why study neurology?

mat mats_trash at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 18 10:02:36 EST 2002

Nick Medford <nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk> wrote in message news:<Ot4MVHAYhiR8EwC1 at hermit0.demon.co.uk>...
> In article <3c4583e3.10710608 at news.freeserve.net>, James Teo
> <james at teoth.fsnet.co.uk> writes
> >Am I correct in saying that in your mind, dualism is anything which
> >isn't about atoms? 
> I was going to ask an almost identical question, as I feel that you (Matt
> that is) have consistently used the word "dualism" in a way which is not
> appropriate to its meaning, at least as I understand it. 
> I do not think of myself as a dualist, and I do not see that a belief in the
> reality of qualia automatically makes one a dualist (see lots of other
> posts elsewhere in thread, not going to rehash the arguments again). If
> this *is* the case though, then I'm happy to be called a dualist!

OK, if I've reasoned it down to two possibilities for what you (Nick
and James) are saying:

A) The mind is totally explained by the brain, but some mind-phenomena
will not be mapped to one synapse or two - these phenomena will be
explained by higher level mathematical description of the activity
patterns across what might be vast areas of cortex - emergent
properties if you want (if this is the case then I totally agree with
you, in essence there is still nothing but the synapses or atoms or
whatever, but just that we have to look at a collection of neruones to
describe such higher level functions such as 'thinking')

B) The brain is the substrate for the mind and the synaptic activity
gives rise to an emergent mind which constitues of something else but
the brain alone.  This is dualistic and I do not agree.

Option A is exactly the stance that I take.  As an example: if shapes
were represented in the brain by a pattern of synpatic activity
actually in that shape.  If a trianlge were represented by 99 neurones
all firing, and these neurones were distributed as a triangle with 33
neurones making up each side.  Then looking at one or two synapses
will not tell you what the brain is representing, looking at a higher
level will.  However that description is only necessary in the study
of the brain.  To have its effect all the representation of the
triangle has to do is be causal in creating the right pattern of
activity in the motor cortex so that we make the sounds that everyone
hears as the word 'triangle'.  These sounds then cause a similar
representation to the original one in the speaker's and others'
brains, so that we all collectively agree on what 'triangle' means. 
At no point in the actual physiology is a higher representation
actually required becuase it is already there. The emergent
description is only necessary in understanding because if that pattern
is causal like ive described then the higher level description is
implicit in its function.

I'm not describing this very well but I hope you can see what Im
trying to say.  I suppose its true of all things.  If a bullet is
viewed at the atomic level you can't understand what it does, but if
you characterize it at a higher level you can.  However that
charachterization is only necessary to an observer because if that
collection of atomes acts like a bullet then it is a bullet.  The
emergent property is inherent to it.

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