death of the mind.

Allan C Cybulskie allan.c.cybulskie at
Sun Jul 18 16:59:18 EST 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Wolf Kirchmeir" <wwolfkir at>
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 11:45 AM
Subject: Re: death of the mind.

> Allan C Cybulskie wrote:
> > "Wolf Kirchmeir" <wwolfkir at> wrote in message
> > news:LRHJc.26579$TB3.1062365 at
> >>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
> > 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
> > going to lift my arm and grab the CD" that it is that decision that
> > 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.
> It is an assumption,

Note that I DID say it was an assumption, although I may have been too quick
to agree on that point.

> since subjective experience is notoriously
> unreliable. What you feel is happening may not be bear any resemblance
> to what is actually happening.

But from this, it's clear that I am not making an assumption, but am instead
making an inference from experience.  The inference could be incorrect, as I
said above, but it is not simply an assumption, but is in fact an inference
from what we experience.

> Hence my cliam that "deliberation precedes action" is an a priori
> assumption. That it concurs with subjective experience doesn't alter its
> logical status,

But if I derive it from experience, then it isn't a priori.  A priori MEANS
before experience.  So, at a minimum, it's an A POSTERIORI assumption, if it
is an assumption at all.  So perhaps your notion that it could be wrong -- 
and so isn't a proven fact -- is valid, but your terminology certainly is
not, and implies that all I've done is make an argument without taking
experience into account, which is not what I've done.

> since it's that subjective experience that needs to be
> explained. A "delayed decision" is a red herring, since the actual
> moment of reaching for the CD is the decision

Hmmm.  But isn't this an a priori argument?  After all, you are simply
stating that the time of the decision is the actual moment, and not a
delayed decision at all.  But this seems to proceed purely from a
definitional argument as opposed to any analysis of experience, because I
cannot see any experience that would even point to that sort of argument.
In fact, the ability to self-condition behaviour implies that a decision is
not required at the time of action.

However, you might want to look up some Stoic philosophy if you are really
interested in that sort of idea because they -- Seneca in particular -- held
an idea that all action was the result of, at least, an intellectual assent
or judgement.

 - after all, you need not
> follow through on a delayed decision, which means that you decide to
> follow through - and that's the real decision, not the earlier one.

That's an interesting view, yet there seems to be no reason why I couldn't
make a decision later not to that didn't mean that I had to decide to follow
through.  More importantly, if we are focusing on CONSCIOUS decisions -- 
which I was -- then there is no conscious decision to follow through in many

> > As for your concerns about the reports of the subject being our only way
> > determine that deliberation is occurring, that's only a problem for
> > who are more interested in following a certain scientific method instead
> > discovering what the truth is.  It would be nice if all propositions had
> > 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
> > people directly experience and utilize thus is placing the cart before
> > horse.
> I have no problem with subjective reports - as reports of subjective
> experience. As such, they have their uses; and in therapy, for example,
> they may be crucial. But they aren't any good in telling us what's going
> on in the brain. The experiments you attempt to explain can't be
> explained by an appeal to subjective experience.

Actually, subjective experience plays a HUGE role in, at least, what is
critical about the experiences and experiments from my perspective, which is
the relation between the brain events that activate an action and the
conscious, subjective experiences of deliberation and decision-making.  So
subjective experience cannot be ignored when analyzing it from that

> They were designed to
> find out how the subjective experience of decision making is evinced in
> brain activity. The results were a surprise. If there is anything one
> can extrapolate from them, it's that "conscious deliberation" itself is
> a result of non-conscious processes. IOW, consciousness occurs after the
> fact. Consciousness is a kind of sumnmarising attention-giving. Maybe.

This result does not necessarily follow.  After all, it still seems that the
action taken follows the deliberation of the conscious mind, and we have no
reason yet to assume that that is just a summary and not actively involved.
As my explanation hints.

> >>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
> > what they are thinking about -- at least for conscious deliberation,
> > is the issue in this example.
> Because there have been more than enough experiments that show we are
> "thinking about" a lot of things we are not conscious of. See for
> example the experiments testing stroke victims' ability to respond to
> items they cannot see consciously on account of damage to their visual
> cortex.

All of which would be irrelevant to an attempt to determine how CONSCIOUS
thought works with the brain, right?  And if you are going to ask them to
trigger the device by "thinking of X" isn't that a hint that they are to

> > True.  It's clear that for actions, some of them are "automatic", and
> > that some of them are consequences to other conscious thoughts.  That
> > said, it is the conscious decisions that we are concerned about here,
> > particularly since those decisions are so crucial to the notion of
> > intelligence.
> It's not at all clear that some actions are the result of conscious
> thoughts.

I didn't say "result".  I said "consequences", whereupon I meant that we
either a) self-condition ourselves to then take an automatic action or that
b) we take actions based on conscious ideas or values that we have
developed.  For example, if I consciously feel that someone is not genuine,
when they compliment me I may automatically feel distrustful of the
compliment, which is an "action" taken on the basis of prior conclusions,
but not decisions, per se.

> BTW, consciousness is not a necessary element or aspect of intelligence.
>    Nor for that matter is decision-making necessarily a part of
> intelligence. It all depends on what you mean by "intelligence", and
> what evidence you are willing to accept as signs of "intelligence" in a
> person/animal/brain/system/...

Think about what you've said here.  You've basically said that we don't
require consciousness as an element of intelligence because we could always
change the definition of intelligence to match what we find.  I merely claim
that if we took consciousness out of intelligence -- or if it had no impact
on action -- then it would completely overrturn what is normally considered
to be intelligence and force us to look at things in a completely different
light.  Therefore, consciousness is key to the CURRENT ideas of

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