After reading Homosexuality and Atheism threads: Soul

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EstLladon
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After reading Homosexuality and Atheism threads: Soul

Postby EstLladon » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:35 am UTC

So I was reading these threads and suddenly I had a thought - that in both of them a lot is said about a thing that is called "soul" by many lifeview concepts (different concepts treat it differently and assume different things about it - something that is not your body but is you). While the Atheism thread is obvious place to discuss this, the Homo thread has to say something about it too - the recurring argument in Homo thread was that homosexuality messes up people, and they didn't meant the body. I have an assumption. If it is true it will just end discussions on both of the problems. It is that PEOPLE DON'T HAVE SOULS. They have their bodies and they have special organ called "brain" that is used to process information. Brain can influence body and body can influence brain just like other organs influence each other. Human brain works in such way that it can process not only information in form of feelings (like animal brains do) but any kind of abstract information so it can create abstract concepts. All religions (when they are not used as political instruments or instruments to take money from people) basically are some psychological practics to maintain mental health (excessive thinking about the abstract concept of death tend to mess it up). And there is no problem with homosexuality - bodies tend to do what they like and brains tend to think how they can achieve what bodies like and it is nobody's else business. SINCE THERE IS NO SOUL THERE IS NO MORAL.

I like Occam's razor - if I can explain things without a concept it is likely that it is an unnecessary one.

Happy soulless lives to all of you.

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Postby Gelsamel » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:38 am UTC

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Postby Aoeniac » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:26 am UTC

Yeeaaah... they juuuuust went over this in my philosophy class. There's a whole school of thought about that, but the name escapes me.

Actually there's a lot of names you could give it.




I don't believe in souls either, but I do get the feeling that immaterial substances exist. Just that they're not divine in nature and that it's merely a matter of how we perceive the universe. No pun intended.

It's easy to explain our behaviors based on what we know about the brain so far. That everything we do is determined by all the chemical reactions and electrical signals in our nervous systems.

It's just that it's harder to explain why that network of reactions and signals is aware of itself and its own sensations.
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Postby LE4dGOLEM » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:55 am UTC

Would you kill your mother, by choice? If not, then you have morals.


EDIT because of post whilst I was typing: There is no such thing as immaterial matter.
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EstLladon
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Postby EstLladon » Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:05 pm UTC

There are animals who do not kill their parents - do they have morals too? Basically, I don't kill my mother because it is useless and will cause a lot of problems (legal and other) to me. And when I said there is no moral I meant there is no universal moral - everybody invent their own rules, just to not worry about certain issues later.

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Postby Tractor » Fri Mar 16, 2007 12:52 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote: And when I said there is no moral I meant there is no universal moral - everybody invent their own rules, just to not worry about certain issues later.


True. Everyone invents their own based on whatever experiences they have throughout life. Which means many are based in law and religion, but that's neither here nor there.

What I'm wondering is whether or not this assumption is dependant on there not being souls. Even if there were souls, wouldn't this still hold true? A soul doesn't have to have initial morals attached.
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EstLladon
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Postby EstLladon » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:01 pm UTC

Everyone invents their own based on whatever experiences they have throughout life. Which means many are based in law and religion, but that's neither here nor there.

Neither religion nor law are really an experience - in fact it is something quite contrary to experience - it is some rules not invented by you but given to you by somebody else.

As for morals attached to souls - in many religions this concept is only needed for after death responsibility for the things you have done in life.

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Postby evilbeanfiend » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:44 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote:
Everyone invents their own based on whatever experiences they have throughout life. Which means many are based in law and religion, but that's neither here nor there.

Neither religion nor law are really an experience - in fact it is something quite contrary to experience - it is some rules not invented by you but given to you by somebody else.


even if religion or law prescribes a set of morals to you, you still have to consciously decide to accept those morals, as evident by the 1000s of people who break religious or state laws.

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Postby EstLladon » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:51 pm UTC

even if religion or law prescribes a set of morals to you, you still have to consciously decide to accept those morals, as evident by the 1000s of people who break religious or state laws.


You actually need to think about every deed you do whether to do it or not. Religion and law provide sets of rules to follow to save your thinking time in some cases.

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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:15 pm UTC

When people say that the "homosexuality messes you up" (or whatever they're saying in that thread, i'm not reading it) and they don't mean your body, they mean your mind.

Is your mind part of your body? No. All the bits of your body are left when you die, though perhaps not correctly assembled, but your mind isn't. Does your mind have physical existence? Yes. Its fermions ie energy, specifically electrical and chemical energy. After you die, it dissipates into not much of anything, or at least that's what we can observe.

This is really getting onto my pet gripe that I have with most of the human race. People seem to think that thoughts aren't real. Thoughts are real, you can measure them with a machine whilst you experience/generate them, like an electroencephalograph, functional magnetic resonance imaging or, my favourite, a magnetoencephalograph. Two of these machines prove that your thoughts have an existence outside of your body. Its not big, but it is there.

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Postby 3.14159265... » Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:26 pm UTC

Here is how I see it

Souls
Bored and stupid people have them
Non-bored and logical people don't

Morals:
Stupid people have morals
Logical people have schemas

Anything outside of that, is quite stupid. This isn't a rude thing, 300 years ago, for me to say that was irrational, with todays science however yo are either stupid, or those apply.

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Postby wisnij » Fri Mar 16, 2007 6:50 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:Is your mind part of your body? No. All the bits of your body are left when you die, though perhaps not correctly assembled, but your mind isn't. Does your mind have physical existence? Yes. Its fermions ie energy, specifically electrical and chemical energy. After you die, it dissipates into not much of anything, or at least that's what we can observe.

All the bits of a car remain after a crash except the 50 mph, but you would not argue the speed was not an attribute of the car. Mind is a process. It may not be a concrete substance you can hold on to, but it is definitely caused by physical processes in the brain. Also, congratulations on not knowing what a fermion is but using the word anyway.

jestingrabbit wrote:This is really getting onto my pet gripe that I have with most of the human race. People seem to think that thoughts aren't real. Thoughts are real, you can measure them with a machine whilst you experience/generate them, like an electroencephalograph, functional magnetic resonance imaging or, my favourite, a magnetoencephalograph. Two of these machines prove that your thoughts have an existence outside of your body. Its not big, but it is there.

No, it's not. What "thoughts aren't real" means is merely that those states are internal; the old adage "wishing doesn't make it so". Thought is a physical process, as can be shown by altering or interrupting it with other physical effects -- trauma, drugs, strong magnetic fields, etc.
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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:10 pm UTC

I apologise for getting my bosons and fermions mixed up.

The speed was a property of the car, yes, just as the running of its engine was a property of the car. After it hit the wall it ceases to be a car and becomes a lump of scrap. I'm not seeing what your car analogy is saying.

When you say something is a process, what do you mean? I think you mean its an action, which is to say its a pattern of energy.

Those states are 'internal', by which I think you mean that they are directly experienced only by the thinker, yes, but they're physical just like anything else we observe. I agree that they can be interrupted. But they shape the world around us like nothing else can or does. The mere fact that you have to do physical stuff to make a wish so doesn't mean the wish doesn't have a reality. Its different from the reality of a table, but less different from the memory of a computer and as we make more and more subtle electrical devices it will be more and more like them.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:15 pm UTC

The point, I think, is that thinking about a table does not, of itself, create a table. So thoughts "aren't real" in the same way that *words* "aren't real".

The word, or the thought, are, in themselves, real. One is a perturbation of sound, one is an electrical reaction, but neither of them *mean* anything by themselves, they simply signify the thing you're thinking or talking *about*. This is referred to in linguistic and literary theory as the relationship between the "signifier" and the "signified".

And I think this is what people mean when they say that thoughts "aren't real". They aren't the things they signify, they're just signifiers.
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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:41 pm UTC

Sure, when I think about the table, its signifier and signified. But there are other thoughts where the thoughts *are* what we're thinking about. Have a look at any of the interesting threads in logic puzzles. When you think about the puzzle there is no objective reality to which you are referring, unless you believe in some sort of neoplatonic maths-has-an-objective-reality type of setup. To solve those puzzles you need to create, in/with your thoughts, the situation the puzzle describes. You might need to draw a diagram if its that sort of puzzle, but really, thats just to clarify your thinking. So there, I don't really see the signifier/signified duality. Such a duality gets even more strained when you start to talk about the more complicated mathematical entities.

Reading a novel is another example. If its not based on a true story, then you lose the signifier/signified distinction too, though there you might like to say you're 'having thoughts about someone else's thoughts', or something like that. I don't think you can really say that about the puzzle thing though. You can't just get an impression of what the puzzle is, you have to get the puzzle if you're going to solve it. You have to create the same structure of thoughts.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:45 pm UTC

In order to signify something, the signified doesn't need to actually exist, either, is the tricky part.

But if something doesn't exist, signifying it does not cause it to exist. Making a mathematical mistake in your head doesn't re-code the universe. Reading a novel doesn't cause the events to become real. When you envision the situation in a logic puzzle, your thoughts aren't the situation. They're a pattern that represents the situation. Again, this is what people mean when they say "thoughts aren't real".

You could say, that the only thought which is *real*, in that it's a signified rather than a signifier, is a thought about itself. But even that is kindof wierd, and is more of an infinite loop than anything else.
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Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:57 pm UTC

I see what you mean, just because I talk about a flying pig doesn't mean there are such things. But when people talk about the puzzles, there is discussion about what is true and what isn't. Neither of us can seriously carry on a conversation about what is or isn't true about the flying pig. Yet people seriously talk about what the 'objective' truth is about the puzzles. The fact that those conversations are resolved, either by splitting the problem in two or people forming new understandings, indicates that the puzzle does have some reality. I don't buy into neoplatonic stuff, I don't think the words on the screen, or the data, is the puzzle either. Its only a puzzle when its comprehended and considered by someone.

I really do think the puzzles, and maths, is real but real only in thoughts. You can say thoughts aren't real, and I know what you mean, but I don't think you're right about all the thoughts that people have.

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Postby VannA » Fri Mar 16, 2007 9:15 pm UTC

Aoeniac wrote:It's just that it's harder to explain why that network of reactions and signals is aware of itself and its own sensations.


If your brain is simply a massive processor, that deals with input and spits output.. then what?

What gives you the conscious control to manipulate the outputs? Where does *that* system live? :D

A brain, as we understand them now, is either deterministic, or open to random factors.

Neither would give free will.

So what if a soul is simply something other? I've been farting around with the idea that the soul is a symbiotic entity on the other side of things (Being ying of our yan, so to speak) and is capable of manipulating a small area of reality, through control of quantum bubbles

Of course, that's not actually an answer, as I cannot see anyway of escaping from the nature of an input/output system.

Anywho.. I'll read the rest of the thread now :D
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Postby VannA » Fri Mar 16, 2007 9:21 pm UTC

EstLladon wrote:
even if religion or law prescribes a set of morals to you, you still have to consciously decide to accept those morals, as evident by the 1000s of people who break religious or state laws.


You actually need to think about every deed you do whether to do it or not. Religion and law provide sets of rules to follow to save your thinking time in some cases.


See.. I developed that myself.

Laws are something I only give a passing nod to, mostly because getting caught leads to time-consuming issues.

But no law tells me what I should or should not be doing. Especially when it is hidesously evident that few of our laws are based on any sort of empirical theory.

I do what I want, and I've examined myself and others to build an internal code that allows me to live in relative harmony with most people around me.

I don't kill because I have no desire to cause grief in others..
Not because killing is an intrinsically bad act.

Most of my internal moral code revolves around minimising harm to others while maximising fun/pleasure/good to myself and the people I choose to care about.
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Postby Pathway » Fri Mar 16, 2007 9:41 pm UTC

VannA wrote:If your brain is simply a massive processor, that deals with input and spits output.. then what?

What gives you the conscious control to manipulate the outputs? Where does *that* system live? :D

A brain, as we understand them now, is either deterministic, or open to random factors.

Neither would give free will.


It doesn't follow that the brain is 'simply' a massive processor. It's not simple--it's hideously complex. It's massive--but it's not a processor in the usual sense of the word. It's a system that interacts with itself, and with your body.

When such a thing operates, and is the only thing determining our actions (aside from body-level things such as reflexes), we don't have free will, and consciousness is an illusion. That doesn't mean it isn't profitable to act as if it's not. It's perfectly possible for that to be the case.

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Postby VannA » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:10 pm UTC

Pathway wrote:
VannA wrote:If your brain is simply a massive processor, that deals with input and spits output.. then what?

What gives you the conscious control to manipulate the outputs? Where does *that* system live? :D

A brain, as we understand them now, is either deterministic, or open to random factors.

Neither would give free will.


It doesn't follow that the brain is 'simply' a massive processor. It's not simple--it's hideously complex. It's massive--but it's not a processor in the usual sense of the word. It's a system that interacts with itself, and with your body.

When such a thing operates, and is the only thing determining our actions (aside from body-level things such as reflexes), we don't have free will, and consciousness is an illusion. That doesn't mean it isn't profitable to act as if it's not. It's perfectly possible for that to be the case.


But acknowledging the nature of illusionary free will would be necessarily put constraints on how we treat and respond to people that do things we find unecessary or damaging, would it not?

It would remove, or at least disperse, blame.
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Postby Aoeniac » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:24 pm UTC

As far as I'm concerned, neither gods nor science gives free will. If you believe in an all powerful entity that created everything, it would have created the best possible world. Otherwise you believe in an entity that is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not omnibenevolent... which is basically saying your god is flawed or not perfect... and is an asshole.

That is basically the "god wouldn't do me like that" theory.

---

If you believe in everything being caused by matter and energy and the interactions thereof, then there's also only one course things could take, which could theoretically be extrapolated from the initial state of the universe using causal determinism.

In other words, I don't believe in free will. Whether or not blame exists is irrelevant when both your actions and the action of people blaming you for them are predetermined anyway.

Besides, how would things be different if you had free will? You wouldn't notice any difference, that's for sure. Nobody's telling you with any certainty whether the action you chose was predetermined to begin with.
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Postby VannA » Fri Mar 16, 2007 10:44 pm UTC

Aoeniac wrote:As far as I'm concerned, neither gods nor science gives free will. If you believe in an all powerful entity that created everything, it would have created the best possible world. Otherwise you believe in an entity that is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not omnibenevolent... which is basically saying your god is flawed or not perfect... and is an asshole.


I hate that argument. It's fundanmentally flawed.

You are assuming, because of the fact you don't like some of the things that happen, that this is not the best possible world to provide the best possible outcome.

You're starting with the presumption that God is a) Benevolent b)Omniscient c) Omnipotent.

Given those 3, it is a required logical conclusion that everything we go through is for our own best interests - Even if it doesn't feel like it.

(Sorry, totally off topic - But that argument annoys me - it operates outside of the axioms it puts forth)
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Postby a thing » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:17 pm UTC

"Soul" is just another word for "personality".
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Postby Jesse » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:19 pm UTC

The dictionary disagrees.

Soul: the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.

Personality: the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others.

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Postby wisnij » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:31 pm UTC

jestingrabbit wrote:I apologise for getting my bosons and fermions mixed up.

Neither were really applicable in context, so I suppose it doesn't really matter.

jestingrabbit wrote:The speed was a property of the car, yes, just as the running of its engine was a property of the car. After it hit the wall it ceases to be a car and becomes a lump of scrap. I'm not seeing what your car analogy is saying.

When you say something is a process, what do you mean? I think you mean its an action, which is to say its a pattern of energy.

Process, activity, call it what you will. They mean the same thing. The problem is that "a pattern of energy" doesn't mean anything. It just sounds like it does. There's no mysterious "energy field" sidekicking around with the meat parts.

My point is that the mind is part of the body in the sense of being one of the things the body does, just like breathing or digestion. It just isn't a tangible, concrete part you can touch like blood or bones or skin. The big deal about emergent phenomena is that simple parts can interact in simple ways to produce complex behaviors. That's how multicellular organisms in general work, and it's how (with an emphasis on "complex") our brains work too. When you die all the parts are still there, at least at first, but the interactions have stopped. Nothing is physically lost, but it just doesn't go anymore.
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Postby Gelsamel » Sat Mar 17, 2007 12:09 am UTC


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Postby Tchebu » Sat Mar 17, 2007 2:38 am UTC

There's no mysterious "energy field" sidekicking around with the meat parts.


Thats not what an astrologer, or a fortune teller will tell you... those people will start talking for the longest time about "universal energies" and "astral bodies" and stuff... (this is where the readers go "pfff astrology, thats a crapload of BS", but bear with me)

Im not saying that you should start believing every word of every astrologer though. In fact, every time i ever asked a person who claimed there are "universal energies" about the nature of this energy (otherwise it starts bringing up images of anime characters shooting beams out of their hands) they go "uh, i dont know... but its written in ancient texts, maybe we'll find out in the future. After all we know so little about what does on up there in the higher planes of existence." (This is usually where I actually go "pfft" in my head)

So their point of view on this isnt very well based... using an undefined concept at the very base of what you're doing doesnt make your words very credible. BUT, saying "we dont observe it, so it doesnt exist" is also not very well supported. After all, we really MIGHT run into something that will eventually lead us to introducing a concept (a well defined one this time though) that will be analogous to what todays fortune tellers call the "soul"... there are enough unexplained phenomenons in the world, a bunch of which are related to religion... taking the "mystical" explanation blindly is a mistake from the point of view of science of course... but so is saying "its all BS, what those 'fortune-teller' type pple are saying"... they could end up being right, just for the wrong reasons...

The first step towards understanding any concept ("soul" in our case) is to define it... this is where religion, esoterics, astrology and all that jazz fails... they simply dont define it... they assume its something obvious (or start give a very ambiguous definition), and then start describing the world with this concept, giving it properties as they go along...

kinda reminds me of the "aether" in physics though... we all know how that story ended...

As for

If your brain is simply a massive processor, that deals with input and spits output.. then what?

What gives you the conscious control to manipulate the outputs? Where does *that* system live?

A brain, as we understand them now, is either deterministic, or open to random factors.

Neither would give free will.


Like i said, the first step to understanding something, is to define it... define free will. Keep in mind that according to you, this definition must somehow imply that a purely "computational" brain cannot achieve if.

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Postby Babbler » Sat Mar 17, 2007 3:00 am UTC

Aoeniac wrote:Yeeaaah... they juuuuust went over this in my philosophy class. There's a whole school of thought about that, but the name escapes me.

Actually there's a lot of names you could give it.


Is it monism? With dualism opposing it.

As for the matter of the soul, I have to agree that I don't believe in a soul. Many things once attributed to the soul can not be attributed to a physical and chemical process in the brain. My prediction: some day, we will have a purely physical theory for all of the functioning of the mind.

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Re: After reading Homosexuality and Atheism threads: Soul

Postby Goplat » Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:14 am UTC

EstLladon wrote:So I was reading these threads and suddenly I had a thought - that in both of them a lot is said about a thing that is called "soul" by many lifeview concepts (different concepts treat it differently and assume different things about it - something that is not your body but is you). [...] I have an assumption. If it is true it will just end discussions on both of the problems. It is that PEOPLE DON'T HAVE SOULS.
So, what's the deal with consciousness then? If it's just electrical impulses in the brain, that should mean that other electrical devices are conscious too. Are you committing murder when you turn off your TV? I don't think so.

The idea of the soul not existing just leads to absurdity.

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Postby HenryS » Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:41 am UTC

So, what's the deal with televisions then? If it's just electrical impulses hitting the screen, that should mean that other electrical devices are audio visual entertainment products too. Are you watching Buffy when you turn on your electric can opener? I don't think so.

(In less snarky language: your logic doesn't follow)

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Postby Tchebu » Sat Mar 17, 2007 4:43 am UTC

So, what's the deal with consciousness then? If it's just electrical impulses in the brain, that should mean that other electrical devices are conscious too. Are you committing murder when you turn off your TV? I don't think so.


Why do you not think so?... care to prove that it isnt murder?

Sure you might say that its because you can turn it back on... but a person who's heart stops can also be reanimated... and he only REALLY dies when his brain cells start altering from lack of oxygen, in such a way that they are uncapable of producing those "electrical impulses in the brain" leading to the destruction of what we call consciousness and therefore the complete irreversible death of the person.

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Postby Goplat » Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:00 am UTC

HenryS wrote:So, what's the deal with televisions then? If it's just electrical impulses hitting the screen, that should mean that other electrical devices are audio visual entertainment products too. Are you watching Buffy when you turn on your electric can opener? I don't think so.

(In less snarky language: your logic doesn't follow)
Presumably, you are objecting to my statement that "If it's just electrical impulses in the brain, that should mean that other electrical devices are conscious too." So what's so special about the human brain that makes it conscious when other things (presumably) aren't? If it's just made of the same things other matter is made from, there is no reason.

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Postby HenryS » Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:35 am UTC

Goplat wrote:Presumably, you are objecting to my statement that "If it's just electrical impulses in the brain, that should mean that other electrical devices are conscious too." So what's so special about the human brain that makes it conscious when other things (presumably) aren't? If it's just made of the same things other matter is made from, there is no reason.


I was objecting to the idea that because X (the human brain) has property A (electrical impulses) and property B (consciousness), that should mean that anything else with property A should also have property B. That's clearly false, and I gave a silly example to demonstrate.

To answer your question, I would say that the thing that makes the human brain conscious, or rather, run a process that is conscious, is the complexity of it and the way that complexity is organised.

Afaik, there is little to no evidence to suggest that the human brain is doing anything other than just running a huge neural network. Assuming that this is true, it is really just a computation, which is really just a Turing machine. Then human consciousness could be run on some other substrate, made of say silicon rather than grey matter.

Neuroscientists are starting to make inroads into understanding how the brain actually does what it does, and so far, there doesn't seem to be a need for any spooky extra stuff.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:31 am UTC

There's more to consciousness than physics as we understand it. This is kind of difficult to explain properly, so just bear with me. Specifically, I'm not saying that the physics is false, or that there are processes beyond what is known in physics, but I will say that consciousness is beyond the realm of physics to be able to address.

Have you ever found yourself on autopilot? For smaller things, you may have to pay attention, but, for example, when reading, all you do is look at the word, and it "is read". It's true of most people, that they are in such a habit of reading words, that it's nearly impossible to glance at a word and not read it. Try it here for a while.

Then there are bigger things--one can zone out in thought while driving a car, for example, but wind up navigating a pretty complex route. Less common, but something you may have experienced, is when you're talking to someone, and need to communicate with them, but you find yourself bored, distracted, or whatever, mid conversation... but you can keep going, and "detach" from the conversation. Alas, we can do some pretty astonishingly complex things on autopilot.

Now I would have you imagine that there's some other person out there, somewhere, who is on autopilot. This particular person was born with a subtle defect, though. In particular, this person is always on autopilot, but he isn't wandering around thinking about other things due to his defect. Instead, he's not "there" at all, so to speak. Specifically, this is a human being whose defect is that somehow, he was born without a conscious mind. But he's not a vegetable--his "subconscious" somehow cobbles together a mechanism to run his entire life on autopilot, so this person never really needs a conscious mind. This person, we'll say, is a zombie.

Now, it's all nice imagining that such a person exists, and it's not entirely certain just how complex our behaviors can be on autopilot, but it's at least conceivable that this person's autopilot would be so good at imitating human behavior, that there would be no way to diagnose his conscious-lacking condition.

So, by the zombie's behavior, we can't really tell he's a zombie. Can you think of a way to tell? Maybe we ask this person if he is conscious, but why would the person say no? If it cobbled together a working, autopilot language learning mechanism, why would it not call itself conscious anyway? We could try recursion--try presenting it with this explanation of philosophical zombies, but why would this approach work?

Let's say, then, that we just take the brute force approach. We somehow cobble together the political power to amass a massive research project into how the human brain works, and with everyone working on the problem, somehow we solve it in two years. Now we can examine the possible zombie's brain in complete detail, but what could we be looking for? This zombie, when asked if it's conscious, would say that it was. So when we simulate the zombie on a computer, and trace all of the way through what it would say if we asked it if it was a zombie, it should give us the same result. So from a physical study, in this respect, it would look identical to a non-zombie. In fact, since physics studies the behavior of objects, and the actual and potential behaviors of the zombie on autopilot match ours, could we even find something on physical grounds that will reveal this zombie for what it is?

Surely some of you guys have heard this before, no? This is known as the "hard problem".

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Postby wisnij » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:51 am UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:Have you ever found yourself on autopilot? For smaller things, you may have to pay attention, but, for example, when reading, all you do is look at the word, and it "is read". It's true of most people, that they are in such a habit of reading words, that it's nearly impossible to glance at a word and not read it. Try it here for a while.

It has been seriously hypothesized (and then fictionally portrayed in a Stephen Baxter book, if memory serves) that our early hominid ancestors actually lived constantly on "autopilot", except when dealing with others in their tribe -- consciousness was originally just a modeling tool to help predict the behavior of others. Later the facility became generalized to apply to the rest of life (leading to deity worship as a side-effect), but it's still possible to slip into a non- or semi-conscious state when you're doing something that doesn't require a lot of high-level oversight.

Regardless of whether this is true or not, I still think you are erring in assuming the question of consciousness is a physics problem rather than simply one of neurobiology.

yy2bggggs wrote:Now I would have you imagine that there's some other person out there, somewhere, who is on autopilot. This particular person was born with a subtle defect, though. In particular, this person is always on autopilot, but he isn't wandering around thinking about other things due to his defect. Instead, he's not "there" at all, so to speak. Specifically, this is a human being whose defect is that somehow, he was born without a conscious mind. But he's not a vegetable--his "subconscious" somehow cobbles together a mechanism to run his entire life on autopilot, so this person never really needs a conscious mind. This person, we'll say, is a zombie.

Does he at least eat the flesh of the living from time to time?

yy2bggggs wrote:Let's say, then, that we just take the brute force approach. We somehow cobble together the political power to amass a massive research project into how the human brain works, and with everyone working on the problem, somehow we solve it in two years. Now we can examine the possible zombie's brain in complete detail, but what could we be looking for? This zombie, when asked if it's conscious, would say that it was. So when we simulate the zombie on a computer, and trace all of the way through what it would say if we asked it if it was a zombie, it should give us the same result. So from a physical study, in this respect, it would look identical to a non-zombie. In fact, since physics studies the behavior of objects, and the actual and potential behaviors of the zombie on autopilot match ours, could we even find something on physical grounds that will reveal this zombie for what it is?

Surely some of you guys have heard this before, no? This is known as the "hard problem".

This is totally a "dragon in the garage" sort of question. If there is no physical difference, then how is it meaningful to say there is a difference at all? It's not falsifiable. You're just begging the question by assuming from the start that such a zombie can exist and be (internally) substantially different from a normal human.
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Postby Aoeniac » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:56 am UTC

VannA wrote:
Aoeniac wrote:As far as I'm concerned, neither gods nor science gives free will. If you believe in an all powerful entity that created everything, it would have created the best possible world. Otherwise you believe in an entity that is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not omnibenevolent... which is basically saying your god is flawed or not perfect... and is an asshole.


I hate that argument. It's fundanmentally flawed.

You are assuming, because of the fact you don't like some of the things that happen, that this is not the best possible world to provide the best possible outcome.


Erm.. no that's definitely the opposite of that theory. That paragraph is meant to assert that this IS a perfect world if you believe in god, BECAUSE OTHERWISE the world would be flawed. Not the other way around, that this is a flawed world which would otherwise be perfect.


Babbler wrote:
Aoeniac wrote:Yeeaaah... they juuuuust went over this in my philosophy class. There's a whole school of thought about that, but the name escapes me.

Actually there's a lot of names you could give it.


Is it monism? With dualism opposing it.

As for the matter of the soul, I have to agree that I don't believe in a soul. Many things once attributed to the soul can not be attributed to a physical and chemical process in the brain. My prediction: some day, we will have a purely physical theory for all of the functioning of the mind.


It was Eliminative Materialism actually. But monism is not wrong, I think.
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Postby Belial » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:58 am UTC

You are assuming, because of the fact you don't like some of the things that happen, that this is not the best possible world to provide the best possible outcome.


By any useful definition of "best" and "good", that's....actually pretty true. But that's a debate for another thread.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:52 am UTC

wisnij wrote:Regardless of whether this is true or not, I still think you are erring in assuming the question of consciousness is a physics problem rather than simply one of neurobiology.

I don't see the error. Are you proposing that from a scientific perspective, neurobiology transcends physics? Neurobiology is biomechanics and chemistry. Biomechanics is physics. Chemistry is physics. This isn't about the appropriate field of science to study, it's about what could possibly be known. Physics is the foundation of natural sciences; if somehow you were able to model the complete physics of a human being, you would necessarily have a complete model of that person's behavior given a particular environment.
Does he at least eat the flesh of the living from time to time?

No, he is not that kind of zombie.
yy2bggggs wrote:Surely some of you guys have heard this before, no? This is known as the "hard problem".

This is totally a "dragon in the garage" sort of question. If there is no physical difference, then how is it meaningful to say there is a difference at all?

Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.

If your response is "yes", you're committing an equivocation here. When you say "physically different", you mean physically in a different sense than when we talk about the science of physics (closer to meaning something like "distinct"). If that's the case, then a zombie and a human are in fact physically different (just as 2+2 is "physically different" from 5), because the zombie does not have consciousness.

If your response is "no", the simple question would be: Are 2+2 and 5 different then?

If your response is "not applicable", then why does your question matter?

You're just begging the question by assuming from the start that such a zombie can exist and be (internally) substantially different from a normal human.

Where did I assume that? I think you're carrying over an equivocation here. This is all about what you can possibly describe using the science of physics due to a limitation of the mental tools that underly physics (that is, working with objective "things" that have "behaviors" limits our ability to describe phenomenon in a fundamental way that prevents us from addressing consciousness). This is not about whether or not, from nature, consciousness can arise.

As such, what can actually exist in nature is irrelevant, because nature isn't the problem. The problem is what can possibly be explained. I even said as such--it's the conceivability of zombies that is the issue--the actual ability for them to exist has no bearing. Because I said as such, I specifically did quite the opposite of what you suggested--I didn't assume it was physically possible (prove me wrong--show me where I had to make that particular assumption). Instead, I very explicitly worked with the conceivability that a zombie could exist.

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Postby HenryS » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:50 am UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.

If they are non-physical entities, why are you asking if there is a physical difference between them?

This seems to me to be obfuscating the point. The existential status of mathematical objects is a thorny problem, but I don't see how it's comparable to the existential status of qualia, or consciousness, or whatever we are talking about here.

I think I read you as not positing any spooky supernatural dualism going on, but you're talking about some other kind of existence of something (neither material nor supernatural)?

yy2bggggs wrote:
You're just begging the question by assuming from the start that such a zombie can exist and be (internally) substantially different from a normal human.

Where did I assume that?
...
The problem is what can possibly be explained. I even said as such--it's the conceivability of zombies that is the issue--the actual ability for them to exist has no bearing.

I guess I failed to derive the conclusion of your previous post. You're saying that physical information alone cannot distinguish this zombie from a non-zombie? And that this extra level of difference needs some explaining?

I would say: Well yes physical information cannot distinguish these cases, and that's because there is no difference. So?

I guess I am finding it hard to conceive of this zombie who has no conscious mind. I can sortof conceive of someone else with a conscious mind, but only by some sort of empathy. I can conceive of being my brain but in their body, in order to experience consciousness inside of them, but I can't conceive of actually being them ("in their brain"). I would, for instance, not have a memory of being me, if I was actually them at that point.

This is perhaps a little off track, but I guess the point is that I'd like some more detail on this conceiving of other people as having or not having consciousness. It doesn't seem at all obvious to me how to do that, or if it makes sense. Are we going to start talking about "things that it is like something to be"?


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