Tuesday, June 14, 2011

334: The materialist Brain 2

To say that everything is material sound rather simple and obvious. However, in the hands of philosophers such a statements shows to be not so simple as it looks like.

Philosophers and scientists have had various views regarding the constitution and behavior of material objects

and over whether every material thing is a body, or whether forces, or waves, or fields of force are also realities in their own right.

To begin with we could define a material thing as a being possessing many physical properties and no other properties.

A possible list of properties: position in space and time, size, shape, duration, mass, velocity, solidity, inertia, electric charge, spin, rigidity, temperature, hardness, magnetic field intensity, and the like.

Note that I say at the end of the list "and the like". We can not exclude the possibility that we discover new physical properties.

In other words, we have no fully determinate answer to what a material thing is. So what is a materialist claiming, when he says "there only exists matter"?

This looks like a problem for a materialist, but it isn't that bad. There is a broad consensus on which properties are physical properties.

Therefore when a new property would be discovered it would readily classified as a physical property and not as some anomaly. If that were the case more research is required only.

For extreme versions of materialism the psychological characteristics people ascribe to themselves and to one another—consciousness, purposiveness, aspiration, desire, for example—are not considered to be physical properties.

This is an interesting point, for just suppose that we say that consciousness IS a property of matter. The contemporary philosopher of mind, David Chalmers (1966- …) for instance, holds that view.

We will discuss his ideas later. The term that goes along with such views is panpsychism, or as Chalmers calls it: "panprotopsychism".

As I remarked in the previous lecture, for the materialist there is no second class of nonmaterial beings, like Descartes had suggested.

There are no incorporeal souls or spirits, no spiritual principalities or powers, no angels or devils, no demiurges and no gods , if these are conceived as immaterial entities. Hence, nothing that happens can be attributed to the action of such beings.

An other fundamental point of view of the materialist is: “Everything that can be explained can be explained on the basis of laws involving only the relevant physical conditions.”

This too leads to interesting discussions, for you are ready now to conclude that a materialist must be a determinist too.

Determinism means that everything that happens is a link in an infinite chain of causes and effects. If that is so, then whatever we do is caused too, not freely chosen.

Here we touch on the issue of the existence of free will. Due to neurobiological findings nowadays you hear the claim, that free will is only an illusion. We definitely will discuss this matter too!

Recently, the appeal of determinism has been weakened by the development and success of quantum theory, and many contemporary materialists are not committed to determinism.

Materialism has been, traditionally, a minority view, indeed a rather daring and scandalous one, but it has made considerable progress over the past century, particularly among educated European peoples.

So it will be interesting to pay some attention to the history of materialism too and learn why it has gotten a broader acceptance today.

The Discussion

[2011/06/09 13:21] herman Bergson: Thank you..
[2011/06/09 13:21] herman Bergson: The floor is yours now....:-)
[2011/06/09 13:21] Bejiita Imako: oki
[2011/06/09 13:22] Zevio Droz: how does materialism imply determinism
[2011/06/09 13:22] herman Bergson: causality Zevio...
[2011/06/09 13:23] Mick Nerido: The material world is also energy as in E=MCsquared
[2011/06/09 13:23] herman Bergson: every cause has its fixed effect
[2011/06/09 13:23] Zevio Droz: i see
[2011/06/09 13:23] herman Bergson: if the effect is a fixed thing ..there is no choice...
[2011/06/09 13:24] herman Bergson: no free will
[2011/06/09 13:24] herman Bergson: .
[2011/06/09 13:24] Zevio Droz: have they found particles or the like that act completely randomly?
[2011/06/09 13:24] herman Bergson: yes..
[2011/06/09 13:25] herman Bergson: quantum mechanics
[2011/06/09 13:25] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): that is a good question zevio
[2011/06/09 13:25] Bejiita Imako: ah
[2011/06/09 13:25] Zevio Droz: neurobiology
[2011/06/09 13:26] herman Bergson: well...the basic idea is...
[2011/06/09 13:26] herman Bergson: that the behavior of some atom or neutron...I dont know..is literally unpredictable..
[2011/06/09 13:27] herman Bergson: it will decay..at some moment..but there is no physical law to predict that moment
[2011/06/09 13:27] herman Bergson: completely random...
[2011/06/09 13:27] Mick Nerido: uncertinty principle?
[2011/06/09 13:27] Bejiita Imako: its like schrödinger's cat
[2011/06/09 13:27] Bejiita Imako: u don't know the answer until you look but then you also affect
[2011/06/09 13:28] herman Bergson: so In neurobiology they refer to that basic atomic feature...
[2011/06/09 13:28] Zevio Droz: so are you talking about what consciousness is made out of?
[2011/06/09 13:28] Mick Nerido: Yes Bejiita, you cause a change just by looking
[2011/06/09 13:29] Bejiita Imako: thats why quantum encryption is unbreakable
[2011/06/09 13:29] herman Bergson: We'll discourse that issue when we are dealing with free will
[2011/06/09 13:29] herman Bergson: Consciousness is on the menu Zevio...
[2011/06/09 13:29] herman Bergson: But not yet being served :-)
[2011/06/09 13:29] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[2011/06/09 13:30] Zevio Droz: ;p
[2011/06/09 13:30] Zevio Droz: it's possible to not have free will and free will still be possible
[2011/06/09 13:30] herman Bergson: First we have to understand contemporary thought about materialism...
[2011/06/09 13:30] Zevio Droz: ok
[2011/06/09 13:30] Alaya Kumaki: on the menu, but beeing created, maybe with all medias information we get a materially made grip to all what is going on
[2011/06/09 13:31] herman Bergson: It is fundament to our quest into the Mystery of the Brain
[2011/06/09 13:31] Zevio Droz: i'm trying to apply materialism to internal matters, did you have something else in mind?
[2011/06/09 13:32] herman Bergson: What do you mean Zevio?
[2011/06/09 13:32] Zevio Droz: if we live in a universe made solely of matter and all is determined i would like to know how that affects the mind, but i was wondering if you wanted to go in a different direction
[2011/06/09 13:32] Zevio Droz: and what that direction is
[2011/06/09 13:33] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hope it will all be clear at another class or classes
[2011/06/09 13:33] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): but as usual more questions :-)
[2011/06/09 13:34] herman Bergson: the issue of determinism and free will will be a whole chapter here in class
[2011/06/09 13:34] Zevio Droz: i'm confused about what the current discussion is
[2011/06/09 13:34] herman Bergson: Materialism...
[2011/06/09 13:35] herman Bergson: the statement that there is only one thing in this word: matter
[2011/06/09 13:35] Zevio Droz: do you have a question for the class concerning materialism that we can discuss?
[2011/06/09 13:35] herman Bergson: I guess you missed a few classes Zevio ^_*
[2011/06/09 13:35] Zevio Droz: oh i see
[2011/06/09 13:35] herman Bergson: Doesnt work that way....
[2011/06/09 13:36] herman Bergson: This is not a place for endless discussions about some question...
[2011/06/09 13:36] herman Bergson: I am teaching a course about the Mystery of the Brain...
[2011/06/09 13:36] Mick Nerido: The new cern accelerator will give us more information soon
[2011/06/09 13:37] Bejiita Imako: fully been running all day now
[2011/06/09 13:37] Sousinne Ceriano: Or DOOM US ALL! DOOM, I TELL YOU!!!
[2011/06/09 13:37] Alaya Kumaki: punishment and hope are the old ways to learn mick now, its not as that since we know more
[2011/06/09 13:37] herman Bergson: That would be great Mick if it helps us here :-)
[2011/06/09 13:37] Bejiita Imako: it works great
[2011/06/09 13:37] Bejiita Imako: we'll see
[2011/06/09 13:37] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[2011/06/09 13:37] Zevio Droz: one reason i doubt materialism is near death experiences
[2011/06/09 13:37] Bejiita Imako: I am keeping an eye in that thing
[2011/06/09 13:38] Zevio Droz: call me superstitious
[2011/06/09 13:38] Zevio Droz: but there are people having really profound experiences either immediately before death or after death
[2011/06/09 13:38] herman Bergson: ok Zevio..you are superstiscious ^_^
[2011/06/09 13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• LOL ‚ô•
[2011/06/09 13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we always go back to the same questions
[2011/06/09 13:38] Zevio Droz: heh
[2011/06/09 13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): 'or new ones
[2011/06/09 13:38] Qwark Allen: hypersticious
[2011/06/09 13:39] herman Bergson: Yes ..Gemma ..isnt it funny..:-)
[2011/06/09 13:39] Sousinne Ceriano: While in a near death experience, you still have all your memories, your associations and so on. Why should experiencing something like that mean it's true? Do our senses truly go that far?
[2011/06/09 13:39] Zevio Droz: it doesn't mean it's true, but it means that the brain is able to create a vivid reality independent of the physical world
[2011/06/09 13:39] Sousinne Ceriano: After all, your brain is breaking down. A few weird experiences should not be unexpected...
[2011/06/09 13:40] Zevio Droz: just as vivid as life
[2011/06/09 13:40] herman Bergson: The near death experience is already completely understood in neurobiology...
[2011/06/09 13:40] Zevio Droz: i see
[2011/06/09 13:40] Sousinne Ceriano: Or... just as vivid as your imagination, fired by neurotransmitter bursts from dying neurons
[2011/06/09 13:40] herman Bergson: They can give you that expierience in no time with electrodes on your head
[2011/06/09 13:41] Mick Nerido: A stiff drink works also
[2011/06/09 13:41] Sousinne Ceriano: It's what XTC does... it fires your neuronal supply of transmitter substance.
[2011/06/09 13:41] herman Bergson: the idea that you experience something supernatural or so in a near death experience is complete nonsense
[2011/06/09 13:41] Zevio Droz: ok then how can a human distinguish any sort of "supernatural" experience if it can all be blamed on the brain
[2011/06/09 13:41] Zevio Droz: so then you're a materialist
[2011/06/09 13:41] Sousinne Ceriano: I am so glad you asked that, Zevio =)
[2011/06/09 13:42] herman Bergson: start reading to begin with lecture 266 Zevio :-)
[2011/06/09 13:42] Sousinne Ceriano: The answer is, of course, that EVERYTHING we experience is experienced directly because of our brain.
[2011/06/09 13:42] Sousinne Ceriano: And if we can experience it, it's not supernatural at all.
[2011/06/09 13:43] Mick Nerido: What about dreams?
[2011/06/09 13:43] herman Bergson: there is no supernatural....
[2011/06/09 13:43] herman Bergson: Dreams? Random brain activity while sleeping Mick
[2011/06/09 13:43] Sousinne Ceriano: Whether it's the voice of God, near death experiences, or oneness with the ALL, or anything else.
[2011/06/09 13:43] Zevio Droz: call it the natural then
[2011/06/09 13:44] Sousinne Ceriano: Indeed.
[2011/06/09 13:44] herman Bergson: All rubbish Sousinne :-)
[2011/06/09 13:44] Zevio Droz: well then thats the discussion then
[2011/06/09 13:44] herman Bergson: We have to stick to the facts...
[2011/06/09 13:44] Sousinne Ceriano: And if we're at "natural" rather than "supernatural", then considering the case for the existence of a God becomes MUCH easier.
[2011/06/09 13:45] herman Bergson: With all due respect Sousinne
[2011/06/09 13:45] herman Bergson: But that weird idea...people call god...where does it come from???
[2011/06/09 13:46] Qwark Allen: must be very old idea
[2011/06/09 13:46] herman Bergson: Except of course it is part of our culture historically
[2011/06/09 13:46] herman Bergson: Bu tthe idea makes no sense at all...
[2011/06/09 13:46] druth Vlodovic: human nature to fear the unknown and want methods of controlling the world
[2011/06/09 13:46] Mick Nerido: God only knows
[2011/06/09 13:46] Sousinne Ceriano: The human brain has evolved to be able to feel AWE. Awe is something that puts us in mind of belonging, purpose and group-think.
[2011/06/09 13:47] herman Bergson: oh yes Druth,,,,that is of course a reason
[2011/06/09 13:47] Sousinne Ceriano: It makes us feel small, irrelevant... and thus makes us ONLY a part of something bigger.
[2011/06/09 13:47] herman Bergson: hold on....
[2011/06/09 13:47] herman Bergson: That idea...
[2011/06/09 13:47] Sousinne Ceriano: It probably has been important for some reason or other.
[2011/06/09 13:47] herman Bergson: that we feel small...
[2011/06/09 13:48] druth Vlodovic: or makes us feel integrated with something bigger, in the same scale as the world, or even bigger
[2011/06/09 13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Well depends on whether you are looking out at space or down at insects
[2011/06/09 13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): insects*
[2011/06/09 13:48] herman Bergson: yes Gemma :-)
[2011/06/09 13:48] Bejiita Imako: ah
[2011/06/09 13:48] Bejiita Imako: yes
[2011/06/09 13:48] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): or microbes in a scope
[2011/06/09 13:48] Qwark Allen: good point, i was only thinking in space
[2011/06/09 13:48] herman Bergson: Our brain produces all the ideas we have...
[2011/06/09 13:48] Sousinne Ceriano: As we grew up as a species, we clothed the feeling of awe in spiritual, then religious, terms.
[2011/06/09 13:49] Qwark Allen: now i feel a gigant! ty gemma :-)
[2011/06/09 13:49] herman Bergson: the God idea is a way to understand life..feel comfortable with it...
[2011/06/09 13:49] Sousinne Ceriano: Ending up with the concept of GOD.
[2011/06/09 13:49] Qwark Allen: :-)
[2011/06/09 13:49] herman Bergson: We can accept the most cruel experiences with the words..Yes ..it was the will of god...
[2011/06/09 13:49] Bejiita Imako: hahah
[2011/06/09 13:50] Sousinne Ceriano: But the words are meaningless.
[2011/06/09 13:50] Sousinne Ceriano: The feeling is the relevant part.
[2011/06/09 13:50] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): perhaps to you but not to others
[2011/06/09 13:50] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): depends on belief
[2011/06/09 13:50] druth Vlodovic: easier, for me, to say "that just happened, there is no god causing it" but I walked a long way to get there
[2011/06/09 13:50] herman Bergson: That is the point Gemma..
[2011/06/09 13:50] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right
[2011/06/09 13:51] Alaya Kumaki: why do we need to define, what it is, when there is nothing to say, but to observe what we can and let go what we can't see
[2011/06/09 13:51] Bejiita Imako: aaa guess so
[2011/06/09 13:51] Zevio Droz: the only real "evidence" is experiential evidence
[2011/06/09 13:51] Sousinne Ceriano: No? I would think me and they feel the same thing, we need it just the same... but we dress that feeling in different clothes.
[2011/06/09 13:51] Zevio Droz: it depends on if you find that valid or not
[2011/06/09 13:51] Qwark Allen: seems we are all mindless
[2011/06/09 13:51] Qwark Allen: no one so far could measure a mind
[2011/06/09 13:51] Qwark Allen: yet we have one
[2011/06/09 13:52] herman Bergson: We will get to that Qwark....
[2011/06/09 13:52] Sousinne Ceriano: Zevio: experiential evidence THAT YOU CAN SHARE.
[2011/06/09 13:52] herman Bergson: Will be a long way perhaps..but we get to that!
[2011/06/09 13:52] Sousinne Ceriano: Feeling the touch of God proves only that your brain is capable of giving you that experience.
[2011/06/09 13:52] druth Vlodovic: I have to be off, have fun all, and thank you Herman
[2011/06/09 13:53] herman Bergson: Be well Druth
[2011/06/09 13:53] Qwark Allen: not because our rudimentary science can`t explain or test, doesn`t mean it is not logical or that not exist
[[2011/06/09 13:54] Zevio Droz: i think the human species is too young to jump to conclusions about these things
[2011/06/09 13:54] herman Bergson: That is a tricky statement Qwark....
[2011/06/09 13:54] Zevio Droz: we think we know everything at this point
[2011/06/09 13:54] Bejiita Imako: for sure there is more to discover
[2011/06/09 13:54] Qwark Allen: sometimes i see us here saying that if we can test, it`s real, if not it`s a question of believe
[2011/06/09 13:54] herman Bergson: To say that...what science cant explain can yet exist...
[2011/06/09 13:54] herman Bergson: that is opening Pandora's box..
[2011/06/09 13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well it is
[2011/06/09 13:54] Qwark Allen: but the science we have it`s not that sophisticated
[2011/06/09 13:54] Zevio Droz: i see
[2011/06/09 13:54] Sousinne Ceriano: professor...
[2011/06/09 13:55] Qwark Allen: will be in the futur
[2011/06/09 13:55] Sousinne Ceriano: You can still make epidemiological research.
[2011/06/09 13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): that is true too
[2011/06/09 13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): both are true
[2011/06/09 13:55] Bejiita Imako: ah
[2011/06/09 13:55] Sousinne Ceriano: If God is claimed to heal the sick... we can test what frequency it happens at.
[2011/06/09 13:56] herman Bergson: Based on Qwark 's statement...everything can exist..whatever you think of
[2011/06/09 13:56] Mick Nerido: My senses tell me the earth is flat...
[2011/06/09 13:56] Sousinne Ceriano: There are methods that do not require us to understand a concept to measure it.
[2011/06/09 13:56] herman Bergson: It never happens Sousinne
[2011/06/09 13:56] Qwark Allen: +/-
[2011/06/09 13:57] Zevio Droz: it is a pandoras box
[2011/06/09 13:57] Sousinne Ceriano: It doesn't. But if there was a significant difference between, say, believers and nonbelievers in "miraculous recoveries", there would be a case for God.
[2011/06/09 13:57] herman Bergson: On of the best discussions ever, my friends...
[2011/06/09 13:58] herman Bergson looks at his watch...
[2011/06/09 13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[2011/06/09 13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh have to go!
[2011/06/09 13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ‚ô•
[2011/06/09 13:58] herman Bergson: Time to dismiss class
[2011/06/09 13:58] Bejiita Imako: ok
[2011/06/09 13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): see you next thurs
[2011/06/09 13:58] Sousinne Ceriano: Thank you professor, and sorry for being late.
[2011/06/09 13:58] Bejiita Imako: aaa cu
[2011/06/09 13:58] Zevio Droz: :)
[2011/06/09 13:58] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): maybe tuesday depending
[2011/06/09 13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation..
[2011/06/09 13:58] Bejiita Imako: nice once again
[2011/06/09 13:58] Bejiita Imako: „ã°
[2011/06/09 13:58] Mick Nerido: Thanks professor
[2011/06/09 13:58] Bejiita Imako: interesting subjects
[2011/06/09 13:58] herman Bergson: You are excused sousinne :-)
[2011/06/09 13:58] MultiMuse: thank you for the lecture.
[2011/06/09 13:58] Zevio Droz: seeya herman
[2011/06/09 13:59] Sousinne Ceriano: bye people

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