Does the self persist through time?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Doreen, Dec 4, 2009.

  1. Gustav Banned Banned

    thats easy enough
    1 - mental equates to thinking thoughts which in turn presupposes a thinker.
    3 - presumably the same way that the physical is held to interact with the mental, a process which i claim to have no knowledge of and hope you are in a position to do so.

    i did take aboard your "patterns" but it appears to be just one of many other spurious correlations that have been offered up to explain consciouness. an explanation, might i add, that is so broad and vague in its scope, it is practically useless and provides no real utility

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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Firstly - what do you actually mean by "mental equates to thinking thoughts"? What are "thoughts"? What does it mean "to think"? Please try to answer these without begging the question.

    Secondly - why would you presume that I am supporting the idea of a "mental" process that is not actually a purely physical process, albeit one that forms part of our consciousness rather than the many that are subconsicous or non-conscious. i.e. my view is that there is no interaction between the "mental" and the "physical" because there is only the physical.

    Okay - so why do you think it is broad, vague and practically useless? It is one thing to say so, another to actually explain the reasoning behind what you say.
    Or do you intend us to guess?
    What is it about the idea that you don't accept, and why?
    The logic? The assumptions?
    Personal incredulity?

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  5. Gustav Banned Banned


    i'll qualify by restating "mental" to mean "mental activity" which is synonymous with the act of thinking. to the rest i urge you to consult a dictionary

    i was being charitable when i assumed you were an epiphenomenalist. what manner of a creature are you then?

    you said a "pattern of activity" being strongly related to consciousness. you really find that an adequate explanation? i mean,it is like explaining the motion of a car by merely asserting there is stuff going on in the engine. has anything really been explained? would one also neglect to mention the role a driver plays in this motion?

    according to the determinists, a physical system has been constructed in a manner that gives us an illusion of qualia and free will. why? to what purpose? would occam approve? perhaps you prefer those questions to remain unasked since they seem to offend your sensibilities?
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Unfortunately dictionaries are next to useless when discussing the actual processes involved.
    To quote from, say,
    As you can see - they can not explain mental without the term "mind".

    So then, what is meant by "mind":
    And as you can see - this says much without actually explaining anything satisfactorily from a philosophical point of view - raising many questions in return.
    However, if the term "the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc." is purely physical, where is the issue with the "mental" interacting with the physical - given that the "mental" is deemed a physical process?

    Your usage of the term "mind", however, suggests you think of both it and "consciousness" as something non-physical - neither physical nor some pattern of the physical - i.e. the bolded option 13 above?

    I'm someone who thinks it is all physical - and that "mind" and "consciousness" are emergent properties of the physical interactions within the brain. But they are nonetheless physically derived.
    They are not separate from the physical - they are part and parcel of the physical - and so there is no strict dualism of "mind / matter" with regard consciousness. (I do, however, see the brain/body as a kind of dualism - the brain being the processor, the body the input/output device - but that is a separate issue.)
    I therefore see it as meaningless to argue that the consciousness can't affect the physical etc - given that the consciousness is just a pattern of the already interacting physical.

    Hope that helps?

    Ah - so you're someone who would see a aircraft in the air for the first time and cry "magic!!" rather than look for some other explaination? And "magic" would satisfy you?

    If not, then what explaination do you have for consciousness?

    And unfortunately the car is a false analogy in trying to understand consciousness, due to the a priori assumption of the need for a conscious driver that is not part of the car. Nice try, though

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    A better one would be a swarm of birds:
    One could argue that these swarms, and their motion, display characteristics that the individual bird does not and can not. i.e. an emergent property.
    One could ask how each individual bird flies - but that would not explain the phenomena of the motion of these swarms.

    Why? Purpose? Is this what drives you, rather than How?
    I don't think there is a "why" or a purpose. We are here. We have consciousness. First let's see what this odd thing is, then perhaps we can see how it came about - and if not through the natural process of evolution then we can explore some alternative.
    Would Occam approve? Of a purely physical explaination to consciousness, to free-will? Of course. Until the purely physical explaination is shown to be impossible, it will remain preferable to one that introduces something non-physical. Unless, of course, evidence for something non-physical becomes known... but then how can we evidence something non-physical, right? Ah - the irony.
    Of course, we can always come up with "God did it" and smile with such a satisfactory conclusion to our endeavours?

    And I'm not strictly a determinist either.
  8. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    If one assumes that selves persist, yes. I see no reason to. It is similar to the solipsism issue. There is a phenomenon. There is another. Sleep presents a gap. We can assume there is an entity that leaps over this gap, or not.

    My bold. We are repeatedly trained to see this smooth procession and to imagine future and past selves. This is a hard piece of the acculturation process. Of course it would be hard to interview feral children on the issue, but I see no reason to assume this is not something akin on the interior to God belief on the exterior.
    So you agree that it will not be the same experiencer?
    What I said, that you are agreeing with here, does not really leave room for a self.

    To be wry: positiing identity is, therefore, a form of denial. That was serious wryness. From a Heraclitian perspective identity would imply an entity Ockham's R should lop off.

    Yes, I can see that. I think, however, that the definitions of self that concern most people, when they wonder if it will, really, be them in ten years - who gets out of prison, who finishes their medical residency as a couple of examples - are not falsifiable.

    I think most people are concerned about the subjective experience not some objective definition.
    Whether the subjective I can change and still somehow be the same
    or not
    is in a sense beside the point.

    There is no reason to assume it will be experienced by me.
    Regardless of whether is makes sense for you to say that it will be experienced by Doreen.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  9. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    If, as you propose, one assumes a non-persistent self, then the entire issue would not even appear.

    I'm not so sure it's a result of culture, as opposed to something strictly biological.

    Of course. By definition, we are not the same experiencer.

    It does indeed. It simply needs to be [re-]defined.
    As I've already hinted at, the common[vulgar] sense of 'self' is clearly incorrect.


    The pre-Socratics. A silly bunch.

    I would say that they are. In fact, I would say that they are already falsified.

    Well, god knows I'm no fan of such silly notions as 'objective'. Nonetheless, 'subjective' doesn't entail 'essential'....
  10. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Good luck to each of us finding a control group.

    Sharp intakes of breath all around.

    I hope you will argue that position with others.

    (I liked Parmalee's assertion that one ends up having to choose between Heraclitus and Democritus. Not that I fully agree, but it is provocative.
    Well, in this case I meant objective in the sense of 'the object Doreen.' Rather than say the subjective experiencer. I am not distinguishing a claim to perfect knowledge by saying objective.

    I mean to tranfer to rock. Let's say the Beatles had kept going and maintained the same level of creativity until the present. Only Lennon did leave in 1970 and one by one the other members lefts, but somehow the band kept the same feel and the bulk of their fans.

    We could easily say the Beatles still exist and are touring. But Paul McCartney is not experiencing being on stage and playing with the Beatles. Nor is, of course, John, if his life ended up the same way. Nor the other two.

    This is even assuming the experiencer persists, but here I am showing the distinction between the experiencers and other kinds of identity.
  11. fellowtraveler Banned Banned

    REPLY: I, myself see no correlation between atoms being recycled and any selves going on. The atoms may continue to exist, but what ever organism they may once have been a part of is dead and gone once it dies. ...FT
  12. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    I don't think you understand the topic. We are not talking about beliefs in an afterlife. Also I am arguing AGAINST the self persisting, even within the confines of what is called a 'lifetime'.
  13. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    What does 'physical' mean?

    I doubt it. He was a theist.

    Who gets to decide who has the onus or burden of proof? How do we find an authority that is not biased?
  14. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Mod Hat;

    I'm getting quite tired of cleaning up after certain people.
    You know who you are.
    Keep all posts on topic.
    As Doreen has noted, it's getting silly here.

    Anyone whose posts I've deleted so far can consider this an official Warning.
    The next time, you'll be receiving a holiday.

  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Of or pertaining to that which science currently understands to be matter/energy.

    More a result of the times in which he lived than anything else.
    If you wanted an education back then you would have to be religious.
    Therefore anyone of intellectual note from that era is almost certainly going to be religious.
    However, I'm sure people are able to distinguish between the person and their works, and able to extrapolate that work to a modern era?
    My comment was based solely upon what is now referred to as Occam's Razor, not the beliefs he held from the 13/14th century. Who is to say that if he knew then what we know now that he would the theist?

    Or are you really trying to use his personal religious belief to negate use of Occam's razor?

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    The one generally making the claim has the onus of proof. This has been generally accepted for quite a while.
    Naturally, those without evidence to support their claim would look to shift that burden to others.
    Further, the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence has to be to support it.

    Do any exist? That is why science aims to filter out bias as much as possible.
    Unfortunately it still exists in the scientific circle - but that is a weakness of the people rather than the scientific process.
  16. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    Sarkus, Gustav and everyone else,
    I am going to start a new thread on the idea of 'THE PHYSICAL' since I think this will be a tangent, a relevent one, to this thread. I hope you will join me there.

    I leave the quote in below, which was a response to my question

    But I will not respond to this answer here. See the other thread.
    1) that's a hypothesis and one that is not falsifiable I would say 2) Occam's Razor would, by definition, be a result of the times in which he lived.

    I was responding to a case of someone, you, doing precisely that. I guess I get tired of Occam's Razor being used as a kind of evidence or law, which was certainly not Occam's intent. The Razor was meant more as a suggestion for a communal approach to investigating things and really only works if people have much of their ontology and metaphysics - and importantly, experience - in common. I notice, however, that it tends to get referred to as if it can support claims about this or that entity.

    1) no I was pointing out that what you said was likely to be incorrect. 2) Occam's Razor and his theism were not separate things for him. He considered God the one entity that could not be cut off. It's not like he advocated teetotaling and drank like Dylan Thomas in his private life. For him it was integrated.

    This does not mean that one cannot use Occam's Razor, or propose it as a communal approach to working toward agreements on entities,while not being a theist. One certainly can. But you mentioned the person, so the irony really has to be pointed out. And further it felt like an appeal to authority, so I really do think it deserves my response.

    So in this case, where I came it, it would be you, since you said whatever consciousness turns out to be it will be physical. The onus would be on you then.

    Extraordinary is a value judgment. We have no 'ordinariness' meter.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    1) Sure - I should have added "in my opinion".
    2) And that means it can only be used for things pertaining to that time, or relate to things only Occm himself would have agreed with?
    Surely you jest?

    To invalidate an approach because it is being applied where not originally envisaged is a fallacy - unless it can be shown to be a flawed approach.
    Feel free to show the flaw?
    Or is it just a case of not liking the result, therefore seeking to invalidate the approach?

    It's somewhat off-topic - so let's just agree to disagree on this.

    The one claiming the existence of the non-physical is the one making the claim.
    We all know that the physical exists.
    Noone has yet demonstrated the existence of the non-physical.
    To thus assume that everything is physical is a default position.
    If someone wishes to claim otherwise - they must provide the evidence.

    Or should everyone who claims they're not a murderer have to provide evidence for it?

    Further, one can not prove the non-existence of something.
    So to claim all is physical is to claim that the non-physical does not exist. It is therefore not something that can be proven.
    So the burden switches to where the proof can be provided - i.e. to those claiming the non-physical does exist.

    One example of it would be okay.

    I do think this is all somewhat off-topic, though - so apologies if I have dragged it away.
  18. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    I suggest that in such a system what we term qualia are simply the way the brain records, maps, recalls, and handles information. It is a data-scape, consisting of sensory inputs modeled by the brain. The error then is in the presumption that qualia are things of a different ontological order that need special explanation. There is no "something that it is like", the brain is simply operating within its own datascape which is composed of sensory information. That it therefore experiences its own processes in terms of sensation is not surprising or mysterious in such a context.

    In regards to free will there are a number of possibilities. One is indeed that free will is illusory and it's appearance is merely a result of ignorance. That we don't know and can't see the causal process gives us the illusion that our thoughts are uncaused or self-caused.

    Another possibility is that our brains somehow take advantage of indeterministic quantum phenomena.

    The possibility I favor, is that while our brains and therefore minds are deterministic from a theoretical position the complexity and sensitivity of the system combined with the vast variation and number of inputs makes it unpredictable by any feasible measure. That the system is self-referential and self-affecting gives us an operational free will within the boundaries of the system.

  19. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    If we are asserting that brains have qualia, but there are no qualia elsewhere in matter, then we do in fact have something to explain. It doesnt really matter if it is another ontological order. It is a phenomenon requiring an explanation, and especially, why it arises in certain places in matter and not others.

    I think he above is context free. You have coined or perhaps use someone else 'term' datascape. But this carries no explanatory weight. And 'sensory information' can be 'had' without it being subjectively experienced. But here we have a perspective, a subjective experience arising in matter, for some reason, somewhere and somehow. Of course this requires explaining.
  20. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    That's the second time you have assumed something about 'where I am going'. Please stick with where I am. I never suggested anything of the sort.

    I do note that this is in question form, but you have moved from a false conclusion about what I intended to an implication of a motive.
    So your claim that everything must be physical requires no support?

    This seems messy to me. Why then make assertions that cannot be strongly supported? And claims that cannot be falsified?
  21. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    My assertion is that qualia don't exist as such.

    Perhaps I can explain more fully. Data can be arranged in a variety of ways, we can take a series of numbers and represent them visually as graph, we might represent them 3 dimensionally as stacks of blocks, or even convert them to audio signals as in "Carmen of the Spheres"(1). Similarly the brain fabricates a perceptive landscape in/with/on which to operate.

    I could use the term simulation but I don't think that fully describes it because the brain does more than merely fashion a model of the world out of sensory information, it is able to process and manipulate this information. It is what the brain thinks with. There is something that red is like only because the brain relates the input of red sensory information, via our visual cortex, and maps it in a landscape of sensory information.

    That these processes have an aspect of sensation to them is no more surprising than finding that a computational devices have a mathematical aspect. And this is why when Mary(2) leaves the room she gains new information, because in her black and white room she never received the sensory input of color which is processed differently by the brain and occupies a different place in the landscape.

    I'm not sure where you feel the problem lays here. Subjectivity seems inherent in consciousness to me so I'm guessing the problem is consciousness itself. Part of the problem is that I think we mean a lot of things all grouped together when we use the term. At its simplest though I think consciousness can be defined as recursive self awareness. I don't see any roadblocks there.


  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    If you stand on a cliff-top, surely I can hope that you're not intending to jump off?
    To a question of possible motive, nothing more.
    I am seeking to understand your motive, based on the tone of your reasoning so far - and if I have worded it such that you can clearly see where my issue with certain possible motives are, all the better for you be able to assuage my concern, surely.

    Messily worded by me, granted, but the underlying principles are clear.

    First, a claim of non-existence can be falsified - merely by producing one example of what is claimed to be non-existent. If I claim that hydrogen is non-existent - prove hydrogen exists and you prove the claim wrong.
    However, non-existence not be proven - as to do so would require knowledge of everything. (You can prove non-existence only within a realm that you have the total necessary knowledge of... e.g. you can prove non-existence of a cat in a matchbox).
    A claim that everything is physical would likewise require knowledge of everything in order to prove it true.
    But to prove it false requires just one example of the non-physical.

    As for burden of proof - hopefully we can all accept that the physical exists - i.e. we have an abundance of evidence of it?
    Likewise there is zero evidence for the non-physical.
    Therefore the one who asserts the existence of the non-physical must bear the onus of proof.

    I admit that me thinking that it is all physical could be construed as a claim, but better wording would be that until there is evidence of the non-physical, there is no reason to accept that it is anything but physical.

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