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Thread: Nagel's Batty Explanation of the Mind-Body Problem

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Untermensche, that is roughly what I was saying, but the important point about emergence is that the functional entities that emerge from the substrate have properties that are not necessarily predictable from the properties of the components that make up the system. I don't think that we are having a substantive disagreement here.

    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Copernicus,

    I think your idea of a systemic layer is an intriguing idea. But I don't think it explains the emergence of mind. To me, it seems a more complicated way of asserting that "mind" (as the systemic layer with emergent traits differing from the mechanical parts) is "created by" those mechanical parts.

    A little time back I read a couple articles about panpsychism that are also very intriguing to me. In panpsychism, the mental emergent traits aren't "created" by matter. In this view, "emergent" wouldn't be synonymous with "create". Rather, consciousness is there all along, just in a super-simple form, in the particles or atoms. When configured in a mechanical system, they form your "systemic layer".
    I really don't like the term "pansychism", because it sounds like an unnecessarily anthropomorphic term. For example, you can measure a magnetic field and observe how it is affected by interactions with different environmental conditions. However, there is a sense in which magnetic physical objects are "aware" of each other, because bringing them closer together either repels or attracts, depending on how the poles are aligned with each other. Human bodies are also repelled and attracted by animate and inanimate things, but in a far more subtle and less measurable way. Unlike with magnets, the forces that repel and attract human bodies are far more complex and difficult to explain. We could call them cognitive or mental forces, but the fact is that bodies are attracted or repelled by their neural guidance systems. So it is really misleading to use a term like "panpsychism" when referring to physical interactions that are not mediated by a kind of neural guidance system. The objects that we call "human bodies" are not at all like the objects that we call "magnets". It is a mistake to conflate the forces of attraction and repulsion with a term like "panpsychism". Self-awareness, for example, is an emergent property of a neural system, and it seems to have no useful analog in an electromagnetic system.

    This way there's no "when complex enough, mind pops into existence" implied. Rather, "when complex enough, then from particle-consciousnesses emerges a bat-consciousness" (or a human-consciousness, or an AI-consciousness, or whatever the neural and bodily configuration is).

    In this view, mind and matter are the same thing all along, just the mental trait of everything is not recognizable to us until it's a neural system.
    Panpsychism sounds almost like a kind of pantheism to me, and I suppose that is because deities are so anthropomorphic to begin with. It doesn't really seem to say much other than that the mind is a mysterious force that somehow just works to move bodies around. If you want to explain how a mind works, you have to analyze it into functional components, and that takes us very far away from simple interactions between physical objects.

    Pretty much everything you say still applies. Just, I guess some of us are allergic to the notion of "create". Matter "creates" mind... hm, even when that notion is reframed as complex systems of stimulus-response, it sounds a little "magical". That is, not explanatory.
    I'm not wedded to the term "create". You could just as well say "gives rise to". The point is that chaos theory helps us to understand how minds came into existence without a need for us to just throw up our hands and declare that everything is explained by materialism. To me, physical reality is a multi-tiered system of emergent layers, each of which can be explained in its own functional terms or by reference to the underlying mechanics that give rise to the system. An important corollary of this idea is that very different mechanical interactions can converge on the same functionality by serendipitous means. Both fish and aquatic mammals acquired fins through evolution, but the fins don't necessarily have a common origin. The jawbone in reptiles is said to correlate with bones in the human ear, but both reptiles and humans have hearing. The functional aspect of hearing just happened to emerge from different parts of the anatomy over millions of years of evolutionary divergence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I really don't like the term "pansychism", because it sounds like an unnecessarily anthropomorphic term. For example, you can measure a magnetic field and observe how it is affected by interactions with different environmental conditions. However, there is a sense in which magnetic physical objects are "aware" of each other, because bringing them closer together either repels or attracts, depending on how the poles are aligned with each other. Human bodies are also repelled and attracted by animate and inanimate things, but in a far more subtle and less measurable way. Unlike with magnets, the forces that repel and attract human bodies are far more complex and difficult to explain. We could call them cognitive or mental forces, but the fact is that bodies are attracted or repelled by their neural guidance systems. So it is really misleading to use a term like "panpsychism" when referring to physical interactions that are not mediated by a kind of neural guidance system. The objects that we call "human bodies" are not at all like the objects that we call "magnets". It is a mistake to conflate the forces of attraction and repulsion with a term like "panpsychism". Self-awareness, for example, is an emergent property of a neural system, and it seems to have no useful analog in an electromagnetic system.



    Panpsychism sounds almost like a kind of pantheism to me, and I suppose that is because deities are so anthropomorphic to begin with. It doesn't really seem to say much other than that the mind is a mysterious force that somehow just works to move bodies around. If you want to explain how a mind works, you have to analyze it into functional components, and that takes us very far away from simple interactions between physical objects
    I don't think I said anything that remotely suggests EM energy or pantheism or a "mysterious force". You have very different associations to the word, and somehow that overrode all my effort to say what I mean by the word.

    If interested, here's a brief summary of the panpsychism that I mean. And a fuller explanation here.

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    ...

    If interested, here's a brief summary of the panpsychism that I mean. And a fuller explanation here.
    From the second link -
    The worry with dualism—the view that mind and matter are fundamentally different kinds of thing—is that it leaves us with a radically disunified picture of nature, and the deep difficulty of understanding how mind and brain interact. ... Panpsychism, strange as it may sound on first hearing, promises a satisfying account of the human mind within a unified conception of nature.
    My take is that the mind-body problem that occurs with dualism is still present with panpsychism. Just that the connection between mind and brain is transferred to a level of less complexity. The atomic particles. It's chopped up into little pieces. The same fundamental problem still arises. What is consciousness and how is it that it's a property of these particles? The problem only seems to disappear because there are no reasonable explanations to be had with these basic particles, whereas there are lots of possibilities to explore with a complex brain. Sorry to have to point this out but it's also the sort of reasoning that leads people to use God as an explanation for everything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    ...

    If interested, here's a brief summary of the panpsychism that I mean. And a fuller explanation here.
    From the second link -
    The worry with dualism—the view that mind and matter are fundamentally different kinds of thing—is that it leaves us with a radically disunified picture of nature, and the deep difficulty of understanding how mind and brain interact. ... Panpsychism, strange as it may sound on first hearing, promises a satisfying account of the human mind within a unified conception of nature.
    My take is that the mind-body problem that occurs with dualism is still present with panpsychism. Just that the connection between mind and brain is transferred to a level of less complexity. The atomic particles. It's chopped up into little pieces. The same fundamental problem still arises. What is consciousness and how is it that it's a property of these particles? The problem only seems to disappear because there are no reasonable explanations to be had with these basic particles, whereas there are lots of possibilities to explore with a complex brain. Sorry to have to point this out but it's also the sort of reasoning that leads people to use God as an explanation for everything.
    Mind isn't an emergent property of the particles. It's the substance of them. They're "mental" from the get-go, the "mental" does not "arise" out of them like with the guess about "brain activity" causing consciousness.

    I think the problem you're posing is that it suggests particles are like little brains, with consciousness attached as an add-on or like a spirit lurking "inside". But, no. In panpsychism, mind (or "interiority") does not emerge from the particle and is not merely associated with it like a secretive spirit, so they're not like little brains. Mind is the substance of the particle, whereas the observable, measurable behaviors of the particle are just that - the outer behaviors of the same. So it's all one, it's an absolute monism.

    The implicit dualism is there in the hypothesis that mind emerges out of matter if that matter is a brain. Here people are still talking about mind AND matter as distinctive things, but they try to make mind a subordinate, emergent property that's "squeezed out" when a brain is "complex enough" (invoking the magic word "complex") to somehow just start doing this "squeezing out" of interior experience. The problem is [un]resolved by just stopping talking about mind at some point and saying "brain" instead.

    "Processes" and "systems" are just matter in motion and still nothing at all like subjective, interior experience.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Because I'm juggling a lot of things at once right now--today being my 75th birthday--I don't have time to absorb all of the above posts yet, so I'll try to read more carefully and post some responses when I get the chance. I just want to say that lack of response on my part just means that I am running into some turbulence on other fronts at the moment. Abaddon, I had a problem with the term "panpsychism", not necessarily everything that you were trying to say about it. I think that the term's inherent anthropomorphist flavor puts a spin in the wrong direction.

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    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Congratulations on your 75th junior. Getting back off the free will express? Congrats there as well Copernicus. Even those pushing quantum reasoning are finding reasons to to reject such reasons for the existence of fee will. Doesn't matter whether it's this way or that way whatever takes place next is determined.

    From: Agency and Causal Explanation in Economics https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/...ence=1#page=16

    Chapter 5 in Causation and Agency
    Abstract:
    ‘Causation’ covers a variety of dependent relationships between and among objects and events. The axiom concerning the unicity of reality has been thought to warrant the assumption that causal relationships of social phenomena, including economics, share common properties with corporeal objects, that, in short, agency is a form of causation. This paper defends the opposite view, to wit, that causation based on the properties and powers of corporeal objects (be they natural or man-made) is unlike causation based on agency. Whereas causation among the former is a function of the properties and powers of the objects at play, agency ‘causation’ is the product of human intentionality. Any theory of agency must account for free will even where, as in the case of rule based roles, the instantiation of free will is qualified. An agent’s action may, of course, set in motion a causal law by instantiating the properties of the object(s) producing the intended effect (eg. pulling the trigger of a loaded gun), and the agent will be responsible for the consequences, but the discharge of the bullet is the result of the properties and powers of the gun and the bullet and not of the agent. The profound ontological difference between causation and agency cannot be overcome with resort to epistemological, logical or linguistic considerations.

    In economic and social life the agent relies not on the causal properties of corporeal objects, but on her action authorized by social rules. The causal properties and powers of objects are fundamentally different from the causal powers of rules, because, unlike the former, the latter are designed for the achievement of an intended result and cannot operate without intentional application. The proper study of economics is not the study of the properties of objects contrived by economic theory, but the nature of purposeful human action.
    (take your time on this bit)

    Conclusion:
    Causation in the sense in which the term has meaning in the natural sciences does not obtain in economics because economic phenomena do not have the sort of causal properties that obtain in natural objects; the subject matter of economics isnot a natural kind. The study of dependent relations in economics, therefore, is entirely the study of agency, where any inductively obtained generalization about a dependent relationship is a consequence not a of the properties of a natural kind, but of human action. This remains to be the case even if agency and the sort of intentionality traditionally associated with agency implying the autonomy of the agent is being replaced by the rule-based role, and the rule-based role is increasingly replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Dependent relationships secure \d through algorithms depend neither on the properties of the objects involved nor the intentionality of the agent, but, rather, are prescribed relationships based on the rule posited in the algorithm. The algorithm is given the capacity and power to override both Causation and agency and brings about consequences that could not be obtained without it. This phenomenon requires analysis going beyond both causation and agency, and therefore beyond the scope of this paper.

    The triumph and the tragedy of modern economics rests not in its failure to discover law-like regularities resembling those found in nature, but in its imposition on society of a surrogate reality, built with concepts borrowed from the determinist world of Newtonian physics. But the application of Newtonian causality to economic life is illegitimate. Instead of discovering something about an existing reality, economics generates its own - in Hobbes’ phrase a ‘made with words’ reality - that conforms to its agenda. Economic optimality is just as much a subjective telos, the choice of which just as much the product of value judgment as any of the other value judgments economics purports to exile. Something is optimal in relation to something else the choice of which is not a matter of either science or logic. With its materialist determinism economics has compromised the moral autonomy of the agent, expelled moral responsibility for the morally loaded choices it compels us to make, and transformed for the worse the physical world around us.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Congratulations on your 75th junior. Getting back off the free will express? Congrats there as well Copernicus. Even those pushing quantum reasoning are finding reasons to to reject such reasons for the existence of fee will. Doesn't matter whether it's this way or that way whatever takes place next is determined.

    From: Agency and Causal Explanation in Economics https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/...ence=1#page=16

    Chapter 5 in Causation and Agency
    Abstract:
    ‘Causation’ covers a variety of dependent relationships between and among objects and events. The axiom concerning the unicity of reality has been thought to warrant the assumption that causal relationships of social phenomena, including economics, share common properties with corporeal objects, that, in short, agency is a form of causation. This paper defends the opposite view, to wit, that causation based on the properties and powers of corporeal objects (be they natural or man-made) is unlike causation based on agency. Whereas causation among the former is a function of the properties and powers of the objects at play, agency ‘causation’ is the product of human intentionality. Any theory of agency must account for free will even where, as in the case of rule based roles, the instantiation of free will is qualified. An agent’s action may, of course, set in motion a causal law by instantiating the properties of the object(s) producing the intended effect (eg. pulling the trigger of a loaded gun), and the agent will be responsible for the consequences, but the discharge of the bullet is the result of the properties and powers of the gun and the bullet and not of the agent. The profound ontological difference between causation and agency cannot be overcome with resort to epistemological, logical or linguistic considerations.

    In economic and social life the agent relies not on the causal properties of corporeal objects, but on her action authorized by social rules. The causal properties and powers of objects are fundamentally different from the causal powers of rules, because, unlike the former, the latter are designed for the achievement of an intended result and cannot operate without intentional application. The proper study of economics is not the study of the properties of objects contrived by economic theory, but the nature of purposeful human action.
    (take your time on this bit)

    Conclusion:
    Causation in the sense in which the term has meaning in the natural sciences does not obtain in economics because economic phenomena do not have the sort of causal properties that obtain in natural objects; the subject matter of economics isnot a natural kind. The study of dependent relations in economics, therefore, is entirely the study of agency, where any inductively obtained generalization about a dependent relationship is a consequence not a of the properties of a natural kind, but of human action. This remains to be the case even if agency and the sort of intentionality traditionally associated with agency implying the autonomy of the agent is being replaced by the rule-based role, and the rule-based role is increasingly replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Dependent relationships secure \d through algorithms depend neither on the properties of the objects involved nor the intentionality of the agent, but, rather, are prescribed relationships based on the rule posited in the algorithm. The algorithm is given the capacity and power to override both Causation and agency and brings about consequences that could not be obtained without it. This phenomenon requires analysis going beyond both causation and agency, and therefore beyond the scope of this paper.

    The triumph and the tragedy of modern economics rests not in its failure to discover law-like regularities resembling those found in nature, but in its imposition on society of a surrogate reality, built with concepts borrowed from the determinist world of Newtonian physics. But the application of Newtonian causality to economic life is illegitimate. Instead of discovering something about an existing reality, economics generates its own - in Hobbes’ phrase a ‘made with words’ reality - that conforms to its agenda. Economic optimality is just as much a subjective telos, the choice of which just as much the product of value judgment as any of the other value judgments economics purports to exile. Something is optimal in relation to something else the choice of which is not a matter of either science or logic. With its materialist determinism economics has compromised the moral autonomy of the agent, expelled moral responsibility for the morally loaded choices it compels us to make, and transformed for the worse the physical world around us.
    I don't think that "fee will" is usually defined well enough to have a coherent discussion of the subject, and those who advocate for it seldom seem to know what it would be like for someone not to have free will. My own opinion is that human machines are run by very sophisticated autopilots. Volition is a matter of tweaking the autopilot to perform desired actions ahead of a need for action. Anyway, that is a topic for a different discussion. I would prefer to keep this one focused on the question of subjective experience systemically arising from objective "mechanical" interactions. It's true that volition is a big part of that, but whether such volition can be characterized as "free" or not sucks us down into a rabbit hole.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I really don't like the term "pansychism", because it sounds like an unnecessarily anthropomorphic term. For example, you can measure a magnetic field and observe how it is affected by interactions with different environmental conditions. However, there is a sense in which magnetic physical objects are "aware" of each other, because bringing them closer together either repels or attracts, depending on how the poles are aligned with each other. Human bodies are also repelled and attracted by animate and inanimate things, but in a far more subtle and less measurable way. Unlike with magnets, the forces that repel and attract human bodies are far more complex and difficult to explain. We could call them cognitive or mental forces, but the fact is that bodies are attracted or repelled by their neural guidance systems. So it is really misleading to use a term like "panpsychism" when referring to physical interactions that are not mediated by a kind of neural guidance system. The objects that we call "human bodies" are not at all like the objects that we call "magnets". It is a mistake to conflate the forces of attraction and repulsion with a term like "panpsychism". Self-awareness, for example, is an emergent property of a neural system, and it seems to have no useful analog in an electromagnetic system.

    Panpsychism sounds almost like a kind of pantheism to me, and I suppose that is because deities are so anthropomorphic to begin with. It doesn't really seem to say much other than that the mind is a mysterious force that somehow just works to move bodies around. If you want to explain how a mind works, you have to analyze it into functional components, and that takes us very far away from simple interactions between physical objects
    I don't think I said anything that remotely suggests EM energy or pantheism or a "mysterious force". You have very different associations to the word, and somehow that overrode all my effort to say what I mean by the word.

    If interested, here's a brief summary of the panpsychism that I mean. And a fuller explanation here.
    Thanks for the reference, abaddon, but, after reading the article, I still find the idea of panpsychism quite unsatisfying for the reasons that I stated above. It seems to be an attempt to extend the meaning of words like "conscious" and "consciousness" to simple physical interactions. Objects that interact must in some way become "aware" of each other in order to have any interaction at all. Awareness of other entities is a component of what we call "consciousness", but so are self-awareness, emotions, volition, memory, calculation, and so on. To understand what consciousness is, you have to break it down into at least the mental functions that we attribute to it. So I do think that neural systems in animals are a necessary systemic cause of what we normally refer to as consciousness. Physical objects interact with each other, but I don't se what it really buys us to call that "consciousness" or even "awareness". That seems to be a very anthropomorphic projection on physical interactions that doesn't really help to explain the nature of subjective experience or how the physics of neurochemistry give rise to it. I do think that the emergence of orderly behavior in complex physical interactions is a better way to approach the subject.

  9. Top | #29
    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    Congratulations on your 75th junior. Getting back off the free will express? Congrats there as well Copernicus. Even those pushing quantum reasoning are finding reasons to to reject such reasons for the existence of fee will. Doesn't matter whether it's this way or that way whatever takes place next is determined.

    From: Agency and Causal Explanation in Economics https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/...ence=1#page=16

    Chapter 5 in Causation and Agency


    (take your time on this bit)
    I don't think that "fee will" is usually defined well enough to have a coherent discussion of the subject, and those who advocate for it seldom seem to know what it would be like for someone not to have free will. My own opinion is that human machines are run by very sophisticated autopilots. Volition is a matter of tweaking the autopilot to perform desired actions ahead of a need for action. Anyway, that is a topic for a different discussion. I would prefer to keep this one focused on the question of subjective experience systemically arising from objective "mechanical" interactions. It's true that volition is a big part of that, but whether such volition can be characterized as "free" or not sucks us down into a rabbit hole.
    The summary is a chapter in a book on Economics titled . Seems these people thought enough of the topic to spend a lot of effort on it and get it published. I can't think of much more objective and mechanical than "Agency and Causal Explanation in economies." Can you?

  10. Top | #30
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    Perhaps I'm an extreme reductionist, but I don't see the problem!

    We all agree that some non-human animals are intelligent, and that robots can be made hugely more "intelligent" than man. At some point an intelligent animal will develop a sense of "self." Robots can be programmed with a sense of self: e.g. trained to optimize criteria that include self-survival. They can even be programmed with some sort of sex drive!

    At some point, any sufficiently intelligent self-aware entity will exhibit "consciousness"; in fact the threshold for consciousness is probably fuzzy. One can imagine an advanced version of IBM's Watson being asked to write an essay (or programmed so that its libido "wants" to write essays) and coming up with a sentence like "I think therefore I am."

    If a creature behaves just as though it were conscious, then isn't it conscious? We may be unable to imagine what that machine's consciousness feels like to it — that's one part of the Nagel essay I understood and agree with — but it's still "conscious."

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