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Does consciousness affect matter?

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I feel like your argument conflates epistemic and information issues with ontological issues. Real objects are not information. Information only has existence if there is someone who potentially has power of judgment to exercise on it (John Searle). Particular events are determined by the behavior of discrete objects, which are in principle rational. That doesn't mean we necessarily have access to the ability to physically observe, investigate or predict that process. One issue is ontological, the other an issue of how one would convey or obtain information of the historical processes of the particular objects.

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I feel like your argument conflates epistemic and information issues with ontological issues. Real objects are not information. Information only has existence if there is someone who potentially has power of judgment to exercise on it (John Searle). Particular events are determined by the behavior of discrete objects, which are in principle rational. That doesn't mean we necessarily have access to the ability to physically observe, investigate or predict that process. One issue is ontological, the other an issue of how one would convey or obtain information of the historical processes of the particular objects.

What is the advantage of knowing these things apart from all this intelligent discussion?

--Brant

if none seems to exist it doesn't mean one won't be discovered, but the same question could be 'what is the use of a new-born baby?': is it?

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The randomness is limited in its scope.

Darrell,

I actually agree with this. And who convinced me of it--including the nature of the randomness--is a person not very well considered by some members around here: Rupert Sheldrake.

Extrapolating from his idea (given below), I believe it's obvious that hierarchy is a fundamental organizing principle in the universe. This means that in all relationships, some elements will be parts and some will be wholes. (I like the holon idea for explaining organization where most everything is simultaneously a whole thing and part of something else.) Randomness fits in with the hierarchy idea because the thing that is random always has to happen within a container (so to speak). The container is not random, but elements within it can be.

For example, all human beings are born with faces that have the same basic parts (two eyes, a nose, cheeks, mouth, etc.). If a human being is not born with a face, or if the basic parts are different, we call it defective. This is the unchanging container. Now for the random elements (details)--all faces are different. Ditto for fingerprints. We all have the same number of fingers, except for defective people, but the fingerprints of everybody are different. Sameness of the container and randomness of the details for each individual.

Sheldrake basically relegates the sameness container to fields and contends that fields exist that go way beyond the concept of magnetic fields. Some of the fields he speculates about (and tests, by the way) are not even space and/or time limited.

In other words, a field in this view is not a complete thing, but a background that forms things (that are not complete without the field). I don't recall him saying it, but space and time are fields in this concept.

It's an interesting approach and I am very much on board with his questions and speculations, albeit not always with the directions he leans in.

It's like an old question, which is more fundamental, form or content? The fact is they both are in equal measure. Remove one and you remove the other. That's the acid test.

Yet you have people who fight to the death to "prove" that form arose (and arises) from content and that's the only way it happened in the beginning, or the contrary, that content was generated by form in the beginning and still is at times--i.e., that one is more fundamental than the other.

Once again, I say both are fundamental in equal parts. We can look at them separately, like looking at the facets of a gemstone, but we cannot remove the facet from the stone as a separate thing. All we can do is destroy it or create another.

If you like, I can link to a lecture where Sheldrake explains this idea better (if I can find it). But I don't want to inconvenience those who think he is an intellectual leper. :smile:

Michael

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Incidentally, to add to the thought above, I believe the human mind is perfect for accurately abstracting the universe because it is made out of the same stuff the universe is.

Using the container and randomness idea as ontology, look at concepts as a corresponding epistemology. The concept is a container that is unchanging, while the referents are random. There are rules for them to fit inside that container, but their instances, quantity, and other things like different characteristics outside the concept, are totally random.

The organization of concepts works in the same manner the universe is organized. It's essentially the same stuff.

Michael

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Incidentally, to add to the thought above, I believe the human mind is perfect for accurately abstracting the universe because it is made out of the same stuff the universe is.

I agree with this - metaphysics and ontology are the basis of logic as a valid method. I still disagree with you about the 'compartmentalized randomness'. I'd say a more likely explanation for small-scale and circumstantial phenomena that are really weird is that they operate according to really weird principles we don't have much direct contact with, and we may never practically be able to look inside of them. For instance, I think it is possible that Einstenian localist determinism is wrong, but that wouldn't rule out holistic determinism. Quantum phenomena seem to be all about the relative potential of different states, so we might just be looking at it wrong to think of spatial motion, rather than potential locations, as the core of bodies in motion.

As far as 'different faculties' go, everything is logical in potential. Everything has to be coherent to be real. It's a property of objects: coherency. So, even though there are many potential mechanical techniques for observation which we lack we nonetheless can expect any potential object to behave logically. It wouldn't even make any sense to talk about 'it' or 'it's behavior' if it didn't.

Now I am sure you agree with the laws of logic, but I think that the ontology that allows reason and makes logic valid is also a necessarily physical one, wherein a things entire existence is predicated upon it having particular properties. If a thing is not some specific substance it is not really anything at all. If a substance lacks definite properties whenever its potential is actuated then it is not a real substance. Randomness, even in a closet, doesn't seem to jibe with this.

Finally, 'randomness' does nothing for 'free will'. The options are deterministic will and random will. 'Free' will is an anti-concept.

Even more finally, this is a pretty trivial (though interesting) argument IMO. Since I don't believe legal or moral responsibility are even related to 'freedom of the will', and I think intentionality is real but causal, it amounts mainly to attempts to explore or correct positions about which we probably largely agree.

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To add a few more thoughts, many attempts to treat consciousness as having a different level or alternate non-physical composition strike me as a reification of consciousness. Consciousness is a non-precisive abstraction - not any particular individual consciousness, not any particular material brain. This is a valid abstraction, but we can't allow it to trick us into thinking that there is consciousness independent of individual instances or their machinery that makes up the processes of mind. I know most Objectvists would agree firmly with the former and in some sense with the latter, but in their treatment of the Mind I sense some reification or Rationalism going on that is based on a broken ontology. As mentioned before, it is the structure of our minds and the rest of the world ontologically that makes rationality possible and reason valid. If one denies determinacy and physical realism I don't see how one can say that this metaphysical picture pertains, as the reason things exist is that they are things in particular and have some properties and not others. To say that a property of a thing is that its property varies strikes me as an invalid application of the concept of properties.

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Now I am sure you agree with the laws of logic, but I think that the ontology that allows reason and makes logic valid is also a necessarily physical one, wherein a things entire existence is predicated upon it having particular properties. If a thing is not some specific substance it is not really anything at all. If a substance lacks definite properties whenever its potential is actuated then it is not a real substance. Randomness, even in a closet, doesn't seem to jibe with this.

Finally, 'randomness' does nothing for 'free will'. The options are deterministic will and random will. 'Free' will is an anti-concept.

Anya,

In your world, randomness of action within a delimited field cannot be a property, but weirdness can?

Hmmmmm...

:)

As to free will being an anti-concept, good Lord!

I'll just let that be for now.

I am pleased you agree that the mind is perfectly suited to abstracting reality instead of being a distortion mechanism, which is the predominant view among those who share some of the ideas I have seen you post. Hold on to that. It will lead you to good places.

Michael

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I am pleased you agree that the mind is perfectly suited to abstracting reality instead of being a distortion mechanism, which is the predominant view among those who share some of the ideas I have seen you post. Hold on to that. It will lead you to good places.

Michael

I've never been convinced by the distortion/Cave shadow type of arguments. Certainly the brain is capable of errors (i.e. producing a mental action which is not a thought), and certainly the senses are capable of providing us information we misinterpret, but the leap to scepticism or weak solipsism just isn't entailed by these issues. As we are in the same reality as the things we 'see', the relationship that exists is a logical one. We may make errors due to a lack of awareness of the biases of our minds and senses, but in principle it's all subject to the laws of reason and inference.

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Merlin,

Thanks for the link.

I really like the positive psychology school. I've actually read Csikszentmihalyi (the "flow" guy) and a few others, although I am not far enough into the lecture yet to know how far Wade is involved. I had to interrupt my viewing last night after about 10 minutes or so.

I only mentioned positive psychology because Wade did at the beginning. But so far, this seems to be more of a lecture on obtaining new habits in a manner very similar to the Kaizen method taken to a personal level while adding some observations about creating new neural pathways.

At any rate, I expect to enjoy the rest of the lecture. Let's see where it goes.

Incidentally, here is the embed:

And here is another lecture from the Atlas Summit 2013 that has bearing on this thread. I intend to watch this one, too.

What Science Says About Free Will -- Raymond Raad

Here is the link to the The Atlas Society YouTube videos if people want to easily access their other lectures: Uploaded videos by Atlas Society

There are several on that list that just now caught my attention. Looks like I am going to be busy watching videos over the next few weeks.

Michael

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Anya, to me this is really interesting idea of yours: "Quantum phenomena seem to be all about the relative potential of different states, so we might just be looking at it wrong to think of spatial motion, rather than potential locations, as the core of bodies in motion." But I'm not sure that has to discount the Einsteinian idea of locality altogether, does it. Could you elaborate on why you may think it does?

Also, I agree with what you're saying here: "Now I am sure you agree with the laws of logic, but I think that the ontology that allows reason and makes logic valid is also a necessarily physical one, wherein a things entire existence is predicated upon it having particular properties. If a thing is not some specific substance it is not really anything at all. If a substance lacks definite properties whenever its potential is actuated then it is not a real substance." I think Michael agrees with this, but I'm not sure Darrel does. I'm curious about your views on this idea Darrell. I would say, like Anya and Michael probably would, that the physical context that gives things e.g. "consciousness" is specifcally yet open-endedly defined by that concept in full, in a way that isn't when it is described only in terms of its "neural network"--it is the emergent property from some kind of arrangement of subcomponents that brings on consciousness, and therefore often (but not always) scientists tend to limit the context too much because they are looking at it too specifically, from the nature of subatomic entities and not necessarliy also from their context or arrangement. I agree with you Michael that: "the human mind is perfect for accurately abstracting the universe because it is made out of the same stuff the universe is" Well mybe not "perfect" for it, but acting on the same patterns or principles that physically compose it.

Harry Binswanger's artcile on "Volition as Cognitive Self-Regulation" was insightful for me in trying to understand volition ss "goal-directed action" I would abstract this more to "self-directed action." And so I think processes of nature, life, consciousness and choice are just different "levels" of self-routed behavior (I like the holon idea too Michael!). Do any of you know people who have studied the physical routing mechanisms of brains or cognition-to-body to study how those patterns act as a whole and are different as wholes with different animals/individuals?

Although I think the idea is interesting, I don;t think I fully agree with you Anya when you say: "Randomness, even in a closet, doesn't seem to jibe with this. Finally, 'randomness' does nothing for 'free will'. The options are deterministic will and random will. 'Free' will is an anti-concept." I think this all depends on how "randomness" and "free" are defined and of course, actually interrelate if they exist. I do think randomness is more about probability than lack of physical causality, as I think Darrel was trying to compse. I think a lot of time the term randomness is thrown in there for things we don't understand yet too. If free is meant to mean without any restrictions at all, then I guess I agree with you Anya that "free will" or free anything makes no sense to us as finite beings. But I think "free will" could mean some ability of an individual to go in a different direction than previously capable. Then I think the idea has some validity.

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I feel like your argument conflates epistemic and information issues with ontological issues. Real objects are not information. Information only has existence if there is someone who potentially has power of judgment to exercise on it (John Searle). Particular events are determined by the behavior of discrete objects, which are in principle rational. That doesn't mean we necessarily have access to the ability to physically observe, investigate or predict that process. One issue is ontological, the other an issue of how one would convey or obtain information of the historical processes of the particular objects.

Hi Anya,

After thinking about my post on randomness, I realized that it didn't really show what I was attempting to show and, in fact, might have provided evidence for just the opposite case. The examples I gave were from an area of study known as deterministic chaos and show the ways in which a deterministic system could amplify randomness or the appearance of randomness. Another kind of amplification can be seen in cellular automata where it can be seen that a simple rule can lead to difficult to predict patterns. For example, Stephen Wolfram, in his book, A New Kind of Science, suggests that the universe could just be one giant cellular automaton that is perfectly deterministic and that the randomness we see is just a result of the complex patterns that are being generated by simple rules over time. I don't buy it.

I'm not going to try to prove that randomness does or does not exist at this point. For one thing, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between genuine randomness and a simple lack of information. As I'm sure you're aware, many probability problems are simply an expression of a lack of information. For example, when watching the game show, "Let's Make a Deal," you would see three curtains, one of which concealed a valuable prize and the other two of which hid booby prizes. Now, to the observer, the problem of which curtain conceals the prize can be formulated as a probability problem in which there is a one third (1/3) probability that the valuable prize could be behind any of the curtains. To the observer, the location of the prize is random. But, to Monty Hall the location is not random because he already knows which curtain conceals the prize. For the observer, a probabilistic formulation captures (1) what is known, that there are three curtains including one which conceals a valuable prize, and (2) what is not known, which curtain conceals the prize.

Now, the fact that there is a limit to how accurately we can simultaneously measure the values of pairs of conjugate variables in quantum mechanics acts like a curtain. The fact that such a curtain exists in nature is interesting. The existence of the curtain is a necessary condition for randomness to exist. If we could measure all variables with potentially unlimited accuracy, there would be no place for randomness to hide. But, the existence of the curtain is not a sufficient condition for randomness to exist. It could be that there is some mechanism operating behind the scenes but we just can't see it.

Darrell

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Hey Darrell,

I agree with you that we can have different desciptions for the same things. If you wanted to describe a pie according to its atomic structure or, its nutritional content, or its taste, texture and aesthetic qualities, these all could be referencing the same spatial-temporal context. but I'm wondering if you're implying more when you say "levels" of description are referencing the same thing. You say concerning cognitive processes:

"Looking at a very low level, we would see tens of billions of neurons all firing hundreds of times per second with each one firing at its own, individual rate, and those rates would be changing over time in response to the firing rates of other neurons that are connected through thousands or tens of thousands of connections per neuron. At a somewhat higher level, we would see various regions of the brain that are specialized to process incoming sensory signals from each of the sense organs --- the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and tactile neurons We would also see regions of the brain that control different muscle movements and specialized regions for speech production and other important functions."

Is there any difference between what you're decribing here and a possible basic and complex, and/or microscopic and somewhat more macroscopic view of cognitive processes? Aren't there metaphyscial/physical differences between how things function on these e.g. microscopic vs. macroscopic levels (i.e. quantum theory vs. general relativity). In this way if "consciousness" describes, for example, any/all our brain functions seen more macroscopically or in total, couldn't some emergent property (or properties) come about from this? Couldn't then, our ability to make (albeit limited) choices, be an effect of some more complex (perhaps within our frontal lobes) or more macroscopic (e.g. through the size and quantitative integration capacities of our brains) arrangement of neural pathways, which we could call self-consciouness?

A lot of scientists (like my brother) seem like they want to reduce everything down to only their gut, microscopic physical descriptions and then use this as a way try to say eveything is determinable, except often leaving open "randomness" or "probabilities" as the solution behind how things change, an perhaps how we can make choices. I just think it is more complex than that and that when we look at things from different levels we are seeing actual different physcial organizational patterns, because we are seeing and measuring more or less of the active processes taking place, and becasue entities actually function differentlly under some of the same forces (like gravity) at different levels. We can try to describe all things with basic physical components, but it is their interactive context that is crutial to understanding how new entities, actions, properties, etc. can emerge, and I think that is lost sometimes when we try to describe things in terms of the underlying physics--becasue it narrows our scope to those entities, rather than their larger context. Would you agree with this?

Hi Dan,

I like your example of various descriptions of a pie. I think your example nicely illustrates the point that different descriptions don't really have to be at different levels, they can just be different. By different levels, I just mean closer to the physics --- a low level description --- or farther from the physics and possibly involving higher level abstractions --- that would be a high level description.

High level descriptions and low level descriptions must be consistent with each other. So, some phenomena might "emerge" at a higher level in the since that they might be easy to see at a high level but hard to see at a low level --- sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees. But, ultimately, the higher level phenomenon must have an explanation in terms of low level processes. So, for example, you might look at a picture on a wall and see a yellow area. However, upon closer inspection, you might see only red dots and green dots. Indirectly, you know that mixing red light and green light produces yellow light, so the fact that you see yellow is consistent with the fact that there are only red and green dots on the paper, but it is hard to see the emergent color when observing the pattern too closely.

Darrell

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Hey Darrell-- thanks for the reply,

In response to your example, I guess I'd wonder if isn't the act seeing yellow far way essentially, physically different than seeing red and green dots close up. Isn't the light physically bending in a different wavelength/frequency trajectory through our visual senses to create a different colors and shapes far away than close up? The red and green dots may compose the yellow ones but don't they need some kind of spatial-temporal arrangement to be able to be viewed as yellow? So to me it isn't just a different desciption epistemologically, but also metaphysically.

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

Do you attribute moral or ethical import to everything in the world?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

"All"? "All"?

--Brant

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

"All"? "All"?

--Brant

Yes.

All.

It is impossible to commit an evil act without first regarding yourself as an innocent oppressed victim of a perceived injustice, and indulging in the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others.

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

Do you attribute moral or ethical import to everything in the world?

Ba'al Chatzaf

In terms of interactive human behavior... there is hardly an action which does not have moral implications. And as every truth is a two edged sword that cuts both ways... for some this is a blessing while for others it is a curse.

Greg

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

"All"? "All"?

--Brant

Yes.

All.

It is impossible to commit an evil act without first regarding yourself as an innocent oppressed victim of a perceived injustice, and indulging in the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others.

Why impossible? Why not unlikely?

--Brant

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In terms of interactive human behavior... there is hardly an action which does not have moral implications. And as every truth is a two edged sword that cuts both ways... for some this is a blessing while for others it is a curse.

Greg

Fair enough. How about things people do all by themselves which affect no one else? Do such actions have a moral or ethical import.

This will lead to the old question: Is their morality on a desert island occupied by exactly one person?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Using Your Mind To Change Your Brain from Atlas Summit 2013.

Just watched it. Joel uses a sound approach, because it begins with self observation. He's also spot on about blaming our past treatment by others for our present, and I take that idea even further in that. In my view, all evil acts arise from the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others. All people who do evil first fantasize themselves to be innocent victims of an imaginary injustice who have no choice but to retaliate. This principle is also alluded to in the Bible, where Satan is sometimes referred to as "the accuser". The angry unjust accusation of others is an evil act in itself, for all of the other evils are its spawn.

"All"? "All"?

--Brant

Yes.

All.

It is impossible to commit an evil act without first regarding yourself as an innocent oppressed victim of a perceived injustice, and indulging in the angry blame (unjust accusation) of others.

Why impossible? Why not unlikely?

--Brant

Because no person who does an evil act does so without intellectually justifying it to feel that they're doing what's right by repaying an imaginary evil with a real evil. The common bond of all people who do evil is that they view themselves as victims. But not just victims... an innocent victims of imaginary injustice who have no choice but to act out.

No evil act is ever unjustified within the mind of the evil doer.

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