Re: data, information and knowledge

From: Dace (
Date: Sun 05 Jun 2005 - 19:57:06 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: A review of "The Selfish Meme""

    > From: Scott Chase <>
    > - --- Dace <> wrote:
    > > > I've no truck with dualism and
    > > > have decided, after reading Churchland, that
    > > > Popper's
    > > > three world plurality is probably a dead end too.
    > >
    > > Patricia Churchland may think she's a monist, but
    > > she's not. Reductionism
    > > was devised by Descartes and, not surprisingly, is
    > > inherently dualistic.
    > > It's not just the parts that a machine (or a brain)
    > > is reduced to; it's the
    > > laws of physics that govern those parts. Unlike
    > > many current philosophers,
    > > Descartes was smart enough to realize that
    > > consciousness can't simply be
    > > eliminated. If we claim it's an illusion, then
    > > we're faced with the
    > > insoluble conundrum of what, precisely, is
    > > experiencing this illusion. Why,
    > > consciousness, of course! So Descartes was a
    > > dualist, and his
    > > reductionistic methodology was perfectly in keeping
    > > with that dualism.
    > >
    > > A truly monistic conception of the mind-brain means
    > > recognizing right off
    > > the bat that there's no stand-alone "mind" to reduce
    > > to brain (and brain to
    > > neuron, etc.) any more than there's a stand-alone
    > > "brain" to reduce to mind.
    > The brain is more tangible than the "mind".

    Not exactly. It's that the brain is tangible, and the mind is not. Of course, one could say the same thing about a magnet. While the iron is tangible, the magnetic field is not. This doesn't make the field any less real than the particles comprising the magnet.

    > At
    > the anatomical level, what we see as a human brain
    > easily reduces to a cortex and other components which
    > reduce to neurons (and helpful glia).

    Well, you can reduce regions to neurons, but you then lose the ability to understand a great deal of what brains are actually doing. Certainly brain activities in conjunction with language are holistic and irreducible. Areas associated with language production and comprehension are spread throughout the cerebrum, and these disparate regions of neural activity have no meaning outside the context of the other regions.

    > > A brain is not like a human artifact. A car, for
    > > instance, is manufactured
    > > through external forces and exists whether or not
    > > anyone's inside it driving
    > > around. But a brain is not manufactured and does
    > > not come into being except
    > > in the context of mind.
    > Sad to say, but a brain still exists (though somewhat
    > dysfunctionally) when someone has lost their mind.

    You're talking about consciousness, only the tip of the iceberg.

    It's not as if you go to the store and pick up a brain in a clear plastic container with a sticker on it reading "mind not included." There's no
    (living) brain without mind and no mind without brain. You don't pull a coin out of your pocket, examine the "heads" side, flip it over and find that nothing's there.

    > > Mind and brain are one and the same, and the reason
    > > it appears as two has
    > > nothing to do with its instrinsic nature but simply
    > > the way we perceive it.
    > I've no patience for psychophysical parallelism,
    > substance dualism nor any of the other weak-kneed
    > detritus of philosophical history. It's a big yawn for
    > me.

    I agree, though I'm curious as to why you should feel the need to bring that up at this moment. Bit of a non sequiter.

    > > Memes
    > > exist in minds, not brains, because "mind" is our
    > > word for mind-brain when
    > > we're coming at it from the internal point of view.
    > The mind is what we call what the brain does.

    As you yourself wrote:

    > A significant
    > part of the neuron is the axon which can make
    > connection to a soma, dedrite or another axon and help
    > form a synapse. It's here that we can look at
    > electrophysiology and the molecular aspects of neural
    > function (or brain function in humans). This is all
    > pretty basic stuff.

    Pretty basic alright, and no mention of representations, insights, feelings, memories, etc. What the brain does is to engage in neurotransmission. That's it. Anything else is neural mysticism. You simply have to decide how serious you are about this. Are you really willing to stay true to empirical evidence? When we look in the brain we find all sorts of activities, such as electrical stimulation of axons, ejection of neurotransmitters across synapses and so on. Conspicuously absent are intentions, beliefs, anxieties, etc. To claim that a mind can be found in the activities of your brain is every bit as kooky as claiming there's a ghost in the creaking of your house.

    > If the internalists were right about
    > the locus of memes being in the neural states
    > themselves (neuromemes) we would say that memes exist
    > in the brain, which isn't any different than saying
    > they exist in the mind, since the two are basically
    > one in the same.

    Of course they're one and the same. But what does that mean? We can interpret it three different ways. 1) the mind has no existence of its own but is really just the brain. 2) the brain has no existence of its own but is really just the mind. 3) neither has any existence of its own, both being illusions created by the fact that we can perceive the mindbrain in two ways, one internally through consciousness, the other externally through sensory examination. We then confuse the way we perceive the world with the world itself.

    As I've stated, the problem with option 1 is that it attributes properties to the brain that no other material object possesses. No atom or set of atoms in the universe can be said to represent another atom or set of atoms, except, that is, in the miracle of gray matter. Option 2 is simply an alternate form of mysticism. That leaves option 3. Neuroscience has never uncovered evidence disputing option 3. That brain dysfunction results in mental impairment is precisely what we would expect given that "brain" and
    "mind" are two sides of the same coin.

    > > To say that mind is the flipside of brain is simply
    > > to say that brains exist
    > > intrinsically. Unlike a car, which only has
    > > ordinary existence, a brain has
    > > self-existence. This is why "the self" keeps
    > > popping up in studies of life
    > > and culture. It's not just some meme conjured up
    > > from the folds of the
    > > cerebrum (a nonsensical notion on the face of it)
    > > but the intrinsic reality
    > > of that cerebrum.

    > Yet Joseph LeDoux is content on focusing upon the
    > synaptic aspects of the self. That sounds like a
    > pretty fruitful approach to me.

    In the end you've only got your own judgment to rely on.


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