Sunday, October 29, 2017

Why mental states are not emergent the way solidity is

Are mental states emergent in the same sense that solid states are, or that living states are? Hal and David have been arguing this.

Solidity is not written into the laws of physics, yet, if the particles are configured in a certain way, we have something solid. Similarly, if certain configurations of the physical obtain, an object can be said to be living, even if life is not part of basic physics.

So similarly, "Believes that P" or even "infers P from Q"  are not part of physics, but given certain configurations of the physical, these can still be true of wholly physical human beings.

I think there is a critical difference.In the first cases, someone who knew enough physics could close the question of whether something was solid or not. If I move, am capable of reproduction, if I have a DNA code, etc. if my physics fits all these descriptions, then it becomes simply incoherent to suggest that I'm really not alive.


But in the case of minds it is different. Someone can have no outward behavioral criteria for, say, dreaming that Trump won the election (when election day hadn't happened yet). This happened to me. No one looking at me could have surmised that that was what I was dreaming about, but that was.my inner state, and my memory of that, tells me I was dreaming about Trump winning.

Given the physical, the mental is indeterminate. But we are in determinate mental states, otherwise logic would not work. Therefore the mental is something over and above the physical.




29 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor, that's a good summary, but it does not follow that, because we cannot infer what someone is thinking about based on their physical state, it is impossible to do so.

We actually can do it, partially, already. We know which parts of the brain are activated under certain circumstance, and vice versa. So why conclude that we cannot, even in theory, do it completely?

Legion of Logic said...

I believe I've seen recent studies showing that as technology improves, they are getting closer to being able to "read" brain waves to tell what a person is thinking about. If I recall correctly, just by looking at a brain wave pattern, they were able to guess correctly more often than not what a person was thinking about (from a provided list of options). Other interfaces allow people to control robot arms, video games, etc, so I don't think mental states are as beyond our grasp as some think.

John Moore said...

Not only brain waves, but it should be possible in theory to follow individual neuron impulses as they run through the brain. When that becomes possible, people won't need to guess what you're thinking (or dreaming), but they will know for certain.

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP I think there is a critical difference.In the first cases.

--The difference is quantitative. It is a difference of complexity, a difference of human tractability.

If a tree falls in the woods while nobody is around do we need to posit a new sort of something that is fundamentally different?

There are differences between the workings of a brain and the workings of a molecule, but not such differences that would necessitate the assertion of some sort of existence outside of the material.

The absence of evidence is evidence of absence if we have reason to think we have looked in all possible locations. In deciphering the workings of the brain to account for the whole at the molecular or even cellular level we have only begun the investigation, so it is very premature to declare a supernatural explanation based on our incomplete physical understanding.

Hal said...

Victor,
Are mental states emergent in the same sense that solid states are, or that living states are? Hal and David have been arguing this.

One quick comment: that is a misrepresentation of my view. I believe that mental properties emerge as a consequence of new things emerging.
And I have explicitly rejected your conception of mental states. Thinking, reasoning, believing are not mental states. So they certainly aren't "emergent in the same sense that solid states are."

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. October 30, 2017 5:48 AM.

" I believe that mental properties emerge as a consequence of new things emerging."
--A new "thing" "emerges"? You mean a new substance? A new object? If so, what is this stuff made of? What is the formula to get from atomic stuff to mental stuff?

" And I have explicitly rejected your conception of mental states. Thinking, reasoning, believing are not mental states. "
--Not static states, true. They are dynamic processes of the brain.

"So they certainly aren't "emergent in the same sense that solid states are.""
--Who says? A brain process is a physical process. A solid may seem static to the naked eye but it is also a physical process, a dynamic system in which every element is in motion.

Hal said...

Victor,

But we are in determinate mental states, otherwise logic would not work.

The rules of logic are determinate.


Solidity is not written into the laws of physics, yet, if the particles are configured in a certain way, we have something solid. Similarly, if certain configurations of the physical obtain, an object can be said to be living, even if life is not part of basic physics.


Something can be said to be solid if it meets the criteria for solidity. Something can be said to be living if it meets the criteria for being alive. What is determinate here are the concepts we employ for representing the world.

When is a bald man bald?

No one looking at me could have surmised that that was what I was dreaming about, but that was.my inner state, and my memory of that, tells me I was dreaming about Trump winning.

When you tell someone your dream then you've met the behavioral criteria for determining what you've dreamt.

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo Pelland said...
Victor, that's a good summary, but it does not follow that, because we cannot infer what someone is thinking about based on their physical state, it is impossible to do so.

We actually can do it, partially, already. We know which parts of the brain are activated under certain circumstance, and vice versa. So why conclude that we cannot, even in theory, do it completely?

That is a feat I do not believe can be pulled off,It;s a much different thing to say "I know what you are thinking about," then to say "the part of your brain that deals with stress has been activated." Thinking about;IS A VERY INVOLVED THING, AND IS ALSO A VEG PHRASE,

Joe Hinman said...

Legion of Logic said...
I believe I've seen recent studies showing that as technology improves, they are getting closer to being able to "read" brain waves to tell what a person is thinking about. If I recall correctly, just by looking at a brain wave pattern, they were able to guess correctly more often than not what a person was thinking about (from a provided list of options). Other interfaces allow people to control robot arms, video games, etc, so I don't think mental states are as beyond our grasp as some think.

what so you mean when you say thinking about?say you have two uys. Oe thinks:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,


theother thinks,DA DaDA dada dada da da

are they both thinking about the saqne thing?

Joe Hinman said...

that should say "same thing."

are they thinking about spring winter,diking coffee, iambic pentamiter?

Joe Hinman said...

Hal, you say:

And I have explicitly rejected your conception of mental states. Thinking, reasoning, believing are not mental states. So they certainly aren't "emergent in the same sense that solid states are."

how do you define mental state? These things are at the core of our mental states,
I can't see any reasonable means of defining mental state but that it would include the intensionality and activity of our awareness at given time.

Joe Hinman said...

the guy above thinking about the "Burial of the Dead," from T.S. Elliot's poem, The Wasteland is thinking about the metrical pattern. So is the guy going da da da, but in thinking about the pattern of that poem he is also thinking about the metaphors involved in the poem such as the seasons. So he is thinking about both poetry and meter and also weather at the sane time. Then he also may be thinking of death which is the meaning being pointed to.

The point is the postmodern answer would be that we can't what we are thinking about even when we know explicitly,so to say we ca know by breading brain waves is just another flirtation with the illusion of technique.

Legion of Logic said...

Joe,

Among other things, they are currently able to tell what object a person is visualizing based on brain waves (assuming the image is one they have a template for). If they asked to picture either a ball or a tree and I pictured the letter A, they couldn't get that right.

But, the technology is new. In the future, for all I know they will be able to tell exactly what is being thought about once they figure out the "language" of brain waves and program a computer to decode it.

Joe Hinman said...

do you see Orwellian implications here? even so one image and "thinking about" very different things.

Legion of Logic said...

Well that's why I point out the technology being new. Who knows what they will be able to do later?

And yes, such technology will be used for good, but man oh man will it be abused.

Hal said...

Joe,

how do you define mental state?

Moods and emotional states such as depression or being anxious or expectant would be examples of mental states.

If I believe that Paris is the capitol of France, I can be said to have that belief even when I am sleeping or unconscious. I see little to be gained by trying to characterize our beliefs as mental states.

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
Joe,

how do you define mental state?

Moods and emotional states such as depression or being anxious or expectant would be examples of mental states.

If I believe that Paris is the capitol of France, I can be said to have that belief even when I am sleeping or unconscious. I see little to be gained by trying to characterize our beliefs as mental states.

So apparently you thin that the only things we do with out minds are have moods or hold factual knowledge? You don't see a distinction between knowing a fact like Paris is in France and actually mental processing ,ie reasoning about something? a process? why is a process of reasoning not a state? or how about consciousness of something like class consciousness? that requires facts but is not limited to facts,

Hal said...

Joe,
Humans have the capacity to reason, to form beliefs and express those beliefs, to gain knowledge and to retain that knowledge. It is for that reason we attribute minds to human beings.

What I am rejecting is a picture: a picture of the mind as some inner realm in which these mental processes and states and objects somehow interact with each other like physical processes and states and objects. Rejecting that picture does not entail the belief that humans don't really have the mental capacities to think and reason and remember.

To quote Wittgenstein:
“Why ever should I deny that there is a mental process? It is only that “There has just taken place in me the mental process of remembering….” Means nothing more than “I have just remembered…”

Hal said...

Victor,
I think there is a critical difference.In the first cases, someone who knew enough physics could close the question of whether something was solid or not. If I move, am capable of reproduction, if I have a DNA code, etc. if my physics fits all these descriptions, then it becomes simply incoherent to suggest that I'm really not alive.

What is "physics" being used to refer to here? Are you referring to the subatomic level? Or are including everything in the science of physics? Physics alone is not going to be able to provide an adequate explanation or description of living substances. That is why we also need the science of chemistry, biology, sociology, psychology, etc.

A description has to be relevant to the level of reality you are attempting to describe. At the subatomic level the descriptions are going to be different than at the chemical level or at the levels of inanimate and animate substances.

Given the well established behavioral criteria we have for identifying mental properties it would be just as incoherent to suggest that you do not have a mind as it would be to suggest that you are not alive.

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
Joe,
Humans have the capacity to reason, to form beliefs and express those beliefs, to gain knowledge and to retain that knowledge. It is for that reason we attribute minds to human beings.

What I am rejecting is a picture: a picture of the mind as some inner realm in which these mental processes and states and objects somehow interact with each other like physical processes and states and objects. Rejecting that picture does not entail the belief that humans don't really have the mental capacities to think and reason and remember.

yes that is the implication--you are losing the phenomena that allow for reason and free will. at least it seems a danger

Hal said...

Joe,
you are losing the phenomena that allow for reason and free will. at least it seems a danger

Sorry, I don't see how I am losing anything other than a confused picture of how the mind works.
I am not a behaviorist. I am not denying that we have feelings and that we can think and reason and acquire knowledge of the world we live in. Nor am I even denying that we have free will.

And I am certainly not denying that we are conscious beings that have the capacity to experience and interact with the world we inhabit.

Joe Hinman said...

Hal I was led to thin your was more limited by this:

"Moods and emotional states such as depression or being anxious or expectant would be examples of mental states.

If I believe that Paris is the capitol of France, I can be said to have that belief even when I am sleeping or unconscious. I see little to be gained by trying to characterize our beliefs as mental states."

so apparently that;s not all there is, sorry.

bmiller said...

I think most people overestimate what technology is and what it is capable of.
Always have, always will

David Brightly said...

We were talking about the physical accountability or otherwise of reasoning. We can construe 'reasoning' narrowly as inferences over sentences. 'Socrates is a man, all men are mortal, ergo Socrates is mortal' has the form 'sA, *AB, ergo sB', quite independently of the meanings of the words 'Socrates', 'man', and 'mortal'. The inference is part of the meaning of 'all'. But the inference can be seen as just pattern-matching, and so can be achieved physically. Given our current technology for gene editing we can probably achieve this inference biochemically. So my question is, How do we have to expand on this admittedly narrow conception of reasoning to arrive at a conception that is not realisable physically? What is the key aspect of reasoning, understood more broadly, that makes the argument from reason work, if it does work?

Legion of Logic said...

bmiller: "I think most people overestimate what technology is and what it is capable of."

Such as my inability twenty years ago to imagine that I'd have an extremely powerful phone, computer, GPS, library, TV, game system, calculator, radio, music collection, flashlight, camera, photo album, and alarm clock in my pocket on a daily basis?

Reading the article, I think there's a difference between what he's talking about (finding an inert memory) and reading active brain waves during a recollection and then forming an image from those signals onto a computer, which is technology that is being perfected right now. We may not see it, but I see no reason to believe it will never arrive.

bmiller said...

@Legion,

The article was not so much related to your point about detecting the order in the electromagnetic energy sensed during bodily functions, but more about how some people think that the mind is nothing but a machine. A computer is just a souped up abacus and not a mind.

SteveK said...

@bmiller
>> "I think most people overestimate what technology is and what it is capable of."

Yup. Nobody solves a math problem when running to catch a baseball (an example from the article you linked to), but a computer would do it this way. A computer could give you the numbers (velocity, direction, acceleration), but you'd have none of this information.

With humans, successful actions can be performed without any having to rely on number crunching.

Stardusty Psyche said...

SteveK said...
" Nobody solves a math problem when running to catch a baseball"
--How do you know that?

" A computer could give you the numbers (velocity, direction, acceleration), but you'd have none of this information."
--For a "mechanical engineer" you seem to be unaware of the direct relationship between apparent angular velocity in combination with apparent distance versus velocity as expressed in Cartesian coordinates changing over times.

"
With humans, successful actions can be performed without any having to rely on number crunching."
--We crunch numbers, but with a different coordinate system and with a different processing architecture.

Joe Hinman said...

Stardusty Psyche said...
SteveK said...
" Nobody solves a math problem when running to catch a baseball"
--How do you know that?

I can't do math but I can do baseball

" A computer could give you the numbers (velocity, direction, acceleration), but you'd have none of this information."
--For a "mechanical engineer" you seem to be unaware of the direct relationship between apparent angular velocity in combination with apparent distance versus velocity as expressed in Cartesian coordinates changing over times.

none of which you need to know to catch a ball

"
With humans, successful actions can be performed without any having to rely on number crunching."
--We crunch numbers, but with a different coordinate system and with a different processing architecture.

no we don;t

November 01, 2017 8:58 PM