Monday, May 16, 2011

327: The Brain, Objectivity and Subjectivity

Before digging into Dualism I have to deal with a question that came up in the discussion after my previous lecture.

It boiled down to the question how a subjective mind / consciousness can obtain objective knowledge about the mind, because, isn't that a subjective something?

let me begin with quoting John Searle:
"Until very recently, most neurobiologists did not regard consciousness as a suitable topic for scientific investigation.

This reluctance was based on certain philosophical mistakes, primarily the mistake of supposing that the subjectivity of consciousness made it beyond the reach of an objective science.

Once we see that consciousness is a biological phenomenon like any other, then it can be investigated neurobiologically.

Consciousness is entirely caused by neurobiological processes and is realized in brain structures. The essential trait of consciousness that we need to explain is unified qualitative subjectivity.

Consciousness thus differs from other biological phenomena in that it has a subjective or first-person ontology,

but this subjective ontology does not prevent us from having an epistemically objective
science of consciousness.

We need to overcome the philosophical tradition that treats the mental and the physical as two distinct metaphysical realms."

This may sound a bit complicated and I'll not explain it all in detail, but what is important in this matter is our common way of thinking in the dichotomy objective - subjective.

Many philosophers and scientists think that the subjectivity of conscious states makes it impossible to have a strict science of consciousness.

For, they argue, if science is by definition objective, and consciousness is by definition subjective, it follows that there cannot be a science of consciousness.

This is not correct and I'll show you why. As knowledge science is objective indeed. That means, a scientist can find the truth of a statement, which is independent of the observer.

"Herman Bergson is in RL 1.78m tall" and "Herman Bergson is a good philosopher". The first statement is objective knowledge. Anyone can put it to the test and proof the correctness.

The second statement is subjective. There is no way of settling the truth or falsehood of it. I hope, you find at least one person who'd like to say "yes, that is true". Others may have reasons to say "That statement is false."

We may call this epistemic objectivity and epistemic subjectivity, but we have to make another subjective - objective distinction.

Pains and tickles, for example, have a subjective mode of existence. Nobody else can feel my headache, but me myself.

But mountains, cars and houses have an objective mode of existence, in the sense that their existence doesn't depend on any consciousness.

Because this is about things and how they exist, we can call it the distinction between ontological objectivity and ontological subjectivity.

Thence you can conclude, that it is very well possible to have objective knowledge (the epistemic level) of what exists only as my subjective mental states (the ontological level).

Or to say it in Searle words:"There is no reason whatever why we cannot have an objective science of pain, even though pains only exist when they are felt by conscious agents.

The ontological subjectivity of the feeling of pain does not preclude an epistemically objective science of pain."

In other words, science is by definition objective in the epistemological sense and consciousness is by definition subjective in the ontological sense and for that reason it is completely normal that there is scientific knowledge possible about consciousness.

What I wanted to make clear is, that in the debate we must keep a sharp eye on the questions: "Is this statement objective / subjective knowledge?"

and "is the existence of this fact depending on consciousness or independent of consciousness". This is the distinction between epistemic and ontological objectivity / subjectivity.

I am sorry I had to put you through this rather technical philosophical stuff, but it is an important argument regarding possibility of a the science of consciousness.

The Discussion

[13:27] herman Bergson: this much about the ontological and epistemological objectivity...
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: my skin has also epistemic doesnt tell me..
[13:28] herman Bergson: A bit philosophical hitech maybe...:-)
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: and my bones..dont talk to me about their ontologic background also
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: :O)
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: kyra..sure would be interesting to talk about your skin..later:9
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: i just wanted to ask...
[13:28] herman Bergson: of course not Kyra...
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: who defines
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: objective
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: and
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: subjective
[13:28] Kyra Neutron: ?
[13:29] herman Bergson: Because these are features of consciousness...and your bones as such aren't conscious
[13:29] herman Bergson: Who defines objective and subjective...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well...quite simple...we do...not my cat for instance...
[13:30] herman Bergson: It is rules we define to tell what is knowledge and what is not
[13:30] Kyra Neutron: not knowledge
[13:30] Kyra Neutron: object and subject..
[13:30] herman Bergson waves at Elia
[13:30] Elia Scribe: Hi Herman!!
[13:30] Kyra Neutron: is"you"
[13:30] Kyra Neutron: what is you?
[13:31] herman Bergson: no no...not subject and object....has nothing to do with this
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: you are an subjective thing
[13:31] herman Bergson: no no....
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: herman
[13:31] herman Bergson: these definitions are intersubjective...
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: what we see through eyes..are
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: what we hear
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: what we can think
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: you
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: are totally subjective
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: she is right in one way but
[13:32] herman Bergson: epistemological objective means that any one can establish the truth or falsity of a statement
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: she ignores the fact that she says "we"
[13:32] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): I see, hear, the same - now it is objective
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: throws the shoe at baldur...
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: i has to say it don't listen
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Kyra...
[13:33] Kyra Neutron: sticks out tongue
[13:33] Mick Nerido: Without an observer is an event real?
[13:33] herman Bergson: ontologically is subjective all what I hear you say ....MY hearing only....
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: objective is a result of common agreement -for example of the meaning of a word ..that is -becomes independent of the individual idea
[13:33] herman Bergson: But the meaning of what you say...the epistemological content is NOT subjective...
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: how can you define it?
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: you are "subjective" ?
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: :/
[13:34] herman Bergson: I can repeat to someone else literally what you said and that true or false..
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: smile..we are social and communication dependent animals:9
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: cant even prove that you exist :/
[13:35] herman Bergson: If I hear you say "I have seen a martian"...ontologically it is subjective...
[13:35] Doodus Moose: is just glad he's not being tested on this :-)
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: or we...
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: if i pinch your ass you know you exist
[13:35] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): I can bite you and then you feel that I exist
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: if i have "the" ass...
[13:35] herman Bergson: But epistemologically I can put it to the test...
[13:35] Evie1: glad it was not punch
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: no..that only proves..i am dreaming all of "you"
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: all the universe
[13:36] herman Bergson: I can ask you to show me evidence...which is independent of the observer...
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: and ...oh my...god gene...?
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: nooooooo
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: smile ok if you are just immaterial you won't feelyour ass pinched..
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: it is the god itself !
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: haha ok ok..sorry herman
[13:37] herman Bergson: Baldur..leave her ass alone..not in my class ! :-)
[13:37] Mick Nerido: Her point of view is entirely subjective....nothing exists if Kyra doesn't
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: sorry but she does have a NICE ONE:9
[13:37] herman Bergson: We'll get to that...sollipsime
[13:37] Kyra Neutron: yes...and as all of you...
[13:37] herman Bergson: a logic consequence of the Cartesian view
[13:38] Kyra Neutron: nothing exist..if you don't…
[13:38] Kyra Neutron: time..telling about "objective" remember it ;9
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: i thought todays class was about the "i"?
[13:38] herman Bergson: nothing exist..if you don't…..this statement Kyra...
[13:38] bergfrau Apfelbaum: sorry i must go
[13:38] Elia Scribe: Kyra, this is at least in part an answer to your question: "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." Werner Karl Heisenberg
[13:38] Mick Nerido: I think the world was here before me and will be here after I am gone
[13:38] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty! herman & class - see u soon :-)
[13:38] Kyra Neutron: mick
[13:39] herman Bergson: IS just epistemic...not ontological...
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: have you
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: before "you"
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: me didnt
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: and i wont see world after me
[13:39] Kyra Neutron: so..i am not flattering be part of the big clock...
[13:40] herman Bergson: this is all about your subjective knowledge Kyra...
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: yes herman
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: as much as all of us
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: has
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: all the scientists
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: all the ones that try to "wolf"
[13:40] herman Bergson: that doesnt have any effect on scientific knowledge of reality
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: till you connect
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: you are subjectvie
[13:40] Mick Nerido: I see objective evidence of a previous existence of the world before I was here, History
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: but you agree you are part of something?
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: objectively?
[13:41] Kyra Neutron: it is not my agree
[13:41] Kyra Neutron: baldur..
[13:41] Kyra Neutron: or knowledge
[13:41] herman Bergson: sollipsime isnt refutable logically...
[13:42] herman Bergson: even philosophically a waste of time
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: oks herman
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: but what you try to say
[13:42] herman Bergson: betrand Russell once received a letter from a highly gifted mathematician....She wrote..I am a solipsist now...I wonder why you aren't
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: or learn
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: is already there
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: you don't agree..not bee part of something.. so how come you can participate in a discussion
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: ..........
[13:43] Kyra Neutron: he also had given a high blessing for "being nothing"
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: smile what is there is undergoing eternal change..
[13:43] herman Bergson: Not sure what you mean Kyra....
[13:43] Kyra Neutron: hmm
[13:43] Kyra Neutron: hiçliğin türküsü
[13:44] herman Bergson: Your point in one statement...regarding objective and subjective
[13:44] Kyra Neutron: idk the english translation of it
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: right..
[13:44] Kyra Neutron: opening for one of his statements :)
[13:44] herman Bergson: whose statements?
[13:44] Kyra Neutron: porphyre eglantine
[13:44] herman Bergson: dont know the man/woman
[13:45] Kyra Neutron: it is called ( russells book )
[13:45] Mick Nerido: "Biocenterism" agrees with Kyra
[13:45] Elia Scribe: The solipsist would seem to be lonely.
[13:45] ĤĂĶĂŃ (hakan.mongrain): "song of nothingness"
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: kyra..for the rest of the group..can we let
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: herman finish his class and then we talk?
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: the existentialist's crisis
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: or sth like that..
[13:46] herman Bergson: we deal with real arguments only..not with references to books or authors....
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: of nothingness
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: ty hakan..
[13:46] ĤĂĶĂŃ (hakan.mongrain): yw
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: so the not fitting
[13:46] ĤĂĶĂŃ (hakan.mongrain): or "ballad of nonexixtence"
[13:46] herman Bergson: If we would do that we also could refer to the bible any time
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: or i shall talk about kafka for the next half hour
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: hahaha
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: yes
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: kafka
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: and you has blessed time without ky
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: :p
[13:47] ĤĂĶĂŃ (hakan.mongrain): yep
[13:47] herman Bergson: Not acceptable in a philosophical debate...
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: SMILE TY KYR
[13:47] herman Bergson: I want arguments....
[13:47] herman Bergson: Logical
[13:48] herman Bergson: verifiable
[13:48] Elia Scribe: Logical = Linguistic?
[13:48] herman Bergson: and that is all
[13:48] herman Bergson: no ELia..
[13:48] Kyra Neutron: herman..this is my "logic"
[13:48] Kyra Neutron: :/
[13:48] herman Bergson: Just pure and simple logic..
[13:49] herman Bergson: that something either true of false
[13:49] herman Bergson: for instance
[13:49] Kyra Neutron: lauging ...hidden :)
[13:49] Elia Scribe: Pure and simple logic seems an ideal, perhaps not existent?
[13:49] Kyra Neutron: oks...true or false
[13:49] Elia Scribe: Ahh.
[13:49] Kyra Neutron: it is like binary ...
[13:49] herman Bergson: oh live by it every day elia..
[13:49] Kyra Neutron: we have this ;
[13:49] Kyra Neutron: it is true + and+ false
[13:50] Elia Scribe: In what sense do you mean that Herman?
[13:50] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): maybe for me it is true and for you it is false
[13:50] Evie1: sorry rl calls bye all
[13:50] herman Bergson: ok go outside..and you say..look it is raining and not raining at the same time
[13:50] Kyra Neutron: herman
[13:51] herman Bergson: Just as I said Elia...
[13:51] Kyra Neutron: can you define where i am ?
[13:51] Kyra Neutron: i simply cant...
[13:51] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): here in sl
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: KYRA..please ..i'm sure herman will be ready to dicuss those questions after class on in the diswcussion for hours.. but think of the others..simple minded people like me..who want to get basics..
[13:51] herman Bergson: when you go outside and you observe that is is not raining you will not say it is raining
[13:51] Kyra Neutron: ok ok ....
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: I sorry..
[13:52] Rodney Handrick: I'm Sorry! guys I have to go rl stuff
[13:52] herman Bergson: well Baldur..that basics of today are these
[13:52] Elia Scribe: Well there is interaction with the world. Is this a part of the logic I do every day?
[13:52] herman Bergson: consciousness is a subjective matter....
[13:52] Kyra Neutron: yes....ty at last!
[13:52] herman Bergson: there is only your conscious....
[13:53] herman Bergson: question is...
[13:53] herman Bergson: tho it is a subjective matter...
[13:53] Kyra Neutron: yes you can
[13:53] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): you can define what consciousness is: and then it is objective
[13:53] herman Bergson: can we have objective knowledge of your subjective consciousness
[13:53] Kyra Neutron: my answer was for herman..
[13:53] herman Bergson: We leave that out for the moment Siggi…plaza
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: if you agree that all organic life is an individal entity..
[13:54] Kyra Neutron: no
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: makes may be easier to understand
[13:54] herman Bergson: your subjective conscious is subjective in an ontological sense...
[13:55] herman Bergson: but when you smash your thumb with a hammer I can ask you...does it hurt???
[13:55] herman Bergson: I guess you will say ..yes...
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: kyra might love it
[13:55] Kyra Neutron: :p
[13:55] Kyra Neutron: yes
[13:55] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: she feels she exists:)
[13:55] herman Bergson: this knowledge I can verify the statement..Baldur's thumb hurt...
[13:56] herman Bergson: I gather evidence...
[13:56] herman Bergson: You are screaming....
[13:56] Kyra Neutron: 100% right baldur
[13:56] herman Bergson: I could have a brainscan...showing C fibres firing...
[13:56] herman Bergson: I can see the blood...
[13:56] herman Bergson: and so on....
[13:56] BALDUR Joubert: sure Kyra bleeds?
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: periodicly yes
[13:57] herman Bergson: I have soon hundreds of cases like that...and all said….revealing their subjecive consciousness with the words.....IT HURTS!
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: so i needs hammer
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: but as part
[13:57] herman Bergson: I cant feel the pain....but I CAN have objective knowledge about it....
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: (lag)
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: herman
[13:58] herman Bergson: therefore I give you morphine :-)
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: WELL IF I OBSERVE IT IT WOULD bew a subjectiv e observation.. smile which doenbs't hurt me
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: you cant have objective knowledge
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: never ever ever
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: "you"
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: is subjective
[13:58] herman Bergson: oh yes Kyra....
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: right kyra..but you share your emotion with they won't do it again..
[13:58] Kyra Neutron: it is your chemical compound
[13:59] Mick Nerido: If a tree falls and no one hears it did it make a sound?
[13:59] herman Bergson: When I have a big rock....and I see it fall on will be crushed....
[13:59] Kyra Neutron: your electric connections
[13:59] BALDUR Joubert: which means ..your brain is in connection with your ewnvironment
[13:59] Kyra Neutron: herman
[13:59] Kyra Neutron: raised by that knowledge
[13:59] Kyra Neutron: you say you will be crushed
[13:59] Kyra Neutron: so my mother has raised by that knowledge
[13:59] herman Bergson: the observations is completely independent of my consciousness...
[13:59] herman Bergson: Every person will find that splash of blood and bones under that rock
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: and my grandson..will be..
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: if it doesnt..raised by that
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: how dare you can will be crushed?
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: he will lift it
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: he will divide it into small pieces
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: there wont be any rock at all
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: or
[14:00] Elia Scribe: Herman, isn't this practical truth? What the Buddhists call conventional reality?
[14:00] Kyra Neutron: belive is everything
[14:01] Mick Nerido: I must leave, thanks for the spirited discussion
[14:01] BALDUR Joubert: kyra.. human evlution is lagregely dependent on the communication possibilities..which include abstacts..l
[14:01] Kyra Neutron: o.O,
[14:01] herman Bergson: I agree Mick…this discussion can go on for ages :-)
[14:01] Kyra Neutron: mick pls ..i am sorry for opening my frog mouth .7
[14:01] herman Bergson: No have the right to do that everyone here
[14:02] Elia Scribe: Behind that AV you are a frog?
[14:02] Doodus Moose: i'm heading for the wine cellar right after this....
[14:02] herman Bergson: But your ideas about that falling rock are questionable
[14:02] Siggi Ludwig (ludwig.john): good night to all
[14:02] Kyra Neutron: oh some for us?
[14:02] BALDUR Joubert: kyra..herman told us fromnthe beginning that philosophy is allaboitu asking questions
[14:03] Kyra Neutron: baldur
[14:03] herman Bergson: Good idea Doodus....I share that with you in an objective way:-)
[14:03] Kyra Neutron: it may be...
[14:03] BALDUR Joubert: smile finding the right questions is the quest:9
[14:03] Kyra Neutron: it is not only the questions
[14:03] BALDUR Joubert: not finding the answers :9
[14:03] herman Bergson: Finding the wine cellar is now our next objective
[14:04] herman Bergson: So..may I thank you all for this vivd debate....
[14:04] herman Bergson: Thank you Kyra…we're not done yet ...give it time
[14:04] Kyra Neutron: yes herman
[14:04] Kyra Neutron: ty
[14:04] Kyra Neutron: for
[14:04] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
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