Re: Memes in Brains

From: Dace (
Date: Fri Oct 19 2001 - 20:21:17 BST

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: Memes in Brains"

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    From: "Dace" <>
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    Subject: Re: Memes in Brains
    Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 12:21:17 -0700
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    Hi Robin.

    > On Wed, Oct 17, 2001 at 08:47:26PM -0700, Dace wrote:
    > >
    > > > But, making the leap from that to this -
    > > >
    > > > "there is no mind-body problem, no question about reduction of the
    > > > mental to the physical, or even unification of the two domains."
    > > >
    > > > - seems to rocket across an abyss with specious ease, if not be
    > > > non sequitur, since reducing the mind-body problem to new and more
    > > > correct views of matter would seem to unify the domains handily.
    > >
    > > This is scientistic faith. For three hundred years, every time we get a
    > > "new and better" concept of matter, its true nature becomes that much
    > > perplexing and ineffable. Yet we're supposed to have the whole mystery
    > > cleared up any day now!
    > There's a very good reason for that. The closer physicists get to
    > subatomic reality, the further they get from all the types of objects
    > and concepts that we evolved to be able to deal with. There is no way
    > that any development "down there" is going to directly affect the way
    > we think about the sort of things we normally think about.

    My sentiments exactly. This was central to Bergson's outlook. He argued
    that traditional, "normal" ways of thinking and perceiving have little to do
    with reality per se. What evolved over the eons was a pragmatic approach to
    life intended to facilitate our exploitation of the world, including each other.
    "The World" itself is a construct of consciousness, not an intrinsic reality.
    Philosophy (a.k.a. science) is all about puncturing our bubble of utilitarian
    certainty and discovering existence as it is.

    Quantum physics measures material/energetic phenomena at extremely small
    time-spans. The oscillation of an electron plays out in the time frame of a
    billion-trillionth of a second. For protons it's a trillion-trillionth. The closer you
    get to absolute instantaneity, the greater the uncertainty of your measurements.
    This is the basis of Heisenberg's principle. The time-span becomes so minute
    that the uncertainty of the particle becomes "larger" than the particle itself.
    (This is connected to the notion of "quantum foam," in which "virtual particles"
    annihilate themselves as soon as the come into existence, never sticking
    around long enough to be measured, harnessed, exploited, but just as real as
    the constituents of matter.)

    Matter has nothing in common with "common sense," and physics has no bearing
    on our pragmatic, functional, day-to-day conceptions of things. But the important
    thing is that the reverse is also true. If you're going to embark on a genuine,
    scientific investigation, your common sense will turn out to be your biggest
    obstruction. Reality turns out to be quite different from our traditional notions.
    Should this be surprising? Right or wrong, memes are certainly adept at
    reproducing themselves.

    > And mind, in
    > particular, is a high-level phenomenon about which physicists can never
    > have anything useful to say, unless it concerns the limits of physics.

    Who says the mind is a phenomenon? If it were, then there's no reason why
    physics couldn't inform us of its properties. It's precisely the self-existence of
    mentality that puts it off limits to physics.

    > > Chomsky isn't denying that the terms "mind" and "matter" refer to real
    > > things. He's just pointing out that we don't understand what these things
    > > are, the second term being no more clear than the first, and couldn't
    > > possibly reduce one to the other or describe how they relate. It's absurd
    > > to think that the two "domains," so perfectly at odds with each other, could
    > > somehow interact.

    Much like Wade, Chomsky suggests that the problem will be resolved only when
    we've discovered yet another "mysterious" property of matter that somehow
    accounts for mentality. He argues that whatever it turns out to be, it will
    probably resemble in some way the field-based phenomena of physics. Given
    the holistic nature of mental functioning (as opposed to the atomism of
    neurotransmission) there must be some sort of field-type activity, inherent
    to matter, which is exploited by organisms, particularly in brains. The
    University of Arizona theorist, David Chalmers, claims that the emergence of
    a scientific theory of mind depends on the elucidation of new laws of
    physics. Indeed, Sheldrake has established two laws in regards to intrinsic
    form, the law of conservation and the law of like-affects-like (over time).
    Like Chomsky he recognizes the necessity of a field, something that's based
    on space rather than matter and functions holistically. He discovered that
    such a concept has existed since the 20s and has long been essential to
    developmental biology, the morphogenetic field. Perhaps this is what
    Chomsky is looking for.

    The problem with all this is that physics recognizes no such thing as
    "intrinsic form." These laws of conservation and resonance cannot be
    physical laws. In physics, there's no intrinsic nature of any kind, no
    "self," just relations, quantities, spacetime events. Nothing has absolute
    self-nature. For that, you must turn to metaphysics. Ultimately, nature is
    metaphysical. In fact, this statement is so true as to be meaningless,
    since absolute (metaphysical) existence is already implied in the word
    "ultimate." If science is to pursue reality and not merely phenomena, it
    must be based on metaphysics.

    Due to the virulence of the anti-metaphysics meme, not only Chomsky and
    Chalmers but even Sheldrake refuses to recognize nature beyond the physical.
    Only Bergson is entirely clear on this point.

    > > Philosophy has tended to get beached on one or the other perspective.
    > > Either the coin always comes up heads (and all we see are brains) or it
    > > always comes up tails (the realm of mind and Idea). The mistake is to
    > > define the coin by one or the other of its sides and then try to reduce the
    > > other side to that one. The solution to the mind-body problem is to get
    > > past heads and tails and find the coin's true weight. Only when the
    > > question is formulated this way can we unravel the Chomskyan knot.
    > That was very well said, Ted. I've been saying very similar things
    > myself for years. I attempt to unravel that knot by postulating that
    > the subjective and objective aspects of reality are of equal status.
    > More at

    Thanks. Will have a look at it.

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