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machine brains

Jerry Hull ZZZghull at stny.lrun.com
Sun Mar 7 00:39:13 EST 1999

On Sat, 06 Mar 1999 10:00:06 GMT, malcolm at pigsty.demon.co.uk (Malcolm McMahon)

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

>>>>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
>>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

The notion of being "made of" has a number of different interpretations, some
of which clearly do NOT apply to "mental" things the way they apply to
material things.  In particular, there is no mental analog for the sense in
which water is "made of" of oxygen & hydrogen.  Mentally, there are only
analytic -- as contrasted with synthetic -- forms of composition, as it were.

>> 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

What's wrong is wrong always, even tho people at some particular time may be
confused or mistaken.

>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.


>>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.

Or Lorenz's "parliament of instincts".  Sometimes beliefs are active,
sometimes they are passive states; both are valid senses of the term 'belief'.
It's just arbitrary to assume that 'mind' must refer to a process, & say this
excludes consciousness because it isn't a process.

Consciousness pretty much DEFINES what 'mental' is customarily taken to mean.
That is why it is so perverse to suggest that the two should be separate.

>>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.

But even Aristotle concerned himself with "mental" things.  Therefore, any
relation to the brain (or heart) is ACCIDENTAL with respect to the nature or
mental things, at least the concept of "mental" that we share with Aristotle
(overlooking the niceties of translation).

>>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
>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.

Since we obviously cannot do this with minds, maybe they aren't like software
after all?  This analogy begs all the interesting questions.

>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 you find out how this is done, please let the rest of us know.

>>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

All you have to do is distinguish between what mentality = consciousness is IN
ITSELF from what CAUSES it.  The latter causes involve physical processes;
mind, mentality, consciousness AS SUCH do not.

"However far you may travel in this world, you will still occupy 
the same volume of space".  Traditional Ur-Bororo saying.

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