Re: Definition please

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Wed Dec 05 2001 - 01:18:37 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Definition please
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    Do you go by Bill or William, or Billy or Billie, or Willy or Willie or
    Will or Mr. Benzon?

    Most of this is still directed at Ted but the end is aimed at readers of
    the list in general.

    >on 12/4/01 2:08 PM, you wrote:
    > >>
    > >> Since the brain and the mind are the same thing, I would have to say that
    > >> their occupation of the same space is necessity not accident.
    > >
    > > They're the same thing viewed from different perspectives. Mind is brain
    > > from the point of view of time, while brain is mind from the point of view
    > > of space. It's possible to distinguish heads from tails while recognizing
    > > that ultimately there's only one thing-- the coin.
    > >
    > >From *Beethoven's Anvil* (pp. 71-72):
    >Thus far we have considered the states of the brain, intentionality,
    >coupling and timing, all while examining the nervous system as a physical
    >system. We can no longer avoid the mind/body problem. I want to approach to
    >this problem in the manner of Gilbert Ryle╣s The Concept of Mind. Rather
    >than wonder how the mysterious and ineffable mind can connect with the
    >mysterious but concrete brain, I propose a definition:
    >Mind: The dynamics of the entire brain, perhaps even the entire nervous
    >system, including the peripheral nervous system, constitutes the mind.
    >The thrust of this definition is to locate mind, not in any particular
    >neural structure or set of structures, but in the joint product of all
    >current neural activity. As such the mind is, as Ryle argued, a bodily
    >process; in the words of Stephen Kosslyn and Olivier Koenig, │the mind is
    >what the brain does.▓[ ] Whether a neuron is firing at its maximum rate or
    >idling along and generating only an occasional spike, it is participating in
    >the mind. In asserting this I do not mean, of course, to imply that there is
    >no localization of function in the brain. There surely is. But the mind and
    >the brain are not the same thing, though they certainly are intimately
    >related, as are the dancer and the dance. The fact that the dancer is
    >segmented into head, neck, trunk, and limbs does not mean that the dance can
    >be segmented in the same way. Similarly, we should not think of the
    >functional specialization of brain regions as implying a similar
    >specialization of the mind. It is not at all clear that the mind has │parts▓
    >in any meaningful sense.

    I was thinking that when I described something like anxiety being stored in
    different locations for different people I should have mentioned the
    holistic theory of memory. The holistic theory proposes that a memory of a
    particular thing is not stored in one place but is spread out across the
    brain. I do believe there has been some localization of function, the most
    famous of which is Broca's region and certain aspects of language use, but
    the current theory of memory is a holistic one. I do not believe that you
    are asserting that the possibly holistic nature of memory renders it
    something other than a physical phenomena though.

    It is my understanding is that there is a proposed mechanism for storing
    memories in the brain. I am little more than a rank novice in this so if
    someone with a bit more neurological knowledge wants to correct me with
    more accurate statements feel free. The neural net model of the brain
    relies on a broad network of shifting potentials to store experience. This
    fits in well with what we know about neurons work. Dendrites release
    neurotransmitters which accumulate in receptor molecules in axonal
    terminals (someone correct me if I have a term wrong here) until a
    threshold is crossed and wave of shifting electrochemical potential rapidly
    moves along the membrane of a neuron. The receptor threshold is a
    malleable thing and presumably by changing threshold levels (perhaps by
    changing the number of receptor molecules?) of different neurons. These
    changed receptor potentials can form the basis for long term storage of
    memory. This would not require that a memory be stored entirely in one
    neuron or set of neurons but could be spread out over a range of neurons
    and be reflected in their changed receptor thresholds. My recollection is
    that potentially one neuron could also have receptor threshold changes
    which reflected partial storage of different memories.

    Although we have a proposed mechanism, we do not yet know how the differing
    receptor potentials form patterns that account for memory. The brain is
    certainly physically complex enough for a lot to be stored. There are some
    100 billion neurons in the brain and each neuron connects to about a
    thousand other neurons in the brain. Dendrites are long so neurons can
    connect to other neurons at reasonably long distance away.

    If I have this correctly what Ted seems to be asserting is that despite the
    knowledge of a potential storage mechanism and sufficient complexity we
    will never be able to link memories and the brain. Given the strides that
    have already been made in linking physical sensation to neural receptors,
    the advances that have been made in understanding how the brain processes
    visual and audio information, and the countless other advances it seems
    more reasonable to assume that we will.

    All of this is a distraction from the main point of my original posts which
    was that the uncertainties associated with our lack of knowledge concerning
    the boundaries of internal representations should not provide fatal
    deterrents to our use of those representations in memetic research. This
    is true whether 'the mind' is an illusion based upon the difference of
    external and internal perceptions, a dance danced by the brain, or a
    dimensionless entity that interacts with time. And whether Aaron Lynch
    calls the moral acceptance of birth control a meme or a belief it remains a
    mental construct with all the uncertainties associated with mental
    constructs. We lack the ability to get inside with a ruler, measure
    content and boundaries, and compare things with absolute certainty to what
    exists in others.

    Primatologists face similar difficulties when they anthropomorphize
    chimpanzee emotions. Let me just quote my earlier post again. Yes I'm
    getting lazy but I'll follow up with a bit more.

    >Primatologists regularly attach human emotions and motivations to the
    >behavior of primates. Chapter 1 of 'The Ape and the Sushi Master' is
    >devoted to explaining the value and necessity of this methodology and I
    >would advise reading it in its totality as rather the snippets I will
    >offer here can't quite capture the argument as effectively. In justifying
    >this scientifically de Waal argues that "The human hunter anticipates the
    >moves of his prey by attributing intentions and taking an anthropomorphic
    >stance when it comes to what animals think, feel, or want. Somehow, this
    >stance is highly effective in getting to know and predict animals." pp.
    >63-64. "Isn't it far more economical to assume that if two closely related
    >species act in a similar way, the underlying mental processes are similar
    >too?" p. 70. "In the same way that parents learn to see through their
    >children's eyes, the empathic observer learns what is important to his or
    >her animals, what frightens them, under which circumstances they feel at
    >ease, and so on." p. 76. Of course these assumptions get modified it is
    >learned that a smile doesn't signify happiness to a primate.
    >Naturally attaching human emotions to primates is an imperfect process and
    >it would be better if we understood the nature of these emotions and
    >motivations within ourselves, but there is still a great deal of value to
    >those observations made in this fashion and a whole branch of well
    >respected researchers has been doing just that for decades.

    Now read Aaron's paper at and when
    you have finished asked yourself a few questions. 1) Did you learn
    something useful from this paper? 2) If you have learned something could
    you have learned it if the paper confined itself to a discussion of
    behaviors or artefacts?

    Ray Recchia

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