Wednesday, October 13, 2010

277: The Illusion of the Independent Mind

"We treat the mind and the body as separate because that is what we experience. I am controlling my body, but I am more than just my body. We sense that we exist independently of our bodies.", says Bruce Hood.

This is a very peculiar situation, we are in. It does not, however, touch our epistemological position, in my opinion. Kant is right when he states that the mind has its own mechanisms to make sensory experiences meaningful experiences.

Otherwise stated, we would say that the brain is not an empty vessel that gets filled up as soon as consciousness emerges in the human organism, but that it comes with a extensive toolbox to help it understand and interact with its environment.

Statements which are knowledge claims, tell us something about the world, which is independent of the mind and describe states of affairs, which we can check.

One state of affairs of which we claim that it is really the case, is our conclusion that the mind is generated by the brain. No brain means no mind.

A physically damaged brain means a damaged mind. A chemically influenced brain with pills or drugs results in a seriously influenced or confused mind.

And yet we generally experience our mind as a kind of independent of our body. The mind controls the body and we are not easily inclined to believe that the body controls the mind, although this seems to be the actual state of affairs.

Linguistically the mind is enigmatic. We can construct sentences which have a proper syntax, but sound so puzzling. For instance:
"I have a mind."

Pretty simple observation it seems, isn't it, but compare it with the statement "I have a car". Looks 100% the same, but the semantical conclusions are puzzling.

That car isn't me. It is an physical object,which I possess. The statement "I have a mind" can't have the same semantics. The mind is not some physical object. Then what does this statement mean? And who is that "I" who possesses a mind?

You probably know officer Murphy from the movie Robocop. His brain without memories is implanted in a cybernetic machine. He is regarded to be just a machine until gradually his memories come back.

In Kafka's The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung, 1915) Gregor Samsa discovered that he has changed into a huge beetle, but he still is Gregor Samsa.

These examples suggest that we have some strong opinions about what makes something a unique human person. Adults are inclined to believe you are you as long as your mind and memories are there, whether the brain is in a jar or in your body.

Our conscious experience of our own minds and memories inclines us to think of minds being unique and the source of personal identity. We certainly don’t think our own minds and memories could belong to other people, says Bruce Hood in his book Supersense.

Alzheimer confronts us too with this idea of personal identity. A friend of mine once said to me: " It is so hard to visit her. She looks like my mother, but she isn't my mother anymore."

From childhood on we grow up with this dualistic view. Then it is easy to believe that the mind is not necessarily chained to the physical brain.

Thence, could there be a possibility, that the mind can escape the fate of the physical body and survive? This is a view that is strongly supported by all kinds of religions,

but we must recognize that the concept of the immortal soul originates in the normal reasoning processes of every child.

In an article, “The Development of ‘Afterlife’ Beliefs in Secularly and Religiously Schooled Children,” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 23 (2005), three researchers observed

that children raised in a secular environment may express fewer afterlife beliefs than children raised in a religious household, but they still retain notions of some form of mental life that survives death.

The survival of such ideas into adulthood does not need to be the result of indoctrination in childhood. It appeals to our supersense to think that we can continue to exist after our death.

I won't deal with these issues now, but here we run into fundamental philosophical questions about The Self, Consciousness and Personal Identity.

That is work still to be done, so stay tuned!

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: thank you :-)
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:23] herman Bergson: If you have a question or remark....feel free..
[13:24] herman Bergson: This was a bit much I guess in a nutshell
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: the mind is not chained to the body
[13:24] AristotleVon Doobie: I wonder if a child were isolated from birth to the interview if they would express the same belief in the after life of their mind
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: interesting
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: i think they would not expect the life they are in to disappear
[13:25] herman Bergson: Well fact the mind is...tho we have difficulty to believe this
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: so.. isolation would not lead to death thoughts
[13:25] herman Bergson: And Aristotle...the development of the mind is well described by Piaget..
[13:26] herman Bergson: so the dualistic idea about oneself is almost an innate line of thinking...
[13:26] herman Bergson: We experience the mind as something different from the body...
[13:26] herman Bergson: we don't experience it as being physical
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: that is true
[13:27] herman Bergson: that mad e Descartes believe that the mind is a non substantial substance...
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: I hear you, but have to think that the mind is influenced not only through self exploratioin but parents and peers
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: even at a young age
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: that is very true ari
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: hi jozen
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes but even then the dualistic view is not necessarily the result of indoctrination in childhood...
[13:28] Jozen Ocello: Hi Herman sorry I'm late
[13:28] Jozen Ocello: hi Gemma hi everyone
[13:28] herman Bergson: it is a logical consequence of how the mind develops
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: hi Jozen
[13:29] Beertje Beaumont: hi josen
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: I would agree to the development of the mind post birth, yes
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: but I fear I hold strongly to the tabula rasa
[13:29] Jozen Ocello accepted your inventory offer.
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: there you are refuted by neurobiological facts Aristotle
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: i don't think so
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: read piaget
[13:30] herman Bergson: Kant was right in my opinion
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, someone just needs to convince me otherwise
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: not me
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: so far not enough evidence for me
[13:30] herman Bergson: read all reseach done on babies
[13:30] herman Bergson: takes out his baseball bat...
[13:31] herman Bergson: ok
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: :)))
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: that is why there are so many philosophers with different approaches
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: about the same life
[13:32] herman Bergson: Ye t I hope to show you that neurobiological evidence shows that we are no clean slate at birth
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: in talking about the mind my daughter reproached me for thinking theer is one
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: at what age
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: she is taking a a neurobiological class and thinks there is on neurons
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: only
[13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:33] herman Bergson: No children prefer to speak of I and me....they hardly use the word mind in conversation
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: she is a senior
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: college
[13:33] herman Bergson: then she needs to clarify what she means by MIND
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, I agree LOL
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: she will
[13:34] herman Bergson: But is she means that there does not exists more than the body then I would agree with her
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:34] herman Bergson: if
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: but her evidence is research to support her position
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: teh same evidence you have referenced :)
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: same evidence
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle....
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: in the next class she will think differently i imagine
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: what ever it is
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: it is funny, the concept of strictly biological reactions
[13:35] herman Bergson: I think that neurobiological research will clear a lot of philosophical disputes...
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: I think so too
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: yes maybe that
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: I asked her where the driver of the car was?
[13:36] herman Bergson: for instance the empiricist (Locke - tabula rasa ) view and Kantian rationalist view...
[13:36] herman Bergson: Ah......there you go Aristotle...
[13:37] herman Bergson: there is the illusion of the mind....
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: and she said?????
[13:37] herman Bergson: because your daughter could ask you...who is the driver of the driver?
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, she implied I was not sane in thinking differently LOL
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: oh well you are only her father
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: yes Gemma Indeed
[13:38] herman Bergson: You still think of the ghost in the machine Aristotle...
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: well, in my trilogy I suppose, the mind is the holy ghost
[13:38] herman Bergson: if the ghost controls the machine..ok...but who or what controls the ghost...
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:39] herman Bergson: let me rephrase…
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: my ghost apparently has gone rogue
[13:39] herman Bergson: I think about myself...
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: starts to sound like the classic saying turtles all way down
[13:39] herman Bergson: so I am smarter than myself...we are two...
[13:40] herman Bergson: But this I, can he think about himself too?...should be..yes
[13:40] herman Bergson: the problem here is....and we'll discuss that later
[13:40] herman Bergson: that you get in an infinite regress...
[13:40] herman Bergson: I think that I think that think that I think...
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:41] herman Bergson: so here the mind mKES short-circuiting
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: either way it is extremely titelating to think of it
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:41] herman Bergson: oh yes.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: I still havent' it figured out myself....
[13:42] herman Bergson: But here you see the influence on neurobiology on philosophy...
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: we will be very rich when we do
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: and there is so much discovered every day
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: teh discovery is exponential
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes Gemma....
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: indeed¨
[13:43] herman Bergson: When I wrote my thesis on this subject in 1977 neurobiology was hardly mentioned
[13:44] herman Bergson: the ideas of materialism were pure philosophical discourse...
[13:44] Jozen Ocello: the intersection of the two fields are most interesting indeed
[13:44] herman Bergson: but now to say that the brain is the mind and that the brain controls the mind is almost common knowledge in scientific circles
[13:45] Caipirisma Laval: we will have prove what happens when they are able to transplant a brain.. i think
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: oh gosh
[13:45] herman Bergson: What pleases me the most is ...that my arguments from 1977 now are corroberated by scientific evidence...
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I am sure
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: i have an idea it will be legally prevented in most countries
[13:46] herman Bergson: Well Cai...transplantin a brain was the issue in RObocop...
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: remember the first face transplant???
[13:46] Caipirisma Laval: i mean ..not in a movie:))
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: an uproar
[13:47] Jozen Ocello: oh yes, that wasn't too long ago was it, Gemma?
[13:47] Jozen Ocello: a very good example
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:47] herman Bergson: What is the question at stake here is...what makes a person to an individual person....that is ..what is personal identity
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: within two years
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: that has been the question
[13:47] Caipirisma Laval: true..what happends..with memories..well the patient can tell us at that time..
[13:47] herman Bergson: That doesnt matter Cai..whether it is in a movie or in reality...
[13:48] Caipirisma Laval: i think it does matter
[13:48] herman Bergson: and yes GEmma...a face transplant...and personal identity...huge question
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: but how infintesimal the fulcrum point must be that determines which controls which, brainn or mind
[13:49] herman Bergson: Philosophically it isn't that important Cai....
[13:49] herman Bergson: it is only the difference between technically thinkable and technically possible...
[13:50] herman Bergson: if it is already thinkable, you have to face the philosophical questions..related to th eissue
[13:50] Caipirisma Laval: hmm..a brain cant function without the body..and body not without a brain..
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: and then the question arise, can the mind be excised
[13:50] herman Bergson: because it was thinkable to fly to the moon ..Jules Verne did so
[13:51] herman Bergson: It immediately provoked the question ..where is god and where is heaven
[13:51] herman Bergson: when the first russian astronaut was send in to space ..Gagarin....
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: once thought of, all that remains is technology to catch up with the thought
[13:52] herman Bergson: the first thing he said was...there is no heaven here...just space
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, he must have have the metaphor of heaven n his mind as being up
[13:52] herman Bergson: this is how philosophically thinkable and technically possible relate
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: what did he expected to find, little angels on clouds playing harps
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:53] herman Bergson: I guess so yes...
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:53] Caipirisma Laval: if technology change..philosophy change with it
[13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: some folks cant see the forest for the trees
[13:54] Caipirisma Laval: change of view..
[13:54] herman Bergson: In fact it is the other way around Cai.....
[13:54] Caipirisma Laval: possible to..smiles
[13:54] Jozen Ocello: i like what you said, Herman "philosophical thinkable" and "technologically possible"
[13:54] herman Bergson: when the scientist comes up with a new idea, new technology will emerge...
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: true
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:55] herman Bergson: the scientist is the philosopher who changed his interpretation of nature
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: took awhile for DaVinci :)
[13:55] Caipirisma Laval: so it can be visa versa
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: I still wait for the LHC to give me hard facts about some stuff however the damn machine only stryggles now
[13:56] herman Bergson: yes Cai...first there is the thought...then there is the technology created based on the thought
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: dumped now when colliding the beams so have to start over again
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: ran fine yesterday at least
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: well
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: thing is so big!!!!!!
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: many theories to be answered by it
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: and i want to know SOON
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: curious like hell now
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:57] herman Bergson: I can imagine Bejiita...
[13:57] herman Bergson: Must be sensational to get the answer
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: his mind is obsessed with it
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: feels we get closer and closer but cant reach all the way now when it behave like this
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: :-0
[13:57] Gemma Cleanslate: better be soon!!!!
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: I want it to find some stuff that will rewrite all the schoolbooks
[13:58] herman Bergson: I would suggest we all light a candle for Bejiita....^_^
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: just don't let Texas write em
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: would be amazing
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:58] herman Bergson: We covered a lot of ground today.....
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:58] Gemma Cleanslate: hope i will make it thursday
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: interesting as usual
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:59] herman Bergson: So, time to thank you for your great participation in the debate
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Herman :)
[13:59] Gemma Cleanslate: see you all soon
[13:59] Jozen Ocello: i'll be here on thursday but may be 10-15 mins
[13:59] herman Bergson: See you soon again...
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: aaa cu then
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:59] herman Bergson: Class dismissed..^_^
[13:59] Caipirisma Laval: ty professor
[13:59] Beertje Beaumont: thank you Herman:)
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: gotta run, good bye all
[13:59] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman & class! see u thursday
[14:00] herman Bergson: My Pleasure Beertje
[14:00] Bejiita Imako: bye
[14:00] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye, Bye ㋡
[14:00] Caipirisma Laval: yes ..thats me:))
[14:00] herman Bergson: Bye Gemma
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