death of the mind.

Allan C Cybulskie allan.c.cybulskie at
Fri Jul 16 04:44:09 EST 2004

"Wolf Kirchmeir" <wwolfkir at> wrote in message
news:LRHJc.26579$TB3.1062365 at
> Allan C Cybulskie wrote:
> ...snip...
> >
> > 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
> > the conscious recognition of the action both are the result of a brain
> > (or an event) that is the outcome of the deliberation itself.  In short,
> > deliberation -- when it reaches its conclusion -- kicks off a brain
> > that both instigates the action, and the conscious recognition of it.
> > 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
> > do it.
> This explanation is concocted merely to save an a priori assumption,
> namely that deliberations precede actions. Trying to save an a priori
> assumption is not wrong in and of itself, if that assumption is itself
> the result of some viable theory.

It is NOT an a priori assumption, but is instead an empirical observation.
It appears to us that when we deliberate over a decision, and come to a
conclusion as to what action to take, that the action taken is the one
consistent with the decision and is determined by the decision we made.
This holds particularly true for "delayed decisions", where I decide what to
do in advance and then do it.  It seems obvious to us that when I think "I'm
going to lift my arm and grab the CD" that it is that decision that causes
the action of my lifting my arm and grabbing the CD.

So it isn't an a priori assumption, but is an assumption based on actual
experence.  It could be wrong.

> This sort of thing has been done many
> times in scientific theory building, and continues to be done. But there
> has to be some way of verifying that the posited phenomenon that saves
> the assmption actually occurs. I see some difficulties here, chief of
> which is that we don't know (yet?) how to recognise that deliberating is
> going on, apart from the subject's own reports - and it's the timing of
> those reports that have led to the discovery that activation precedes
> conscious decision to act.

I can lookup the tests that Staddon references again to see how precisely
they showed the seeming precedence of the activation of the neurons of the
action and the conscious recognition of the decision, but surely you noted
that your last comment is, in fact, what my explanation is attempting to
explain while maintaining the idea that deliberation and making a decision
ultimately does determine the action taken.

As for your concerns about the reports of the subject being our only way to
determine that deliberation is occurring, that's only a problem for those
who are more interested in following a certain scientific method instead of
discovering what the truth is.  It would be nice if all propositions had a
nice set of scientific-type experiments, but ultimately the value of
scientific experiments is to explan or create things that people can
themselves directly experience and utilize.  To denigrate the things that
people directly experience and utilize thus is placing the cart before the

> It's possible to determine that a brain/person/animal is "thinking of X"
> by picking up electrical activity in the brain, using that signal to
> trigger an external device, and training the brain/person/animal to
> trigger that device by "thinking of X."

I fail to see why, in humans, that would be a better test than asking them
what they are thinking about -- at least for conscious deliberation, which
is the issue in this example.

> That experiment has been done,
> and works - but there is no obvious way to determine that signals of a
> particular pattern constitute "thinking" - whatever "thinking" may be.
> The experiments I'm alluding to don't even demonstrate that thinking
> must be conscious.

True.  It's clear that for actions, some of them are "automatic", and also
that some of them are consequences to other conscious thoughts.  That being
said, it is the conscious decisions that we are concerned about here,
particularly since those decisions are so crucial to the notion of

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