Thursday, February 05, 2015

Why mental states are not physical states

If mental states are physical states, then the truth about what someone believes should follow necessarily from the state of the brain/physical world. But it doesn't. If we line up all the physical facts, we have every atom traced, the argument from The brain is in state X therefore he must believe, say, that God exists, cannot follow necessarily. The state of the physical always leaves the state of the mental indeterminate. But what my thought is about is determinate, not indeterminate. Therefore my belief is not a physical state.

24 comments:

Ilíon said...

... and thereby do we know that naturalism and materialism and indeed atheism (*) is false.

(*) For, it isn't the physicalism that shows naturalism and materialism to be false, it is the determinism.

John Moore said...

Yes it does. If we line up all the physical facts, with every atom traced, then we can see precisely what the brain believes. We can see how particular sensory inputs will activate particular neural pathways and eventually produce motor output such as a speech act saying "I believe X."

I wish I could understand why Victor says it doesn't. Please provide more explanation.

Looking at a computer circuit, we can see that particular inputs inevitably lead to particular outputs. That's how the electrical circuit works. The brain is also a kind of electrical circuit. It is hugely complex and made of different stuff, but the brain still looks entirely physical. If we knew what every atom was doing, we could predict exactly what the brain would do.

im-skeptical said...

I would like to see exactly what Quine had to say about this. I have my doubts that he would agree.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Nobody says that individual atoms are what the brain processes. The brain processes sensory input taken as a whole, creating memories and also behavior patterns in relation to that input.

Also the fact that "the mental state does not equal the physical state" is not to deny that the physical and mental states are related inside the brain-mind system.

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/01/prior-prejudices-and-argument-from.html

Benjamin Thompson said...

Yes but I believe Vic is saying that if all our mental states are actually brain states. then all of our beliefs would have to be necessarily determined by a correlating brain state. That is there would be one specific brain state for the belief that God exists and another which corresponded to believing God does not exist. This has little to do with our brain processing our sensual data accurately. It's simply an argument that our beliefs cannot be completely physical.

B. Prokop said...

George MacDonald:

"I have been speaking as if life and the consciousness of it were one; but the consciousness of life is not life; it is only the outcome of life. The Real Life is that which is of and by itself - is life because it wills itself - which is, in the active, not the passive sense: this can only be God.

Exodus:

Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

im-skeptical said...

"That is there would be one specific brain state for the belief that God exists and another which corresponded to believing God does not exist."

That's not how it works. Beliefs are the result of associative connections between different clusters of neurons in the brain. There is no "specific brain state" that corresponds to a belief, but there is a physical cause of the belief. At any rate, I still don't see how Victor's conclusion that beliefs cannot be physical is a logical consequence of his argument.

Ilíon said...

Deny-and-Demand

DJC said...


If mental states are physical states, then the truth about what someone believes should follow necessarily from the state of the brain/physical world.


What is determinate about a thought is the same that is determinate about experiencing a color or a sound or a feeling. It is the certainty of subjective experience. Subjective experience can be modeled computationally as awareness of attention so that it should be, in theory, possible to know which attention inputs to a brain model are being tagged with awareness and therefore which attention inputs have determinate, subjective awareness. Thus, the mental states can be ultimately shown to be the same as physical states arranged into the form of highly social agent-aware organisms.

Papalinton said...

DJC, the article you cite is extraordinarily informative. While its premises remain provisional, a work in progress in discovering and understanding how the brain works, its intellectual probity and strength is reflected in the predictions it makes and the challenges it outlines in determining whether or not it holds up to investigative and research scrutiny. Whatever the outcome, what is learned will axiomatically contribute to our cumulative understanding of the brain.

This is the format/test that is so deplorably and inexcusably absent in contemporary scientifically-uninformed philosophy and theology, both largely pretending to be credible altenative explanatory mechanisms.

This article puts to rest any further pretence to the jejune notion that there are 'other ways of knowing' without either recourse to falsifiability in the one hand or an appeal to special pleading in the other.

There is little doubt research will eventually verify that a mental state will be what the operant physical state of the brain is in at any particular observable point in time.

Immaterialism will be further found to be what it is, an epiphenomenal product of the function of the physical brain, just as leprechauns, gods, celestial teapots and unicorns are epi-phenomenal products of this capacity for limitless imagination.

No workings of an external agency required, no allusion to cosmic intentionality necessary.

B. Prokop said...

"There is little doubt research will eventually verify..."

Ya gotta love the way Linton perpetually punts to the future, when he can't make his case in the here and now. "Just you wait, 'enry 'iggins!"

im-skeptical said...

"he can't make his case in the here and now."

That's another good one, coming from someone who places his faith in the hereafter.

Papalinton said...

Bob is the archetypal religionist. He pretends to be an astronomer but observes none of the predicates for being an astronomer. When he squints through a telescope he doesn't see stars for what they are but theologically interprets them as a product of some ineffable omni-max phantasm that inhabits a netherworld. And if you squint hard enough to distort your logic circuits, apparently, you can see this apparition.

The only mental states in question here are of those driven by intransigent and obdurate belief in primitive supernatural superstition.

Sheesh!

Papalinton said...

"Ya gotta love the way Linton perpetually punts to the future, when he can't make his case in the here and now."

This is for Bob to help him quell and dampen down his super-hyperactive agency detection device, in scientific terms called a 'brain, and to calm his intentionality circuits about my punting to the future:

"There is little doubt research is verifying, piece by piece, element by element, research finding by research finding, that a mental state is clearly what the operant physical state of the brain is in at any particular observable point in time. Absolutely no workings of an external Abrahamic agency has been found in the research, and absolutely no allusion to cosmic intentionality necessary to explain us, the world the universe.

B. Prokop said...

"who places his faith in the hereafter"

But I don't, Skep, I don't. When I pray the Lord's Prayer, I say (along with the rest of Christendom), "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." (emphasis added)

"squints through a telescope"

Shows how little you actually know, Linton. Only the rankest beginner ever makes the mistake of "squinting" - a true stargazer knows that the eye muscles must be as relaxed as possible and the eye open naturally. That's why I often wear a "pirate patch" when observing, so I can keep both eyes open without one straining against the other.

Sheesh!

im-skeptical said...

A true stargazer knows something about how atmosphere affects the light that passes through it.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Skep writes: "...who places his faith in the hereafter"

Prokop responds: "But I don't, Skep, I don't. When I pray the Lord's Prayer, I say (along with the rest of Christendom), "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." (emphasis added)

This response demonstrates the utter intellectual void that the religious wallow in. It is an unequivocal example of the selective 'cherry-picking' quoting that earmarks the pinnacle of apologetical pablum, the forked-tongue approach of unprincipled christian ethics and belief.

Bob knows only too well his emphasis is egregiously misplaced. Read the line, 'thy will be done as. it. is. in. heaven'. The christian model for Earth has always been based around, predicated on, what happens in Heaven, not the other way around. And as every sane, rational and right-thinking adult knows, Heaven is a figurative trope, a primitive fabrication of superstitious nonsense. Indeed it is once again intellectual dishonesty exhibited by the faithful without so much as a blush, if it suits their purpose. It's called, 'Telling porkies for Jesus'.

Skep is absolutely correct, Bob 'places his faith in the hereafter.' Why on earth would Bob believe in all that christian superstitious bumpf, as well as praying, intoning incantations, counting rosary beads, invoking the magical forces through the ancient cannibalistic Catholic ritual of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a warrior, and incessantly supplicating to an ineffable [putatively] live omni-max disembodied non-human entity that lives in heaven, in other words, place his faith in the hereafter, if he imagines it's the only way he will get to the Pearly Gates?

No. Bob's explanation is disingenuous and a deliberate and duplicitous deflection of the totality of truth.

B. Prokop said...

"as every sane, rational and right-thinking adult knows"

Really? So I must presume then that Solzhenitsyn was not a "sane, rational and right-thinking adult". Neither was/is Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Anatolij Sharanskij, Louis Pasteur, Buzz Aldrin, Andrei Rublev, Tony Blair, Desmond Tutu, Oscar Romero, Frank Borman... oh, what's the use? According to Linton, the only two sane, rational and right-thinking adults are himself and Skep.

I think I'll stick with the other list.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

The other day, you were happy to lump Linton in with the likes of Arians, Nazis (both of which were Christian groups), and anyone else that you feel are detestable. Now you insist that he and I stand alone. WTFO! Of course, we do not stand alone. There are many rational people who reject your superstitious nonsense. And our numbers are growing as people around the world become better informed, and more willing to look beyond the ancient mythological impediments to rational thinking.

Ilíon said...

"The other day, you were happy to lump Linton in with the likes of Arians, Nazis (both of which were Christian groups), .."

For his encore, 'I-can-history' will inform us that the National Socialists were "right wingers"

Papalinton said...

On the matter of the existence of heaven, yes Solzhenitsyn et al are definitely not right-thinking. They are, were, driven by supernatural superstition. They were products of their times imagining their lives filled with ghosts, apparitions, gods, demons and other things that go bump in the night. They were, have been almost certainly habituated into this nonsensical whimsical belief from early childhood, well before reason and logic circuits properly formed out of the plasticity of the child's mind.

It's not that you'll 'stick with the other list', you had no choice. You share the same deeply inculcated belief in a parallel netherworld as those on your list. Your list of names simply demonstrates how sad it is that purportedly intelligent people can be so duped by the psychological and emotional comfort of that belief. But as we are finding out more and more, belief and especially religious belief is a failed epistemology in determining truth.

When you understand why it is you reject other religions as being false, you will then understand why I reject your religion.

B. Prokop said...

"They were products of their times"

Looks like chronological snobbery raising its ugly head again. Of course, that leave Linton, et.al. open to being dismissed a generation or so from now as being amusing products of their times, back in those quaint ol' days when atheism was briefly in fashion.