machine brains

Malcolm McMahon malcolm at pigsty.demon.co.uk
Sat Mar 6 05:00:06 EST 1999


On Sat, 06 Mar 1999 02:03:47 GMT, ZZZghull at stny.lrun.com (Jerry Hull)
wrote:

>On Fri, 05 Mar 1999 20:02:57 GMT, malcolm at pigsty.demon.co.uk (Malcolm McMahon)
>wrote:
>
>>On Fri, 05 Mar 1999 14:14:42 GMT, ZZZghull at stny.lrun.com (Jerry Hull)
>>wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>Which makes consciousness part of what?
>>>>
>>>>God? Why does it have to be a part of anything, for that matter, why
>>>>can't it be just another part of the universe which "just is", like a
>>>>photon or an electron. Not everything is made of something.
>>>
>>>Everything is made of something;
>>
>>No, only composite things are made of something. Elementary particles
>>are not. What's an electron made of?
>>
>> if they were made of nothing they wouldn't be
>>>anything.
>
>An electron is made of itself.  What you want to say, I think, is that not
>everything is made of SOMETHING ELSE.  But "made of" is a misleading notion in
>this context. 

I think it's a pretty clear notion. Composite things are made of more
elementary things combined in various ways. You can say, if you like,
that electrons are made of themselves (though I don't see where the
making comes in). If so why can consciousness not also be made of
itself?


> It would be most proper to say that both consciousness and mind
>are made of BRAINS, &c.  That is, surely Descartes was wrong to suppose that
>mentality involved a different kind of SUBSTANCE that things could be composed
>of, separate from physical things.
>

With the knowledge of his own time he could just have easilly been
right.

The only reason we have, really, to suppose thought an activity of the
brain is study of the effects of brain damage and electrical stimulation
of the brain.

>>>	  The puzzle is the relation between conciousness and mind, on your
>>>view.  Why suppose, as you seem to, that consciousness is not mental?
>>
>>Because it's not really _like_ any kind of mental processing. Thinking
>>is something we _do_, consciousness is something we _are_.
>
>This supposes that everything mental is "processing".  But why believe this?
>It is obviously arbitrary.  Mental things include moods, desires,
>dispositions, states of belief, fundamental convictions, twinges, sensations,
>intentions, proclivities, attitudes, &c. &c.  Some of these things obviously
>involve processes, but not all of them.  There are also states, capabilities,
>properties, &c.

Most of them seem more me to be processes which are sometimes suspended.
A human belief isn't a passive input or parameter. It's a kind of
internal advocate for it's own possition which will leap forward and
defend itself if challenged.

The human ego is like a committee of monomaniacs.


>
>But I would agree that consciousness does not FEEL like a process, i.e.,
>unlike digestion, it is not something that we sense going on.  But vision need
>not feel like a process either, but that does not keep it from being USEFUL to
>regard vision as a process.  How things feel, and how things are best
>analyzed, are two separate issues.
>
>>>  Is
>>>there no "mental"? 
>>
>>Yes, but it's probably just the information content of the brain. It's
>>not a separate thing but as aspect, a way of looking at, the brain.
>
>You obviously CAN regard mental things as a way of looking at the brain, but
>you NEED NOT look at them that way.  Aristotle, e.g., thought the brain was
>for cooling the blood.  He associated thought with the heart.  Are then mental
>things just a way of looking at the heart?
>

No, he was clearly wrong, lacking the empiracle evidence we have.

>You need to distinguish between what mental things are IN THEMSELVES, and what
>provides the best CAUSAL explanation of their existence.  In themselves,
>mental things have nothing ESSENTIALLY to do with either brains or hearts,
>which is why both theories of their causal underpinings are LOGICALLY
>conceivable.
>

This relates to the idea that the mind is "pure software". A kind of
program which could be uploaded from one brain and instanciated in a
computer, or in some other brain.

But a particular mind dictates (or is instanciated) as more than the
electrical state of the brain. It's written into the actual
microsturture. To make a new instance of a mind you'd have to actually
physically duplicate, or fully model the physical brain (or at least
crucial parts of it).

When we are talking about a particular mind wa are talking about an
abstraction but it's an abstraction of that physical brain.

>
>But "mind" is not an EXPLANATION of consciousness -- it's just a NAME for the
>various phenomena associated with consciousness.  If you are rejecting "mind"
>as an EXPLANATION of consciousness, then I entirely agree with you.  It is not
>that kind of thing.

Exactly. And therefore the fact that mind threatens to be explaned in
terms of the brain doesn't mean that such an explanation will encompass
consciousness.




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