reactions to sensory data. If I didn't say that in this thread, I've said it in others.

Consciousness, depending on what you think consciousness is, is learned and involves the gradual acquisition of self-awareness--ego. Humans aren't born with ego--but humans aren't born fully developed--we're only born with the physical tools needed to develop and interpret our sense reactions, and our consciousness.

I'm fine with that. Given that definition, I don't believe thermostats are conscious. Definitions can be narrower or wider depending on what you're trying to say. If it helps, feel free to post a standard definition of consciousness that you'd like to commit to, and I'll stick to that definition as well.

Liz wrote:But, hey, all I'm trying to do in this thread is explain why I'm not a materialist.

That's fine. I'm not a materialist either. But not every argument against materialism is a good one, in my opinion.

Liz wrote:The 'mechanics' of the mind/brain may be explained neurologically--but the way the mind translates--the how the mind translates has yet to be understood.

In some ways, I don't think we understand anything, including the things we think we understand. This is actually the heart of my OP. Do you understand why kicking a ball results in it flying through the air? My claim is that you don't. It's just what happens. And there are complex patterns of things that just happen, that we can describe using simple abstractions (equations, for example), which we can then use to predict things, invent things, etc. That's kind of a linear presentation of course - in reality we can often predict things before coming up with the abstraction that accurately describes why we can make the prediction. Etc. Also, and I brought this up before in this thread, explanations can apply to everything, but they aren't sufficient to account for everything. The entire visual spectrum without exception can be explained as shades of black and white, but this explanation is not sufficient to account for color. Likewise, physical explanations can be applied to your mental world, without exception. But physical explanations are not sufficient to account for your mental world. I think this is important to sort out: one mode of explanation is insufficient to encompass reality, yet it is not incredible that one mode of explanation can apply to all reality.

Liz wrote:anon, please stop using company time and a company computer to 'play' on ILP. Bosses don't like that--it cuts into company profits. :wink:

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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby James S Saint » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:24 am

anon wrote:
James S Saint wrote:
anon wrote:There is no rational reason why it shouldn’t occur though, just as there is no rational reason why a ball, kicked, should react in an “equal and opposite” way. And the “equal and opposite” law serves as a scientific explanation, because a broad range of such observations have been distilled into a robust abstract principle. A little Hume goes a long way towards dispelling certain kinds of confusion.

Yes, this was an argument in support of materialism, even though I’m not a materialist and I have made various arguments against materialism. But this kind of argument against materialism has always bothered me as not compelling at all.

That is at best an argument for plausibility, not probability.

To me, this isn't even an issue. It is like arguing that an automobile could never go faster than a horse.
My concern for the whole thing is the extreme and fatal danger of creating such an AI, not that it couldn't be done.
It already has been. People just don't know it.

For the plausibility of what? Of materialism? Of AI?

I don't mind the tangents at all, but to be clear my OP was about one very specific thing - that simple incredulity regarding how mental stuff could be caused by physical stuff, because it just doesn't seem intuitively possible (mental stuff seeming to be so unlike physical stuff) doesn't make for a compelling argument against materialism. It may seem like a miracle of some sort that such a thing could happen, but it is no less miraculous that a ball, kicked, flies through the air. But that latter we have seen happen, many times. So we accept it as one aspect of how the world works. Why? Because we see it work that way.

I was referring to that bolded statement.

The issue is resolved merely by understanding what a "mind" is.
IT is very analogous to hardware versus software.
In the software world/ontology, the hardware is somewhat ignored. An ontology of software objects ("thoughts") is formed and used without regard to the hardware that made such a thing possible.

The brain and mind are very similar. The ontology regarding a mind (the functioning of a nervous system) can ignore the "wetware" that makes it possible until you try to merge the two with the notion that either one or the other must be "true" and question the connection between them. Software and hardware engineers have that exact same problem wherein the other seems totally magical.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:25 am

anon, If you're a non-materialist because of your Buddhist teachings, that puts you 'apart' from me, since I have no such background. I may end up saying any number of things with which you won't agree.

If a baby was born without any of the five senses (btw, an impossibility,) would it be a blob? I think so. First of all, the fetus wouldn't have been able to establish any neuronal pathways needed to transmit sensory data to the brain. As a result, there would be no continuation of those pathways within the brain, hence, no way to react to sensory stimulation.

If reaction to sensory stimulation leads to experience, and if experience leads to knowledge, and if knowledge leads to consciousness, how could something without a nervous system (reaction to sensory stimulation) ever achieve consciousness?

The syntax of our language doesn't lend itself to simultaneousness. (If that's not a word, tough--it is now.) Our language is linear--sense development isn't. Please keep that in mind.

Among the many organs developing in the fetus is the skin. With skin, the fetus develops the sense of touch, motion, warmth, discomfort, etc., which, when repeated, is knowledge.

I think of this as the beginnings of consciousness. While it's 'awareness,' it isn't 'self-awareness' which is developed after birth.

A lot of what I think of as consciousness has to do with knowledge--acquisition, storage, and memory--which comes from reaction to sensory stimuli. Watch a baby in a high chair. She'll do a lot of things in order to learn concepts. Now, dropping a pea off the tray and watching it fall may not teach her gravity, but it does start to teach her the concept of gravity. A young toddler will kick a large ball and be delighted when the ball is 'magically' transported to a different location.

There are certain things a baby can't learn without parental intervention. Color differentiation, for example. The care giver has to teach the baby this is red, or blue, or green. But that's just teaching the baby labels.

In summation, then, my definition of prenatal consciousness is the ability to respond to sensory data, to learn from that response, and to remember that response.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby Orbie » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:34 am

lizbethrose wrote:anon, If you're a non-materialist because of your Buddhist teachings, that puts you 'apart' from me, since I have no such background. I may end up saying any number of things with which you won't agree.

If a baby was born without any of the five senses (btw, an impossibility,) would it be a blob? I think so. First of all, the fetus wouldn't have been able to establish any neuronal pathways needed to transmit sensory data to the brain. As a result, there would be no continuation of those pathways within the brain, hence, no way to react to sensory stimulation.

If reaction to sensory stimulation leads to experience, and if experience leads to knowledge, and if knowledge leads to consciousness, how could something without a nervous system (reaction to sensory stimulation) ever achieve consciousness?

The syntax of our language doesn't lend itself to simultaneousness. (If that's not a word, tough--it is now.) Our language is linear--sense development isn't. Please keep that in mind.

Among the many organs developing in the fetus is the skin. With skin, the fetus develops the sense of touch, motion, warmth, discomfort, etc., which, when repeated, is knowledge.

I think of this as the beginnings of consciousness. While it's 'awareness,' it isn't 'self-awareness' which is developed after birth.

A lot of what I think of as consciousness has to do with knowledge--acquisition, storage, and memory--which comes from reaction to sensory stimuli. Watch a baby in a high chair. She'll do a lot of things in order to learn concepts. Now, dropping a pea off the tray and watching it fall may not teach her gravity, but it does start to teach her the concept of gravity. A young toddler will kick a large ball and be delighted when the ball is 'magically' transported to a different location.

There are certain things a baby can't learn without parental intervention. Color differentiation, for example. The care giver has to teach the baby this is red, or blue, or green. But that's just teaching the baby labels.

In summation, then, my definition of prenatal consciousness is the ability to respond to sensory data, to learn from that response, and to remember that response.




Yes, but singular consciousness is just another receiver of many such singularities. Unless you are looking at consciousness as a singularity, yes this makes sense. However alternative singularities (parellelisms) do exist, and they do give justice to the idea that human beings act as receivers to consciousness at large.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:24 pm

Liz,

If reaction to sensory stimulation leads to experience, and if experience leads to knowledge, and if knowledge leads to consciousness, how could something without a nervous system (reaction to sensory stimulation) ever achieve consciousness?

The syntax of our language doesn't lend itself to simultaneousness. (If that's not a word, tough--it is now.) Our language is linear--sense development isn't. Please keep that in mind.


I don't really understand why you would give an emphatically linear presentation, and then blame it on the limitations of language. Am I misunderstanding you somehow? I feel like I'm losing my sense of a shared topic here.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby gib » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:33 pm

anon wrote:
lizbethrose wrote:But, hey, all I'm trying to do in this thread is explain why I'm not a materialist.



That's fine. I'm not a materialist either. But not every argument against materialism is a good one, in my opinion.


Count me in as a fellow non-materialist.

The last few posts have touched on a certain definition of consciousness as the having of knowledge. I want to challenge this a little--or rather, I want to propose that consciousness is bit more complex than that: I want to propose that consciousness qua knowledge is one kind of consciousness. It depends on the organism having the ability for cogitation. But the fetus, the zygote, doesn't come fully equipped with cogitation from the get go. As soon as it develops the first semblances of a nervous system, I would think the first kind of experience it would be capable of having would be some kind of rudimentary sensation. But unless it already has consciousness in order to experience this sensation (in order for it to be sensation), I'm hard pressed to understand how it could develop and evolve into thought and knowledge.

I've found it useful, therefore, to distinguish between what I call epistemic consciousness and experiential consciousness. Any organism first has experiential consciousness (the ability to feel something--anything) before it develops epistemic consciousness. And before it has epistemic consciousness, it is capable of experiencing things without knowing it is having those experiences.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:03 pm

Hello Anon And Liz,

Consciousness sure is prodigious. Wow, what a vast area it is, and, boy, what great amounts of experiences it can contain! That’s one way of looking at it. Another is to ask how we become conscious of something. Anon asked somewhere if a sense of self is a necessary aspect of consciousness? I’d say that is a necessity for one to be conscious of what surrounds him. If we get into analogies, sensory activity is conveyance of electrical nerve signals from the area of detection to the brain much like transferring info from one disc to another. Liz talked about translation and interpretation of said info by means of memory cell activation (frames of knowledge) simultaneous with the sensory detection -- and that has to be factored in when discussing the act of being conscious.

When Liz speaks of the strengthening of the knowledge (you have of the experience) due to the repetition of the experience, I believe she is referring to that which reinforces an experiencing structure in you. The immediate translation of a sensory input by means of that experiencing structure is what thought is made up of ... and isn’t what you know and think about consciousness ... is it not that that is just what you will experience of consciousness so far?
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:08 pm

gib wrote:
anon wrote:I've found it useful, therefore, to distinguish between what I call epistemic consciousness and experiential consciousness. Any organism first has experiential consciousness (the ability to feel something--anything) before it develops epistemic consciousness. And before it has epistemic consciousness, it is capable of experiencing things without knowing it is having those experiences.

you see here how gib clarifies the nature of the definitions ... nice going gib and thanks.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:12 pm

anon wrote:In some ways, I don't think we understand anything, including the things we think we understand. This is actually the heart of my OP. Do you understand why kicking a ball results in it flying through the air? My claim is that you don't. It's just what happens. And there are complex patterns of things that just happen, that we can describe using simple abstractions (equations, for example), which we can then use to predict things, invent things, etc. That's kind of a linear presentation of course - in reality we can often predict things before coming up with the abstraction that accurately describes why we can make the prediction. Etc. Also, and I brought this up before in this thread, explanations can apply to everything, but they aren't sufficient to account for everything. The entire visual spectrum without exception can be explained as shades of black and white, but this explanation is not sufficient to account for color. Likewise, physical explanations can be applied to your mental world, without exception. But physical explanations are not sufficient to account for your mental world. I think this is important to sort out: one mode of explanation is insufficient to encompass reality, yet it is not incredible that one mode of explanation can apply to all reality.

Nice bottom lining here Anon ... and is why I'm fond of saying, you look for and find what you know, no more or less.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby gib » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:11 am

finishedman wrote:
gib wrote:
anon wrote:I've found it useful, therefore, to distinguish between what I call epistemic consciousness and experiential consciousness. Any organism first has experiential consciousness (the ability to feel something--anything) before it develops epistemic consciousness. And before it has epistemic consciousness, it is capable of experiencing things without knowing it is having those experiences.

you see here how gib clarifies the nature of the definitions ... nice going gib and thanks.


Thanks finishedman... btw, did you get my PM, the one where I linked you to a "gift"?
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:23 pm

We're talking about consciousness on more than one level of abstraction, here.

obe, what do you mean by 'singular consciousness?' If you mean an individual consciousness comes equipped with a sort of Jungian 'collective conscious' or the imprint of prior consciousnesses, I agree insofar as those 'imprints' are part of the human brain.

anon, can you describe anything in English without your description being linear? Try it. Describe 'popcorn', for example.

Other people have replied to what I've posted in this thread. This makes it a 'shared' topic going beyond you and me. In the process, some of our agreed to points are being covered over.

None of us has the means necessary to define consciousness. Is that agreed? The best any of us can do is try to explain how we think consciousness is arrived at in a human mind/brain. I've said that I believe it is concomitant--or concurrent--with the development of sensory reaction. Sensory reaction can't happen without the development of the central nervous system and all its constituents. That development is physical and doesn't yet include cognition.

Consciousness involves repetition and memory of the reaction to outside stimuli. This is, to me, the basis for knowledge--an essential part of consciousness. Cognition and self-awareness come later. If cognition and self-awareness are traits necessary for humanity, a new-born human isn't born with them, because a new-born is still in a stage of development that hasn't yet reached that point.

If you guys want to debate that, then please do so.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:24 pm

Consciousness starts to develop as a result of the ("due to") development of the senses. I believe this is true. If it were possible for a human to be born without any of the senses, would it be 'human'--even animal--or would it be a blob?


If a human being can be born without the senses - no sight, no smell, no taste, no touch, no sound... he might still have a functioning mind, because there are mental contents that don't depend on the information that the senses in this particular life have collected.


When Neo was in his dream world created by the machine’s mechanisms, his senses were essentially defunct, yet he (or rather his brain) was ‘conscious’ of living a ‘real’ life. Hence, what is real are electrical signals interpreted by the brain in the areas that correspond with areas that the senses are interpreted or translated as the brain converts the impulses. The nerve endings on the retina, eardrum, taste buds, skin, etc., are there only to detect and are the starting point of a journey through the nerve pathways that must terminate in a functioning brain. The eye, ear, nose, etc., themselves do not ‘tell’ anything.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:37 pm

anon wrote: If a human being can be born without the senses - no sight, no smell, no taste, no touch, no sound... he might still have a functioning mind, because there are mental contents that don't depend on the information that the senses in this particular life have collected.

This sounds like a reference to instinct or intuition. Would you say this ‘collection’ of knowledge is passed down through the genes somehow? Also, do you think the brain is singularly capable of creating mental contents upon which it may speculate, or does it have to acquire, from outside sources, the knowledge in order to know about which it is conscious of?
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:14 pm

I know I'm behind here - I'll try to catch up soon.

Carry on...
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby gib » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:17 am

lizbethrose wrote:None of us has the means necessary to define consciousness. Is that agreed?


Not really. I, in my own pompous way, think that I've defined consciousness. But in my not-so-pompous way, I do realize it's subject to debate.

lizbethrose wrote:The best any of us can do is try to explain how we think consciousness is arrived at in a human mind/brain. I've said that I believe it is concomitant--or concurrent--with the development of sensory reaction. Sensory reaction can't happen without the development of the central nervous system and all its constituents. That development is physical and doesn't yet include cognition.

Consciousness involves repetition and memory of the reaction to outside stimuli. This is, to me, the basis for knowledge--an essential part of consciousness. Cognition and self-awareness come later. If cognition and self-awareness are traits necessary for humanity, a new-born human isn't born with them, because a new-born is still in a stage of development that hasn't yet reached that point.


Yes, I agree with all this, except that I think knowledge is a form of cognition.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:24 am

gib, I guess it depends on what you call 'knowledge' and how you define 'cognition.' For me, knowledge is acquired through experience, and memory, of sensory input, while cognition is the ability to sort through one's knowledge, arrange one's knowledge, and--in so doing--learn even more.

Have you ever read Jean Piaget's theories of the development of cognition in infants and children? He's quite interesting and really laid the groundwork in that area of child psychology.

Anyway--I'm interested in hearing your ideas so as to add to my knowledge. That's why I'm here. :)
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:25 am

Liz … (about uniqueness)

I see uniqueness as manifesting itself in the way genes combine to produce the physical aspects of the members of a species. No two leaves on a tree are the same just as no two snowflakes are and no two humans are. We’re all individually unique in physical composition because there is no model in nature when it comes to individual members of a species. Nature may be trying to keep a species pure and strong in the gene pool, which mankind has weakened with humans because we find medical remedies to prolong the weak/sick humans and allow them to pass along a weaker strain of genes which probably weakens the gene pool through breeding. But that’s another story. Anyway, I’d go on to say, though, that we humans basically function the same way. All life is related to other life at the molecular level (DNA) and is linked anatomically, physiologically and biochemically. Due to this common chemical thread, all living systems are similar in their basic structure and function.

Now, when it comes to thought, I’d be the first to admit that I function in that aspect just like a machine. It’s no different from the extraordinary instrument we have, the computer. You press a button and it indicates it is ready. Then you ask for something, then it searches. That searching is thinking. But it is a mechanical process. In that computer there is no thinker. There is no thinker thinking there at all. If there is any information or anything that is referred to, the computer puts it together and throws it out. That is all that is happening. It is a very mechanical thing that is happening. We are not ready to accept that thought is mechanical because that knocks off the whole image that we are not just machines. It is an extraordinary machine. It is not different from the computers we use. But my body is something living; it’s got a living quality to it. It has a vitality. It is not just mechanically repeating; it carries with it the life energy like current energy.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby finishedman » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:33 am

lizbethrose wrote:gib, I guess it depends on what you call 'knowledge' and how you define 'cognition.' For me, knowledge is acquired through experience, and memory, of sensory input, while cognition is the ability to sort through one's knowledge, arrange one's knowledge, and--in so doing--learn even more.

Have you ever read Jean Piaget's theories of the development of cognition in infants and children? He's quite interesting and really laid the groundwork in that area of child psychology.

Anyway--I'm interested in hearing your ideas so as to add to my knowledge. That's why I'm here. :)

Pardon me for cutting in Gib …. But isn’t the stimulus response activity one unitary movement that is not actually able to be experienced by a fetus? Doesn’t knowledge or thought (that’s acquired latter) have to come in between the stimulus and response mechanism in order to experience what is happening?

Sorry Liz.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:00 am

anon wrote:

In some ways, I don't think we understand anything, including the things we think we understand. This is actually the heart of my OP. Do you understand why kicking a ball results in it flying through the air? My claim is that you don't. It's just what happens. And there are complex patterns of things that just happen, that we can describe using simple abstractions (equations, for example), which we can then use to predict things, invent things, etc. That's kind of a linear presentation of course - in reality we can often predict things before coming up with the abstraction that accurately describes why we can make the prediction. Etc. Also, and I brought this up before in this thread, explanations can apply to everything, but they aren't sufficient to account for everything. The entire visual spectrum without exception can be explained as shades of black and white, but this explanation is not sufficient to account for color. Likewise, physical explanations can be applied to your mental world, without exception. But physical explanations are not sufficient to account for your mental world. I think this is important to sort out: one mode of explanation is insufficient to encompass reality, yet it is not incredible that one mode of explanation can apply to all reality.


Do I "understand why kicking a ball results in it flying through the air?" Maybe and/or maybe not. I know that the kicker has exerted enough force on the ball to dislodge it from its state of rest for a given period of time before gravity takes over and ultimately returns the ball to its state of rest. If I don't know the mechanics of that, that's one thing; I do have, however, empirical 'proof' that that's what's going to happen.

As for the rest of your post, I don't think physical explanations can be applied to everything in my mental world. I'd have to be a materialist to do so. Hey, anon, I'm on your side here, buddy. I'm just using my own words, is all.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby lizbethrose » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:48 am

finishedman wrote:
lizbethrose wrote:gib, I guess it depends on what you call 'knowledge' and how you define 'cognition.' For me, knowledge is acquired through experience, and memory, of sensory input, while cognition is the ability to sort through one's knowledge, arrange one's knowledge, and--in so doing--learn even more.

Have you ever read Jean Piaget's theories of the development of cognition in infants and children? He's quite interesting and really laid the groundwork in that area of child psychology.

Anyway--I'm interested in hearing your ideas so as to add to my knowledge. That's why I'm here. :)


Pardon me for cutting in Gib …. But isn’t the stimulus response activity one unitary movement that is not actually able to be experienced by a fetus? Doesn’t knowledge or thought (that’s acquired latter) have to come in between the stimulus and response mechanism in order to experience what is happening?

Sorry Liz.


No apology is needed, FM. However, I think I've answered this previously in my link, i.e., the fetus does show reactions to, and memory of, its stimulus/response mechanism.

To get a bit off topic here, because I found it so awesome I want to share it. I watched a very short film (a bit over a minute) the other night. It started with a dog asleep on the floor. Its legs started to twitch, then, as the dream progressed, it started running. It ran faster, looking back over its shoulder. Suddenly it stopped running, turned onto its back, and began fighting--teeth bared and biting, legs pushing upward. Then it stood up and started running again--right into a wall, which finally woke him up. It was one hell of a nightmare! But it showed primal fear.

This is what I thought you were talking about when you mentioned inborn memories. And yes, those memories are there. We all need them and so we all have them.

I only saw the first Matrix and I missed the beginning, so it was rather confusing to me. But, you're correct, what is "real" to a materialist, are nothing other than electrical signals. What I've iterated--even stressed--is the difference between the mechanisms of the brain and the results of those mechanisms. How does the mind/brain actually transform those electrical signals into thought?

That, to me, is a phenomenon that can't be explained by a materialist.
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:36 pm

gib wrote:Count me in as a fellow non-materialist.

The last few posts have touched on a certain definition of consciousness as the having of knowledge. I want to challenge this a little--or rather, I want to propose that consciousness is bit more complex than that: I want to propose that consciousness qua knowledge is one kind of consciousness. It depends on the organism having the ability for cogitation. But the fetus, the zygote, doesn't come fully equipped with cogitation from the get go. As soon as it develops the first semblances of a nervous system, I would think the first kind of experience it would be capable of having would be some kind of rudimentary sensation. But unless it already has consciousness in order to experience this sensation (in order for it to be sensation), I'm hard pressed to understand how it could develop and evolve into thought and knowledge.

This makes a lot of sense to me.

Liz, a quick glance at subsequent posts and I don't think you've responded to this. I might be wrong about that. What do you think of this presentation? You can say that language limits us to linearity on some level, but it's really not that hard express non-linearity. In some ways, it's just about presenting a bit of complexity.

gib wrote:I've found it useful, therefore, to distinguish between what I call epistemic consciousness and experiential consciousness. Any organism first has experiential consciousness (the ability to feel something--anything) before it develops epistemic consciousness. And before it has epistemic consciousness, it is capable of experiencing things without knowing it is having those experiences.

These distinctions make sense to me. Would you say that one state causes the next stage? Or do you think maybe there is an underlying situation, that causes this flowering, in stages, to occur? Or some other explanation, perhaps?
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:01 pm

finishedman wrote:Hello Anon And Liz,

Consciousness sure is prodigious. Wow, what a vast area it is, and, boy, what great amounts of experiences it can contain! That’s one way of looking at it. Another is to ask how we become conscious of something. Anon asked somewhere if a sense of self is a necessary aspect of consciousness? I’d say that is a necessity for one to be conscious of what surrounds him. If we get into analogies, sensory activity is conveyance of electrical nerve signals from the area of detection to the brain much like transferring info from one disc to another. Liz talked about translation and interpretation of said info by means of memory cell activation (frames of knowledge) simultaneous with the sensory detection -- and that has to be factored in when discussing the act of being conscious.

When Liz speaks of the strengthening of the knowledge (you have of the experience) due to the repetition of the experience, I believe she is referring to that which reinforces an experiencing structure in you. The immediate translation of a sensory input by means of that experiencing structure is what thought is made up of ... and isn’t what you know and think about consciousness ... is it not that that is just what you will experience of consciousness so far?

Finishedman,

I'm not sure if I agree with the portion I bolded here or not. Perhaps if you clarify what you mean by a sense of self. But for the moment I think it's safe to assume you're just referring to awareness of consciousness - awareness of oneself as a conscious being. If so, then I think the important question is whether this is just semantics - i.e. I can choose to either define consciousness as including self awareness or not - or whether this is actually a fundamental difference - i.e. there is no connection between a thermostat and sentience, at all. In this second view, a thermostat shares no important characteristics with sentient life (or if you don't believe the "lower" animals are conscious, then they share no important characteristics with the "higher" animals).
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Re: A Footnote to “Why I Am Not a Materialist”

Postby anon » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:09 pm

finishedman wrote:
anon wrote:In some ways, I don't think we understand anything, including the things we think we understand. This is actually the heart of my OP. Do you understand why kicking a ball results in it flying through the air? My claim is that you don't. It's just what happens. And there are complex patterns of things that just happen, that we can describe using simple abstractions (equations, for example), which we can then use to predict things, invent things, etc. That's kind of a linear presentation of course - in reality we can often predict things before coming up with the abstraction that accurately describes why we can make the prediction. Etc. Also, and I brought this up before in this thread, explanations can apply to everything, but they aren't sufficient to account for everything. The entire visual spectrum without exception can be explained as shades of black and white, but this explanation is not sufficient to account for color. Likewise, physical explanations can be applied to your mental world, without exception. But physical explanations are not sufficient to account for your mental world. I think this is important to sort out: one mode of explanation is insufficient to encompass reality, yet it is not incredible that one mode of explanation can apply to all reality.

Nice bottom lining here Anon ... and is why I'm fond of saying, you look for and find what you know, no more or less.

Thanks, finishedman. I'd slightly change what you've said though - I think you can find what you have the ability to know.
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