Consciousness, subjectivity and self

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Hoth, Feb 13, 2002.

  1. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    He's a really ugly but useful sketch which shows my conception of the relation of the brain, mind, and consciousness:

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    The arrows show interaction. Note that brain to mind is only one direction, I'm assuming the brain produces the mind's thoughts rather than the mind producing the brain's patterns simply because it makes more sense based on our observations of the physical world -- you could call this a deterministic view I suppose. Also note that there's no interaction between consciousness and mind, the consciousness simply envelops the mind. Of course there is no consciousness of the objective world -- only of the subjective. (This is shown easily enough by skeptical arguments, which demonstrate that the only direct experiences we have are experiences of mental states -- everything else could be false data theoretically because we aren't directly conscious of it.)

    There are two realms. There's the objective realm of the physical world, which we all (well, most) presume exists. We deduce based on seeing bodies in the physical world which look like the body attached to us that there are other being similar to ourselves who similarly have their own subjective world and also interact with the objective one in a similar way to how we interact with it. The other realm, closely related, is the subjective one. This is the self, which includes those metal states we directly experience and the consciousness that experiences them. The mental states are results of the physical world, which is where this differs so obviously from cartesian dualism. The mind is a sort of extension of the brain... in fact you could say it's the bridge between the brain and the consciousness.


    Counter-arguments? If you disagree, please illustrate your own ideas of brain, mind, and consciousness.
     
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  3. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    I agree

    I agree with that Hoth. That exactly what i'm trying to describe sometimes. You've describred it well. Subjective world you mentioned above, i believe realy exist in "other dimension".

    This way we can describe psychic pnenomenons wich actually "happen between people's consciousness". Even the exact proccess might be different, but this can help to understand what's going on. So, you should draw a bigger circle around 'consciousness' such as 'abstract substance' which belong to us, but only useful for experienced psychic. And also to describe on dreaming.
     
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  5. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    It's interesting how this works sometimes... in agreeing with me somebody says something I don't agree with at all.

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    Your model of the individual system would be the same as mine I guess, but when you involve more people it changes.

    Would you draw arrows between the consciousness bubbles of different people to show interaction them, or just inlcude them all in a larger pool they can each draw from?

    Personally, I don't believe the concept of space or movement is intelligible on the subjective, nonphysical level. I don't choose to apply the same ideas of space to the subjective world as the objective world has, so I just see each consciousness as a separate bubble (figuratively of course, since there's no space for an actual bubble to exist in) which is entirely unconnected to other bubbles of consciousness. To put it simply, I believe in the entirely private subjective world while you seem to believe in a subjective world with interaction.

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    Last edited: Feb 13, 2002
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  7. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    I found this link last week but didn't post it. The article is rather long but does establish an approach to showing how to link neural activity with consciousness. It also attempts to better define consciousness.

    You might it useful.

    http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~koch/crick-koch-cc-97.html

    Cris
     
  8. ismu ::phenomenon::. Registered Senior Member

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    Your model of the individual system would be the same as mine I guess, but when you involve more people it changes.

    Yup. It's seems we got same picture with different stories

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    .

    Also note that there's no interaction between consciousness and mind, the consciousness simply envelops the mind.

    Instead of drawing a bigger circle, now i prefer to draw a donut around consciousness, between subjective world and objective world. see attachment I still believe that there is "something" influence to our consciousness and mind. The signals thru someones donuts may influence to mind and consciousness or may not according to strength of the signals and subject's condition. This donut may percepted as objective or subjective, up to the donut owner.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2002
  9. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    Ismu, if you don't mind, can I perceive the donut as glazed and chocolate covered?

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    It's interesting how you almost end up with 3 types of things though... objective, subjective, and that which hasn't decided.


    Cris, they explain the relations between the brain and the mind, which is all neuroscience can ever do. They clearly don't have a very good philosophical understanding of consciousness at least in the sense I mean -- the type that's outside of the mind. Of course a lot of philosophers don't either, so I guess I shouldn't expect scientists to understand the distinction.

    The consciousness is the observer of the mind (which is in turn a sort of aspect produced by the brain). The observer cannot observe itself. That's probably why so many people (like most all of western philosophy) mistake the consciousness for being the brain... they have a hard time imagining something you can know nothing about, so they place it a step down, in the mind where you can know things (but still a comfortable step up from the brain to avoid all the physicalism problems). Of course the fact that we observe thoughts in the mind is actually what shows that the self (the consciousness) is outside of the mind.

    A quick issue on the side: Looking at my illustration, I'm wondering if the mind could exist without consciousness. The brain could, but is the mind really resting inside consciousness in such a way that it's dependent on consciousness to exist? I'm not sure, but I'm leaning towards saying it couldn't.

    There's no outside perspective to take to make observation of the consciousness possible. That, in essence, is why any amount of scientific investigation will logically never be able to determine subjective reality. Scientists don't like that so they pretend the subjectivity doesn't exist... essentially, they ignore the fact that their ability to observe the objective physical world depends entirely on them having a conscious subjective reality to observe from.

    Never let logical impossibilities stand in the way of neuroscience, though.

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    (The link is useful reading when it comes to mind/brain stuff though, despite their confusion about the nature of consciousness, so thanks for the link.

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    )
     
  10. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    Cris (or anyone with similar beliefs), do you think this would be an accurate way to illustrate what neural scientists would say?

    [edit: image moved to bottom of post]

    The mind and consciousness kind of merged as one, and both of them being in the physical world but as properties that the brain takes on as it becomes a large neural network. That is, things that develop as properties of the whole of the brain somehow... some sort of an emergent property of the brain. Or would they just put all three in the brain without the mysticism of trying to call it an emergent property of the whole? Or, would they have some other way to draw it?

    [edit: illustration updated to better show the view, which is just regular materialism, based on feedback from Cris.

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    ]

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    Last edited: Feb 14, 2002
  11. Cris In search of Immortality Valued Senior Member

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    Hoth,

    We know from clinical studies, where usually the patient has suffered brain damage, that direct probing of parts of the brain can result in feelings of emotion, or can trigger memories. Hallucinogenic drugs can also stimulate intense emotions, dream-like visions, and altered behavior.

    Nicotine from cigarettes takes about 7 seconds to reach the brain where it attacks the synapses. The synapses are the connections between neurons; actually they are the connections between the dendrites of one neuron to the body of another neuron. These connections are not electrical but chemical, primarily proteins. Nicotine and most other hallucinogenic drugs alter the manner in which the synapses behave. Nicotine will have a soporific effect, which wears off after about 30 minutes when the synapse attempts to correct itself and usually overcompensates resulting in some agitation that the person senses as a craving for more nicotine. Other hallucinogenics affect the synapses more intensely and as a result the whole functioning of the brain is affected. Continued and prolonged use of such brain altering drugs eventually results in permanent brain damage, i.e. the synapses lose their ability to return to their normal function.

    Now are the effects, caused by such drugs and clinical procedures, subjective or not?

    Based on just these simple observations I would hypothesize that the mind/consciousness has a direct correlation with neuronal activity. Will that correlation hold for all mental activities? That has yet to be proved, but I see no reason why it should not in the absence of any other credible thesis.

    Let’s consider another area: Sleep and dreaming. Clearly the brain is experiencing synaptic changes since dream visions are occurring and emotions can also be generated (nightmares, suddenly woken from an intense dream, etc). During normal waking times the proteins within the synapses are being consumed and become partially depleted, you experience this as loss of focus, difficulty concentrating, and tiredness. In effect the brain can no longer function correctly. Sleep is the process that re-builds and refuels the synapses. You’ll generally notice that if you have a busy day with lots of brain activity that you can often fall into a very deep sleep quite quickly. My point here is that you experience dreams because the synapses themselves are being changed by the process of refueling. All your muscles and motor activities are suppressed during this time otherwise you would be flailling all over the place.

    So to answer your question: No the mind/consciousness is not an emergent property of the brain. The m/c is the brain.

    The danger you face is the natural temptation to separate the ‘you’ from your ‘brain’, but they are one and the same thing. When you experience a thought that is just a focus in a part of your brain of dynamic neural behavior. The neural network of electrical and chemical signals are the thought, are the experience. The brain is not transmitting a message to you because you and your brain are the same thing.

    The other big modern danger is to compare the brain with a computer with a running program. Clearly there are two vehicles present, the processor, and the program (list of instructions). That is not a good analogy of a brain. In the brain the actual physical architecture is the program, and the architecture is dynamically changing all the time.

    So for your diagram: Just one bubble that says ‘brain/mind/consciousness’, they are inseparable and essentially all one and the same thing.

    Hope that helps, although I cannot speak for all neuroscientists of which I’m not one anyway.

    Cris
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2002
  12. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    Ok Cris, I see, a direct old-fashioned materialist approach. I've changed the picture accordingly. Also glad to see that even the materialist approach recogized that the way we go about designing computers is far different from the way brains work.

    Based on the things you're bringing up in your arguments it seems like you still don't understand my position. You probably never will I guess, seems like you're great at taking a step back to look at things but don't have the capability of taking a step in, probably because you're afraid of the unobservable... you want to see something rather than deduce it, even though in reality you have to make deductions from what you see to actually observe things anyway.

    I don't disagree with any of the stuff you mention, just the interpretation. I fully agree that by studying the brain you can (theoretically speaking of course) know what's going on in the mind. The cause of the thought of the concept of sciforums is too complicated for people to realistically be able to interpret it, but I believe there is a physical cause in the brain there and so that cause is within the realm of that which is theoretically possible to observe. Theoretically you could have a certain very detailed pattern in the brain you could point to and say "that means they're thinking of sciforums."

    Where neuroscience covers its eyes is when it comes to the ability (or lack thereof) to actually find a physical thought. You can have found all the causes of thoughts, and you can have the exact pattern of the brain that corresponds to a thought of sciforums, and you can even get into that in enough detail to know what all the words are in the thread the person is reading. Then you can even wire yourself up to something that produces the sensation in your mind of the same things that they're conscious of, such as the idea of typing a post at sciforums. Nowhere in there have you physically located the actual thought -- you can't set the thought of posting at sciforums down on your desk, because even if you set someone's brain down there that's simply a cause of thought and no matter how long you stare at the brain you aren't staring at sciforums. (It's a basic logical truth that a cause and the effect of that cause cannot be the same thing. Cause and effect are always distinct, no violation has ever been demonstrated.) Of course theoretically you could plug the pattern into your brain, but if you do that it's still not a thought until it's in you -- and, most importantly, it's still not objectively observable. The thought of sciforums is still no more objectively observable to the scientists around you when you've plugged it into yourself than it was when it was in the other person.

    Neuroscience will hopefully someday be able to map out all the causes, and that's very useful for understanding thought, but at the end it people will still never have viewed a thought from anywhere outside of their own mind... or just so you don't say I'm presupposing the mind to prove it, you can say they won't have ever viewed a thought outside of their brain. I don't see how you possibly dispute that.

    What does this mean? It means there's such a thing as something nonphysical and subjective -- perspective itself being the obvious incidence of that. If you don't like the concept of nonphysical, it's probably because you strangely associate it with religion and mysticism when there's no reason to. Nonphysical simply means not independently observable... no more, no less. Not everything that exists is independently observable, as I already showed with plenty of clarity in observing how neuroscience simply shows causes. The perspective from which you observe, as I already showed with neuroscience, is not independently observable (a.k.a. nonphysical).

    Now, if you're being a natural curious person and want to know how we can know that something exists if it isn't observable, without getting into some sort of mysticism or something, that's actually not such a hard question. We can logically deduce the existence... we can't logically deduce any details, simply that it exists. We've already basically done it above, but I'll do it more formally now:

    The idea of something being "self-aware" is nonsensical. Of course people talk about looking at their self, but that's simply linguistic convenience, any neuroscientist can tell you it's the brain looking at sensory input, and even a simplistic thinker might say when they think about it that it's actually the eyes looking at the body. There's no such thing as self-aware, because awareness inherently involves both an observed and an observer. That's simply a fact of what awareness describes. Again, as I've brought up in other posts, what direction does an eye look in to see itself? (Directly observe, that is... if you mention a mirror, that's kind of like the logical mirror I'm using.) That's a crucial thing you simply refuse to acknowledge when you put the consciousness and in the brain. A thing can't be conscious of itself.

    So, it would seem like there's something that's conscious of the brain. Now the only complication (you knew there'd be one

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    ) is that we aren't conscious of the brain in the direct physical sense, because to be conscious of a bunch of quarks in nonsensical... besides the fact that there'd be no logic to suggesting being aware of just a certain physical area or certain pattern if there were nothing special about that pattern. This is where the mental aspect of the brain -- meaning the mind -- becomes a logical implication. To be directly conscious of the physical is unintelligible, but the physical can have/produce an aspect/property (even though we obviously don't know exactly how it works) that's basically a direct logical translation of the into something which is limited so that awareness of the entirety of it can be what consciousness is. (If we were conscious of the entire universe, then perhaps [haven't thought about that scenario much] there'd be no need for a mental aspect to enter the picture and reality would be simply what the neurologist sees plus an awareness of that. Sadly, we aren't conscious of the entire universe.)

    It's funny, as far as everything observable I agree with you, except for the slight complication between cause and actual experience which is meaningless when we look at people other than ourselves anyway. Problem is, you just don't seem to believe in anything non-observable, even though an unobservable thing is the automatic logical implication of the ability to observe.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2002
  13. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    The collection

    Considering a picture of these theories seems to make things clearer than a few thousand words, at least for me, I'll just post a gallery of theories in this post. I've tried to add in illustrations of other viewpoints not mentioned so far (dualism, hinduism, idealism), hopefully correctly.

    Dualism:

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    Hinduism as near as I understand:

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    Idealism:

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    Materialism:

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    Hothism:

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    Ismuism:

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    Anyone have any other theories?
     
  14. SeeKer Registered Member

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    Enlightening discussion...
     
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Hoth,

    I am a little concerned that your arrows from brain to mind go in only one direction. When you decide to take a walk somewhere, what does the deciding - your mind or your brain? If your mind has any part in it, how does the body find out about that?
     
  16. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    James, even though it's hard to illustrate this in a picture, I'm calling the mind something closely related to the brain. The brain does all the thinking, as in it generates the thoughts. The mind doesn't generate any thoughts, the mind simply is the thoughts. (Thoughts we're conscious of seem related to the brain, but we aren't conscious of atoms since that makes no sense really. Thus, a mental aspect which can be consciously experienced.) Hopefully that makes sense.

    The question of how your body would find out about it if your mind was making decisions is one of the problems with dualism.
     
  17. integral Registered Member

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    Consciousness by definition

    Consciousness by definition dichotomizes Soul and Spirit; this is
    obvious in the meaning of Conscious - as being awake or alert. Conscience is also derived semantically from consciousness as the awareness of spiritual qualities of ethical morality. Old English however uses the term - Inwyt - for conscience and semantically to wit....is the classic perspective - INTUITION.
    Keeping one's wits about them can be the key to survival (under many circumstances). Brain and Mind dichotomize Spirit....in that as your diagrams outline - the Mind is more than just the brain.....although as sentient beings it would be very difficult to imagine being without our brains (although some amongst us appear never to use it). The aptitude for abstract reasoning; is Mind; the Mind to the Hebrew is believed to be the Soul; whereas the Greek would consider that their soul is about 18 inches lower in their Heart. Some call this the 18 inch conversion....(first heard from Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington State). As you have properly discerned (according to my information) philosophies pivot on this important
    point......Is abstract reasoning a product of this dichotomy.....or do these abstract qualities of Being belong to higher dimensions and higher powers. My upbringing in the judeo-christian tradition obviously predisposes an outlook that requires the spiritual awareness argument or how is it that one can reason intuitively.
    If philosophy seeks "universal truth"....then this quality of Being.... ie. consciousness - is an important starting point.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2002
  18. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    Consciousness is the part of your mind that is used for understanding, like a filter for analytical thinking. I'm stupid with computers so I don't have a floofing clue on how to put a picture in the post, so I have an attachment that shows a diagram of it.

    I think your mind, body and consciousness form a 'triad' that composes yourself as an entity and not as a solid object with certain attributes. I'd say our thoughts project themselves outwards into the common world, so the extent of our existence must not be concrete and rather abstract; we exist with our environment, not as a part of it. Our attributes come from how we inhabit the space we take with us.
     
  19. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    Congrats, if your consciousness is in a corner of your mind, how can you possibly be aware of your mind?

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    I have to agree with integral on that part, that if you can be aware of considering the question then by definition you must have a consciousness observing/encompassing your mind.

    I think abstract reasoning would fit better as a part of the mind that could act like a filter for understanding. That leads to what integral was mentioning. Abstract reasoning is something where I can't even begin to understand how it works, beyond saying that I think the presence of consciousness observing it is what makes it truly abstract.

    By the way, integral, welcome to sciforums.

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  20. ssivakami Registered Senior Member

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    Whats the "mind" ?

    And why is it separate from the brain ? Consciousness is very much within the brain .... so technically the diagram is wrong, dont you think ?

    And Integral, are you the same Integral who posts (and moderates) Physics Forums ?

    - Sivakami.
     
  21. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    Re: Whats the "mind" ?

    If you're actually conscious of your brain, then all those neuroscientists are wasting their time studying something that they can just directly internally observe. They should know everything about their brain if their brain is what they are directly conscious of. That's why the logical distinction, as explained towards the top of this thread, is necessary.

    Also for consciousness to be “within the brain”, the brain would have to magically break the rules of logic to be an object which can observe itself.

    The brain is just the only one with location, it's the only externally observable (3rd party observable) part of self.
     
  22. Congrats Bartok Fiend Registered Senior Member

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    Going by the logic of perception alone, it does make sense that consciousness cannot be contained within something we can easily define the paramaters of. But going by basic logic, our consciousness is merely a function of the brain! We perceive it as an outer sphere because it encompasses everything we do. Rather than actually encompassing the mind as well, it merely exists infinitely within it.
     
  23. Hoth Registered Senior Member

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    If what you're calling "basic logic" doesn't follow more formal logic, maybe it's simply a trick of perception and one of the many things that seem obvious but aren't when looked at from another perspective. After all, using basic logic on casual observations you'd say the Earth is flat and unmoving and the sun rises.

    However, I fail to see how it contradicts any natural ideas to have the consciousness logically separate, since it isn't self-aware. Obviously, you'd remain aware of only your mind whether the mind were magically self-aware or the awareness of it were taken as logically separate... it's the same result, the same perceptions no matter how you look at it. (Thus I'd rather look at it in a way that solves more problems.)

    Could you explain how something can be conscious of itself? Your infinitely within idea makes no logical sense to me. The brain can be conscious because it's infinitely within itself? A rock is infinitely within itself, so that makes the rock conscious?

    Well, the consciousness could be thought of as within the brain as well as it could be thought of at any other physical location I suppose, since nonphysical things don't have locations. It's the perspective from which location is observed, it couldn't have a location itself really.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2002

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