why study neurology?

mat mats_trash at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 16 18:52:33 EST 2002

james at teoth.fsnet.co.uk (James Teo) wrote in message news:<3c457dcb.9150159 at news.freeserve.net>...
> On 16 Jan 2002 02:04:17 -0800, mats_trash at hotmail.com (mat) wrote:
> >> Rhetorical questions for Mat:
> >> 1) Do you think the mind (as you understand that word, since we all
> >> seem to be using it differently) is an emergent property of neuronal
> >> firings, chemical changes and whatever else goes on in the material
> >> brain?
> >
> >Emergent is an ambiguous word and has been used by many as simply a
> >way of hiding a theory based on dualism.  I would say of course that
> >some brain functions cannot be understood just by examining a single
> >synapse in the same way that a cell can't be understood by looking at
> >a single enzyme.  But I only think mind emerges to the same extent
> >that we see a cell as composed of all its constituent proteins etc.
> >and subsequently having seemingly deliberate or purposeful action.  I
> >don;t believe a cell gains any soul as an emergent property, similarly
> >in the brain.
> Emergent property does not equal to "having deliberate or purposeful
> action" or "soul". Emergent property is where the combined whole is
> more than the sum of its parts. Synergy or whatever you want to call
> it. You have a very wrong idea about what emergent properties are.
> The cell analogy is very apt, except that they do have emergent
> properties, just that they have nothing to do with having a soul: can
> one fully understand all the properties of a cell (cooperative and
> competitive behaviour with neighbouring cells, etc)

I thought it wasn't supposed to be purposeful?  Anyway as I said on
the other thread, the problem with emergent properties is that they
are entirely objective.  The cell doesn't know of its seemingly
willful acts of cooperation, becuase to know that it would have to be
at a more emergent level than those emergent properties and thats a
contradiction (bar some confused tangled hierarchy idea)

> by studying the
> individual molecules? No, one has to study the entirety of the cell as
> a whole entity as well to see how all the systems come together.
> That is the crucial difference between reductivism, ie. studying the
> smallest component will explain everything else upwards (what you are
> preaching) and what I think cognitive science needs to crack the hard
> problems, which is a more holistic overview approach.
> >> 2) If so, then it can have new properties that its constituent parts
> >> do not, right? Then is it fair to say that treating at the level of
> >> the emergent property directly may be more effective in producing
> >> desired changes than treating at the level of the constituents in hope
> >> that the emergent property changes?
> >> 
> >
> >Thats just mis-guided.  If a person undergoes 'therapy' i.e.
> >discussing problems etc., then how exactly is the language and meaning
> >within it received and interpreted by the brain? Through something
> >other than its synpatic connections?  You can never jump outside the
> >system.  How would you treat the emergent property by any other route
> >than its synapses? When talking to someone you are changing their
> >synaptic connections and creating new emergent network patterns etc. 
> >Pharmacological agents, though undoubtably a much more crude tool than
> >language at the present time, have the same essential effects.  I say
> >this of course because I believe there is nothing other than the brain
> >which constitutes our mind.
> Look, I don't think anyone in this discussion disputes that the mind
> is constituted from the brain. The difference in opinion is to what
> extent the properties of the mind is fully explainable by studying the
> components of the brain at a molecular, neurochemical and
> neurophysiological level. 
> You are saying it is, I am saying it isn't. We both agree that we have
> to study the brain, I am just saying we have to study the mind as
> well. As even though the mind is composed of the brain, there are
> properties which will not come to light by just studying the
> components. I hope you can see the difference in meaning between:
> properties (characteristics) and components (constituent parts). I
> suggest study both, you suggest there is no need for the former as the
> latter will explain the former.

What else but the components do you propose to investigate?

> Eg: you can't fully comprehend river flow by only studying the quantum
> physics of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, even if that is what it is made
> up of. Study about hydrogen and oxygen atoms help you know about
> water, but at the end you still have to study it at the macro- level
> which studies the properties of the river, the geography, the unique
> properties of water, etc.

Only because of practicality.  Quantum physics could conceiveably
describe a river, if only in staggeringly vast detail.  Your theory
offers no explanation of these emergent properties in terms of simpler

> Re: My example about talking to someone to treat their depression. 
> Of course, you are changing their internal material brain state, etc,
> but my point is that understanding and treating depression at the
> psychological 'mind' level is a valid (and may be an even more
> effective) approach as well.

I never said it was invalid, just that your statement 'treating at the
level of the emergent property directly' implied we could *bypass* the

Could you just clarify for me once and for all ;) : where is this
emergent property? - is it simply an objective judgement we could make
on seeing the pattern of neuronal firing in the brain? just as when
you see these pixels on the screen your objective interpretation is
that they constitute words.  Or does this emergent property exist
*apart* from the brain?

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