death of the mind.

Allan C Cybulskie allan.c.cybulskie at
Thu Jul 15 18:51:25 EST 2004

For those people who might be interested in reading on behaviourism, I don't
recommend reading what David and Glenn suggest, because Quine and Skinner
are probably way too confusing for beginners, and David's "Fragments"
doesn't really say much at all  I did read a good book recently by John
Staddon called "The New Behaviorism: Mind, Mechanism and Society" that does
a pretty good job describing Skinner and other behaviourists, and also
points out some of the flaws and issues and motivations of Skinner.

The only objection I found in it is probably at the heart of the debate here
between the behaviourists and the non-behaviourists.  Staddon is puzzled
that people find worrysome discoveries that say that our conscious
recognition of a decision actually FOLLOWS the activation of the neurons
that will carry out the action.  To him, this doesn't seem confusing or
worrysome at all.  So why do we find the discovery worrysome?  Well, it's
because that by all common sense, our mental deliberations can and in fact
do result in actions being taken.  If it is the case that the action starts
before the decision is "made", then our conscious decisions don't result in
actions.  And that, ultimately, eliminates us as, in any way, intelligent
beings, since intelligent deliberation plays no role in our actions.

However, there is a way around this problem, which is to say that the
deliberation does, in fact, determine the action, but that the action and
the conscious recognition of the action both are the result of a brain event
(or an event) that is the outcome of the deliberation itself.  In short, the
deliberation -- when it reaches its conclusion -- kicks off a brain event
that both instigates the action, and the conscious recognition of it.  And
it is obvious that these don't have to occur together, since we can make
"delayed decisions", where we decide what to do at a future time, and then
do it.

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