Thursday, April 27, 2017

If there is a brain, there has to be a mind that is not a brain

Is the brain an entity? Given materialism, I can't see how it is. It is a composite of things we call a brain. But who are we? Brains? But we can't be brains, we can only be composites of things we call brains, needing an entity to do the "calling", as it were. 

Hume puts it this way: 

I answer, that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct counties into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is per|formed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things.

Dialogues concerning natural religion

So, according to Hume's principle, there cannot be a brain unless there is a mind that performs the arbitrary act of putting it together. So, in order for there to even be a brain, there has to be a mind that is not a brain.

18 comments:

Mortal said...

Huh? I can make no sense out of Hume's words. What is he saying (in plain English, please)?

Victor Reppert said...

Anything that is a set of parts exists as a set of parts in virtue of an arbitrary act of the mind. There are, strictly speaking, no wholes, but there are things taken to be wholes by minds. That is what Hume says. It is his nominalism, which is the view of universals typical of materialists.

John Moore said...

And yet atoms bind to one another. That's not arbitrary. The Earth goes around the Sun, and that's not an arbitrary decision we made. The solar system exists as a composite thing in physical reality regardless of whether we recognize it. Atoms and molecules stick together and form clumps of matter that do things.

It's not that the mind makes wholes from parts, but more like the opposite - the mind divides up the world into pieces that it can usefully comprehend.

Hugo Pelland said...

We don't know everything about the brain, but we know enough to state that the brain is a bunch of neurons that react to stimuli, both internal and external. What we don't fully understand is how, precisely, the brain works to make us the self-aware beings that we are. But that seems beside the point of the question at hand: what does it mean to exist?

**Side note, I was wondering why the sentence "Dialogues concerning natural religion" was awkwardly placed, before the 'So' of the second paragraph. Looks like it's the title of one of Hume's books; perhaps you wanted to put it at the end of the 1st paragraph to show where the quote came from? Quick fix to make your post clearer... **

And we can actually get more from the full passage where the quote is from. Hume continues, right where you left off, with the following:
"Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts."

This sounds to me like the mental building blocks I mentioned a few times already. If we start with the primacy of the material, as a base objective reality, we get to a material brain as existing within that material reality. The brain is remembering what it experienced before and, over time, the memories add up to form a much more complex whole: a conscious person. In other words, we do have an explanation for the existence of the mental when first assuming the material. With everything that comes with it, including Reason...

Therefore, it seems to me that you are actually contradicting what Hume said by stating that " there cannot be a brain unless there is a mind that performs the arbitrary act of putting it together. So, in order for there to even be a brain, there has to be a mind that is not a brain." Because it's not true that a brain needs a mind to call it a brain, in order for the brain to be a brain. On the primacy of the material, the label 'brain' that we use is just that, a label. It does not change the fact that material brains do exist, do experience the material world, and thus cause the emergence of minds. Minds are the label we use to describe the ability of brains to conceptualize the material world they experience.

Your comment here, on the other hand, depends on the primacy of consciousness to make sense: a brain is a brain because some mind called it like that. Of course, because you assumed that minds exist regardless of brains in the first place... but this does not ever address the core of the issue: why start with the mind, the mental, first?

Strongly related to this is the notion of the self, or lack thereof:
https://youtu.be/fajfkO_X0l0?t=3m6s

David Brightly said...

It may be an act of the mind but it's surely not an arbitrary one. Else we would regard arbitrary mereological sums as composite entities. And we don't. So if an act of the mind it's a guided one. What provides the guidance?

Hugo Pelland said...

Describing exactly what a piece of thought is is the hard part, as I mentioned on the previous thread actually. There are 2 types the way I see it: it's either a real-time perception of a recollection of previous perceptions. As babies, we have pretty much just the first kind an gradually end up having more and more recollection, until a point where we are able to, somehow, be self-aware of that process happening. I don't think anyone can pretend to know exactly how that all happens.

But this is all physical yes, what isn't in this case? And I don't understand what that question meant: "its thought content is not given in the physical description, so how can it even be a piece of a thought?" The pieces of thought are what they are; perceptions of the material world and recollections. It does not matter that we cannot describe which exact neurons are in which exact states, for instance, if that's what you are getting at...

Experience is not hard to capture; I am not sure what you mean. The experiences themselves are what the mental states are. These mental states are non-material only in the sense that we label them as such because it's practical to differentiate between what we think of and what we actually can touch, smell, hear, see, in our objective material reality, for all of us to enjoy.

Moreover, it is now the 4th time that you mention that matter follows laws. I reject that. Can you explain why you just state this as if it were a fact?

Finally, yes, your computer does more or less the same kind of mental stuff as a human, and I would argue that yes, it could, in theory, experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Not now, but we are not even that far from that! It's actually pretty simple; we just need to build a reward system in the machine and some form of feedback loop where the computer can be rewarded, or not, based on the outcome of a chess game. Let that computer be flexible with some randomness such that its complexity can evolve over time and there is no reason, in principle, why it could not start to experience what we describe as 'thrill of victory'.

Hugo Pelland said...

(in case some reader wonders; this is a follow-up from a previous thread)

Victor Reppert said...

Matter follows laws. Why do I say this?

I am standing at the bottom of a mountain. Unbeknownst to me, rocks are falling down the mountain in an avalanche. The rocks will

a) decide it would be a good idea to get rid of me, and so they hit my head.

b) decide that I am a nice guy, and so they are careful not to hit me.

c) move strictly at random

d) hit me, or not hit me, depending on whether the laws of physics (mass, velocity, etc.) indicate that they should hit me or not.

Hugo Pelland said...

This is just a longer of stating that matter follows law. You demonstrated nothing, but your ability to spot patterns. This doesn't make this observation a law.

Hugo Pelland said...

(This doesn't make this observation a prescriptive law)

Joe Hinman said...

I find a lot of double talk commented with physical laws. When they need prescriptive laws they make them sound prescriptive enough. Dead men never come back to life, as though there's a rule. They want rules they just don't mat a rule maker.

Joe Hinman said...

should say "don't want a rule maker."

Victor Reppert said...

Prescriptive or not, the fact is that material entities have powers and liabilities which are set, and these capacities do not change. By following laws I just mean that basic particles of matter do what they do with no teleology of their own. I would hope that naturalists would be able to use the conception of a law of nature. Otherwise, we've got problems.

Assuming no God and setting aside any life on other planets that might have evolved prior to earth's life, no agent-driven teleology has existed throughout virtually all of natural history.

So, what is happening now? In order for the accounts we have to give a Darwin inferring natural selection from finch beaks, or physicists rejecting the ether theory as a result (among other things) of the Michelsen-Morley experiment, to make any sense, we have to describe them in teleological terms. The reasons, the evidence, have to be causally responsible for the beliefs these scientists came to hold. Otherwise, the presumed advantage of following science as opposed to superstition goes out the window.

Yet naturalists insist that when minds arose, no new mode of causation was introduced. Matter functioned in the same way, it is just that evolution but it into forms of organization that made it seem as if it had purposes when it really didn't, and this explains the very theorizing by which scientists like Dawkins and philosophers like Mackie reach the conclusion that God does not exist. In the last analysis, you didn't accept atheism because of the evidence, you became and atheist because the configuration of atoms in your brain put you in a certain brain state, and C. S. Lewis became a Christian and a theist for exactly the same reason. If this is true, how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?

Hugo Pelland said...

Joe Hinman said...
"I find a lot of double talk commented with physical laws. When they need prescriptive laws they make them sound prescriptive enough. Dead men never come back to life, as though there's a rule. They want rules they just don't mat a rule maker."

This is just a vile attack, even if your intentions are benign. Instead of engaging ina conversation, you attack the 'others' and talk about 'them', almost de-humanizing those you disagree with. I find this ironic coming from someone I thought was a nice guy; I saw you interact for 2 minutes with Stan on Atheism Analyzed and I was glad to see you would not fall as low as him and engage in this us-vs-them divisive mentality. But here, it seems that because your cherished Theistic worldview is merely questioned, you decided to just write a silly attack.

I guess that's what religion does to people. Even the nice ones cannot help but see the 'others' as immoral folks who just 'don't want' to have a rule maker. You could not be more wrong Joe. I have nothing against the idea of a rule maker. I think we might have a much nicer world actually if there were one that could actually fix all the stuff that going on, or at least make sure that those who commit evil are punished at some point. I just don't see this happening unfortunately and I don't believe you, nor anyone else, when they claim that they found that rule maker. Good for you if you believe in one, it's just not changing my mind, and it's not because I don't want to.

Victor is usually pretty good at avoiding that kind of attacks. But even him could not help himself today by adding a rhetorical question "how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?" Did I do that anywhere here? I don't think so; I even said the opposite: I don't expect to convince Victor, nor anyone for that matter, but I am looking to see what I can improve in my reasoning. Of course there are people who do claim superior rationality, but it's silly to pretend that it's just on one side, of any debate really. People are people, some are assholes, others are not. Some claim superiority, others don't. Ironically, by accusing others of being one way or the other, I think it shows that you are the ones who do think you are superior.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor Reppert said...
"Prescriptive or not, the fact is that material entities have powers and liabilities which are set, and these capacities do not change. By following laws I just mean that basic particles of matter do what they do with no teleology of their own. I would hope that naturalists would be able to use the conception of a law of nature. Otherwise, we've got problems. "

Prescriptive makes a big difference, and yes, I think it is a problem on your end, because of the assumption of the primacy of consciousness. Basically, you need matter to follow laws that were created by a mind, because you think there was a mind before any matter. You also need the mental to not follow any rules, because otherwise we don't have full on free will that your religion requires.

We have hit the crux of the issue here, and got to an interesting detail I had never thought of before: you need these 2 things together. They are more linked than I ever realized before. I think it did not strike me because it's not important to me when trying to understand what it means to exist. Because I assume that the material world is a base objective reality, it can be the case that there are laws that prescribe how material objects behave, or not, and it can also be the case that we have 100% pure freewill, or not. Starting with the primacy of material existence does not yield the type of restrictions that your assumptions state.

The rest continues on yet another thread where I think Stardusty Psyche wrote more or the less the same as what I would have replied to so I will see what comes next there...

Joe Hinman said...

This is just a vile attack, even if your intentions are benign.


Vile attack hu? that;s pretty low blow actually expecting atheists to give a consistent analysis,it's not just atheists I've noticed this in many aspects of science.


Instead of engaging ina conversation, you attack the 'others' and talk about 'them', almost de-humanizing those you disagree with. I find this ironic coming from someone I thought was a nice guy; I saw you interact for 2 minutes with Stan on Atheism Analyzed and I was glad to see you would not fall as low as him and engage in this us-vs-them divisive mentality. But here, it seems that because your cherished Theistic worldview is merely questioned, you decided to just write a silly attack.


that's pretty unfair, There's no time here in this text box to list all the sources I've seen use this double talk, I did write a chapter about it for my forthcoming book should e out in the fall. you can see a privet of the chapter here:

Beyond Descriptiove /Prescriptoive Dichotomy






I guess that's what religion does to people. Even the nice ones cannot help but see the 'others' as immoral folks who just 'don't want' to have a rule maker. You could not be more wrong Joe. I have nothing against the idea of a rule maker.

I am still nice,I said nothing unnice, you need to able to accept criticism, the intellectual life is about critiques and criticism,nothing personal,


I think we might have a much nicer world actually if there were one that could actually fix all the stuff that going on, or at least make sure that those who commit evil are punished at some point. I just don't see this happening unfortunately and I don't believe you, nor anyone else, when they claim that they found that rule maker. Good for you if you believe in one, it's just not changing my mind, and it's not because I don't want to.

Victor is usually pretty good at avoiding that kind of attacks. But even him could not help himself today by adding a rhetorical question "how can the atheist possibly claim superior rationality?" Did I do that anywhere here? I don't think so; I even said the opposite: I don't expect to convince Victor, nor anyone for that matter, but I am looking to see what I can improve in my reasoning. Of course there are people who do claim superior rationality, but it's silly to pretend that it's just on one side, of any debate really. People are people, some are assholes, others are not. Some claim superiority, others don't. Ironically, by accusing others of being one way or the oth

I am still mystified,I attacked your idea not you, that is friar it;s what life of the mnind is about,you will never last in gradate school if you can't stand up to that.

Joe Hinman said...

It's pretty obvious who i'm talking about, when I say ?they say deaden don;'t comeback: Obvioulsy I:'m talking atheists whit whom I argue the resurrection the net,

The atheists on Secular Outpost threat me like shit and mock and ridicule every thing I say, but I'm such a bad guy because I don't like double talk,

btw SOP was good when Lowder was more active,Since he got involved in resistance he;s not around now it's loaded up with dawkamemtalkist types,

Hugo Pelland said...

Joe,

The problem is that you did not contribute anything, you did not address any point. Do I need to quote your short silly comment? Here it is again:
"I find a lot of double talk commented with physical laws. When they need prescriptive laws they make them sound prescriptive enough. Dead men never come back to life, as though there's a rule. They want rules they just don't mat a rule maker."
Is this a serious analysis of anything presented here? How can this 'not' be a personal attack when there are only a few of us commenting here? You did not even bother addressing anything specific, you just label 'them' as not wanting a rule maker, and I explained to you how wrong you are.

But you just made it worse...
"I am still nice,I said nothing unnice, you need to able to accept criticism, the intellectual life is about critiques and criticism,nothing personal,
[...]
I am still mystified,I attacked your idea not you, that is friar it;s what life of the mnind is about,you will never last in gradate school if you can't stand up to that.
"

No, you were not nice, I told you why it was not nice, and you just decided to double down on it by still not referring to anything that was written here. If you want to make broad comments, fine, but you just inserted your little snipet within a conversation. How am I supposed to not take that personal?

To be clear, it's no big deal... but there are only like 2-3 of us who wrote in the last couple of threads on that topic. And now you did make it personal by saying I would not last in grad school. But that just made laugh out loud honestly, because I am in grad school right now! And I am working full time, and managing all of that quite well, thank you.

Also, I personally never read blogs/forum run by Atheists. I don't see the point of getting more opinions that agree with mine. I did that maybe 5-10 years ago and have learned nothing since. I get a lot more from interactions with people I don't agree with, because I am actually looking for criticism of my positions. That's the whole point of commenting here on a Theist's blog...