Friday, September 30, 2011

349: The Monist Mind

The belief that what really exists is mental may sound somewhat preposterous today, but yet this conviction has played an important role in philosophy, especially in German philosophy from Kant to Heidegger.

You find the problem in the cartesian doubt. You can doubt everything, even the reality of the world, but you can not doubt the existence of the mind.

So, the step to the conclusion that the mind eventually is the only entity of which you are absolutely sure that it is real, is close at hand.

Another philosophical line of thinking is: all we really have are sensory impressions. They may be caused by external things or may be hallucinations, at the end all we really have are sensory impressions in our mind.

Kant went a step further and concluded that there is something missing here. How can we recognize a sensory impression as being an object in space and time, for instance?

What we call reality, is in fact created. organized, by our mind.Thence what is really real, is mental. This quality positioned the human being above the material world.

When we think reflectively of mental phenomena we find that we acknowledge them to possess two sets of properties:

one set which invites us to distinguish the mental realm from the physical, the other which firmly locates the mental within the physical world.

Among the first set of properties are subjectivity, infallible first-person knowledge, consciousness, meaning, rationality, freedom and self-awareness.

These properties are not to be found in the world of mere matter, and so lead us to suppose the mind to be set apart from the physical body: we seem compelled to accord a special mode of reality to mental phenomena.

However, because of the development of science we accept a few basic truths today, for instance, that the brain, itself a physical organ of the body, is intimately related to mental activity, its integrity and functioning necessary to the integrity and functioning of the mind;

that mental phenomena seem to emerge, both in evolution and individual development, from a basis of matter organized in physically explicable ways.

These considerations incline us to regard the mind as somehow physical in nature, since it is natural to suppose that only what is itself physical could be so enmeshed in the physical world.

The brain and the mind seem to work in parallel: The brain is the physical understructure of the mind. That fact suggests a strategy for investigation.

We should be able to find out things about the brain by seeing how the mind works. We should be able to find out things about the mind by seeing how the brain works.

The clearest and most uncompromising version of monism is the thesis that mental phenomena are literally identical with physical phenomena:

if a person has a sensation or a thought and a neurophysiologist is examining the relevant portions of his brain, then the mental state is nothing other than the physical state thus observed.

Moreover, whenever a mental state of that type occurs in a creature's mind there is the same type of physical state in the brain, these being identical.

The model for such type identities is said to be provided by such theoretical identifications as that of water with H2O or heat with molecular motion:

just as we may be presented with one and the same phenomenon in two different ways and subsequently discover the identity, so-- it has been claimed--we may be presented in two different ways with a mental phenomenon, physically and mentally.

Don't think that this is the final story. Far from that, but it was my thesis in 1977 at my graduation from university: The Identity Theory

The Discussion

[13:26] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:27] herman Bergson: The floor is yours, if you like.... ㋡
[13:28] herman Bergson: hears everybody think......
[13:28] Pirie Takacs: lol
[13:28] Sybyle Perdide: timeout ..giggles
[13:28] herman Bergson: if you have a question or remark...feel free...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Simply stated this identity theory says....
[13:29] herman Bergson: some words have different meanings, but the same referent...
[13:29] Sybyle Perdide: its a new point of view... two different states of being.. connected.. but it remains a biochemical pc
[13:30] herman Bergson: this means ..'water' has another meaning than 'H2O'
[13:30] herman Bergson: but both terms refer to the same reality
[13:30] Pirie Takacs: I'm very much a novice, so please excuse me if this sounds naive... But how does this explain consciousness, which seems to me to be a leap above the mechanics of the brain?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Good question Pirie....
[13:31] herman Bergson: actually ...the BIG question....
[13:31] Mick Nerido: So in the brain when i see the color red the chemical process is the same for every brain.
[13:31] Clint Pheocene: it doesn't...i suspect that the question of consciousness will be answered not by philosophers or neuroscientists, but by physicists
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: well i guess everyone sees red as the same color unless colorblind
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: d
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Clint ...that may be a possible development....
[13:32] Clint Pheocene: everyone as in humans or everyone as in humans/dolphins/aliens?
[13:32] herman Bergson: But we have to face a problem here...
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: but animals interpret it different as they see at least some speices different parts of the spectra
[13:33] Clint Pheocene: it is highly unlikely for an alien to see redness when it sees an apple
[13:33] herman Bergson: also when there would be a physical explanation of consciousness
[13:33] Mick Nerido: stimulate the same part of everyones brain to get same sensation
[13:34] herman Bergson: That is the problem Mick....
[13:34] herman Bergson: When I think of the Eifeltower and you do the same...
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: if a physician explains consciousness, he will never get the point of it.. may be the mechanics
[13:34] herman Bergson: are there in our brains identical processes going on?
[13:34] Mick Nerido: That is my question
[13:35] herman Bergson: There is one problem here why they can not be identical...
[13:35] herman Bergson: I can say that this is MY experience , like you can say the same....
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: our computers are not yet perfect , will they have a conciousness in future?
[13:35] herman Bergson: subjectivity of experiences...
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: if there are similar processes.. it need not mean that the mind's processes are similar
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: to those of the brain
[13:36] Sybyle Perdide: I think
[13:36] herman Bergson: You cant say that Sybyle when you accept a monist view like the identity theory
[13:36] Sybyle Perdide: please explain
[13:37] herman Bergson: ANd computers won't get consciousness, Lizzy, but we'll get to that an other time ㋡
[13:38] herman Bergson: talking about the mind and talking about the brain is a kind of speaking two different languages, but all words refer to that one and only material reality
[13:38] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:39] herman Bergson: But believe me we aren't even halfway...
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: the analogy with a computer i can get is that if the brain is the hardware the mind is sort of the operating system or software that runs on it
[13:39] Mick Nerido: The brain is the material the mind is the process of that brain
[13:39] herman Bergson: We still have to face a lot of arguments pro and contra
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: thats the closest analogy i can think of
[13:39] Sybyle Perdide: but spicy pasta tastes same physically to all, but the mind has a different taste in every case
[13:39] Sybyle Perdide: so there must not be similarity
[13:40] Sybyle Perdide: excuse my english.. I mean need
[13:40] herman Bergson: Taste is a difficult issue.....
[13:41] herman Bergson: especially because it is highly subjective.....
[13:41] herman Bergson: if subjectiveness is a property of my mental states.....who to deal with that property?
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: but isn't that the mind's work?
[13:42] herman Bergson: only your mind's work sybyle...
[13:42] Pirie Takacs nods.. I know what is spicy to my brain, after its accumulation of data, isn't the same as those of my Indian friend...*giggles, and fans her mouth, indicating 'spicy'=hot!
[13:42] Mick Nerido: The philosical question is why is matter mind at all?
[13:42] herman Bergson: yes Mick....
[13:43] herman Bergson: We look at the astonishing fact that we live in a completely material universe
[13:43] herman Bergson: Every atom is as dead as a duck..
[13:43] Clint Pheocene: yes what advantage do qualitative states provide to the functioning of the mechanical brain?
[13:43] herman Bergson: And we are conscious...
[13:44] herman Bergson: That is a big discussion Clint, yes...
[13:44] Mick Nerido: yet life comes from inanimate matter
[13:44] herman Bergson: I am still working on that issue....because I don't like the qualia turn at all :-)
[13:44] Clint Pheocene: life can be explained in terms of inanimate matter but not consciousness....for example, philosophical zombies are perfectly explained by todays physics
[13:45] herman Bergson: oh my...the zombie thought experiment...
[13:45] herman Bergson: I am still trying to figure out how to deal with that stidetrack, Clint ㋡
[13:45] herman Bergson: This project is a matter of work in progress ^_^
[13:46] Clint Pheocene: absolutely...we have a long way to go
[13:46] herman Bergson: Yes , but it is fascinating...
[13:47] Mick Nerido: What does it all mean, Herman?
[13:47] herman Bergson: when they can replace braincells by a chip which participates in the brian processes....where does it lead to...
[13:47] herman Bergson: What do you mean Mick ...with 'all'
[13:48] Pirie Takacs thinks...but, the fact that a body can live, and it's made up of inanimate atoms - maybe we are looking at atoms the wrong way? Maybe we don't yet know all the PARTS that make us up?
[13:48] Mick Nerido: Is the universe meaningful in you view?
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes Pirie that could be pretty well the case
[13:48] Sybyle Perdide: there is a story about the dna
[13:48] herman Bergson: No Mick...the universe has no meaning or purpose at all
[13:49] herman Bergson: it is just there as far as I can understand
[13:49] Mick Nerido: But there is no proof..
[13:49] herman Bergson: Proof of what?
[13:50] Mick Nerido: So we can still speculate...
[13:50] herman Bergson: smiles...
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes we can Mick...
[13:50] herman Bergson: And Sybyle...
[13:50] herman Bergson: there is one interesting observation....
[13:51] herman Bergson: evolution has configured molecules in all kinds of ways...
[13:51] Sybyle Perdide: sure
[13:51] herman Bergson: and in such a way now and then so that there was created a completely new feature...
[13:51] herman Bergson: like molecules got organized in DNA strings....
[13:52] herman Bergson: or in such a way that consciousness emerged
[13:52] Sybyle Perdide: the scientists tried to decode the dna.. and thought, they could be able to understand when decoded
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes maybe we are looking in the wrong direction to understand the relation between brain and consciousness
[13:53] Sybyle Perdide: but when done, they have to recognize there are more levels more structures to decode
[13:53] Mick Nerido: Consciousness could be a side effect
[13:53] Sybyle Perdide: nice..isn't it?
[13:53] herman Bergson: There is at least so much understanding of DNA that we can maipulate genes and change living organisms
[13:54] Pirie Takacs believes that all animals have a consciousness, albeit some not as sophisticated as others
[13:54] Clint Pheocene: do shrimp have consciousness?
[13:54] herman Bergson: That would lead to a discussion on the definition of consciousness Pirie
[13:54] Pirie Takacs: Maybe we should look at why we should have consciousness at all?
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: i think that consciousness is equal and not a sideeffect
[13:55] Pirie Takacs: I'n beginning to think it's a necessity for survival.
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: but if we hadn't how could we then act and react with our surroundings and do anything
[13:55] Clint Pheocene: plants survive without it
[13:55] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:55] herman Bergson: That is what I mean by definition Pirie...
[13:56] Clint Pheocene: bejita, we could react just like any computer today
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: even an ant must have some sort of conciousness to be able t do hmm well what ants do
[13:56] herman Bergson: when you define consciousness as a mechanism which enables the organism to interact with its environment effectively you are right
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: aha
[13:56] herman Bergson: but consciousness is more....
[13:56] Pirie Takacs nods... There are many parts to the definition, I think :)
[13:57] herman Bergson: most important feature is self-awareness for instance
[13:57] herman Bergson: if you make that part of the definition , most organisms do not have consciousness
[13:58] Pirie Takacs: Hm,. But if we have no self-awareness, how can we have consciousness at all? We must be able to separate ourselves from others and other things in our environment - thus we label them, and gather info about them
[13:58] herman Bergson: they have an awareness of their environment...sure
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: aha
[13:59] herman Bergson: There you use self-awareness as one of the defining features of consciousness Pirie
[13:59] Mick Nerido: A computer can not be self aware?
[14:00] Pirie Takacs: Yes. Atm, I believe I would include that...*isn't 100% sure though
[14:00] herman Bergson: no....
[14:00] herman Bergson: But that will be for a next lecture Mick....
[14:00] Mick Nerido: perhaps it could be programed in...
[14:00] Clint Pheocene: then it would only behave as if it were self aware
[14:00] herman Bergson: I don't think it was easy today ..but a very good discussion, I would say :-)
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: a computer is sort of millions of lamp switches in miniature connected together and do everything by binary math but simply switch from on to off and back on
[14:01] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again..
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: and a lamp switch cant be conscious what i know
[14:01] Ciska Riverstone: Thank you Herman and all
[14:01] Sybyle Perdide: you were great always
[14:01] Mick Nerido: Wonderful class thanks
[14:01] herman Bergson: Class dismissed after Bejiita has finished ^_^
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: hehe now this was interesting
[14:01] Clint Pheocene: thanks everyone
[14:01] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman, it was great today
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: gt more and more great
[14:02] herman Bergson: thank you...
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: \o/
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: || Hoooo!
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: / \
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: tnx Herman
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: now u gave me a lot to think about
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[14:02] Pirie Takacs: Are there any books/authors/philosophers we could read about this, Herman?
[14:02] Clint Pheocene: when is the next cl;ass?
[14:02] herman Bergson: Tuesday, Clint
[14:02] herman Bergson: same time same place
[14:02] Clint Pheocene: great
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[14:03] herman Bergson: There are tons of books Pirie...
[14:03] Ciska Riverstone: bye everyone
[14:03] herman Bergson: Bye Ciska ㋡
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: bye all
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: cu soon again
[14:03] Lizzy Pleides: bye cis
[14:03] Lizzy Pleides: By e Bej
[14:04] herman Bergson: I have a whole library of PDF files on the subject....
[14:04] herman Bergson: hundreds of titles
[14:04] Clint Pheocene: try David Chalmers and perhaps Daniel Dennett? I havent read their works yet
[14:04] herman Bergson: That is heavy stuff Clint...
[14:04] herman Bergson: Chalmers and Dennett don't agree with eachother
[14:04] Clint Pheocene: yes that was my intention
[14:04] Clint Pheocene: i agree with Chalmers
[14:05] herman Bergson: I still don't know how to evaluate the different points of view of these two...
[14:05] Clint Pheocene: from what i can read of their wikipedia page that is lol
[14:05] herman Bergson: interesting
[14:05] Pirie Takacs: Oh, I don't need them to agree - it may be better if they don't. I get more opinions then...*grins
[14:05] herman Bergson: oh I have better places to go for you...
[14:05] herman Bergson: got a minute?
[14:06] herman Bergson: Then I'll fetch a few URLs for you
[14:06] herman Bergson: Really top of the bill academic material
[14:06] Pirie Takacs: Ok...*eyes light up.
[14:06] herman Bergson:
[14:07] herman Bergson:
[14:07] herman Bergson: these two are internet classics
[14:07] Pirie Takacs: Thank you...*adds them to her list of Favourites
[14:07] herman Bergson:
[14:08] herman Bergson: Stanford and IEP are the best and most scientific
[14:08] Pirie Takacs: I used to have access to university libraries, but now I don't, as I'm not studying at the moment...*sighs sadly
[14:09] Clint Pheocene: well there are lots of pdf versions of books on consciousness you can donwload...
[14:09] herman Bergson: Indeed Clint!
[14:11] Clint Pheocene: alright see you next class everyone…byw
[14:11] Clint Pheocene: *bye
[14:11] Pirie Takacs: Bye :)
[14:11] herman Bergson: Bye Clint
[14:11] Clint Pheocene: LOL then im me ill send you a few links
[14:11] Lizzy Pleides: bye clint
[14:11] herman Bergson: thnx for your participation
[14:11] Lizzy Pleides: Bye Pirie
[14:11] Clint Pheocene: thanks professor...bye
[14:12] Lizzy Pleides: just waiting for Sybyle
[14:13] Sybyle Perdide: I am here
[14:13] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy, Sybyle
[14:13] Sybyle Perdide: good bye Herman
[14:13] Sybyle Perdide: good bye Pirie
[14:13] Lizzy Pleides: good bye Herman!
[14:13] Pirie Takacs: Bye, sybyle :)
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