Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Conversation With WeekendFisher Continues

[WeekendFisher has posted another portion to the mind-as-physical argument, HERE.]

Hi WF,
OK, we now have more to discuss.

First, I need to define the use of the word, “determinism”, which is ubiquitous in the following post.

Determinism is the concept that all motion, action, and response in the universe is pre-determined by (a) initial conditions at t=0; (b) forcing function provided by the four forces of physics; (c) the inertia (mass) and the shape of the inertia of the object being acted upon (d) with a mathematically describable response in the target object and the force(es), (e) which is amenable to hypothesis formation and deductive experimental replication for non-falsification.

Contrary to my understanding of your previous statement, which I took to mean that the mind is separate from the brain but uses the brain, I now understand that you actually take this firm position:
“I would not say that 'the mind operates the brain'; I would say that the brain is the basis for the mind. I doubt that there is anything that the mind does independently of the brain.”
I take the liberty to understand “basis” to mean that the mind is fully dependent upon the brain, both for its existence and for its generation and processing of thoughts, causation of voluntary motor activities of the body, and causal for the autonomic organic functions. So essentially the mind is a subset of the brain, or the mind is inseparable from the brain.

For examples of this you use two lesser, non-conscious, non-agent, completely deterministic autonomic items: digestion and computers. For digestion you say this:
“though you wouldn't necessarily see a change in the stomach itself for every change in its contents because there are things like enzymes involved.”
I take this allusion to mean that the stomach is equivalent to the organic hardware required, and is merely used by the presence of digestive juices which are distinct and separate from the organ itself. But if that is the correct interpretation, and it might not be, then the analog fails because the stomach does participate in the digestion process; it actually does this, as follows:

The stomach wall is the organ which contains separate modules which secrete free hydrogen ions and free chlorine ions separately in order to combine in the stomach to produce HCl for tearing apart foods and food components; the stomach also produces mucus to protect its own walls from being attacked by the hydrochloric acid which it secretes, and it secretes enzymes as well. So the stomach is not merely a passive bucket containing enzymes (which the stomach also secretes). But the entire operation is completely deterministic, responding to cause with an appropriate effect. In no manner is it non-deterministic, in terms of creativity, agency, will, etc.

The entire digestive process is fully controlled by the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which is a local neural processor/controller which allows for feedback messaging and neurological feedback control of the digestive system. This is entirely deterministic. So digestion is a controller driven process following deterministic rules of operation.[Note 1]

Even if the stomach were just a passive bucket containing enzymes of unknown origin, it is not clear how that relates analogically to the brain being one and the same as the mind.

“…there are things that happen in the brain where I'd suspect, when we look at the the mechanisms, some of them will as transient as our thoughts”.

Frankly I have no idea how this relates to a proof that the brain is the sum total of mind, being the basis for the mind.

“Or if we use a computer analogy, the brain is something like hardware and the mind is something like software
[firmware: BIOS]”
But this analogy fails also, because it does not allow for agency, creativity, consciousness, etc. This is overly reductive. Reduction of the mind/brain to BIOS/processor is a step in the wrong direction, toward determinism. In a computer, the BIOS merely allows the system to be put in an operational state, awaiting input from external, rational sources. Compared to non-deterministic mind, this reduction is not an adequate analog.

Even if we assume that all of the possible software ever required by a human is contained in a huge hardware-loaded firmware which is hardwired and always resident in the processor or fully contiguous to it, all that such a human “computer” could produce would be purely deterministic, because every operation is dependent upon prior states and inputs processed under deterministic rules for computation/data flow. This does not describe an intelligent agent which is non-deterministic, creative, etc.

Under the heading “Motivation”, the computer analogy is admittedly not applicable. Motivation is indicative of agency, which makes decisions not necessarily being grounded in prior states and predetermined rational operation being performed on current inputs. Because what sort of program would cause a computer to stop what it is doing and join up with the French Foreign Legion or Scientology – rejecting its prior worldview and First Principles for more appealing but less rational ideologies? A computer is not likely to do this, yet humans do it frequently.

For humans to be analogs of computers, the inputs have to be distinguished between data and instruction complexes (software). What humans get in school is data, not software installation. If humans merely received the installation of executable files, life would be easier for youngsters.

For humans, then, the analog requires the brain to contain a pre-existing set of complete instructions which cover everything which is necessary – and unnecessary yet commonly found in humans – for human operation in the physical world, and specifically for agency, creativity, non-deterministic actions, etc.

Again, how this is proof or demonstrative of the proposition that mind is wholly owned by the brain is not clear to me.

The final analogy goes thus:
” the stomach and digestion are basically automatic. That is to say, nothing really 'operates' that system except built-in biological functions. I think there is something analogous in the brain/mind where we have a built-in function of trying to understand and make sense of the world.”
Even though there are autonomous functions in the mind/brain combinations, there also is a plethora of mental/mind functions which are not only not autonomous but are free of the necessity for providing specific, given responses matched algorithmically to any input. Humans are demonstrably not automatons. Human capacities cannot be categorized as being completely contained in the Class:[automatic responses to all inputs].

This is my observation regarding the use of automatic feedback systems as avatars for human capacities: it does not include the most important differentiators of being human.

It appears to me that the analogs presented are too small, too limited in scope to reflect the actual range of the exquisite capabilities of human minds and intellect. The use of deterministic functions as self-limiting analogs for the human non-deterministic capacities and capabilities would be a Category Error, if that is the only reasoning which is used for the proposition that human mind is captive to the material, physical brain and to the laws of nature such as Cause and Effect and the Four Forces of Physics as limiting factors.

There is nothing known to physically exist which has the range of capability of the human mind, and which would serve as an adequate analog; the mind is superior to all other systems because it is unfettered by dependence on physics and cause and effect. Trying to use restrictive feedback control systems or mindless data processors as analogs is insufficient to serve as evidence for making a case that human mind is purely material.

” I'm curious ... I don't know what your view is: Would you say that a dog or cat has some kind of mind-duality going because they have a basic level of understanding? Or is duality something that begins at a higher level? Is duality just for humans, in your opinion? Does the dog's/cat's mind require duality in order to recognize you and be glad to see you? What functions do you see as needing some sort of transcendence? (Do you consider yourself a dualist? Or would you put it some other way?) I'm considering all those questions as general prompts to see what you think; feel free to pick whichever offers you the best starting point for explaining what you think.”

Starting with humans and going down the list in increasing order of deterministic actions, I personally surmise that dogs and cats do have creativity and agency, although in a limited sense. For example, when our cat was still prepubescent (a “sprat cat”) he came up to almost touching my face and looked eye-to-eye deeply into my right eye to see what was in there [insert your own joke here]. He cocked his head to see better, then he looked in with his other eye to validate his original findings, and his curiosity apparently was satisfied… presumably with no significant data discovered. Because it was an act of intellectual curiosity, his actions were clearly outside the domain of deterministic cause and effect acting on initial conditions.

Creativity is well documented in chimps, gorillas, crows and octopi. As for dualism, I certainly adhere to the type of dualism which was promoted by Locke, Russell, and is apparent in computers. The software does not arise from the hardware (or firmware); the software is not hardware; the processor hardware does nothing and is nothing without the software dancing through it (after firmware has initialized it). Yet it is designed specifically to accommodate and to provide software with a connection with material existence (in the form of voltages which are translatable as language or specified motion). Further, the processor possesses no language comprehension capacity other than processing bits, bytes and words as instructed. Language and complex semantic information is purely contained in the software and the inputs/outputs. The concept of “meaning” is not available to the processor/brain.

According to Bertrand Russell’s scenario, a human who is falling down obeys the laws of nature; a human who showers, dresses, goes out to catch a train to go to work is not driven to do so by any laws of nature. In fact, such a human defies certain laws of nature as s/he goes further and in different directions than are required by the action of the four forces on the body. Russell concluded that the mind, which causes muscles to work in obedience to its commands, is a different substance from other known substances and that it would one day be found by science. So Russell was a dualist, but only a “substance” dualist requiring an unknown and invisible substance to be in existence and hosting the mind.

This sort of dualism is the concept of non-deterministic agency, which serves as a defeater for deterministic examples and analogies. Non-deterministic agency does not exist in non-living nature, the mineral side of physical existence. Even in living things, many if not most creatures operate at a deterministic level. They operate low on Maslow’s pyramid, seeking only nourishment, reproduction, and safety. It is at the high end of life’s scale of complexity that non-determinism and agency are found.

It is only at that higher level that the restrictive laws of physics do not apply, the level where agency and creativity exist. Humans and their brains are held down by gravity; gravity does not cause the brain to function in a non-deterministic fashion. Similar statements apply to electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force. And similar statements also apply to the initial conditions which are presented to every mental function.

And one more observation: humans do not cause their own agency, consciousness, and mental violations of the laws of physics; the unique violations of the laws of physics are available due to heredity without human intervention, the same process which propagates life. Those violations of the laws of physics demonstrate that either physics is woefully wanting in its analytical capabilities, or that there is no physical thing-in-itself which is involved with these non-physical capacities.

Those who are self-abused with belief in physicalist Scientism choose to believe that physics is merely woefully inadequate at the present time, but someday will become adequate to fully analyze the properties of nondeterminism, agency, consciousness, etc. This is because all existence is claimed to be material and therefore subject to deterministic empirical investigation.

I disagree, because that belief, in itself, lies outside these necessary axioms of science: cause and effect acting on initial conditions; universal determinism; universal constants and universal consistency over space-time; principles of conservation and perfect mathematical conversion, etc. In order to examine non-determinism, science must become something else other than is allowed by those axiomatic characteristics, and so it would necessitate science abandoning its requirements for validation of objective knowledge which are founded in empirical replicability and falsification. So it must become metaphysics, not physics.

Therefore Scientism cannot be the case, and it must be false.

So, I think that in order to prove your contention that the mind is the brain, or the mind is totally “in” the brain, as demonstrated by computers and computer science (and ignoring human inputs and design of software and hardware), it must be shown that computers can be made to perform as humans do: outside the restrictions of cause and effect operating on initial conditions, and can be made to demonstrate that the processor can be made to be volitional, with its actions based on its own wants, both temporary and permanent.

(E.g., a volitional computer should be used for medical purposes only if that’s where its interests lie and its ambitions drive it. But not if its interests and ambitions include only asserting sleep mode for extended periods, followed by downloading videos of “Jackass” while drunkenly consuming large amounts of resources, after which going directly back into sleep mode; repeat until resources are shut off.)

Conclusion to this post.
The analogies which have been selected to demonstrate that the mind is fully contained within the brain are both lesser entities than the entity being modeled as mind-analogic in the discussion. Both digestion and computers are limited to the predetermined responses of which they are capable. So the non-deterministic human characteristics which make the mind such a superior instrument are not modeled, and therefore those capacities are eliminated by using only these models as analogies.

This does not invalidate the intent of the argument, but it does demonstrate that more inclusive analogies are needed if the case is to be made by analogy. Of course, analogies always fail, some sooner than others; otherwise they wouldn't be analogies, they would be completely factual descriptions of the system being analogized. In order to make the case, it seems that a reason (or reasoning) must be found for the existence of non-determinism in the mind, when the entire physical universe other than the mind is deterministic and obeys laws which have been discovered by physicists, and which are necessary and sufficient for the entire universe, save minds. The mind/brain problem has been intractable to physicists and philosophers for that reason: while the brain seems to function deterministically in our very limited current abilities to assess, the mind does not, and obviously so.

1. My own personal digestive feedback system experienced a change over time in the system gain, either in attenuation of the input signal to the processor or attenuation of the gain of the neurological processor. By chemically adjusting the system gain, the feedback system now regulates perfectly.


Phoenix said...

the stomach and digestion are basically automatic. That is to say, nothing really 'operates' that system except built-in biological functions. I think there is something analogous in the brain/mind where we have a built-in function of trying to understand and make sense of the world.”

She's also implying that mental faculties are automatic and occurs without our conscious effort. That includes reasoning, deliberation and of course choices are all illusions if the computer analogy is correct. But that contradicts human experience and requires extraordinary evidence. If she did not mean to imply such a silly notion then the analogy is completely superfluous.

Those who are self-abused with belief in physicalist Scientism choose to believe that physics is merely woefully inadequate at the present time, but someday will become adequate to fully analyze the properties of nondeterminism, agency, consciousness, etc. This is because all existence is claimed to be material and therefore subject to deterministic empirical investigation.

At least 2 problems with Scientism:

1) Asserting that science might someday solve the issue is not a testable prediction at any present moment. That belief would require super faith.

2) Asserting that mind behaves algorithmically but cannot be proven because it would require exceedingly onerous actions to perform, would also require super faith to believe since any hypothesis which require an infinite amount of actions is supertasing and therefore impossible to prove.

Phoenix said...



Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Stan

I've got my next response posted here:


Take care & God bless