Common sense argument - the mind and materialism

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From “A Short Argument Against the Materialist Account of the Mind” by Jay Richards:


Quote:Imagine a scenario where I ask you to think about eating a chocolate ice cream sundae, while a doctor does an MRI and takes a real-time scan of your brain state. We assume that the following statements are true:

1. You’re a person. You have a “first person perspective.”
2. You have thoughts.
3. I asked you to think about eating a chocolate ice cream sundae.
4. You freely chose to do so, based on my request.
5. Those thoughts caused something to happen in your brain and perhaps elsewhere in your body.

Notice that the thought in question — your first person, subjective experience of thinking about the chocolate sundae — would not be the same as the pattern in your brain. Nor would it be the same as an MRI picture of the pattern. One glaring difference between them: Your brain pattern isn’t about anything. Your thought is. It’s about a chocolate sundae.

We have thoughts and ideas — what philosophers call “intentional” states — that are about things other than themselves. We don’t really know how this works, how it relates to the brain or chemistry or the laws of physics or the price of tea in China. But whenever we speak to another person, we assume it must be true. And in our own case, we know it’s true. Even to deny it is to affirm it.

Points (1) through (5) above are common sense. In other words, everyone who hasn’t been persuaded by skeptical philosophy assumes them to be true. But it’s not merely that everyone assumes them. They are basic to pretty much any other intellectual exercise, including arguing.

That’s because you have direct access to your thoughts and, by definition, to your first-person perspective. You know these things more directly than you could conclude, let alone know, any truth of history or science. You certainly know them more directly than you could possibly know the premises of an argument for materialism.

That matters because (1) through (5) defy materialist explanation.

The materialist will want to say one of three things to avoid the implication of a free agent whose thoughts cause things to happen in the material world:

A. Your “thoughts” are identical to a physical brain state;
B. Your “thoughts” are determined by a physical brain state; or
C. You don’t really have thoughts.

And if any one of (A), (B), or (C) is true, then most or all of (1) through (5) are false.

So here’s the conclusion: What possible reason could we have for believing (A), (B), or (C) and doubting (1) through (5)? Remember that if you opt for (A), (B), or (C), you can’t logically presuppose (1) through (5). Surely this alone is enough to conclude that we can have no good reason for believing the materialist account of the mind.
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(2018-10-23, 06:47 AM)nbtruthman Wrote:
Quote:And if any one of (A), (B), or (C) is true, then most or all of (1) through (5) are false.

Hmm. Is that really the case? I'm not convinced that it is. Are you?

The general point about intentionality is well taken; this argument in particular though I don't find so compelling, especially with its admitted basis in "common sense" assumptions - even though I agree with the perspective it seems to be arguing for, and even taking into account that it is qualified up-front as intuitive.

Do you know where to find the longer versions of this argument that were mentioned? I can't find them.

(From a moderation perspective: I'm not sure that the amount of the apparently-copyright article that you've reproduced is compatible with fair use, but as it's a borderline case I won't intervene and will leave it to your own judgement).
(This post was last modified: 2018-10-23, 10:57 AM by Laird.)
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(2018-10-23, 10:56 AM)Laird Wrote: Do you know where to find the longer versions of this argument that were mentioned? I can't find them.

I'm not sure this is what you are looking for but it might be what Jay Richards is referring to.

The Mind and Materialist Superstition
by Michael Egnor
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(This post was last modified: 2018-10-23, 06:40 PM by Kamarling.)
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(2018-10-23, 06:07 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I'm not sure this is what you are looking for but it might be what Jay Richards is referring to.

The Mind and Materialist Superstition
by Michael Egnor

Thanks, Kam. I found that one more persuasive.
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I have forgotten about the Chinese Room scenario. It reminds me of black box analysis. In that, known inputs and outputs to an unknown process are used to model the process. It is a technique one might use to reverse engineer a competitor's product.

For a dualist, patterns in a brain scan should be irrelevant. I speculate we will find that the regions that light up in a scan are neurons acting like a phased array antenna for psi-physical translation. I am pretty sure that the psi-to-physical influence acts on a chaotic random process. (See: Exploratory Study: The Random Number Generator and Group Meditation) The reverse process is probably not true but then there are hypothetical quantum effects in microtubules. (see Confirmation of Quantum Resonance in Brain Microtubules) Else, I have no idea at this time.

For the statement "We have thoughts and ideas — what philosophers call “intentional” states — that are about things other than themselves" there may not be a direct correlation between intention and states. The intention to "think about eating a chocolate ice cream sundae" produces a mental experience that is dependent on prior conditioning that is predictably different from person-to-person. The person asked to think of it has little control over what comes to conscious awareness.

It now appears that, in a very real sense, we are like that person in the Chinese Room. We become consciously aware of what we intend as it is bound by memory and disposition.

As it seems, the only influence we have on the outcome is our ability to manage what is in the database and that is not done by simply deciding. It is done by habitually intending to manage memory that has considerable momentum. (See: Our Unconscious Mind)
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"Notice that the thought in question — your first person, subjective experience of thinking about the chocolate sundae — would not be the same as the pattern in your brain."

Why not?

~~ Paul
If the existence of a thing is indistinguishable from its nonexistence, we say that thing does not exist. ---Yahzi
(2018-10-25, 07:15 PM)Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Wrote: "Notice that the thought in question — your first person, subjective experience of thinking about the chocolate sundae — would not be the same as the pattern in your brain."

Why not?

~~ Paul

Perhaps for a similar reason that monitoring the electrical activity on a TV receiver chip would tell you nothing about the subjective content of the drama being broadcast. It might tell you about the colour of a certain pixel at a certain screen position but it would not inform you about why Sheldon Cooper's expression shows he yet again fails to appreciate irony.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(This post was last modified: 2018-10-25, 07:41 PM by Kamarling.)
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(2018-10-25, 07:40 PM)Kamarling Wrote: Perhaps for a similar reason that monitoring the electrical activity on a TV receiver chip would tell you nothing about the subjective content of the drama being broadcast. It might tell you about the colour of a certain pixel at a certain screen position but it would not inform you about why Sheldon Cooper's expression shows he yet again fails to appreciate irony.

I agree it might not tell an observer about the subjective content, but that does not mean that it is not the content.

It's a tricky business.

~~ Paul
If the existence of a thing is indistinguishable from its nonexistence, we say that thing does not exist. ---Yahzi
(2018-10-25, 08:42 PM)Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Wrote: I agree it might not tell an observer about the subjective content, but that does not mean that it is not the content.

It's a tricky business.

~~ Paul

To say that something is one and the same as something else is to fundamentally say that the two things are of the same basic substance. If this is the case the basic properties of the one must also be the basic properties of the other. 

What are the properties of the MRI images of the person's brain, or the properties of the actual neurons and synapses whose collective activation was imaged during the person's visualization and desiring of the chocolate sundae? These are patterns of light and dark, or the underlying electrical and chemical states of the actual cells and synapses. These properties are physical descriptors reducible to descriptors of the fields and forces and particles of physics. 

But the properties of the subjective content of the person's experience of thinking of the chocolate sundae are fundamentally different - they are things like perceptions and thoughts and emotions. Intrinsic qualities of experience that are directly available to introspection. The descriptors of the properties of conscious experience are fundamentally different from and not reducible to the electric charge, field intensity, velocity, mass, etc. that are the basic descriptors of material things. If this is disagreed with, then please give the properties of perception and thought and emotion that are also the properties of matter and energy in motion. Please show how my subjective thought of and desire for and pleasure in eating a chocolate sundae are reducible to field intensities, masses, velocities, etc. Subjective experience of color, taste, smell, and the emotions associated with perceptions are in a fundamentally different world of existence.    

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, at https://www.iep.utm.edu/qualia/ :


Quote:"From the standpoint of introspection, the existence of qualia seems indisputable. It has, however, proved remarkably difficult to accommodate qualia within a physicalist account of the mind. Many philosophers have argued that qualia cannot be identified with or reduced to anything physical, and that any attempted explanation of the world in solely physicalist terms would leave qualia out. Thus, over the last several decades, qualia have been the source of considerable controversy in philosophy of mind."  
(This post was last modified: 2018-10-26, 04:31 PM by nbtruthman.)
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