Friday, April 22, 2005

the brain and the mind

to start a discussion online, I suppose the best subject would be one we are a little more familiar with. We have been talking about the differences between the mind and the brain and the differences and similarities between them.
I feel that the mind and brain are the same out of confidence that one day we will find a more direct correlation between brain states and mind states, which would lead to more evidence against dualism. I say it is something like water flowing by a water wheel at a mill. The river is the workings of the brain, the neurons and the electro-chemical reactions. The mind states are results from translations of brain states, as river movement translates to something occuring in the mill.
I am saying that I don't think mind states cause brain states, but rather the other way around. I remember some saying that it was mind states cause brain states, more of a soul theory notion. I disagree also because of the science of our senses. When we sense something, like the taste 'sweet', physical things (molecules interacting with taste buds) translate to a mental sense ("sweet").
I also say that mental thoughts follow from one another and are results of brain functioning changes. They are not random immaterial contrivances that supposedly fall from the sky because the reason we can support thoughts in our brains is from specific neuro-chemical interactions and chains of processes.

Anyone who thinks differently, or has other ideas at all, should post and continue this discussion.

16 Comments:

Blogger Jason said...

I'm going to have to disagree with your statment that science will find enough evidence to directly connect brain states and mind states to say they are the same thing.

First I would like to address a few things, assuming that brain states and mind states were identical. If they were, then it would be metaphysically possible to adjust the person's thoughts, feelings, memories, everything about them as someone saw fit. Suppose someone had a brain altering machine that could alter someone's brain however they wanted, and suppose that they took you and altered your brain states to be identical to that of my own. Assuming that you agree that what makes a person is their mind states (whatever they may be, physical or nonphysical) and the mind states were identical to the brain states, then he would have altered you to be identical to me.

Now if it would be possible for science to unveil enough evidence to justify the conclusion that mind states are identical to brain states, it would be probable that science would be able to find a way of altering brain states, allowing for situations such as that to become reality. It seems to me that if there wasn't something more to do with a person than their brain states (such as a mind or a soul), then you will need to find some way of deciding personal identity other than that of mind/brain states, otherwise you would bring up a lot of issues.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Sabrina Sitkoski said...

I agree with Jason for the most part, if science scould dentify brain states with mental states then it follows that sciece could alter them as well. I think that the problem of the arguments against dualism is that for dualism to work there must be some nonphysical "soul" or something that is extra, and it is very difficult to prove the existance of this soul. I would argue that you cannot prove it. I think of myself as a dualist. I think that there is no way to discuss whether or not persons have souls without using religious principles. And, once you start with religion, anything becomes possible. Religion is faith. I have faith that I have a soul. I do not need to prove it with anything physical, because that would not be faith. If I could prove my faith, then I could prove to everyone that my religion is correct and you should all convert. But I can't because you cannot prove faith, you just have to believe it. So I realize that this is a little far from where the comment started, but I really feel that the argument about materialism verses dualism constantly goes in circle because it ignores this fact.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Sam Lehman said...

I too regard myself as a dualist. As a religious person who experiences religious feelings of morality, conscience, and connection with a God, I find the Mind to be inherently different than the brain. I am not arguing for the soul theory here, but more for the amalgamation that is the mind, a nonsubstantial force that includes all those soul-like feelings and more. I believe it is interrelated with the brain, the gray matter of which we are designed, but i also believ that no amount of research will ever allow us to find little thought particles or conscience nuggets in the brain. I believe we will only ever find the areas of the brain stimulated by certain mind-states.

However, I also believe that we will never find any physical evidence for mind-states other than the direct effects of those states upon the brain, providing only a circular logic that is unacceptable to most dedicated materialists.

May the Force be With you.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I think I have to mostly agree with Russell. I too feel like the answers are out there, but I don't think it's a garuntee that we will ever uncover the science necisary to show the greater connection between brain states and mind states. I'm pretty sure, at this point, that I belive that the brain causes "mental states" and science might be able to prove the fact that mental states are infact the same as brain states. This would mean I am arguing for materailism.
However, another question needs to be brought up. If the science exists somewhere to explain everything (taking a determinist point of view, not saying this is what I belive), but the human race will never discover all of this knowledge, then is it bad to go under the false (would be false in this senerio) pretense that there is a mind and unexplainable events are explained by nonphysical elements. Such a question might lead into whether there is a God or not, again not commenting on my own specific belifs, just asking a hypothetical. This question is derived directly from the materialism and dualist debate, and although we really can never come to a clear conclusion, might be interesting to discuss on the blog.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

In response to what Jason said, so what? So what if science allowed man kind to understand the workings of the brain in enough detail in order to change brain states? I have the belief that there are many more things that science will discover. There was the theory a while ago around the the early 1920s, where the basicas of quantum physics were just being realized, that said that everything could be known and predicted about the world by tracing past and present interactions, summarizing the world with simple mechanics equations, which today would have to be ammended with some chemistry as well. Even though this may be hard to realize, is it so hard to conceive of our thoughts as producs of chemical reactions in our minds? We seem to have no problem with elevating ourselves to a pedastil above all other organisms on this earth, why not bring ourselves back down for a second.
Perhaps what we should talk about now is what qualifies a person since that is where these arguments about mind and body will go. I remember Michael mentioning to me something like a 'personal function' that defines what we are that sounded an awful lot like a soul, but wasn't. I hope he can comment on that.

I don't see how simply having understanding of something allows us to immediately have the ability to manipluate it. We can understand a boulder or a mountain, but the ability to manipulate it comes with knowing how to make TNT or big hammers. One question to Sabrina: if I have faith in something, then it is possible? What if my religion differes from yours? What if I beleive in science? Then isn't anything in science possible?

I like the comment from Sam about how he believes in a collective lump of our thoughts and feeling, that can be refered to as the mind, but my point is that our perception of our mind is the result of what is happening in our brain.
I disagree that a conscience is a religious feeling. Conscience is more a long term train of thought that we develop that anyone, with or without a religion, can have. I have a conscience but I really don't have much of a religion (though I have been recommended many times to try Buddhism).

I am a believer in science. I do hope that we are able to explain more things to help us understand all that has been put before us, either by God or a cosmic coincidence. I am also happy if some things are never well explained, where our own best interpretation carries us through life. If we can never understand the mind, that is ok, even if the reality of the mind is known somewhere else, not on this planet. It would not be so much a false pretense that we are living under since we will never be able to find it and our view wouldn't be altered. All the knowledge might exist somewhere, either with God or in the future.

Whether or not there is a God really is a question of faith, a point made by Sabrina, because faith is what brought God "into existance" (the quotes can be argued).

1:31 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think you dodged the problem I presented, which had to do with duplication. If we did find enough information to say that brain states and mental states were identical, we may eventually (or even metaphysically) have the ability to change your brain states to be identical to mine. Would that make you identical to me? If so, and we went off and had different experiences, which one would be me? If both are identical to me at some point, but then both become not identical to each other, which is me? If there were only physical things that made up all of a person, it would be possible to create multiple identical people.

Also I don't think it's true that you can't give evidence of the existance of souls. The only evidence I can give is indirect, but it is still evidence. We do not have the ability to create life, be it create new life or to give life to something that died. It is my firm belief that we can never give life to something that is not living because anything living has something nonphysical, including all animals. We could never create life because we cannot directly alter this nonphysical dimension. I propose this to be in some nonphysical dimension, say the 5th dimension (assuming the 4th is a temporal dimension).

This would mean that all creatures would have some value in the 5th dimension, and the more complex the being the larger the value in that dimension. (for example, a simple creature such as an ant might have a 5th dimensional value of 1 whereas a dolphin might have a value of 50 and a human might have a value of 100).

Another approach is that there are many dimensions that make up life mental states, just like there are many dimensions that make up the physical body. For example, there could be a "life" dimension, that everything living has a part of, then there could be a "reasoning" dimension, an "emotion" dimension, a "conscious thought" dimension, etc.

Assuming that life is nothing but an interaction between specific particles, it would mean that we could "play god" and create creatures, people, and anything living that we saw fit, even if it was just metaphysicall possible.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

Even if I had the same brain states/mental states as you, I would not be identitcal to you since I would have a different body from you. If we started off with the same brain/mental states and lived life, we would not be the same person any more, and since yours was the originiating psyche, I think you would have more claim to be yourself.
And it will be hard to make a similar body. Cloning is not yet perfect. Assume that one day cloning is perfect and many perfect copies can be made with perfectly similar brain states. How can they all have exactly the same experiences? Are they all made to remember the exactly same thing? How can that be done? Are they all hooked up to a machine forever that writes to their brains?

As for the extra-value dimension, why would a human be more complex than a dolphin, or have more value? Is that simply based on cognitive ability, or is it something else?

8:48 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

Jason, what value do monkeys have in the 5th dimension?

8:50 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Yes, for the multidimensional mental states the value of the 5th dimension would be dependant on cognitive ability, reasoning power, conscious thought, emotions, etc. (Everything that makes up our mental states).

As for the duplicates, it is far more likely that we will be able to clone people than it is we will be able to alter mental states to be identical to someone else's. And suppose that you were killed and someone made a clone of you the moment before you died, with all your memories, thoughts, brain states, etc. identical to yours. Would he be you? And if so, suppose 2 clones were made at the same time instead of 1. Which would be you? And if neither are you and the clone isn't you, what difference between you and the clone is there that makes you as a person?

10:10 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

If the clone had everything exactly the same, the same passions, memories, likes and dislikes, loves and no distinction whatsoever then yes it would have to be you. but I see the problem with this when you say what happens if someone creates two of you? I guess i would have to admit two of you could exist at once... But i dont think it could be the exact same, it could not be composed of the exact same particles since you have them at the moment the clone is created because you are still alive, and if you were somehow able to take your particles and give them to the clone then there could only be one anyway because you couldn't use one person's exact particles to make two people. in essence i guess it's kind of like reanimation but with a lot more work involved because you have to transfer everything... i'm not sure how exactly you would, but there is some evil genius somewhere that created a machine...

8:47 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

the problem that gets created when you back into all the particles must be identical is the problem of persistance. I am obviously the same person I was 5 minutes ago, but all the particles that make me up are not identical to the particles that made me up 5 minutes ago. The only I see you could get around such a problem is to take the chislholm nugget approach, which I'm not sure is possible (you'd have to ask a biologist or doctor or someone).

If you wanted to assume the existance of a chishold nugget, you could say that the clone would only be identical to you if he had your chisholm nugget. But if that were true, it would also seem that it was the only thing required to be identical to you, and if you inserted the chisholm nugget into some other brain of some other body then you would still be identical to yourself, even if you had a different personality and body and everything normally noticable about you was different, which also seems very problematic.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

the thing with the double clones and reanimation is the question of essence, the Chisholm nugget, and that is what I am wondering about.

I have only two questions that might help with direction here. Is the Chisholm nugget material or immaterial? Is the Chisholm nugget divisible?

I am under the impression that the Chisholm nugget is immaterial and indivisible, which to me seems like a local soul. If when clones are made, do they have copies of the Chisholm nugget? I am inclined to say no, they get their own nuggets, so nuggets don't carry over. But that is just my opinion, and this would not makes the clones copies of you, even with exactly-copied mental states.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

The chisholm nugget is a physical nugget somewhere inside of you, presumably in the brain but not necessarily, that never changes as long as you are alive. This way merelogical essentialism can apply to people and say a person is identical with their chisholm nugget. The nugget would never be changed, it would always be composed of the exact same particles, never gaining or losing any ever as long as you were alive.

Because the chisholm nugget is part of your physical body, presumably a clone would get a physically identical copy of your chisholm nugget when you were cloned, thus making the clone identical to you (unless you wanted to take the route of because the chisholm nugget is made up of technically different particles it wouldn't be identical to you, regardless of the fact that it was exactly physical similar to yours and there would be no way to distinguish between the two)

6:05 PM  
Blogger Dan McCormick said...

My only problem with the Chisholm nugget is that it would seem to be necessarily small of course, perhaps only a few particles big, since otherwise we would've run across this nugget in brain studies. But then it seems that the nugget, what is you for all effective purposes, would be too small to have much of an effect on anything in a physical sense. Size is at least partially necessary for complex interaction, and certainly something driving a person would need to be able to drive a range of complex interactions. Thus, i find the nugget theory very implausible.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

I don't see how a small material object can be identical and I don't see how it can govern interaction if it is only a few particles big. This is why I wondered about the Chisolm nugget being immaterial, so then it could be made up of many immaterial particles, but I have no concept of size of something immaterial. I also don't see how we could be identical to it in any sense, which I why I don't like the ME argument. How can a person be identitcal to a spec he could just as well be holding in his hand? What if his Chisholm nugget had migrated and existed in my fingernail, and I clipped my fingernails? Am I throwing away my essence? Why would it be that easy?

I think that in our exploration of the brain that we will find a way out of the circular logic of mind and brian states (if mind states even exist). The issue of duplication has come up before, I want to address it one more time. As soon as you make two copies of someone, giving them the same name would be wrong, just as naming two brothers the same name would be. As soon as duplicates are made, they are not you, and in the case of killing you and planting over you brain/mind states, they couldn't be named after you. You will not be able to experience anything anymore since the original was killed, making a break in spatiotemporal continuity that is the evidence for the clones to not be true parts of you. You don't experience what the clones do, so they can't be true doubles of you.

Just because the mind might simply be the sum of the senses and states of the brain doesn't have to bring on all of these problems that now seem to be remnants of arguments of dualism.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Michael Silverman said...

2 things, Multi-dimensionality would be almost useless because this other dimensional space would be governed by the same physics as our universe, it would be the equivalent of saying we can move in a direction which is not up down left, right, forward, or back. So basically saing we are multidimensional says we have more volume of our brain. There is strong evidence to refute that big brains do not mean inteligence, so I see no value to being multidimensional other than perhaps better organizaion or other superficial benifits. In terms of your brain state duplicator, what you are saying is that you whould have to consruct a brain that is identical to Russell's brain, they would of course act and behave the same way. I agrue that this person is the other person, and they both have the same soul, but that is another issue.

12:13 PM  

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