This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
Jerry Coyne. Dawkins without the style. Myers without the humour. It's like liver without the vitamins.
I don't find Myers humorous. At all.
I have heard how Myers treats his Christian students.
Materialists these days often denigrate philosophers - they ask rhetorical questions like 'What irrefutable truth did philosophy ever reach?' But this little exchange suggests they also want to avoid the logical scrutiny that philosophers can give their assertions.
How specifically has he mistreated his Christian students? I know he's publicly desecrated the Eucharist, but I've never heard anything about him actually confronting his Christian students.
Anon: Rumour spreading is bad form, but welcome to persecution complex 101 please have a seat.
I think Coyne did a poor job here, but Feser did not work very hard to state the argument at its strongest either. In what follows, I am not stating my own staunchly held beliefs(?) but am instead attempting to pursue the line of thought I see in Coyne's post.For the issue of `presupposing intentionality', we need not focus on evolutionary history; instead, we can ask how a naturalist who identifies brain and mind might explain how a zygote eventually `acquires intentionality' (and the rest of `mind'). For shorthand, I'll denote some intention-less `initial arrangement of material' by A_0 and some intentional `final arrangement of material' by A_1. A_0 and A_1 are not necessarily confined to a single point in time; `intentionality' may be a set of processes and not a thing, after all. A_1 is something like a description of the material arrangement known as Steve while he shops using his girlfriend's grocery list. A_0 is then something like the arrangement of atoms in A_1 prior to Steve's conception.In these terms, what Coyne appears to have said is that the interval between A_0 and A_1 (inclusive) need not include non-material terms. I do not think he said - quoting Feser - that "we have intentionality because our parts have intentionality, which merely relocates the problem rather than solving it", nor that "“brain-modules” operating together constitute a mind which “makes sense” of the environment" in a tautological way. Instead, he seems to be suggesting that something like `brain-modules' (naturalistically) develop between A_0 and A_1, not simply that A_0 can understand more elementary versions of grocery lists.In response to the original article and Feser, Coyne was only stating that it is possible that what we call intentionality, a feature of the mind, develops with the brain. The fact that Steve can use a grocery list does not entail that A_1 and/or A_0 are incomplete assuming that they are complete up to naturalism, because e.g. Steve's neurons are firing pulses modulated by proteins that encode information in a manner similar to that of a computer. Steve sees `green beans' on the list, meaning that photons have triggered a pulse down his optic nerve into the visual cortex and other lobes. Within and/or across these lobes the hitherto undescribed physical process of consciousness goes on, presumably interacting with or produced by similarly mysterious unconscious processes. Within this firing network the pulse from the optic nerve is assimilated and somehow associated with the neural pathways producing the appropriate sensations to acquire a can of green beans. Diagrammatically, the process can be pictured just as webcam facial-recognition technology can be pictured, assuming we do not detail the processor.
(cont.)The material arrangements in A_1 which enable Steve to read a grocery list do not exist in A_0; rather, they develop over his lifetime via e.g. conditioning as applied to a framework produced by evolution. Just as tern migration evolved with terns, human intentionality evolved with humans. The fact that both `migration' and `intention' are abstract does force the processes to which they are applied to be non-physical.Intentionality is not some fundamental thing not in E. Coli but in humans; it is a capacity grounded in certain arrangements of material, e.g. humans, which historically developed from more rudimentary means of reacting to the surrounding environment via evolution. The `inherent meaning' of thoughts lies in the workings of the physical neural network, the ability to retrieve and associate information via physical signals. It is not necessarily parceled out between `modules'; though `modules' in coordination may produce it.If I understand this correctly, this reduces the argument to a demand for a more adequate hard theory of consciousness. More details, we say! But then, somebody with more experience in philosophy of mind may need to help me out.I also wonder whether any existing neurological experiment would be relevant to this. Would the effects of damage to Wernicke's area or Broca's area be interesting here?
What the neurological damage studies show is that one can act intentionally without consciousness. Probably, an embryo has that kind of "intentionality." The type of subjective thought-associated intentionality that is intrinsic to subjective consciousness remains quite inexplicable by Coyne (and is even less explained by Aristotle), and invoking embryology of unconscious (or conscious) brain modules blatantly begs the question as usual.
William,I don't see how `intentionality without consciousness' is evidenced by the effects of brain damage.I also do not see how coordinated `brain-modules' or neural networks must beg the question, with respect either to the origins or workings of intentionality.
I don't see how `intentionality without consciousness' is evidenced by the effects of brain damage.I was referring to things such as blindsight, not to the aphasias you referenced.I also said "intentional action" not intentionality itself, which I suppose is more of a conscious thing.I also do not see how coordinated `brain-modules' or neural networks must beg the question, with respect either to the origins or workings of intentionality.If you don't get this I cannot explain it to you. Neuroscience in some respects is the study and mapping of a circuit board by a culture which has no knowledge of electricity :). There is an entire category of explanation we simply cannot perform.
Jesse asks:I also do not see how coordinated `brain-modules' or neural networks must beg the question, with respect either to the origins or workings of intentionality.William responds:If you don't get this I cannot explain it to you...There is an entire category of explanation we simply cannot performWhat are your arguments? What is this category of explanation and why can't we perform it?
If God had wanted to structure the world so that complex biological systems were sufficient for intentionality/consciousness, could He have done so?
BDKHey guy!Well can God make 2+2=5? No he can not since it is logically impossible.Which then leads us to ask can a purely material consciousness exist? Which leads us to ask what is consciousness and is it material or not?Cheers!
BTW I'm not saying material consciousness is impossible (thought I most likely believe that is the case) rather if it is impossible then God can't create it.
"Consciousness" is not a thing like a rock or a tree. It has no actual substance. The error here in all of these philosophy of mind discussions is to talk about "consciousness" as if it were a concrete thing. What we term "consciousness" is nothing more than the particular way we human beings "take in" or "absorb" the external world. Specifically, it's the way we take reality in from within our humanity. Of course, if you view "consciousness" from without, you will be tempted to view it as possessing a substance. The truth, though, is that "consciousness" merely denotes a pure process.
Ben as usual you didn't answer. :P
Well I have to focus the question so it can be answered.But I did answer. I answered God cannot do the logically impossible. He can't make 2+2=5 and he can make the Rock so heavy blah blah blah etc..We just don't know yet material consciousness is possible. You da man Eric!:-)Peace friend.
OK. So you are hedging your bets. :) Fair enough, and rightfully humble.
BDK, as I'm sure you know, I am referring to the subjective-objective puzzle .Even if a God made it so our brains are the conscious physical things, we still don't understand the laws that would make that so, nor explain why with the currently known laws of physics that such a God would have presumably also made.
William: OK, then you were way too dismissive of Jesse's perfectly reasonable question. Basically you are a dualist like Chalmers and think brains aren't enough. That's fine, but Jesse wasn't being naive or off base or ignorant in his question.And your other point is mainly epistemic not ontological (even McGinn is a hard-core materialist but thinks we'll never explain consciousness). And such a conclusion is equally contentious. To admit that God could make conscious brains is to make a fairly major concession, as you know.
Incidentally, that's my new way of approaching dualists to see how attached they are. The God question puts it pretty well, and it isn't my idea: I lift it directly from Locke.It doesn't answer the questions, but it does help clarify things a lot. And for some reasons Christians become more sober and thoughtful when I pose it that way, rather than trotting out Hard Problem pablum. Even if they ultimately come down saying God could not do that, I find my conversations have been much more fruitful.
Jesse keep posting your stuff above was very good I thought, I for one enjoyed reading it. Good to see someone talk shop rather than attack personalities!
BDK:Unless you are saying that God could have just arranged for brains to be conscious without any laws to make it so-- kind of a Leibniz style simultaneous subjectivity and objectivity-- the problem with defining the brains of physical things as conscious is the begging of the question of how to get from the objective neuroscience to the subjective experience.BDK:To admit that God could make conscious brains is to make a fairly major concession, as you know.I only think that this is a concession if a substance dualist wants to feel certain of their metaphysics (I have no such need since I'm more or less agnostic among the options of physicalist emergence, property dualism and substance dualism).
William: yes it would be a concession for a dualist, not for most others: I incorrectly assumed you were a dualist. Even for nondualists it is useful for getting at one's basic perspective about C (except the people who say they don't believe in God so can't answer which shows me they aren't even worth talking to because they missed the point). I don't share the same belief, that you seem to hold, that consciousness is inexplicable from a neural perspective. However, as a former Chalmers booster I certainly understand that intuition, and have experienced it personally before.
BDKDo share...I'd like to see what that explication would look like.Graham
As a scientist, I reject the concept that one must be either a monist or a dualist because that suggests a "closed mind." No scientist should begin thus, nor carry on his work with fixed preconceptions." --Wilder Penfield
Jesse:I also do not see how coordinated `brain-modules' or neural networks must beg the question, with respect either to the origins or workings of intentionality.As long as we only study intentional action (the objective correlates of intentionality) I think we can learn a great deal about how the brain works during intentional performances. For example, we can study the objective correlates of the consciousness of time in pigeons. The problem is when some sceintists use their monist prejudices to insist they are really recording the subjective consciousness of the passage of time in pigeons when they record those neurons (not that the Dutch scientists here did).
Here's a thought: It's possible, even downright likely, that for us to understand how brains could be/make consciousness may require a rethinking, perhaps a vast rethinking, of "physical" itself.And that's one elephant in the room for self-described materialists. Can we explain the results of the twin-slit experiment physically? Sure we can. At the price of radically redefining "physical".
William,Should I take you to be saying that scientists study objective correlates, never consciousness itself?
Yeah, Anonymous is in its usual slanderous and schadenfreude form today. There appear to be at least two anonymous commenters here, one of which is doing perfectly fine :D.William,I agree that scientists should be on guard here as well. Strictly speaking, I think that they do not need to make strong conclusions either way, so tentativity in ontological matters, and care as to where preconceptions are imported, is perfectly appropriate.BDK,Thanks :D
Mr Veale: My main point is that I just don't think it is inexplicable. That doesn't mean I have an explanation, only that I can imagine how it will go in speculative terms. I think God could make brains sufficient for consciousness, and I think we will understand how brains are conscious. In terms of positive story in my mind, I think we experience the contents of a i) perspectival (e.g., experience depends on spatial perspective), ii) unified (e.g., we experience multiple things simultaneously), iii) limited capacity (we don't experience everything representational going on in our brains, only a tiny fraction) bio-representational system. In addition to those three intrinsic properties, this system has some relational properties that also distinguish it from the unconscious representations traded within our brains (e.g., this representational system has strong ties to episodic memory as well as medium-term planning, while unconscious representations don't contribute to episodic memory as well, and are not used for planning in the medium-term (longer than a few seconds)).Once neuroscience/psychology constructs a (causally) gap free story about this, with highly verified predictions about phenomenology, dreaming, sleepwalking, anaesthesia, coma, etc., it will be very hard to remain a dualist, though not impossible (it's never impossible to remain anything). Note I'm not saying consciousness is a priori defined as such a representational system, but am making a hypothesis about the basis of consciousness. And this is already what we are finding, but the results are not integrated together into a nice theory, and people tend to have strong intuitions of dualism so they don't realize we are already starting to explain consciousness at the neuronal level!Anyway, that's the book in a nutshell. :)In sum, God could make brains sufficient for consciousness, and he already has. Via evolution. :)
Should I take you to be saying that scientists study objective correlates, never consciousness itself?I would say that the current laboratory tools of scientists study the objective correlates of consciousness, not consciousness itself, yes.Of course astronomers study the light of stars and never touch them...but then, we don't have all that many astronomers trying to reduce the ontology of the stars to their light spectrum :)
BDK:In terms of positive story in my mind, I think we experience the contents of a i) perspectival (e.g., experience depends on spatial perspective), ii) unified (e.g., we experience multiple things simultaneously), iii) limited capacity (we don't experience everything representational going on in our brains, only a tiny fraction) bio-representational system. --Sounds great as a sketch of the mechanism...but (the puzzle again) how does is this process come to be accompanied by (subjective) experience?
William asks:how does is this process come to be accompanied by (subjective) experience?The question seems to assume there exist two different things (neuronal processes and conscious experiences) that need to 'accompany' each other. This is not part of my hypothesis. Similarly, I don't think that temperature accompanies mean kinetic energy as an additional property. Or that life is something added to the symphony of processes of digestion, respiration, ontogeny, etc..
Jesse that is a great article. Love the quote, "To decree dogmatic prohibitions of certain linguistic forms instead of testing them by their success or failure in practical use, is worse than futile; it is positively harmful because it may obstruct scientific progress. The history of science shows examples of such prohibitions based on prejudices deriving from religious, mythological, metaphysical, or other irrational sources, which slowed up the developments for shorter or longer periods of time. Let us learn from the lessons of history. Let us grant to those who work in any special field of investigation the freedom to use any form of expression which seems useful to them; the work in the field will sooner or later lead to the elimination of those forms which have no useful function."This is a great lesson for philosophers (like Bennett) who place so much emphasis on semantics, and who try to cleanse the linguistic practices of neuroscientists because of a weird fetish that certain words must be used a certain way.
"it's never impossible to remain anything"It's impossible to remain a person who is mathematically trained yet nevertheless believes that "1+1=987", or a person who believes in atheism and theism simultaneously.
BDK:So you are using some kind of dual aspect theory?
William: not explicitly.
I don't want to hear again about how someone's business failed in the midst of a recession, as if that meant anything at all about their ideas.
This ad hominem stuff from one of the anonymous posters toward John Loftus, who is not even present, is so annoying that I find myself feeling sympathy for John, who I never had much of an opinion about before. I therefore wonder if it is supposed to create a backlash?
It does suggest a pro-Loftus troll theory.
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