Wednesday, January 11, 2012

372: The Brain and Consciousness, a temporary answer

Today I 'll try to clarify once again to what conclusion I have come with regard to the classic "MIND - BODY" problem.

To begin with, there never has been a "problem". The problem was created by Descartes (1596 - 1650). In the 17th century natural science emerged as a new realm of human knowledge.

The method was derived from the Ancient Greek: formulate a theory, make observations and test your theory: a systematic set of logically related propositions that attempt to explain the phenomena of some domain.

It is that in the seventeenth century there was a very serious conflict between science and religion, and it seemed that science was a threat to religion. Like religion is attacked these days again. Just think of Richard Dawkins.

Descartes devices the solution: he argued that reality divides into two kinds, the mental and the physical, res cogitans and res extensa.

Descartes made a useful division of the territory: Religion had the territory of the soul, and science could have material reality.

This shaped our vocabulary about the metal and the physical, which was of course heavily extended by the rise of psychology. Everything became mental or physical.

A good example of opposition this view: do you realize that for decades psycho-somatic diseases didn't exist. Psychiatric patients were put in cages, as if it were malfunctioning machines, good for a laugh.

It is in our time, actually these past few decades, that we have accepted the unity of being: that there is not such a thing as a mind and another thing called the body.

Yes, there is a causal relation between the mind and the body, to be more specific between the brain and the mind, defined as consciousness.

Ontology is the philosophical branch which asks the question: what does exist. Thus, our question is "Does consciousness really exist?" Or is our mental vocabulary just another way of talking about matter.

John Searle says: consciousness is a natural biological phenomenon just like digestion is, but it has some specific features in which it differs from other biological processes. We'll get to that later.

Let me try to explain the ontological status of consciousness. Consciousness is generated by the brain. No brain no consciousness.

Important here is to have a good understanding of causality. The general idea is that A causes B, where A and B are two independent events, which in a way also could exist independent of each other. After cause A, B could go on on its own.

That however, is not the case with consciousness, nor with other phenomena in physics. There exists also a kind of causality of mutual dependence.

And here we have difficulty to grasp the meaning of the statement that consciousness exists. Let me give you again the example of the causal relation between h2o molecules and liquidity.

We all accept that liquidity exists. Ok, as a property of water and there is the catch: WHAT is the ontological status of "liquidity", of such a property? Matter exists, molecules exist, but in what sense does a property exist?

Descartes solved the problem easily. He just concluded that this property could be regarded as an independent non material matter.

And here comes the brainteaser. Liquidity is not identical with h2o molecules under certain circumstances, for when I pick out such a molecule it will be just a collection of atoms and not liquid. Neither can you find a braincell of which you can say that it is conscious.

There is a way of existence which totally depends on the configuration of matter, which can be a subject of scientific research without forcing us to postulate something more than matter. In other words…the mind is the brain….

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: thank you....
[13:21] herman Bergson: The floor is yours!!
[13:21] Sousinne Ceriano cheers.
[13:22] Sybyle Perdide: sighs
[13:22] druth Vlodovic: so it's all because of politics, I knew it!
[13:22] herman Bergson: Well druth....the dualism is
[13:22] Farv Hallison: the social construction of reality.
[13:23] herman Bergson: Dualism was Farv....
[13:23] druth Vlodovic: why is sybyle sighing?
[13:23] Mick Nerido: The brain is a organ that is an electro chemical computer...
[13:23] Netty Crystal is Offline
[13:23] Sybyle Perdide: cause she have to get the clue..slowly
[13:24] Sybyle Perdide: has*
[13:24] Mariella Diesel (mariella.deezul) is Offline
[13:24] herman Bergson: Welll Mick...say that it is electro -chemical ....and leave the computer part...:-)
[13:24] herman Bergson: A computer is not even a shadow of the capacities of the brain
[13:25] Mick Nerido: just for a functional comparison not the same
[13:25] herman Bergson: I know MIck.....
[13:25] herman Bergson: But you know....the mind - computer comparison is an issue in itself....
[13:25] Sousinne Ceriano: to me, the most convincing evidence of this is what happens to a brain and a mind after a stroke. You lose a brain area, you lose its function...
[13:26] herman Bergson: Just look at the picture behind me Sousinne...
[13:26] herman Bergson: there is your story
[13:26] Loo Zeta: But the brain compensates and regenerates new pathways
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: yes
[13:27] Sousinne Ceriano: Which says to me that if you were to lose your entire brain, say, at death... you would lose ALL function - i.e. oblivion
[13:27] Loo Zeta: we chuck computers out
[13:27] Mick Nerido: All our senses are feeding the brain information and the brain synthezises all to produce a "consciousness"
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: but not always completely
[13:27] Farv Hallison: then let the brain heal and redistribute its memories and the function comes back.
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: not always, Farv
[13:28] Sousinne Ceriano: Not really... areas are not interchangeable.
[13:28] Loo Zeta: Some memory function is lost forever
[13:28] Sousinne Ceriano: When you do get a partial refunctioning, it's not as it happens witout a cost
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes but some functions can move to other brain happens
[13:29] Sybyle Perdide: sure
[13:29] Loo Zeta: reschematics
[13:29] Sousinne Ceriano: it happens in a limited way. A damaged brain stays damaged.
[13:29] herman Bergson: True Sousinne
[13:29] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:30] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): and a damaged mind?
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: but good question Beertje
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: (without but)
[13:30] Sousinne Ceriano: And a damaged mind.
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is not a good question,
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: why not?
[13:31] herman Bergson: It is ambiguous...
[13:31] Sousinne Ceriano: We don't use 10% of our brain... we use exactly 100% of it, but not all the time.
[13:31] Jaelle Faerye: one has to define what a damaged mind is
[13:31] Jaelle Faerye: and
[13:31] Jaelle Faerye: this is SL...
[13:31] Jaelle Faerye looks suspiciously around
[13:31] druth Vlodovic: lol
[13:31] Sousinne Ceriano: So every little area destroyed will respond to lost function.
[13:31] herman Bergson: because a damaged mind refers to a psychological state, not to a neurobiolocal state
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: but if the mind is the brain...
[13:32] druth Vlodovic: but isn't the idea that any psychological state has a corresponding neurological state?
[13:32] herman Bergson: I mind is damaged of course..I am crazy ..:-)
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: hihi
[13:32] Sousinne Ceriano: It doesn't matter much, as you said, Sybyle
[13:32] herman Bergson: but my brian is is my consciousness :-)
[13:32] Jaelle Faerye: i am not sure the mind is the brain, Sybyle
[13:33] Sousinne Ceriano: Brain damage is mind damage
[13:33] Jaelle Faerye: the mind is "part of", or "sits in" the brain, maybe?
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: you are to fats Sousinne
[13:33] Sousinne Ceriano: No
[13:33] Jaelle Faerye: not necessarily
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes...if you keep the terms in the neurobiological context Sousinne
[13:33] Loo Zeta: Frontal lobe?
[13:33] Sousinne Ceriano: I always do, Herman
[13:33] druth Vlodovic: if "mind" is how you think then you have to include the effects of hormones
[13:34] herman Bergson: hold on....!!!!!
[13:34] Sousinne Ceriano: And where do hormones come from?
[13:34] herman Bergson: Something is going wrong here.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: All of a sudden we ar e using the term MIND....
[13:34] Mick Nerido: Thanks Herman, have to go Bye
[13:35] Farv Hallison: bye Mick
[13:35] Sousinne Ceriano: Hormones come from glands that are directly or indirectly regulated from the Thalamus.
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: bye Mick
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: and we didnt define it b4
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think that is a completely obsolete term....with no meaning at all or hundreds of meanings
[13:35] Sousinne Ceriano: Hmmm, hypothalamus. sorry.
[13:35] herman Bergson: yes Sousinne...better place to be ^_^
[13:35] Sousinne Ceriano: Which is definitely part of the brain.
[13:35] druth Vlodovic: "brain" is an organ while "mind" is a concept, yes?
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: too general i think
[[13:36] herman Bergson: Brain is an organ Druth and consciousness is its product
[13:36] druth Vlodovic: but not everything we do is conscious
[13:37] herman Bergson: Mind is a word form the history of philosophy...
[13:37] arabella Ella is Online
[13:37] herman Bergson: no use for that anymore
[13:37] herman Bergson: leads only to confusion....
[13:37] druth Vlodovic: we even make decisions without really engaging the consciousness
[13:37] herman Bergson: unless you say mind is synonymous with consciousness
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes we do Druth....
[13:38] Sousinne Ceriano: Mind is consciousness.
[13:38] herman Bergson: with every step you take for instance
[13:38] Farv Hallison: I think the mind is where understanding occurs.
[13:38] druth Vlodovic: I was thinking of "mind" as being a more general term encompassing everything that causes thought or action
[13:39] Sybyle Perdide: so we need to find a definition of mind, before talking about
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: but we have supernatural phenomens that you cant explain this way
[13:39] Sousinne Ceriano: Such as...?
[13:39] herman Bergson: To begin with Sybyle
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: transfer of thoughts
[13:39] herman Bergson: but I prefer to drop the word mind completely...
[13:40] Sousinne Ceriano: Well, if you have evidence of telepathy, I am sure there are many who would listen.
[13:40] Sybyle Perdide: its okay
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: i agree
[13:40] herman Bergson: And what Farv said I would reply....
[13:40] druth Vlodovic: if I am uncomfortably warm it will make me irritable, this will affect my thoughts, so my overheated body becomes part of my mind without being part of my brain
[13:40] Farv Hallison: but if you drop the mind, where does understanding happen?
[13:41] herman Bergson: you refer to cognitive functions which are inherent to consciousness
[13:41] herman Bergson: Understanding as a function of consciousness
[13:41] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i feel a bit empty without a mind...
[13:42] herman Bergson: But you are a still a conscious person Beertje
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye: i would feel empty without a soul
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye: but that's another question
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye smiles
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: soul is very unscientific jaelle:_))
[13:42] herman Bergson: the word mind is so related to our dualist views of mind and body....
[13:42] druth Vlodovic: I dropped the idea of a soul a while back, the emptiness fills in :)
[13:42] Sousinne Ceriano: Understanding happens in the very highest abstract thought centers.
[13:42] herman Bergson: you feel lost without a mind and happy without a body...
[13:43] Sybyle Perdide: if you can define soul, it becomes scientific, Lizzy
[13:43] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): how can i keep are always on my mind??...if i haven't one?
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: absolutely
[13:43] Sousinne Ceriano: You are always on my consciousness?
[13:43] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): lol
[13:43] herman Bergson: oh dear Beertje...
[13:44] Farv Hallison: Where do you make the descion to jump out of the way when you see a shadow that might be a tiger?
[13:44] druth Vlodovic: lol, I have to go or I'll feel empty inside without a pizza
[13:44] druth Vlodovic: thanks herman
[13:44] herman Bergson: the limbic system of the brain does that Farv...
[13:44] Sybyle Perdide: bye druth
[13:44] druth Vlodovic: bye all
[13:44] Sousinne Ceriano: In some risk evaluation center. Also pretty high up.
[13:44] herman Bergson: it is not evne a decision in a conscious sense
[13:44] Jaelle Faerye: ye Druth
[13:45] druth Vlodovic is Offline
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well..I have burned out half of my class now....looks good
[13:45] herman Bergson: time to end the discusion.....^_^
[13:45] Jaelle Faerye feels like a mindless survivor
[13:46] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation....great discussion again today....!
[13:46] Sousinne Ceriano: Always been mindless here =)
[13:46] Loo Zeta: Thanks sorry missed beginning
[13:46] Sousinne Ceriano: Thank you, professor.
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: I am I don't feel my mindlessness here ;)
[13:46] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: but.. well done, Herman..thanks a lot
[13:46] Jaelle Faerye: haaa
[13:46] herman Bergson: and never mind....
[13:46] Jaelle Faerye: Thanks Herman
[13:46] Jaelle Faerye: ooh nice pun
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman! it was great again!
[13:47] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): can't sing that song anymore..but i can sing..toen onze mop een mopje was..lalallalalal
[13:47] herman Bergson: My pleasure Lizzy...
[13:47] herman Bergson: lol
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: will we continue at that point next time?
[13:47] Farv Hallison: yes
[13:48] herman Bergson: Great class today!
[13:48] Sybyle Perdide: great teacher ; )
[13:48] Loo Zeta: and i will direct RL son to your blogs, he is starting Philosophy degree in Wales soon
[13:49] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** -O- **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** -O- **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:49] Qwark Allen: getting interesting everyday more
[13:49] herman Bergson: Oh...Might be a good help for him....
[13:49] herman Bergson: If he really reads through all my projects he really get s good insight in many topics
[13:50] herman Bergson: He may skip the discussions :-)
[13:50] Sousinne Ceriano giggles.
[13:50] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye all...have a goodnight
[13:50] Lizzy Pleides: nite Beertje!
[13:51] herman Bergson: By eBeertje
[13:51] Sybyle Perdide: bye Beertje
[13:51] Jaelle Faerye: bye Beertje
[13:53] Jaelle Faerye: ooh
[13:53] Qwark Allen: see you next class
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** -O- **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** -O- **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:53] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:53] Jaelle Faerye: Bye Qwark
[13:53] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark!
[13:53] Jaelle Faerye: i just discovered that you give the "class notes" on your blog!
[13:53] Jaelle Faerye: nice!
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Herman, good night!
[13:54] herman Bergson: Thnx for coming Lizzy :-)
[13:54] Jaelle Faerye: Thanks, Herman
[13:55] herman Bergson: My pleasure Jaelle
[13:55] Sybyle Perdide: good night Herman
[13:55] Jaelle Faerye: I am glad my friends made me discover this class
[13:55] Jaelle Faerye: :)
[13:55] Sybyle Perdide: it was a pleasure
[13:55] Sybyle Perdide: as always
[13:55] herman Bergson: Bye Sybyle

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