death of the mind.

Allan C Cybulskie allan.c.cybulskie at
Tue Jul 27 17:19:31 EST 2004

"Wolf Kirchmeir" <wwolfkir at> wrote in message
news:vbQKc.11301$Gf7.283237 at
> Allan C Cybulskie wrote:
> > "Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemore2 at> wrote in message
> > news:SDhKc.18165$Mh.10271 at
> ...snip...
>  > When we privately do things - talking, seeing, etc.
> >
> > we
> >
> >>are doing some of the same things that we do when we engage in the more
> >>public aspects of these sorts of responses.
> >
> >
> > So the question is: why should I subordinate private to public behaviour
> > instead of saying that the private behaviour is the primary notion, and
> > the public is just a less inhibited form of that?
> Because a) the meaning of "private behaviour" is ambiguous. It can refer
> either to awareness (including "conscious deliberation" or "thinking"
> (1)), which is IMO the usual sense.

But "private behaviour" is introduced by the behaviourists here because it's
supposed to be clearer and LESS ambiguous than the "folk psychological"
terms, which clearly differentiate between "awareness" and brain events.  So
then why should we even use the term "private behaviour" if we don't know
what it means.

> NB that my only access to your
> private behaviour is what you tell me about it, but there's no reason to
> believe that your reports are accurate or complete. Sincerity is not the
> same as truthfulness.

It really doesn't matter what your access to MY private behaviour is, since
I have direct access to MY private behaviour, and that is what I should be
mostly concerned about when I want to examine what a mind is.  And it is
reasonable to assume that I can get perfect access to the behaviour that I
am aware of (so the awareness portion of the equation).  And while I may not
be able to get perfect access to the things below my awareness, it seems
that at least currently my deductive access is as good as anyone else's.

> Or, the term refers to brain events that can be
> observed via various techniques. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to
> determine which brain events correspond to "thinking." (2) It should
> also be clear that animals who apparently don't "consciously deliberate"
> (ie, they don't talk about it) nevertheless "decide" to act.

Well, this is an interesting question.  All you are really saying is that
you see no public demonstration that they deliberate, and yet they act.  You
cannot say that they "decide" to act because in the usage of decide that
relates to intelligence and consciousness deliberating is required to
"decide" to act.  We know that you can act without conscious deciding, and
so simply because something acts does not mean that it "decided" to act.

Now, if it shows signs of "weighing" the choices or of "deciding" between
them, it seems odd to then insist that they do not have a conscious
deliberation involved.  And talking about something is not necessarily a
sign of deliberation, as I decide things all the time without talking about

> In them,
> all we have are the public behaviours;

But talking is, itself, a public behaviour, isn't it?  So what you said
above is that we claim that animals are not doing a private behaviour
because you don't observe a particular public behaviour in them.  But you
can only claim that if that public behaviour necessarily reflects a private
behaviour, and that is certainly not the case.

> there is no access to private
> behaviour in the susal sense at all. IOW, you may posit that private
> behaviour is in some sense primary, but there is no way to verify that
> supposition. (3)

Well, in order to attempt to verify it you would have to look at the from
the perspective of someone who has access to both the public and the private
behaviours, and work with that.  Meaning that you can't figure out which is
primary looking only at the public behaviours from the third person point of
view.  This is why I think that the overly scientific view that
behaviourists tend to fall into fails, because it ignores a critical part of
the equation and what we even considered a mind in the first place.

> (1) "Thinking" is ambigous, too, since it refers to either the data
> processing that occurs between, say, sensory input and muscular action,
> or to the "conscious thinking" that many humans seem to believe is the
> only kind of thinking that happens, and which should IMO be understood
> as awareness of thinking. It should also be fairly obvious that
> "conscious thinking" is a very small part of the total process.

Conscious thinking is a very large and critical part of the process called
"intelligence" and, in fact, "awareness".  Which is what the AI person, the
philosopher of mind, and the psychologist are, in fact, extremely interested

(Psychologists, of course, are also interested in the other parts as well,
but mostly in how they interfere with awareness.)

> (2) It may very well be that the time-difference between activation of
> neuro-muscular sustems and conscious "decision" is an effect of the time
> it takes for the awareness module to respond to the inputs from the
> neuro-muscular cicuits and  respond to them.

This is kind of what I suggested it was -- for the conclusion.  It's the
deliberation that leads up to that conclusion that I still think plays a
role in the ultimate "activiations".

> (3) Even if it were true that private behaviour is primary, its
> explanatory power would be low. "Private thinking" could change the
> behaviours of a human, if its subject were, say, ethical choice. But
> from an observer's point of view, all that would be accessible is the
> external behaviours of talking, writing, etc, and differences in actions
> before and after the talking, writing, etc. The observer could only say
> that given certain kinds of talk, a person's behaviour is likely to
> change in certain ways. Just such an observation has been made many
> times, but it does not prove that the private behaviour is primary,
> because the observations also include some triggering event in the
> person's environment - reading an article, witnessing an action by
> another person, talk by another person, etc. A person  may report on
> some change of internal state (for example, a change in belief or
> feeling) and report further that this change of state played a role in
> his or her change in behaviour. But note that this report is a public
> behaviour, and we can't tell whether the private behaviour it purports
> to record is primary or not. So, no matter what role the private
> behaviours play (and I'm certain they play a role), we can only observe
> and make statements about the public behaviours and the triggering events.

Yes, scientifically, you are correct, and I have always agreed with that.
This is why I am suspicious of any overly scientific view of mind, since
science cannot deal with the subjective very well and mind seems importantly
predicated on subjective experiences.  An external observer cannot know what
private behaviours are going on inside, but the first person observer can.
However, we can find some actions where we would say that unless a certain
private behaviour occurred, the action would not be taken.  And some of the
conflicts in behaviours seem to imply a primacy of private behaviours, since
the same stimulus will result in a different public behaviour in different
people, and even in the same person at different times.  You can claim that
this is just personal history, but this is not a terribly interesting
observation, since all it boils down to in the traditional philosophy of
mind is the idea that all our behaviour is driven by causes outside of the
subjective agent.  Which is an interesting theory, but certainly need not
drive one to behaviourism instead of maintaining a belief/desire model
(since all it would mean is that beliefs and desires are ultimately caused
by causes outside of the agent, but that beliefs and desires still properly
describe the structures so created).

> OTOH, because people make reports of private behaviour, and because one
> can observe that such reports typically follow certain kinds of events
> (including talking to the person in question about such private
> behaviour, etc et etc), people have developed a number of techniques of
> changing people's behaviour by talking to them, etc etc etc. These
> techniques are thoroughly behaviorist, regardless of what the
> practitioner believes he is doing.

Not at all.  If one talks to someone in the hopes of eliciting a private
behaviour (deliberation) on the topic that produces a "belief" or a "desire"
that then leads to the action, that is not, at least, philosophically
behaviourism. It might be methodological behaviourism -- in short, that all
we can do to others is to interact with them through "behaviour" -- but even
then if you don't put the entire notion in the words themselves, but insist
that the deliberation on those words is what will result in the behaviour,
then you aren't even really methodologically behaviourist, unless you insist
that if you do anything with behaviour it's behaviourist ...

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