Science and philosophy? Or philosophy and science?


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The point is that philosophers who have no thorough knowledge of modern physics are hopelessly behind in the field of epistemology and metaphysics. It may be a bitter disappointment, but it cannot be helped: their knowledge is completely antiquated. Read for example Bernard d’Espagnat’s On Physics and Philosophy. D’Espagnat is an eminent theoretical physicist and a philosopher who really knows his stuff. The contrast with the silly babblings of Peikoff and Harriman in the DIM course (lecture 6) couldn’t be higher, they are bumbling amateurs who have no idea what they’re talking about. You don’t have to believe me, just read the book and listen to the course and draw your own conclusions.

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I read physics papers too. I don't read very much psychology, which I consider a pseudo science. Ba'al Chatzaf

The point is that philosophers who have no thorough knowledge of modern physics are hopelessly behind in the field of epistemology and metaphysics.
I'm really screwed. I can't call myself a physicist or a philosopher. I just have this persistent delusion that my brain is capable of understanding the nature of existence. It comes partly from the belief that philosophers and physicists have built their worldviews on a error. The error is in the very nature of causation that has been used as an epistemological guide to shape our scientific and philosophical pictures of the world. Perhaps physicists and philosophers are unable to crack the causal nut because we require a new development the field of epistemology. Trouble is, philosophers and physicists spend their time assuming there is nothing fundamental left to learn in the field of epistemology or in the study of causality. We are reduced to a worldview where will and volition are illusory, causality breaks down at the quantum limit, and the imagination is either placed in an epistemological straight jacket or it is unleashed without limit. I'm not quite ready to sign over epistemological and metaphysical authority to modern physics or to any philosopher well trained in existing systems of thought. Fresh thinking is required.

Paul

Edited by Paul Mawdsley
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The point is that philosophers who have no thorough knowledge of modern physics are hopelessly behind in the field of epistemology and metaphysics. It may be a bitter disappointment, but it cannot be helped: their knowledge is completely antiquated. Read for example Bernard d'Espagnat's On Physics and Philosophy. D'Espagnat is an eminent theoretical physicist and a philosopher who really knows his stuff.
Dragonfly,

I only just clicked on the link you gave to Bernard d'Espagnt's book. I was too busy being a flippant counterbalance to your perspective. Damn that sounds good! It's very much where my head is at right now, at least when I'm not thinking about the will, volition, and psychological/social dynamics. Feynman might have to wait. Thanks for the heads up. I trust your judgement regarding the quality of the book and the author.

Paul

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I only just clicked on the link you gave to Bernard d'Espagnt's book. I was too busy being a flippant counterbalance to your perspective. Damn that sounds good! It's very much where my head is at right now, at least when I'm not thinking about the will, volition, and psychological/social dynamics. Feynman might have to wait. Thanks for the heads up. I trust your judgement regarding the quality of the book and the author.

One warning: it's much "heavier" (also in the literal sense) than those Feynman books; you can read these easily in a few days (and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman will make you roar with laughter), while d'Espagnat's book is something "to chew on" and will take time to digest. So you might still do a Feynman quicky before you tackle the heavier stuff.

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~ Clearly, specialized 'Philosophy' and 'Science' can EACH inform (ie: help develop further and deeper) the other, re setting limits (philosophy) and/or showing new paths/territories to be viable in working on (science). EACH requires a 'scientific' (observation and analysis) oriented mind to get anywhere within, and most especially to relate each to the other.

~ But, correct me if I'm wrong on this. The main question this thread was about is: which is the chicken and which the egg re 'starting points'...for all us non-specialists, non? --- Are we to be told to do nothing but go read some 'Science-King' (replacing the old 'Philosopher-King'), and that's it? Shades of "Read PARC!" Authoritative scientists (howevermuch they often disagree with each other!) absolutely have their well-deserved revereable place, no argument; but, let's not get caught up in "Well, THIS scientist says that he found 'X', so...THERE!"

LLAP

J:D

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~ Clearly, specialized 'Philosophy' and 'Science' can EACH inform (ie: help develop further and deeper) the other, re setting limits (philosophy) and/or showing new paths/territories to be viable in working on (science). EACH requires a 'scientific' (observation and analysis) oriented mind to get anywhere within, and most especially to relate each to the other.

~ But, correct me if I'm wrong on this. The main question this thread was about is: which is the chicken and which the egg re 'starting points'...for all us non-specialists, non? --- Are we to be told to do nothing but go read some 'Science-King' (replacing the old 'Philosopher-King'), and that's it? Shades of "Read PARC!" Authoritative scientists (howevermuch they often disagree with each other!) absolutely have their well-deserved revereable place, no argument; but, let's not get caught up in "Well, THIS scientist says that he found 'X', so...THERE!"

LLAP

J:D

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Michael,

I'm a late-comer to this thread, but I will offer my two cents on the overlap between neurology, epistemology and thinking. One of the critical questions when asking about intelligence and psychology is asking why it comes about. How are human beings different than other animals in the exercise of intelligence? It's not neuron function per se. We share the same basic neuron function with dogs and chimpanzees. It's not size of the brain or we would be clearly inferior intelligence-wise to elephants, whales and dolphins.

The thing that distinguishes human beings is the size and organization of their neocortex. Human beings have a six-layer neocortex and the size of that neocortex is significantly larger than other animals with a similar organization of the neocortex. Neurons in the neocortex that are used for cognition and sense perception pretty much have a common cortical algorithm. It's how and where the neurons are connected that determine whether it becomes a vision neuron or auditory neuron.

Cognition is human beings is mostly about memory, prediction and pattern recognition. We also have an inbuilt invariant representation mechanism that allows us to be capable of conceptual thought. Anyway, I plan to write a formal article on the topic, but I wanted to warn people away from both an overly reductionist protrayal of brain function or an overly simplistic descriptive account of volition and conceptual thought.

Jim

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There is a book valuable for the issues raised in this thread. It is Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Blackwell 2003, 461 pages). It is coauthored by M. R. Bennett, neuroscientist, and P. M. S. Hacker, philosopher.

From the back cover:

"Writing from a scientifically and philosophically informed perspective, the authors provide a critical overview of the conceptual difficulties encountered in many current neuroscientific and psychological theories, including those of Blakemore, Crick, Damasio, Edelman, Gazzaniga, Kandel, Kosslyn, LeDoux, Penrose, and Weiskrantz. They propose that conceptual confusions about how the brain relates to the mind affect the intelligibility of research carried out by neuroscientists, in terms of the questions they choose to address, the description and interpretation of results, and the conclusions they draw."

"The book forms both a critique of the practice of cognitive neuroscience and a conceptual handbook for students and researchers."

From the Table of Contents:

Part I - Philosophical Problems in Neuroscience: Their Historical and Conceptual Roots

1 The Early Growth of Neuroscientific Knowledge: The Integrative Action of the Nervous System

2 The Cortex and the Mind in the Work of Sherrington and His Proteges

3 The Mereological Fallacy in Neuroscience

3.1 Mereological Confusions in Cognitive Neuroscience

3.3 On the Grounds for Ascribing Psychological Predicates to a Being

3.4 On the Grounds for Misascribing Psychological Predicates to an Inner Entity

3.5 The Inner

3.6 Introspection

3.7 Privileged Access: Direct and Indirect

3.8 Privacy or Subjectivity

3.9 The Meaning of Psychological Predicates and How They Are Learnt

Part II - Human Faculties and Contemporary Neuroscience: An Analysis

4 Sensation and Perception

4.1 Sensation

4.2 Perception

4.2.1 Perception as the Causation of Sensations: Primary and Secondary Qualities

4.2.2 Perception as Hypothesis Formation: Helmholtz

4.2.3 Visual Images and the Binding Problem

4.2.4 Perception as Information Processing: Marr

5 The Cognitive Powers

5.1 Knowledge and Its Kinship with Ability

5.2 Memory

6 The Cogitative Powers

6.1 Belief

6.2 Thinking

6.3 Imagination and Mental Images

6.3.1 The Logical Features of Mental Imagery

7 Emotion

8 Volition and Voluntary Movement

Part III - Consciousness and Contemporary Neuroscience: An Analysis

9 Intransitive and Transitive Consciousness

10 Conscious Experience, Mental States, and Qualia

11 Puzzles about Consciousness

11.2 On Reconciling Consciousness or Subjectivity with Our Conception of an Objective Reality

11.3 On the Question of How Physical Processes Can Give Rise to Conscious Experience

11.4 Of the Evolutionary Value of Consciousness

11.5 The Problem of Awareness

11.6 Other Minds and Other Animals

12 Self-Consciousness

Part IV - On Method

13 Reductionism

13.1 Ontological and Explanatory Reductionism

13.2 Reduction by Elimination

13.2.1 Are Our Ordinary Psychological Concepts Theoretical?

13.2.2 Are Everyday Generalizations about Human Psychology Laws of a Theory?

13.2.3 Eliminating All that Is Human

13.2.4 Sawing Off the Branch on which One Sits

14 Methodological Reflections

14.1 Linguistic Inertia and Conceptual Innovation

14.2 The 'Poverty of English' Argument

14.3 From Nonsense to Sense: The Proper Description of the Results of Commissurotomy

14.3.1 The Case of Blind-Sight: Misdescription and Illusory Explanation

14.4 Philosophy and Neuroscience

14.4.1 What Philosophy Can and What It Cannot Do

14.4.2 What Neuroscience Can and What It Cannot Do

Appendix 1 - Daniel Dennett

Appendix 2 - John Searle

Edited by Stephen Boydstun
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There is a book valuable for the issues raised in this thread. It is Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Blackwell 2003, 461 pages). It is coauthored by M. R. Bennett, neuroscientist, and P. M. S. Hacker, philosopher.

From the back cover:

"Writing from a scientifically and philosophically informed perspective, the authors provide a critical overview of the conceptual difficulties encountered in many current neuroscientific and psychological theories, including those of Blakemore, Crick, Damasio, Edelman, Gazzaniga, Kandel, Kosslyn, LeDoux, Penrose, and Weiskrantz. They propose that conceptual confusions about how the brain relates to the mind affect the intelligibility of research carried out by neuroscientists, in terms of the questions they choose to address, the description and interpretation of results, and the conclusions they draw."

"The book forms both a critique of the practice of cognitive neuroscience and a conceptual handbook for students and researchers."

Stephen,

This sounds like a great book to accompany the one Dragonfly recommended. Between the two books I would have my main areas of interest well covered. I'm sure they would bring me well up to date on current thinking on the interrelations among philosophy, psychology, brain physiology, and physics. Since I haven't read a lot on these areas in the last 10 years, I could do with getting caught up.

I have spent most of my time piecing together the information I have found in various books from a unique and ever evolving view of causation I have been developing. When I look at a book like the one you are recommending, the first question I ask is, "What perspective of causality is it written from?" The second question I ask is, "Does it consider causality to be an important and explicit consideration in shaping the story it tells about the underlying dynamics of the entities it discusses?" The answer to the second question often tells much about the answer to the first. If causality is not an important and explicit consideration, then the book will probably be written from a traditional causal perspective and fall into all the traps (as I see it) of action-to-action causation.

Of course, this does not invalidate the information contained in the book. It just means I will have to sift through the causal interpretations that have been used to shape the book in order to separate the evidence from the interpretations and put the pieces back together using my own causal perspective.

Are the words causality or causation in the index? Is there any explicit discussion of causality in the book? Does the book recognize there is an important issue to be explored in integrating our introspective observations of an apparently proactive "will" and "volition" with our extrospective observations of an action-reaction world? And does it deal with this issue without assuming our experience of will and volition is illusory and can be reduced to action-reaction explanations? Does it deal with Penfield's suggestion (and Penrose's consideration) that the reticular formation plays a central role in awareness, will and volition?

These are some of the questions that go through my mind when considering to buy a book like this. There are a lot of books that attempt to reduce everything to the same old causality when attempting to integrate all the latest evidence. I get excited when a book at least sees the questions as important, whether or not it has the answers I am playing with.

Stephen, don't take this post the wrong way. I'm not looking for you to do all my work for me. Whatever insight you could give me to would be great. As much as anything, I just had some fun identifying for myself the thoughts that run through my head when looking at a book relating the physiological functions of the brain with my experience of consciousness. The back cover does make it sound very interesting.

Paul

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Stephen,

Thanks for the recommendation. I have been especially interested in Jeff Hawkins' Memory-prediction models for the neocortex put forward in his book On Intelligence. Dana has done a review of the book with a credentialed neuroscientist Dana Review of On Intelligence Have you read or do you have any thoughts on the book?

Jim

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Stephen:

~ These books are definitely now added to my list (gah-h...I should live so long to get to the end of it!) I'm sure they are very...informative...in a very relevent sense re the empirical discoveries about 'the search for the essentials of mind.'

~ However, regardless that Searle and Dennett are stressed in the appendices, I have a question to add to Paul's akin to his own. Does the index include the terms identification (not to be confused with perceptual/sensorial 'pattern-recognition') and concepts (not to be confused with visual/auditory 'imagery')?

~ Neuro-science certainly has it's place in informing philosophy, but, methinks so much stress some place on it as 'the' science-of-explanation for 'mind' is equivalent to where AI specialists had been for the last couple decades trying to create HAL. I think that all are missing the 'forest' because of the tree-branchings.

LLAP

J:D

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Paul,

Bennett and Hacker do not have an entry for causation in the index of Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. There are related entries such as mind-body interaction and perception, causal account of. The conceptual confusions they spotlight in the course of neuroscience, from its beginning to its present, are not inadequacies in the concept of causality per se. I will give some quotations expressing their own views below to give you an idea of the way in which you will find the concept of causality used by Bennett and Hacker. They do not bring the concept of causality to center stage for examination in the way that Ted Honderich does in Mind and Brain (1988), and they do not rely on any of the sophisticated contemporary conceptions of causality such as that developed by D. H. Mellor in The Facts of Causation (1995).

From Bennet and Hacker 2003:

Both Descartes and Eccles "erred in conceiving of the mind as an entity of some kind. Had they heeded Aristotle in thinking of the mind not as an entity, but as an array of powers or potentialities, they would have been much closer to the truth and would not have become enmeshed in insoluble problems of interaction. For it patently makes no sense to ask how one's abilities to do the various things one can do interact with one's brain" (52).

"The so-called self-conscious mind is not an entity of any kind, but a capacity of human beings who have mastered a reflexive language. They can therefore ascribe experiences to themselves and reflect on the experiences thus ascribed. But the 'self-conscious mind' is not the sort of thing that can intelligibly be said to be 'in contact with' the brain" (56).

"A person is not identical with his mind. A mind is something (but not some thing) a person is said to have, not to be. . . . It is not the mind that is the subject of psychological attributes, any more than it is the brain. It is the living human being---the whole animal, not one of its parts or a subset of its powers" (63).

Motives for a person's intentional actions "are not replaceable, even in principle, by explanations in terms of neural events in the brain. This is not an empirical matter at all, but a logical or conceptual one." But equally, explanations of a person's intentional action "in terms of agential reasons and motives, goals and purposes, . . . . are not [to be] couched in terms of the activities of the mind, conceived as an independent substance with causal [agential] powers of its own" (64).

As a further enticement for you to add this book to your library, Paul, I will display some detail to the material in Chapter 8 VOLITION AND VOLUNTARY MOVEMENT. I will display for this chapter the blocked insets that run along the margins on every page of this book.

8.1 VOLITION

"Concepts of volition and forms of explanation of action"

"Voluntary, involuntary, and not voluntary acts"

"Intentional, unintentional, and not intentional acts"

"The marks of voluntary acts or movements"

"A fully voluntary movement is the exercise of a two-way power; it is behaviour that is under one's control."

"Voluntary movement is not movement caused by a volition or act of will."

"What an act of will and will-power are"

"The incoherent consequences of supposing willing to be an event or act"

"Why acts of will conceived as causes of voluntary acts are fictions"

"Wanting, intending, and deciding are not causes of actions or movements."

"Saying that someone did something because they wanted to is not to give a causal explanation."

8.2 LIBET'S THEORY OF VOLUNTARY MOVEMENT

"Libet's discoveries and consequent theory"

"Confused presuppositions of Libet's experiment"

"Feelings of volition are not necessary for voluntary movement."

"Feelings of volition are not sufficient for voluntary movement."

"Movement caused by a felt urge is not voluntary."

"Libet's question presupposed a misconception of voluntary action."

"A second example of misconceived questions in an experiment"

8.3 TAKING STOCK

"The concepts surveyed here and in the last four chapters partly define what it is to be a human being."

"They are not theoretical concepts."

"The point of our conceptual sketches"

"The crypto-Cartesianism of current neuroscientific reflection"

"Cartesianism in the form of explanation of perception"

"Cartesianism in the form of explanation of memory"

"Cartesianism in the conception of mental images as inner pictures"

"Cartesianism in the conception of the emotions"

"Cartesianism in the form of explanation of voluntary action"

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Stephen,

Wow! I could spend months just playing with the images these headings stir up in my mind. You are clearly a well read man. I am not. I'm more someone who likes to play with the images in his imagination and create models that fit the known facts. My interest in causality comes from the fact that other models of existence that I have read come up short of capturing all the evidence unless more than one incompatible views of causation is used. The weak link is always the concept of causality that was used to mould the model of existence. You mentioned a couple of other books on causality that have whetted my apatite also. I'm interested in knowing where the envelope in thought about causation currently stands.

I have long thought treating the mind as an entity, as does the agent-to-action view of causation, is to commit a category mistake. The concept of energy used by the action-to-action view of causation is also based on a category mistake. A more sophisticated view of causation than either is needed to tie together the complex actions of things with their underlying necessitating natures.

Thanks Stephen, for the effort on my behalf and for the guidance.

Paul

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Jim,

In On Intelligence Jeff Hawkins maintains that prediction "is the primary function of the neocortex, and the foundation of intelligence. The cortex is an organ of prediction" (89). I really doubt that prediction is to be looked to as a master function of prefrontal cortex. On the functions of prefrontal cortex, I would recommend Chapter 6 "Symbolic Minds" of Terrance Deacon's The Symbolic Species (1997).

Hawkins writes that "higher intelligence is not a different kind of process from perceptual intelligence. It rests fundamentally on the same neocortical memory and prediction algorithm. . . . Our intelligence tests are in essence prediction tests. . . . I.Q. tests are based on making predictions. Given a sequence of numbers, what should the next number be? Given these different views of a complex object, which of the following is also a view of the object? Word A is to word B as word C is to what word?" (96). No, solutions to these types of problems are not predictions, and they are not "in essence" predictions.

I would say that various levels of consciousness are integral to various levels of intelligence. Plants have no intelligence. Brains per se have no intelligence. So I think that progress in understanding how it is that we have intelligence cannot be entirely separated from how it is that we have consciousness.

I gather that Hawkins treats consciousness as less fundamental to intelligence than memory and prediction are fundamental to intelligence. "Consciousness is simply what it feels like to have a cortex" (196). That is, in Hawkins' view, consciousness is simply what it feels like to have that organ of prediction and memory that is brain cortex. No. Catchy, but no.

There is one book Hawkins lists in his Bibliography that I would also recommend. That is Christof Koch's (2004) The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach. In addition I would recommend:

Gerald Edelman (1989) The Remembered Present: A Biological Theory of Consciousness

John Taylor (1999) The Race for Consciousness

Concerning machine intelligence, I would recommend these collections of essays by numerous authors:

John Haugeland (1997) Mind Design II

John Preston and Mark Bishop (2002) Inside the Chinese Room

Antonio Damasio writes concerning the relationships between memory and the high levels of intelligence and consciousness as follows (The Feeling of What Happens 1999):

"Extended consciousness is not the same as intelligence. Extended consciousness has to do with making the organism aware of the largest possible compass of knowledge. . . . Extended consciousness has to do with exhibiting knowledge and with displaying it clearly and efficiently so that intelligent processing can take place. Extended consciousness is a prerequisite of intelligence. . . .

Extended consciousness is also not the same as working memory although working memory is an important instrument in the process of extended consciousness. Extended consciousness depends on holding in mind, over substantial periods of time, the multiple neural patterns which describe the autobiographical self; and working memory is precisely the ability to hold images in mind for a long enough time that they can be manipulated intelligently" (199-200).

Damasio's definition of images is a special one, but in the preceding quote, it could be replaced with Rand's convenient term item. I would also amend Damasio's statement that extended consciousness is a prerequisite of intelligence. It is a prerequisite of the higher levels of intelligence, but what Damasio calls core consciousness might be enough for some lower sorts of intelligence.

For what it is worth, I can relate one personal experience pertinent to extended consciousness and intelligence. In March 2005 I was hospitalized due to a blocked bladder. One effect of the failure was what my neurologist called metabolic encephalopathy. For a couple of days, I lost my mind. It was horrible. I had hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and distortions of time and space. The connection to Damasio's remarks is this: I did not know who I was. Not only was my intelligence zapped, so was my extended personal identity. I remember it was so delicious when Walter would come to the hospital and tell me who I was---that I wrote letters, indeed that I wrote philosophy---but I could not remember what he had told me until I got well. Which is wonderful.

Stephen

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Stephen,

Thanks for taking the time and effort to write such an insightful and detailed response.You hit exactly on Hawkins' most underexamined facet in his book, the unified consciousness and the quality of that consciousness. Things that I think are interesting in Hawkins' treatment are the emphasis on organization of neurons vs. their discrete function, the role of columns in passing information up and down the neocortical hierarchy, and the role of invariance in concept formation.

There was an article in a recent Scientific American that indicated that at least some neurons do perform specialized functions. "Mirror neurons" are currently thought to provide a key role in social behavior and that autistic children have some impairment of these specialized neurons involved in mimicing and learning social behavior.

Jim

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I’m hopeful that my soon-to-be-completed essay “Understanding Imaginaries Through Hidden Numbers”—an early draft of which is currently “for sale” on Lulu.com at an impossible price—will be seen as relevant to the parts of this discussion concerning the priority of philosophy and science. (My short answer is: The special sciences, a telling formulation used by AR, and philosophy are all equally sciences; man’s task is to integrate all science. And by the way, consider what science tells you that.)

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John,

You asked whether the index of Bennett and Hacker’s Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (2003) included “the terms identification (not to be confused with perceptual/sensorial ‘pattern-recognition’) and concepts (not to be confused with visual/auditory ‘imagery’).”

Perceptual Consciousness and Identification

Bennett and Hacker did not include an entry for identification in the index. However, I think you will find much in the text bearing on identification in perceptual consciousness. Check out the following pertinent pages: 249–50, 257–58, 265; 281–83; 421–23.

(249) B&H draw a distinction between being conscious of something and being conscious that something is so.

(249–50) Distinction of perceiving something and being conscious of something

(257–58) Not everything one perceives is something of which one is conscious.

(281–83) Experiences are specified by what they are of, not by reference to how they feel.

(421–23) B&H discuss intentionality, in the course of their critique of Dennett.

Concepts, Thoughts, Words

Bennett and Hacker have concept and image in their index, and they treat these in a really big way in their text. I think their work on visual and mental imagery is terrific. Here are some of the block-inset captions (including some of the researcher-writers they critique):

“The misconception that what is seen or heard is an image (Sherrington, Damasio, Edelman, Crick)”

“The brain neither takes a picture apart nor assembles one.”

“Imagination is a cogitative faculty.”

“Mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient for imaging.”

“The faculty of imaging (fantasia) is only loosely connected with the cogitative faculty of the imagination.”

“Shepard’s incorrect empirical claim concerning the criteria for the exercise of fantasia”

“Posner and Raichle err in attributing a similarity in the mental operations underlying perception and fantasia.”

Bennett and Hacker keep concepts and mental images distinct. “Concepts are not mental images. To have a concept is not to have, or have a disposition to have, a mental image” (339).

I think they have gotten the relation of words to concepts partly right: “Words are not names of concepts, and do not stand for concepts, but rather express them” (65). Compare with the opening paragraph of my 1990 “Capturing Concepts” essay: “Concepts are thoughts. They are thoughts of kinds and sets. They function to indicate and specify kinds and sets of items. They are marked and evoked by words” (13).

However, I do not think valid their critiques of neuroscientist writings on the relation of concepts to words (Damasio 1999 and Edelman and Tononi 2000). You will find this critique in 12.5.1 “Thought and Language.” Bennett and Hacker write that “speaking is not translating wordless thought into language” (341). That is fine, but they are overly attached to translation between different languages as the key to concepts. “Concepts are abstractions from the use of words. The concept of a cat is what is common to the use of cat, chat, Katz, etc.” (65).

Bennett and Hacker’s conception of concepts and their relationship to words is out of balance. Their skewed conception is not so completely incorrect as the conception Wallace Matson proposed in his 1984 essay on Rand’s theory of concepts. You may recall that he proposed that talk about concepts be replaced with talk about language (pp. 30–36 in The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand). As readers of Objectivity know, that was a radical philosophical proposal that stood to be informed (erased, actually) by advances in neuroscience (Kathleen Touchstone’s 1993 essay in V1N6, p. 118). These scientific advances were reported by Antonio and Hanna Damasio in “Brain and Language” in Scientific American (Sept. 1992). See also Patricia Churchland and Terrence Sejnowski’s The Computational Brain (1992), pp. 319-23 and references cited there.

Stephen

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“Imagination is a cogitative faculty.”

“Mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient for imaging.”

“The faculty of imaging (fantasia) is only loosely connected with the cogitative faculty of the imagination.”

“Shepard’s incorrect empirical claim concerning the criteria for the exercise of fantasia”

Could you give a bit of explication of what they're meaning by "imaging (fantasia)" and by "imagination"?

I obviously have to acquire the book and will soon, but meanwhile I'd welcome a hint on the nature of the distinction they're drawing.

Ellen

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Edited by Ellen Stuttle
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Ellen,

There is a typographical error that makes one of the quoted statements unnecessarily puzzling. The corrected statement is:

“Mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient for imagination” (183).

By imaging Bennett and Hacker mean conjuring up “visual or auditory images, either in memory or in fancy” (181). This includes visualizing things, talking to ourselves, and rehearsing tunes. Fantasia is the name they give to the faculty of imaging.

Imagination is “the faculty exercised in imagining. It is the capacity to think of possibilities (which may or may not be actual).” In a qualified sense, “it is also the capacity to think up impossibilities” (182).

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Ellen,

There is a typographical error that makes one of the quoted statements unnecessarily puzzling. The corrected statement is:

“Mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient for imagination” (183).

By imaging Bennett and Hacker mean conjuring up “visual or auditory images, either in memory or in fancy” (181). This includes visualizing things, talking to ourselves, and rehearsing tunes. Fantasia is the name they give to the faculty of imaging.

Imagination is “the faculty exercised in imagining. It is the capacity to think of possibilities (which may or may not be actual).” In a qualified sense, “it is also the capacity to think up impossibilities” (182).

Ah; yes, the typo did produce perplexity. ;-) Thanks. I anticipate finding the book of much interest.

Ellen

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  • 3 months later...
2. The problem of 'where' consciousness is - 'it' is not in a place, it is between a body of a certain kind, functioning properly, and any possible aspect of reality, including itself! That takes care of introspection.

Marsha

Human consciousness is primarily inside the skull (some is in the glands). For those who doubt it they should see a real-time PET scan or MRI scan of the brain while the subject is thinking. I just got through participating in a neurological psychological study of Old Fogies which is going on at Rutgers University. I have seen myself think. Every sublime thought, every abstraction I have had is neurons a-popping. It is all material, every last bit of it. Democritus was right: everything is atoms moving in the void. There ain't nothing else. Maybe you guys have a mind, but I -know- I have a working brain. The MRI and the PET scan did not reveal a non-material mind. It just ain't there inside my body. I am just like Data of ST:TNG except that I am organic.

Existence is physical and material. We are meat. Proof? Our corpses stink just like animal corpses after death. None of us live in exception to or beyond the scope of Nature. There are no souls or spirits. There is just live tissue operating according to its nature.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I have seen myself think. Every sublime thought, every abstraction I have had is neurons a-popping.

What did your thought that you were seeing yourself think look like? I.e., specifically which pops in the "a-popping" were that thought? And would the same pattern of pops be repeated were you again to watch a real-time PET scan or MRI scan of your brain and again think that you were seeing yourself think?

Ellen

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Baal:

>Existence is physical and material. We are meat.

This I believe is a perfectly respectable and widely held belief, with a long tradition. If I understand you correctly, this effectively means consciousness is fully reducible to physics and chemistry.

I am curious, then, as to how you avoid an equally full determinism, which would eliminate what's loosely called "free will", as of course physical mechanics and chemical reactions have no "choices"; and even quantum uncertainties are nothing like a conscious choice, and are more like the simple flipping of a coin.

Or perhaps you agree with a full or strict determinism?

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Baal:

>Existence is physical and material. We are meat.

This I believe is a perfectly respectable and widely held belief, with a long tradition. If I understand you correctly, this effectively means consciousness is fully reducible to physics and chemistry.

I am curious, then, as to how you avoid an equally full determinism, which would eliminate what's loosely called "free will", as of course physical mechanics and chemical reactions have no "choices"; and even quantum uncertainties are nothing like a conscious choice, and are more like the simple flipping of a coin.

Reality is not fully deterministic. This is the consequence of the quantum mechanical view. It was thought by some (Albert Einstein included) that there may be "hidden variables", i.e. deterministic but unobserved causative factors underlying the phenomena so ably described by quantum theory. J.S.Bell derived a set of inequalities which would hold if such "hidden variables" existed. Experiment has shown that these inequalities do not hold and that the predictions of quantum theory are consistent with the failure of these inequalities.

See http://www.spaceandmotion.com/physics-mech...ocality-epr.htm

Also Google on <EPR Paradox> for hundreds of relevant articles.

My guess is that we have not yet made the reduction of "free will" to the underlying physical processes yet. It may yet turn out to be too complicated for living beings with only three pound brains. I see no contradiction between a materialist basis of consciousness and "free will". There are a lot of things we do not fully understand. For example the problem of the qualia. We have not found a way to materialistically ground our subjective comprehension of our perceptions. That in no way gainsays the fact that it is neurons a-popping that underly our perceptive processes. Roses are still red and violets are still blue.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Here is a perceptive definition of qualia:

Qualia: A core aspect of consciousness, such as sensation, or a sum of sensations that can be described by metaphors (stabbing pain, deep depression, flowing experience) that seem to describe, but just can't represent it, but merely how something else is like it. Qualia are at root tautological concepts, which is a roundabout way of describing it.

:)

Michael

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