How Would Angus Menuge Resolve the Mind–Body Problem?

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How Would Angus Menuge Resolve the Mind–Body Problem?

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"From his background in computer science, he sees mind–body interaction as a transmission of information between two realms"

Quote:You have an incredibly abstract specification. Raise my arm. And every time you do it, it’s probably different. And yet the motor program, or probably a suite of motor programs, takes over.

So what happens? I think what happens is that your volition is translated into a physical instruction that then implements that volition. Likewise, going the other way, when you stub your toe and signals are sent back to the brain, there is an automatic translation that gives you a subjective feeling of pain, which we say is in the toe.

Quote:Part 1: How do we know we are not just physical bodies? The mind–body problem is one of the most difficult issues in modern philosophy. Philosopher Angus Menuge cites the immateriality and indivisibility of the mind and discusses the evidence from near-death experiences.

Part 2: If the mind and body are so different, how can they interact? A look at different models of the mind–body problem. Angus Menuge asks, Why should wanting a drink of milk produce physical changes like opening the fridge? It’s a harder question than many think.

Part 3: How have various thinkers tried to solve the mind–body problem? Philosopher Angus Menuge explains why traditional physicalism (the mind is just what the brain does) doesn’t really work. Some philosophers today claim that the mind is simply what the brain does; a newer group thinks the mind emerges from the brain but is not simply the brain.

Quote:Show Notes

    01:12 | Introducing Dr. Angus Menuge, professor and chair of Concordia University’s philosophy department
    04:06 | What is the mind-body problem?
    06:37 | Near-death experiences
    10:05 | The history of the mind-body problem
    15:24 | Popular mind-body problem models discussed today
    18:14 | Epiphenomenal thoughts
    22:31 | Dr. Menuge’s take on the mind-body problem
    29:04 | Will artificial intelligence ever be able to duplicate the functions of a human?

Additional Resources

    Dr. Angus Menuge at Concordia University
    The Inherence of Human Dignity, vol. 1: Foundations of Human Dignity edited by Dr. Angus Menuge
    The Inherence of Human Dignity, vol. 2: Law and Religious Liberty, edited by Dr. Angus Menuge
    Religious Liberty and the Law, edited by Dr. Angus Menuge
    The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism, co-edited by Dr. Angus Menuge
    Rene Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician
    Aristotle, Greek philosopher
    Thomas Aquinas, 13th century philosopher and Catholic priest
    Thomas Hobbes, 17th century English philosopher
    Jaegwon Kim, Korean-American philosopher
    Richard Swinburne, professor of philosophy at Oxford University
    The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel Wegner

Podcast Transcript Download
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-11-10, 01:12 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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Very interesting, Sci. Thanks for sharing.

@stephenw might be interested in Angus's solution to the mind-body problem in terms of information.

It seems to me to be a useful insight/paradigm for exploring the boundary between mind and matter. Putting on my critical hat, I wonder though whether it might be seen as reifying information; turning the abstract (information) into a (third) substance (which bridges the substances of mind and matter). Then again, Angus talks about the human being as an "integrated system", so perhaps he does see information as purely abstract, and, as a bridge, simply an abstraction of some more substantial interaction yet which can only be conceived of abstractly (in terms of information).
(This post was last modified: 2021-11-26, 08:33 AM by Laird.)
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(2021-11-26, 08:32 AM)Laird Wrote: Very interesting, Sci. Thanks for sharing.

@stephenw might be interested in Angus's solution to the mind-body problem in terms of information.

It seems to me to be a useful insight/paradigm for exploring the boundary between mind and matter. Putting on my critical hat, I wonder though whether it might be seen as reifying information; turning the abstract (information) into a (third) substance (which bridges the substances of mind and matter). Then again, Angus talks about the human being as an "integrated system", so perhaps he does see information as purely abstract, and, as a bridge, simply an abstraction of some more substantial interaction yet which can only be conceived of abstractly (in terms of information).
Angus Mengue is a sophisticated professional philosopher.  I have read several articles by him and from my limited point of view he is cutting edge.  The first paragraphs in the linked interview are aimed right at my limited point of view of two methodologies.

Quote:  Angus Menuge: My own view, and here I’m influenced by my background in computers, is that I see evidence all the time that there is transmission of information between two realms…
  bolding mine

He then goes on to address this transmission of information (he is citing both meaningful instructions (semantic) and symbolic activity in terms of the MTC) and in doing so -- directly addresses the "big" issue.  How does it work?

Quote: So what happens? I think what happens is that your volition is translated into a physical instruction that then implements that volition. Likewise, going the other way, when you stub your toe and signals are sent back to the brain, there is an automatic translation that gives you a subjective feeling of pain, which we say is in the toe. - A. Menuge

That is said so precisely, I won't comment, in other to say I admire and look to professional work.
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(Quoted by stephenw):


Quote:So what happens? I think what happens is that your volition is translated into a physical instruction that then implements that volition. Likewise, going the other way, when you stub your toe and signals are sent back to the brain, there is an automatic translation that gives you a subjective feeling of pain, which we say is in the toe. - A. Menuge


I find this intriguing, because Menuge is apparently solving and answering the standard objection to mind-body dualism (how can an immaterial mind interact with a material body?) with the answer that this known interaction is simply the way things work in our reality. A brute fact of the nature of our reality, built in by the powers-that-be to allow immaterial spirits to effectively inhabit and manifest in physical bodies and live their lives. No need to analyze further, because it is part of the underlying body of laws that govern our Universe. Like the interaction between an electron current and electrical conductors involving generated electromagnetic fields and induced electromotive forces. Of course this automatic lawlike behavior originates due to yet lower-level interactions involving quantum mechanics, but physicists just don't know why this interactivity and its nature are built into our reality, perhaps except for the metaphysical philosophical observation that they are necessary for our physical world to exist.
(This post was last modified: 2021-11-29, 06:02 PM by nbtruthman.)
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(2021-11-29, 05:49 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: (Quoted by stephenw):

I find this intriguing, because Menuge is apparently solving and answering the standard objection to mind-body dualism (how can an immaterial mind interact with a material body?) with the answer that this known interaction is simply the way things work in our reality. A brute fact of the nature of our reality, built in by the powers-that-be to allow immaterial spirits to effectively inhabit and manifest in physical bodies and live their lives. No need to analyze further, because it is part of the underlying body of laws that govern our Universe. Like the interaction between an electron current and electrical conductors involving generated electromagnetic fields and induced electromotive forces. Of course this automatic lawlike behavior originates due to yet lower-level interactions involving quantum mechanics, but physicists just don't know why this interactivity and its nature are built into our reality, perhaps except for the metaphysical philosophical observation that they are necessary for our physical world to exist.

Not sure if this is exactly what he is arguing for. He talks about spacializing mind, which would arguably make it somewhat physical and thus reducing the mystery of interaction.

OTOH, he has a book I found out about yesterday called Agents Under Fire where he explicitly ties in Intelligent Design into his arguments. So possible that what you say aligns greatly with his own position.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


From listening to parts of the interview, I have gleaned that Menuge is definitely a mind-body dualist, and believes that the human mind exists in a fundamentally different realm of existence from the physical. Regarding the interaction problem, he seems to propose that the interaction comprises some form of information transmission from the spiritual realm to the physical (and presumably the other way though he doesn't seem to include that), where the brain has built-in translation/decoding structures interfacing with motor circuits, so that the immaterial volition of mind is transformed into muscular action. Presumably there would also have to be translation/transduction structures designed to send sensory data from the brain into the other spiritual realm where consciousness lives. Logically, the spirit would have to contain corresponding translation/transduction mechanisms for transmissions going both ways.

This scheme would seem to neatly account for the evident close coupling of consciousness and its properties with the physical brain as demonstrated best in the effects of brain damage on the stream of consciousness (while the person is in body). This would in large part be because these hypothesized interface transduction structures are being disrupted. It would also explain the mystery of the number of persons with extreme hydrocephaly (having hardly any cerebral hemispheres) still having close to normal consciousness. It might also tie in to recent research which seems to show that the center of consciousness is really in the brainstem, if the brainstem actually contained these postulated interfacing structures. This would make consciousness in body possible even with much brain damage, as long as the brainstem was not affected. Just a little speculation.  

It seems to me that this scheme (if I have correctly understood it) still doesn't address the standard objection to dualism, since the signal stream between the two existentially separate realms would presumably have to be immaterial, meaning there would still be a spiritual/physical interface involved, located in the brain. This problem apparently would still only be solvable by postulating that this elaborate complex interface is a built-in brute fact of the governing laws of the overall designed reality shared by the two realms (the point of view I described in my previous post). This reasoning would still apply even if the information transmission "signal" is somehow also partially material.
(This post was last modified: 2021-11-30, 08:35 PM by nbtruthman.)
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(2021-11-30, 08:14 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: From listening to parts of the interview, I have gleaned that Menuge is definitely a mind-body dualist, and believes that the human mind exists in a fundamentally different realm of existence from the physical. Regarding the interaction problem, he seems to propose that the interaction comprises some form of information transmission from the spiritual realm to the physical (and presumably the other way though he doesn't seem to include that), where the brain has built-in translation/decoding structures interfacing with motor circuits, so that the immaterial volition of mind is transformed into muscular action. Presumably there would also have to be translation/transduction structures designed to send sensory data from the brain into the other spiritual realm where consciousness lives. Logically, the spirit would have to contain corresponding translation/transduction mechanisms for transmissions going both ways.

This scheme would seem to neatly account for the evident close coupling of consciousness and its properties with the physical brain as demonstrated best in the effects of brain damage on the stream of consciousness (while the person is in body). This would in large part be because these hypothesized interface transduction structures are being disrupted. It would also explain the mystery of the number of persons with extreme hydrocephaly (having hardly any cerebral hemispheres) still having close to normal consciousness. It might also tie in to recent research which seems to show that the center of consciousness is really in the brainstem, if the brainstem actually contained these postulated interfacing structures. This would make consciousness in body possible even with much brain damage, as long as the brainstem was not affected. Just a little speculation.  

It seems to me that this scheme (if I have correctly understood it) still doesn't address the standard objection to dualism, since the signal stream between the two existentially separate realms would presumably have to be immaterial, meaning there would still be a spiritual/physical interface involved, located in the brain. This problem apparently would still only be solvable by postulating that this elaborate complex interface is a built-in brute fact of the governing laws of the overall designed reality shared by the two realms (the point of view I described in my previous post). This reasoning would still apply even if the information transmission "signal" is somehow also partially material.
Wow that's rather complicated though it does not mean it cannot be so. But how about a simple solution that the mind body is only a problem concocted by certain philosophers to explain something they know nothing about. The simple solution is there is no dualism.
(2021-12-02, 12:51 AM)Steve001 Wrote: Wow that's rather complicated though it does not mean it cannot be so. But how about a simple solution that the mind body is only a problem concocted by certain philosophers to explain something they know nothing about. The simple solution is there is no dualism.

Dualism, or at least the idea of a body/soul distinction, seems to precede formal philosophy?

In fact phyiscalism is as much a philosophical concoction as Cartesian dualism, probably going back to Greek philosophers such as Democritus. Though even he realized there was a Hard Problem:

Intellect: “Color is by convention, sweet by convention, bitter by convention; in truth there are but atoms and the void.”

Senses: “Wretched mind, from us you are taking the evidence by which you would overthrow us? Your victory is your own fall.”

Millennia later and the problem is not solved, in fact there is no good definition of "physical". As noted in Why I'm not a Physicalist - Four reasons for Rejecting the Faith:

Quote:It is often expected that a position be defined before it be rejected. In the case of physicalism, however, a reason for rejecting the position is the fact that it cannot be properly defined. This ambiguity in the meaning of “physicalism” is brought out through what is known as Hempel’s Dilemma, named after its formulation by philosopher Carl G. Hempel,[1] though it was in fact formulated earlier by Herbert Feigl.[2] The dilemma: it seems that the meaning of physicalism can be grasped through either of two horns. The first horn is exclusive belief in the phenomena of current physics, such as matter-energy, space-time, the fundamental interactions, and so on. The problem herewith is that such a belief is highly unlikely to be true. This is in part because we can witness the constant change of physics through history, realizing that our current state of understanding is but a moment within this history and thus, by pessimistic induction,[3] we realize that physics is likely to continue changing. Secondly, as is well known, the current state of physics cannot be final due, in particular, to the inconsistency between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Thirdly, as will be seen below, the role of the mind in current physics is undetermined.

Thus a self-proclaimed physicalist might therefore instead embrace the second horn of the dilemma: belief in the phenomena of a future, ideal physics. Yet there are two chief problems with this alternative...

That said the simple solution is that there is no dualism nor physicalism, which probably leaves Neutral Monism or Idealism of some variety.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2021-12-02, 01:56 AM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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(2021-12-02, 01:48 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Dualism, or at least the idea of a body/soul distinction, seems to precede formal philosophy?

In fact phyiscalism is as much a philosophical concoction as Cartesian dualism, probably going back to Greek philosophers such as Democritus. Though even he realized there was a Hard Problem:

Intellect: “Color is by convention, sweet by convention, bitter by convention; in truth there are but atoms and the void.”

Senses: “Wretched mind, from us you are taking the evidence by which you would overthrow us? Your victory is your own fall.”

Millennia later and the problem is not solved, in fact there is no good definition of "physical". As noted in Why I'm not a Physicalist - Four reasons for Rejecting the Faith:


That said the simple solution is that there is no dualism nor physicalism, which probably leaves Neutral Monism or Idealism of some variety.
ho hum

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