Critique of TSW Part 24a The Mind-Brain Muddle

Blog 20141112

Bill’s belief in finity and quest for definition prevents him from considering the interaction between brain (matter) and mind (motion).

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked TSW are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Mind-Brain Muddle (Part 1 of 7)

TSW:  "The mystery can be intensified by stressing the dissimilarities between animals and humans, thereby cutting the evolution of consciousness from its origins."

BW: Not all animals are conscious, but all vertebrates are ... from anglerfish to humans. So, the first requirement for an analysis of "mind" is to distinguish among animals, vertebrates, and humans. It isn't a matter of "cutting the evolution of consciousness from its origins", but recognizing essential characteristics. Presumably, animals are evolved from plants, so we can further make a distinction between fixed and mobile living things. Failing to do that will cripple any argument.

[GB: All so correct, but beside the point. The question being discussed was the evolution of consciousness, which I claimed could not be discovered by stressing dissimilarities, as you just did. Evolution, by definition, is the change of one thing into another. In particular, tiny changes in quantity eventually become large changes in quality.]  

TSW:  D’Holbach: "It is the height of folly to deny intellectual capacities to animals; they feel, think, judge and compare ..."

BW: Which is why it's so important to find a clear, fundamental distinction between consciousness and sapience. Humans are called "Homo Sapiens" for a reason and it's important to define the difference between humans and other conscious animals: we are sapient.

[GB: Sapience only means “wisdom” or “sagacity.” I have seen a lot of game animals that had a lot more of it than I did (unfortunately). Good luck with drawing another of your finite lines…]

TSW:  "Our modern, sophisticated indeterminist is a systems philosopher who typically links the advent of consciousness with free will and neovitalism..."

BW: Most "system philosophers" reject neovitalism and deny free will. The term "free will" is usually associated with humans (sapients), not all conscious animals.

TSW:  "Until the terms mind and brain are defined, the mind-brain question is meaningless."

BW: Agreed. I don't think you do that.

TSW:  "The air could not be seen, but when it moved, it moved other things that could be seen. Logically, spirit was possessed by anything that moved ..."

BW: The second sentence doesn't follow from the first. It wasn't that spirit and *motion* were equated, but that energetic motion that *could not be seen* was considered "spirit". In ancient Hebrew, the word for "breath" and "spirit" are identical. The human breath (which could not be seen) was considered an immaterial "spirit". When a person died, their spirit ("breath") ceased and "left them". That's the foundation of all things spiritual.

[GB: Sorry, but motion, whether “energetic” of not, and spirit always have been associated. Thus, “school spirit” is demonstrated by students jumping around at sports events, etc. “Spiritualism” hangs on the idea that there is more to the universe than plane old dead matter. Indeed there is, and it is described by matter in motion.]

TSW:  "Hegel recognized that minds were not parts of nature, because they were not found situated in space."

BW: The word "recognized" implies that Hegel's view was true. I don't think you really want to endorse the idea of mind being separate from nature.

[GB: Right, this is described in the Fourth Assumption of Science, inseparability (Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion). Motion is never separate from matter. Matter takes up xyz space, but motion does not. Hegel was right: motion is not “part” of nature. It is what the various parts do. Sorry you are having so much trouble with this—you are not the only one.]

TSW:  "Mechanists have insisted correctly that: All that really exists is the material particles of the substance of the nervous system."

BW: So, now you're a mechanist? This seems at odds with your immediately prior endorsement of Hegel's assertion that mind is not a part of nature.

[GB: What? Have you been sleeping? Neomechanics was an entire chapter in “The Scientific Worldview.” The entire book is predicated on the assumption that the universe consists of matter (microcosms) in motion. What makes this so difficult, I guess, is for folks to realize that motion (and time) is not a thing, but what things do. I can put (frog) legs in my pocket, but not their jumping, etc., as I have mentioned repeatedly. Things always have xyz dimensions, being parts of the universe. Motion is not a thing and is not “part” of the universe, although all motion occurs within the universe. Thus, Hegel was correct, mind is motion and is not “part” of nature. Remember, Hegel was responsible for the Fourth Assumption of Science, inseparability (Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion). Not understanding motion seems to be a prerequisite for indeterminism. After all, that is where people get their ideas about ghosts, spirits, spirituality, minds divorced from brains, and other concoctions involving the indeterministic concept of matterless motion.]    

TSW:  "Thinking is what the brain does, just as running is what the legs do."
BW: Correct: it is a process, not an object. One of those Westmiller Things, rather than a Borchardt Thing. Nevertheless, all distinct processes require *particular configurations* of matter in motion, with distinct means for achieving the effects. The brain (animal or human) has the means of producing conscious acts.

[GB: Then, I guess that “Westmiller Things” include matterless motion. What a concept!]

BW: However, I don't think you've "circumvented" the muddle, since you still haven't defined your terms. You say "mind" is the motion of matter, without saying what material construct produces the conscious effect. Obviously, it's somewhere in the brain, but you haven't distinguished between the consciousness of animals and human sapience. Assuming there is a distinction, you haven't explained the correlation between "mind" and "knowledge". You just jump ahead to a discussion of human intelligence, which is NOT characteristic of other conscious animals.

[GB: The point of that discussion was to emphasize that mind is motion and brain is matter: end of discussion. Indeterminists love to complain about lack of knowledge we have of the location within the brain the motion called mind occurs. As I am not an expert in that, it would be pointless for me to speculate. Nonetheless, your predictable demand for me to produce some special distinction “between the consciousness of animals and human sapience” is not what I am about. As a brain evolves in size and complexity, it obviously can perform increasingly complex interactions with its macrocosm. The evolution from one kind of consciousness to another is gradual and of no particular concern to me.

I thought that I had defined knowledge and information properly. Knowledge is inside the brain; information outside the brain. Both are stored physical representations. Thus, if you excised a portion of the brain that stored knowledge, that knowledge would disappear in the same way you would lose the information on your hard drive if you put a magnet to it. I appreciate your wanting to know more about this subject, but like I mentioned, I am not your best adviser on the details.]

TSW:  "Knowledge, power, science, revolution, life, global competition, survival - the interconnections are profound ..."

BW: True, but those attributes are not all characteristics of conscious vertebrates, they are characteristics of sapients.

TSW:  "If knowledge is the result of the interaction of real humans with the real world, then whether we classify it as 'science' or 'religion' ... makes no difference - it is still knowledge."

BW: It seems to me that you're conceding that religious "knowledge" is a consequence of "interaction" with the real world and therefore just as valid as scientific facts about reality. Clearly, it isn't. Again, the problem is that you still haven't defined "knowledge". Clearly, non-human animals *know* something about reality, even if they never interact with humans.

[GB: Boy, you missed that one. Knowledge is what is inside; information is what is outside. An interaction with the external world says nothing about whether it is valid or not. You are right that religious “knowledge” is not valid. Nonetheless, it is knowledge when it appears in the brain even if it is based on nothing but lies or imaginings.]

TSW:  "Both the scientists and the priests behave in fundamentally scientific ways: they accept sensory data, compare it with stored data, and then act on the macrocosm according to their conclusions."

BW: Now you've gone a step further, suggesting that priests follow some scientific method. They don't: they simply assume facts that they don't know and jump to conclusions, with no regard for evidence or logic. It seems to me that you're perverting the idea of scientific knowledge, simply because you've failed to define either term. Saying that it all comes under the category of epistemology says nothing about the content of the two kinds of claims.

[GB: Remember how I started this whole project. My claim was that determinism and indeterminism were distinguished by opposed assumptions. Your claim that priests are illogical is false. They appear to be illogical to you and I only because they use opposed assumptions. Nevertheless, given those indeterministic assumptions, the logic follows nicely—only problem: the original assumptions are incorrect and thus the whole line of reasoning is incorrect and makes no sense to us. Note, again, how all this leads back to original assumptions, which I must continue to emphasize.]  

 Next: The Mind-Brain Muddle (Part 2 of 7)

cotsw 050   


Bligh said...

"Not all animals are conscious."
Do you mean aware(ness)? How can you conclude that? All organisms that have sense response built in are aware, are they not?
Consciousness is the most misunderstood word in modern times.

Glenn Borchardt said...

I agree with Bill. Consciousness requires a nervous system, which is not present in some animals. It is true that all microcosms respond to changes in their macrocosms. Salt, for instance, dissolves when placed in water, but we would not consider that response to be a result of consciousness. Consciousness obviously involves much more complex motions.

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