getting past emergentism

The incredible Sulk Pouting at Sulk.nospam
Mon Apr 9 20:53:04 EST 2001

Richard Norman wrote:
> "Xander Marion" <xandermarion at> wrote on Sat, 07 Apr 2001:
> > I'm banging my head against the wall trying to figure out
> > how to get past the theory that conciousness is an emergent
> > property of the brain. Anyone have any thoughts on how this
> > might be better understood while still focusing on a
> > neuroscience perspective?

Flip the problem. First undertsand how 'the brain' is an emergent
property of consciousness...

> What is the problem with emergent properties?   All complex
> systems made of a hierarchy of levels of organization show
> emergent properties.  No individual component of a negative
> feedback circuit "knows" how to regulate, yet a negative
> feedback system can result in regulation.
> The brain is made of cells which are made of molecules which
> are made of ....  But certainly consciousness is not a property
> of cells or molecules.

'The brain' is made up of letters.'the brain' is an idea about something
someone sawwhen a head gpot split open, with an idea that inside heads
is where words are heard, where images are formed, both from the eyes,
and from things the eyes have seen.. the brain only exists as another
abstraction in consciousness.

Does anything exist if we are not ever aware of it? Not directly or
indirectly? Its a meaningless question.

You have a view, based on the primacy of a model of physical reality,
onto which you are attempting to map all phenomena, incl;uding
consciousness. Why not flip it, and make all physical reality a
derivative side effect of consciousness regarding itself in a peculiar

It is ultimately no more preposterous!

> A computer is (or can be) made of logic circuits.  But the
> notion of "a computer running Microsoft Outlook Express
> to display this email message" is not a property of those
> logic circuits.  It depends on a particular configuration of
> circuits plus the particular configuration of data.

This is a news posting, and not an e-mail message, and everyone knows
that outlook will perform in random ways ewven with teh same data. 

Microsnot! Designed to sell, but not to work!

I don't see that Microsnot is aware of what it displays tho, which is
the key issue.

> So why couldn't the notion of consciousness be an
> emergent property of the neurophysiological properties
> of neurons (plus glia) plus the particular configuration of
> synapses and chemicals and cell signaling machinery
> plus the particular configuration of cell metabolic process?

Because there would be no point to it.

Let me ask you a question. "Have you chosen a deterministic world
without free choice?'

It seems to me you have! :-)

I don't think you can use consciousness to probe behind consciousness.
Anymore than you can prove the existence of God. Consciousness is a
priori. It is part of what makes the whole way we look at the world
possible. To then use the world so produced to derive consciousness is
to enter into a deeply recursive statement about reality.  

But you are so involved in complexity, you probbaly cant see how
circular this all is. You have, at some satge, used your consciousness
to come up with a picture of 'how things really are'. Its called the
'rational materialistic' worldview. It says that everything is a result
of something else, and if we take things apart enough, we will get to
the bottom of everything, which will be a simple set of Laws and Initial
Conditions and Energy, from which the whole phenomenal universe,
including ourselves, flows. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost all
over again.

So even the fact that you think that consciousness is an emergent
property of the brain etc. is just another inevitable conclusion of
those Laws and Energies and Initial Conditions, and the fact that I say
that is all bollocks is no different....we are doomed to believe -
erroneously or correctly, because there is no Freee Will - just whatever
it is that our biology has discovered will give us the best chance of
self perpetuation....


You have to laugh. Logical recursion always implies paradox. 

You cannot use Rational Materialism to analyse consciousness, since it
is just a tool consciousness uses to analkyses everything else *but*

> The existence of emergent properties does not mean that
> neuroscience does not explain the machinery of the
> mind.  It is just that knowing how the machinery works
> is not enough for a full explanation of what the machinery
> does.

Oh what it does is teh easy bit. It generates a worldview in which
theings like 'mind' and 'brain' reprsents aspects of time variant but
correlated experience. It can even refer to the process of worldview
generation as 'consciousness' so it is sort of aware what it is doing.
But until it can arrive at altered states of coinsciousness, that
transcend ordinary comnsciousness, it cannot assess ordinary
consciousness at all. 

Great Sayings of the past:

"He who sh*ts in the road will meet flies on his return" (Mr Natural)

"De Heffalumpis semper disputandum est" (Winne Ille Pu)

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