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  1. Michael Shermer of Skeptic has a podcast with Damasio just published: Show notes exerpt: You can download an MP3 at the Skeptic link: The Michael Shermer Show WWW.SKEPTIC.COM The Michael Shermer Show (formerly Science Salon) is a series of long-form conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers...
  2. Roger, have you read much of Antonio Damasio? Or how about David Gelernter? I hadn't heard of this guy. I was curious if he and Damasio had some overlap in their concepts of consciousness, and they do to some degree. Both are chary of a categorical functionalism that disregards the body, embodiment, emotion, proto-consciousness. I will read a bit more of Gelernter to see if his spectrum of consciousness intersects meaningfully with Damasio's theory, but so far it does only in opposition to the strict materialists in current squabbles in the philosophy of consciousness. Gelernter has a hate-list, though, and it is extensive, and it seems to intersect modern Objectivish concerns at several points -- in culture war, rotten higher education, individualism. When I get the book you recommend I will be interested to see who he cites as scientific support for his opinions. It looks like he weaves Jungian psychology in with literature and philosophy in a fun way, so there you go. His book America Lite looks like a total rouser. I think he would very much appeal to Bob Kolker. He seems to have a few good civilizational tips for Christianity that comport with Bob's moral anchoring in Judaism. I was hoping to draw Roger out on the subject of consciousness, and the fragment of oomph from fmr Dr Mrs Dr. The Damasio concept of levels of consciousness (my crib term) might be close to that cited as Roger's, and thus fruitful indeed. Anyhow, the Wikipedia article on his theory is brief and to the point so the comparison can be made ... Here is some material from a fairly long Gelernter article a couple of years back. It is concerned with consciousness and much else, and shows a rousing style and harsh rhetoric. That is sometimes attractive around here, whether the arguments are sound or valid or not. Two excerpts from The Closing of the Scientific Mind: Reflections on the zombie-scientist problem, Jan 1, 2014. It’s the cowardice of the Chronicle’s statement that is alarming—as if the only conceivable response to a mass attack by killer hyenas were to run away. Nagel was assailed; almost everyone else ran. The Kurzweil Cult. The voice most strongly associated with what I’ve termed roboticism is that of Ray Kurzweil, a leading technologist and inventor. The Kurzweil Cult teaches that, given the strong and ever-increasing pace of technological progress and change, a fateful crossover point is approaching. He calls this point the “singularity.” After the year 2045 (mark your calendars!), machine intelligence will dominate human intelligence to the extent that men will no longer understand machines any more than potato chips understand mathematical topology. Men will already have begun an orgy of machinification—implanting chips in their bodies and brains, and fine-tuning their own and their children’s genetic material. Kurzweil believes in “transhumanism,” the merging of men and machines. He believes human immortality is just around the corner. He works for Google. Whether he knows it or not, Kurzweil believes in and longs for the death of mankind. Because if things work out as he predicts, there will still be life on Earth, but no human life. To predict that a man who lives forever and is built mainly of semiconductors is still a man is like predicting that a man with stainless steel skin, a small nuclear reactor for a stomach, and an IQ of 10,000 would still be a man. In fact we have no idea what he would be. Each change in him might be defended as an improvement, but man as we know him is the top growth on a tall tree in a large forest: His kinship with his parents and ancestors and mankind at large, the experience of seeing his own reflection in human history and his fellow man—those things are the crucial part of who he is. If you make him grossly different, he is lost, with no reflection anywhere he looks. If you make lots of people grossly different, they are all lost together—cut adrift from their forebears, from human history and human experience. Of course we do know that whatever these creatures are, untransformed men will be unable to keep up with them. Their superhuman intelligence and strength will extinguish mankind as we know it, or reduce men to slaves or dogs. To wish for such a development is to play dice with the universe. ...] That science should face crises in the early 21st century is inevitable. Power corrupts, and science today is the Catholic Church around the start of the 16th century: used to having its own way and dealing with heretics by excommunication, not argument. Science is caught up, also, in the same educational breakdown that has brought so many other proud fields low. Science needs reasoned argument and constant skepticism and open-mindedness. But our leading universities have dedicated themselves to stamping them out—at least in all political areas. We routinely provide superb technical educations in science, mathematics, and technology to brilliant undergraduates and doctoral students. But if those same students have been taught since kindergarten that you are not permitted to question the doctrine of man-made global warming, or the line that men and women are interchangeable, or the multiculturalist idea that all cultures and nations are equally good (except for Western nations and cultures, which are worse), how will they ever become reasonable, skeptical scientists? They’ve been reared on the idea that questioning official doctrine is wrong, gauche, just unacceptable in polite society. (And if you are president of Harvard, it can get you fired.) Beset by all this mold and fungus and corruption, science has continued to produce deep and brilliant work. Most scientists are skeptical about their own fields and hold their colleagues to rigorous standards. Recent years have seen remarkable advances in experimental and applied physics, planetary exploration and astronomy, genetics, physiology, synthetic materials, computing, and all sorts of other areas. But we do have problems, and the struggle of subjective humanism against roboticism is one of the most important. The moral claims urged on man by Judeo-Christian principles and his other religious and philosophical traditions have nothing to do with Earth’s being the center of the solar system or having been created in six days, or with the real or imagined absence of rational life elsewhere in the universe. The best and deepest moral laws we know tell us to revere human life and, above all, to be human: to treat all creatures, our fellow humans and the world at large, humanely. To behave like a human being (Yiddish: mensch) is to realize our best selves. No other creature has a best self. This is the real danger of anti-subjectivism, in an age where the collapse of religious education among Western elites has already made a whole generation morally wobbly. When scientists casually toss our human-centered worldview in the trash with the used coffee cups, they are re-smashing the sacred tablets, not in blind rage as Moses did, but in casual, ignorant indifference to the fate of mankind. A world that is intimidated by science and bored sick with cynical, empty “postmodernism” desperately needs a new subjectivist, humanist, individualistworldview. We need science and scholarship and art and spiritual life to be fully human. The last three are withering, and almost no one understands the first. The Kurzweil Cult is attractive enough to require opposition in a positive sense; alternative futures must be clear. The cults that oppose Kurzweilism are called Judaism and Christianity. But they must and will evolve to meet new dangers in new worlds. The central text of Judeo-Christian religions in the tech-threatened, Googleplectic West of the 21st century might well be Deuteronomy 30:19: “I summon today as your witnesses the heavens and the earth: I have laid life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; choose life and live!—you are your children.” That Dang Kurzweil Kult! Wait till Ed Hudgins reads this. Okay, to wind you down from the excitement engendered by Gelernter, Damasio having a live think at a TED thing. Their webpage contains a transcript of the Youtube version of the think. He is no Gelernter, but in his remarks captures the wonder and mystery of our senses of self, the individual human consciousness. -- see more from Gelernter at Big Think, including a great potted bio.
  3. Quantum weirdness could refer to a few unique properties of the so-called quantum world ... or with the near-term promise of quantum computing. I think a detailed electric 'map' of the brain -- alongside the maps of protein cascades, the chemical mapping of millions of possible combinations -- would probably be the place where we could discover actual quantum effects. What you say about consciousness -- needing to understand how it actually works -- I agree. Have you read anything from Antonio Damasio? His books come to the subject of consciousness (and the brain) through 'defects' in consciousness. I recommend his 2012 Self Comes To Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. It helps to have read his earlier books to adopt his phraseology and definitions, but he is a good enough writer that even difficult concepts are intelligible.** Damasio looks at the levels of functioning 'awareness' that develop as different 'levels' of the brain come 'online.' His work to understand consciousness is rooted in the study of patients who have had various brain injuries (including coma, locked-in syndrome, and other effects of brain lesions). Shut-in syndrome is close to the absolute edge of consciousness embodied -- when the body is almost completely paralyzed by injury to particular areas of the brainstem -- where the person is consciously aware, but gives no sign. It's a weird, flat, emotionless world. At the other end of the scale, Damasio looks at the effects of brain lesions in areas that contribute to a sense of self, executive control, and the all-important emotions, without which decision-making (free will?) is practically destroyed. Here's Damasio at a TED talk, as a sample of his overall project -- "The quest to understand consciousness". Ted also supplies a transcript if you hate watching videos ... I think that once we humans understand more about the many-layered and plastic functions of the brain, when we can finally make headway on the 'hard problem' of consciousness, then we will be very closed to designing a machine with a 'self,' or a 'soul' or a quasi-human independent 'mind.' I think we will be thirty years away from this until the day when Damasio's work (and the work of other fine researchers and philosophers of mind) seems basic and inchoate. So, I will answer a resounding yes if the question is Will humans ever succeed in embuing a robot with high-level intelligence. I think we can barely conceive just how much progress in brain and cognitive sciences can happen over the next hundred years of human history. ___________________________________ ** for a brief explanation of Damasio's theory of consciousness, see the fairly good Wikipedia entry.
  4. I'm vaguely familiar with Damasio's work, but I'm not sure how much it applies in this case. I recommend Damasio's "Descartes' Error" from your library. It describes the "case" of the patient called "Elliot" ... the subtitle of the book is "Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, and the chapter is A Modern Phineas Gage. I can briefly describe the case and why I find it applicable or interesting to the question of Emotions as Tools of cognition. In a nutshell, Elliot had damage to a part of his pre-frontal cortex. From that point forward, he lost his ability to make decisions. (the case is more complex than that, of course, but that is the gist.) So the point or issue I am inserting is that we have an example of a person, a real person, who had 'lost' his emotions. And that the effect of the loss was profoundly damaging to decision-making. And that decision-making is a cognition. Elliot did not have amygdala damage. Damage to or disease of the amygdala leads to various interesting and awful syndromes, but that isn't applicable to Elliot. (bringing forward research on the amygdala and decision-making would add another immensely interesting angle on Rand's precepts) In this case, I prefer not to use analogies, or rather 'argument by analogy.' I want folks to think through what happened to Elliot and what it might mean to the hard and fast edict that "Emotions are not (reliable) tools of cognition." A person with an undamaged amygdala can still make 'bad' decisions. A human mind does not map to the analogous situations. That is an important question. I am asking questions from a slightly different angle. What is the connection between emotions and decision-making? What if the chosen values can no longer be 'assigned' a bodily sensation (emotion positive or negative)? Here's a little bit of Damasio which compresses his work with Elliot. Feeling Our Emotions | According to noted neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, joy or sorrow can emerge only after the brain registers physical changes in the body If you donate five bucks to OL, I will lend you a listen to an audio reading of the chapter. If you give ten bucks I will lend you the chapter text backstage. It is my own copy, and to Trump with the DMCA ...
  5. The topic of emotion in Randland has always interested me. My very first point of contact with Objectivish things online was the place of emotion in cognition. It is interesting to find myself in rough agreement with Michael all these years later. In the midst of a very intriguing conversation with my favourite South African Randian, this by MSK: It's not really fair to truncquote this bit, but readers can plunge back into the front porch thread to gain the flow of discussion, and the hinge-point of disagreement. But besides that, I think I can add a clarifying point in response to this (highlights added): This describes a similar-but-not-identical syndrome that I became aware of by reading the work of Antonio Damasio (whom I have mentioned a few too many times ...). Damasio worked with a neurological patient given the code-name "Elliot." I mentioned 'Damasio,' 'emotion,' and 'Elliot' in one post five years ago: The gist was this: "Here is a teaser from a popular article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Feeling our way to decision" -- which I excerpted in the 2012 post ... Back to Michael's post today ... I'd like to find the famous example ... perhaps Michael can introspect hard and come up with the details. -- this is roughly what I began to think when I learned of the case of "Elliot." I won't belabour the point here, since my "too many times" link above shows the same kind of discussion points I would make this time. Without emotion, one's thinking is crippled. An additional knowledge point would be what "emotional intelligence" is missing in psychopaths (and here I plug the brilliant synthesis of research given in Ken Kiehl's book, The Psychopath Whisperer). Here is a brief extract from the 2010 Scientific American Mind article "Inside the Mind of a Psychopath." -- imagine waking up to a world in which none of these bodily feelings were present in mind, but were mostly inaccessible ... and try to figure out which emotional circuits are blunted to the point of disappearance in the "rational" mind of a psychopath.
  6. So? So what? Imagine it this way: what happens to a person's decision-making abilities if these often-unreliable 'tools' are entirely absent? I mention Antonio Damasio's insights -- perhaps too many times (current count 22), but his work with "Elliot" and other cases of brain disease or injury pointed to the necessary part of emotions in making even the most ordinary decisions. Since decision-making is a cognitive process, to know that 'missing emotion' cripples a person, this is the strongest suggestion that Emotions are human Tools in Cognition, tools that once lost cannot be replaced by reason. Rather than rewrite the same material here, I include some earlier quotes ... to serve as Food for Thought: I add emphasis here and there. A B This is stated many times, and I still do not fully understand it. I have asked before if anyone can imagine making a rational decision without emotion, and I noted Damasio's work on emotional deficits (in the consciousness thread). Blackhorse, have you read anything of Damasio's work with 'Elliot'? (first in book form in Descarte's Error) C
  7. Which emotions??? Do anger and hatred promote cognition or do they cripple cognition. A little fear increases watchfulness. Panic destroys reason and judgement. I have been boring at length on this since I came to the forum in 2006. My thesis is borrowed almost entirely, with biggest debt to Antonio Damasio. I have only convinced one person to read an item or two from Damasio's booklist. I am saying I have been banging a drum for some time. I don't recall you engaging with any of my other boring banging, so I am kind of self-bored at the prospect of freshening up that bonging boring droning. Perhaps I could just sketch the scope of what I mean by 'tool of cognition' ...? I will call cognition not just thinking, but reasoning, reasoning in the sense of normal everyday evaluations, decision-making, analyses and self-reports. For cognition, for a person making his way in the world, a lack of emotion otherwise standard issue from birth, the lack is a handicap. For a poetic version of the bonging and droning see my most recent post in this thread.. Imagine, if you will, a person with lesions in his or her brain, lesions where the emotional circuits are, rendering that person an almost perfect Spock and in no way effecting memory or intelligence (such persons are rare but perfect illustrations). The problem results in faulty or entirely absent mechanics of valuation -- a lack of 'charge' on all emotional vectors. Without the ability to feel emotion, there is no physico-mental neuronal 'calculus' of benefit, no beads on the mental-emotional abacus, no 'skin' in the game, no chips at stake. If you take the time to read a story at a link I have posted three times before I would be happy to continue a conversation, Bob. Your experience of life and development on the Autism Spectrum, your unique cognitive challenges, these can serve to add empirical heft for my thesis once you understand it. While I go dig up my own cache of bongo, consider a mirror or consider the face of a 'neuro-typical' person under your gaze, whether in your early life, at school, in love, in conflict, in doubt. Can you now grasp the 'tells' on that face via everyday emoting, emoting that appears on the face? I think you have written before on how your 'emotion detection' equipment needed a lot of programming. You might end up thinking, if something needed 'programming,' then surely that something is a tool essential to the human cognitive toolkit. (I will edit this down and/or out, and perhaps shift it to another thread with more of a focus on emotion where the issues have been trodden already, Bob. There is not a lot of learning going on here in this thread. But. It would be fascinating to read about your viscerals as pertains to art -- if it plays any part in your life.) Suggested search term : william.scherk[user] damasio AND emotion AND cognition
  8. Objectivism and emotion and I have a history here going back almost to the beginning. At times I have been boring and pedantic. On the brighter side, thinking and reading about emotion and research into emotion has given me just enough confidence to be brief. I think everyone in this thread has made important points, interesting observations, and could probably get a C+ on a snap essay/comment that summed up "the other guy's" argument. What I got to was a question. And then a few more. First, Is empathy a capacity or an emotion? Is empathy felt in the body as an emotion is felt (is empathy an internal 'echo' of previously felt emotions re-imagined)? Can one empathize with an angry, grieving, mistrustful person? Can we ''pick up" and imitate a nearby emotion? Is there an "empathy of crowds"? How would emotional 'contagion' operate with and without empathy? If empathy is a human universal -- an aptitude or mental facility that comes with a standard issue brain -- can we measure its variable 'strength'? If empathy is a human universal, given a healthy brain, which will be the exceptions that prove the (general) rule? Can a sociopath be empathetic? Although it can be observed that a sociopath lacks remorse, is callous, has zero compassion and an absence of "conscience" and has difficulty distinguishing fear ... can he still 'get' empathy? Can he utilize empathy (or concurrent 'emotional echoes' in mind's eye)? Some of you here may keep up with the neuroscience as it pertains to sociopathy/empathy being mutually-exclusive. Where I think I agree most with everyone is that a human capacity for empathy(emotion) can be exploited, can be manipulated, can be commanded, and can be over-ruled. It can be fed on particular diets (of all the media we presently emit). It gets full play in great works of fiction. On that same tack -- empathy can be stimulated for good and for ill. As a parent teaches a child about the general non-aggression pact in human societies, stimulating a capacity for empathy is one tool. When we advise about the No Biting rule, and later on basic justice, on family fairness, we can effectively use a capacity for empathy to deepen the lesson. Later still, as we help teens grapple with moral issues we instruct on more explicit evils, on abuses and crimes, even on terrible fates, the wounds, hatreds, joys, fears and triumphs 'out there.' Evoking another's feelings in one's own mind is also a kind of day-to-day practical psychology ... One more line to truss up my points -- evoking empathy, eliciting empathetic reasoning, inculcating a mental skill at 'putting oneself in the other person's place,' imagining another person's joy or apprehension or shame or pain ... this helps carry forward the values of our selves (as philosophy for living), of our families, our cultural communities, "tribes," ethno-religious sects, states. It all adds to a lesson plan. Strong feelings help nail down the salient details. It might also be useful to re-beat this drum: empathy for the downtrodden, empathy for the forgotten, empathy for the left-behind, can be used to stake tribal boundaries -- using tales of great evil and suffering at the hands of putative enemies. It's a really interesting topic that I have thought about over the years. I wish we had a larger quorum, because this is one of those subjects that everyone probably has a take on. "What is empathy. What is it for? How does it manifest?" As always on an emotion-related thread, a plug for the excellent work of author and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. I've used an example from his work to illustrate how decision-making and reason itself is deformed or gravely impaired by specific lesions to the brain that remove emotion. What a remarkable attribute of human beings, that we can imagine ourselves in the feeling body of another human.
  9. To the second sentence: but, of course! That doesn't follow from the first part, though. Advisedly, sometimes an emotion may well precede and accompany the decision for an action, when one 'emotionally anticipates' a desired end. Such as in buying a gift for a friend, you will anticipate his pleasure at receiving and using it and take advance pleasure from that. I think we are on different planes flying the same route here, Tony. I am going to go on at hideous length to explain my route and how I see us converging on the same destination. Once I post this, I am going to do hatchet/edit job, because it is already six times longer than I intended, and I hate the thought of losing a fan to TLDR. There is only so much vivid prose can do. My first sentence is supported by the striking case of 'Elliot.' His ability to make 'the simplest' decisions was gravely impaired by the destruction of his capacity for emotion. His decision-making, his process of judgment were permanently damaged. I used the example of a 'perfect pathology' to illustrate for Joseph the ubiquity of what he called 'cadence,' to illustrate what happens to a human being when his emotions are 'removed' entirely. From the most subconscious, ephemeral emotional calculations, to acutely value-laden deliberations of choice, 'Elliot' could no longer reason efficiently enough to survive on his own. So, the first sentence was supported by that which proceeded it, which you left out. Joseph had asked us "If emotions can cloud judgment, how does one know his judgment is objective?" and I wanted to establish the grounds of my opinion before attempting to answer: Without emotions like fear, anger, disgust, anticipation, sadness, happiness ... you would hardly be able to 'judge' anything. One may have an emotional disorder -- a mania or depression -- that results in irrational decisions, irrational actions, self-damaging judgments of impinging reality or irrational assessments of danger/risk. One can also be a victim of rare neurological states in which emotions are absent (see Antonio Damasio's study of just such a person, 'Elliot,' in Descarte's Error, and in a story from the Sydney Morning Herald, Feeling our way to decision). Tony, your advisory kind of built on on this knowledge of emotion, as you spoke of an emotion that can precede and accompany a decision, how a human 'emotionally anticipates' a desired end, how a human can anticipate his pleasure. I don't think we have substantive differences on how emotions can be born and managed, or on how automaticity can be invoked, curbed, reprocessed, primed, repressed, overridden, what have you. I don't think we disagree on the complexity of the reason/emotion nexus. And I think we agree down the line that we need more detail from Joseph before we can best answer his questions. I can interpret your notes on 'advance pleasure' that rational cognition is in some instances dependent on emotion for efficiency. Perhaps you might be thinking I evade a diktat or supervening authority ... maybe a phrase plucked from Rand: 'emotion are not tools of cognition.' I think we would agree that the example of Elliot teaches us that emotions can be key to decision-making, and that without them we can have cognitive problems. I've made the same very narrow range of points with various dressings and toppings in the past, so I will try to be fresh: if we see emotion as an 'evaluation' as do Rand and Damasio and most emotion theorists and researchers, we can see that rational evaluation as a class subsumes emotional evaluation, as a kind of neural substrate to choice and preference and differentiation of options and so on. The emotional index of a choice matrix is thus but one aspect we can consult -- neither the most important nor without importance at all. I believe that evaluation of even prosaic choice can be emotive in humans -- decisions without emotional valence are like picking fruit. One can completely rationally pick fruit to the highest standard -- but underneath the calculation is a value sought, rooted in the positive/negative value-scheme of a mind. (none of his means to imply that value schemes cannot be immoral, psychotic, deranged, irrational, dogmatic, destructive, incoherent, partial, psychopathic, anti-social, anti-individual. Nor do I mean to imply that one must always take an emotional depth sounding. Our machine is constantly monitoring, we don't need to examine our feelings until they cause distress. We don't need to goad feelings to the surface before a decision can be taken. We can usually rely upon the machine to alert us to dangerous situations requiring heightened attention. If the machine gives us fear and loathing, or anger, or despair, or anguished second-guessing to otherwise simple decisions, if one is 'torn' and doesn't understand why, then, sure, pay attention ... in proportion to the decision.) But, of course, I might be missing the proper objection in your remarks, Tony, or perceiving agreement where it hasn't taken hold. Perhaps you are trying to tell me that I am invoking a 'power' of raw unexamined emotion to properly determine human action (decision). Perhaps you think that pointing to the ubiquity of emotion means I would campaign for making the emotional content of decision-making the only significant aspect of decision-making. Maybe I am simply not invoking caveats that seem necessary. Are there decision-making processes in which emotion is and should be least-ranked during evaluation? I would say yes, indeed, of course. If asked to defend the notion that unexamined emotions can wreck and hobble 'proper' rational conclusions, I would again say yes, indeed. We need only look at the richest fruit of human reason,at products of sustained application of human reason sans emotion. There are multiple rich examples from literature and life, science and history -- all showing us the variable ways in which human beings let their emotions over-rule reason -- up to and beyond the point of their personal destruction. One can find a plethora of sites and instances of decision-making further illustrating the danger of emotional motives and influences. We find benches and libraries full of the result of 'unemotional' decision-making and deciding, judging. I'd say that we would agree that in many cases our very existences depend on dispassionate judgment: in our finances, in justice, in science, in most sober fields of inquiry. -- all this extended rant to place my remarks in context and to more fully explain what I meant by the sentence "Without emotion, one can find it hard to make the simplest decision." Anyway, back to context within the bounds of the OT's concerns -- something unreasonable, conceptually distressing, confusing, conflicting or puzzling. How can he know when he (the Judge) is clouded by emotion? Well, again I'd say we can't approach answers without salient detail. Is the judgment (choice/decision/conclusion/assessment) in danger because of an inappropriate excess of emotion, or because of a by-intensity-suspect emotion? Is the emotion unwanted or welcome? Does the emotion contradict the reasoned judgment? Is a particular kind of judgment suspect when accompanied by strong emotion? (and as before, which actual emotions are at issue is key) I guess I am most interested in the personal problem, although the epistemology is absorbing. Here our planes intersect, Tony! Even the 'simplest decision' is values based. This is my point re 'Elliot.' His 'value'-assessment was impaired by his brain wound. He was unplugged from a part of the machine we normal-issue humans have still doing its business in our bodies. Even the 'simplest decision' is values based. Your formulation effectively supports a rational/emotive coupling. Values at the base, values according to our assessments from on down the cognitive chain, values undergirding one's sense of life, values underlying our emotional gestalt, mood, attitude per our particularities. Even the 'simplest decision' is values based. Values acquired through rational means or not. And from the Randian scheme of valuation, we can follow those valuations all the way back to pre-conceptual: good for me, bad for me, pain or pleasure, advance/retreat, flee/fight, live/die. You do not comment on a particular impaired judgment of Joseph's because like me you can't; we'd need to do a lot of spade-work to learn which values a particular decision were based on, and work up from there. We await clarification from Joseph. This is difficult to parse. I'd like to see this expanded, since I may misunderstand its import. I'd kick it back to Joseph and say -- how does this apply to your instance of possibly-clouded judgment? And then probe for the comparative he mentioned. The variables are similar: (strong emotion) + (confident) judgment / (strong emotion) + (doubtful) judgment. Are you perhaps unduly prioritizing emotion in assessing the 'clouding'? ... perhaps there is a persisting rational reason for ambivalence, once the strong signal is set aside or subsides. Again, what was the strong emotion? I can imagine a strongly 'negative' emotion much more easily. A judgment accompanied by feelings of contempt, disgust, anger, dismay, repulsion, whatever mixture, cranked up to ten or beyond. And then, again, what role might that felt emotion have played to confound or make suspect an otherwise confident mental act? -- the act of judgment, the conclusion, the decision? I always have been attuned to depressive reasoning, as depression has stalked my family for generations (no doubt a Norwegian adaptation). A fatalistic, detached, what's the use blunting of emotions, an inability to take once-appreciated pleasures, a disconnect from life's interactions. Others will be more attentive to different aspects of destructive or inappropriate 'moods' or 'states' in decision-making. Mike has his eye out for anger, maybe. Maybe most of us have our eyes out for hate/rage or obsessively negative emoters in our midst, online, in life, on the world's stages. Maybe some look for signals of other out-of-control or distorted emotional obstacles to rational cognition, on many different scales. So, Tony's apparent aversion to a general 'prioritizing emotions' in all choice is wise. Why prioritize, in general, what is only an aspect of cognition, an agent of evaluation? We can put a 'what do you feel and why do you feel it' question on a top-forty list of rational evaluative questions, and rank it higher or lower on an 'Uh-oh' scale -- depending on its appropriateness to the inquiry. In a court, What did you feel? is either wildly irrelevant and immaterial, or designed to elicit motivation. I was in a quiet cold controlled ragefear of jealousy, Your Honour. I felt nothing, Your Honour. In any case, I am not making an argument for prioritizing much more than figuring out the problem. I am curious where our questioner is feeling conflict and doubt over his own judgment. We can help him to a better rational place, I hope, or at least find a way to understand his conflict in the context of our own emotional/judging experience. Later, the advanced-level philosophical bone-picking can commence. In this case we must pay attention to -- 'prioritize' -- Joseph's emotions, because that is what he is what he brought forward. Not knowing the details of the puzzle/conflict, there's not much more I helpfully say to guide our friend, despite my own general and specific understanding of emotion and decision-making. So, I'll put the spotlight back on the OT and say, there's my general and particular thoughts, here's some interesting facts, here's the scope of the possible problem in my mind, hope to hear more detail. I don't know if this is an effective answer to the perplexed-by-William. One more try: Joseph said, I'll take that almost-last part, "how does one know that his judgment isn't simply motivated by pleasure/pain?" In great matters and small, pleasure/pain evaluations -- or more neutrally, positive/negative evaluations -- can be motivators. The stronger the 'intensity' of an emotion, the stronger the potential motivation. The least 'charge' accompanying a decision, the least likely to have been biased. The most charged evaluations are then probably a 'best sum' indicator from your mind that this is a high-stakes decision. So, Joseph, set aside that 'simply' qualifier and look back to how a comparison caused you to doubt a decision. Strong emotions in one instance did not delay decision. In the other, strong emotions were let to subside. Seems to me eminently rational to defer conclusions, but why not delay in both cases? Why didn't you cool off in the first instance too? How one might answer the "how do we know" query, how to determine whether "judgment isn't simply motivated by pleasure/pain?" -- by understanding that any judgment process may contain pre-existing/triggered positive/negative emotional evaluations (to the situation). Identifying the actual evaluations reveals the concepts in play, and readies them for analytic review. So, what difference did it make int he first instance -- the strong emotion? What difference did the emotion make in the second instance? Was each situation charged with differing emotions?
  10. I plug this in here, though answering Tony from the other thread on Diana and the Wall of Hypocrisy. I do not fully understand this. Set aside the term 'sub-conscious' and what does this mean -- every emotion came via one's consciousness? If this means that one does not emote when one sleeps, I would disagree**. If it means more or less that an impression of some kind (signal 'incoming' to an emotional centre in the brain) had to have been made on a conscious organism before it could feel emotion, I could partially agree, since I can easily sketch out a situation for the six senses, each one illustrated by a conscious organism having an emotion triggered by something external, or something that impinged upon the brain's awareness. But to say that one was conscious of something, an event or action that impinged and engendered emotion -- does this necessarily imply 'consciousness' in the fully extended gerund in play? It does not imply a fully human consciousness if one can say that a dog or other animal can be triggered into fear. Any manner of mammals exhibit fear, anger ... and can recognize it in a conspecific. So, I can agree with the statement that every emotion came via one's consciousness without accepting a human-only example. I set aside "one's sub-conscious" because I do not know what Tony means exactly. Unconscious brain activity obviously undergirds the conscious stream of thought and perception, but I do not reify this underground to a separate actor. I do not believe in The Unconscious as a personality, so to speak, in any way separable from the brain and personality of the individual. More to the point, if I agree that emotions are felt consciously, and rooted in consciousness, what can I make with that statement? What does it imply as knock-on effects in the world and in the mind? Emotion is one of those 'things' that I do not think Rand worked on sufficiently, did not explore and write enough about. I am unsatisfied with the stock Objectivish notions about emotion.† I agree with the broad strokes of Rand that agree with the findings of cognitive neuroscience, and part with her where her statements are contradicted in fact. Further elaborations of her verbalisms tend to confuse me, as I do not grasp the referents sometimes. For example, think of what conceptual depth is in these three words: cognition, tool, emotion. What do I need to know about cognition, about tools, about emotions, before I can confidently assemble the three into always/ever statements of broad (if not universal) applicability? This is so encouraging. I think of someone without emotion, or with particular emotional deficits. I cited Damasio before, Tony, hoping my readers in this thread had read him or of him. What makes his work interesting is he put the question of the OT at the front of his work as a neurologist. He sought out (like Sacks) the folks with deficits -- in consciousness and in emotion. Here the evidence from Damasio is unequivocal, and contradicts Rand's dicta. Without emotion, how can one make decisions? Without that evaluator automatically operating, giving physical reactions to the data, how can one make fully informed choices? In several striking cases, Damasio has featured the severe cognitive effects of having emotions 'removed.' Tony, can you imagine how crippled cognition might be without the input of emotion, in terms of analysis and judgement? Can you imagine a morality without emotion? I really think there is no more emotional animal than humankind. Hands down. The sketchiness of Objectivish thought on emotion is disappointing sometimes. What we know about emotion from Objectivism, in other words, is not enough to understand emotion in its fullest, and to more fully understand how deeply implicated emotion is in so much of what we call 'cognition.' The more we understand from the sciences about the peculiarities of our faculties, the more we can rationally deal with them. Knock out the ability to feel emotion, and the human becomes incapable of decision-making. A part of the machinery of the human that is absolutely necessary for rational cognition, emotion. ________________ ** of course, one is conscious to a greater or lesser degree during one's dreams and nightmares. The impingement on consciousness that engenders emotion in the dream world is almost always from the stream of consciousness, it could be argued. † Love love love where Boydstun and Marsha Familiaro Enwright get to on emotion. Dissenting with Rand on this issue is not apostasy. What I like is that Rand understood emotion as an evaluative faculty, and stressed that humans can engineer and supervise their own emotions, if not their moods. She also deftly sketched the actors, the organism/evaluator, and the executive, the Ego, and the impingements. Her sketch of an emotion under the executive management of the self is revealing of what she aspired to as a rational human being. I can only stand with this kind of aspiration. It is what I wish for myself and all human beings.
  11. A side-note on Damasio and Sacks. Those who have followed my earlier recommendations on neurology by dipping into the output of these two gents will understand the attention to anomalies that provide insight, defects that give insight to the state of health. Damasio seeks an explanation of the elements of a conscious human. He investigates edge conditions, 'locked-in' folks, or those in the varied states of full paralysis. One women he worked with emerged from a very long 'lock in' and was able to return to full language expression, and give us the result of her introspection -- a report of her 'conscious' experiences. This was a woman who could not even twitch an eyelid, but slept and waked and observed from within. Imagine! Did she feel dread, fear, depression, hopelessness? Was her consciousness of the horror of the situation? Could she feel the range of emotions one would expect of a conscious organism? Surprisingly, no! These quotes are from The Feeling of What Happens, one of Damasio's four great works on consciousness. PDS, if interested, I can direct you to a short summary of Dr D's findings and grand hypotheses. I am presently struggling through Harry Binswanger's elucidation of the problem of consciousness. I may not be back for weeks.
  12. In the context of "What is consciousness for," your question is sharp. Although the danger in defining terms is that we can carve away all the wonderful connotations of a word and leave it like a boned fish on an empty plate . . . and while your question has a profound trap (how the hell can I know what is in the we-formation, the we-mind, besides consulting lexicons?), it is fun and can seed a hundred further discussions/tirades/obtuse idiomatic rants. I am pig-ignorant of the recently burgeoning field of consciousness studies, but cling to the speculative work of Antonio Damasio as you do to your pathfinder Korzybski, of whom I am also pig-ignorant. If you recommend to me an accessible Korzybski take on consciousness (of something), I will try to find you an accessible take from Damasio. ** But, at the risk of getting everything utterly wrong-ass, Damasio believes that consciousness in human terms is that which a normal, neurologically-sound person is aware of: the body foremost, the sensory 'images' pressing in from outside and the 'images' that flash through thought, and subsequent evolved capacities, emotions, feelings, self and conception of self in the temporal flux. His great book "The Feeling of What Happens" has a subtitle that captures for me the near-ineffable gestalt of his speculations: "Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (see this review if you are unfamiliar). If you can conceive of what it means to be "unconscious," and if you can read some of the case studies of Damasio (or Oliver Sacks, for good measure), you can sculpt your own conception of the common connotations of the word . . . In terms of "what consciousness is for," accepting that this is a metaphor like "What the Fox gene is for," I find it helps to think as Steven Pinker or Richard Dawkins suggest -- as an attribute of an evolved species, consciousness is not strictly for anything, as telos, as end, as purpose. Yet by applying a reverse engineering perspective, one can ask "what does it do?" and "what does its absence imply for its purpose?" and "are there levels of consciousness?" In my muddled understanding then, consciousness is a built-on extension of the senses that most living things have, an 'awareness-Plus,' a sophisticated homeostatic function of the organism. Consciousness of the type an amoeba does not possess is the function of the organism that says "I, me, mine, today, tomorrow, forever." And to stretch an analogy to its snapping point, consciousness is the Knowing of the Knower. Fascinating angles on consciousness come from consideration of coma, persistent vegetative states, locked-in syndrome, various agnosias and effects of brain lesions from the neurological literature. _______ ** in the meantime, a quick summary of Damasio's levels of consciousness here.
  13. What's the context? The facial meaning is that there are pretensions in the formal teachings of Objectivism, among which that Reason is humankind's most potent tool/attribute -- and relatedly, that a reasoned inquirer needs to subordinate emotion, understand emotion, identify the root of particular emotional states. Since decision-making is quite often dependent on functioning emotional circuits, the identification requires steps out of Objectivist diktat into allied fields of investigation. The fictional character Spock was/is perfectly poised to understand the uses and misuses of emotion. He could not be swayed by pure emotionalist argument, nor struggle to avoid his own half-human emotions overrunning logic and reason. Except of course when he was in rut. As with Ayn Rand's "Stomach Feeling" ... I sometimes see contortions. Objectivist rage and all that. Emotionalist language and emotional arguments. The character is evidently not stripped clean of emotions, being bi-racial. A fully emotionless man is Damasio's famous patient, Elliot, which absence wrecked his life. The pretension to cold, logical, wholly rational cognition is then a nice target zone for me. I don't think Objectivists tend to master their emotions any greater than average, yet the pretense is attractive. If emotion is relatively easy to whip up, manipulate, recruit in service of inhumane, irrational and destructive ends, then a calm and collected culture of reason is where I want to live, at least in my mind.
  14. This is stated many times, and I still do not fully understand it. I have asked before if anyone can imagine making a rational decision without emotion, and I noted Damasio's work on emotional deficits (in the consciousness thread). Blackhorse, have you read anything of Damasio's work with 'Elliot'? (first in book form in Descarte's Error) I mention this so that you can find and examine a situation that puts the "not tools of cognition' / 'not tools of rational decision making' to the test. Here is a teaser from a popular article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Feeling our way to decision
  15. If I understand this correctly, I agree. The term 'core of consciousness' doesn't mean a great deal to me, and my mind is dragged off into Damasio-land -- since he considers 'core consciousness' to be the central monitory apparatus of the organism. Thinking holonically, or giving myself a high-holonic, I don't get much comprehension of what this means to human consciousness, or mind. I don't accept that the most important thing about mind and consciousness and mental events is that this is all holonic. It doesn't give me a grip on the research that interests me, and the philosophy of consciousness that interests me (Damasio again). The best image I can get of the importance of the holon concept is as a pattern, and as a pattern a rule of thumb that tells us something meaningful about the nature of reality. At a high point of abstraction, merely comparing kidneys and bodies, cells and kidneys and so on is a great thing -- teaching us to look for relationships and imbrications of form and function and development. Search further into evolutionary developmental work, and we may intuit how a kidney 'holon' in the heritage of shared genes somehow made the first kidney-like function appear in the development of organisms over evolutionary time . . . great stuff: look for the patterns of how things have fitted inside each other through the eons. As a pattern, then, if we apply a dose of this self-same high-colonic concept to the 'mind' (or, if Michael would grant the point, to the mind/brain): what do we see, what pattern ought we find if the holonic concept can show us a meaningful, enduring pattern? Well, the mind/brain definitely is a whole of parts. There is no part of the body that has no connection to the mind/brain, they are mutually implicated; they are one organism. Then the organism itself is implicated in the terms of its life: eat, be eaten, live, exult, plan, speak, intuit, wager and die. Thus the varied sets of inquiry each find and interpret patterns of development and integrate each other's findings. Where holonic thought takes me off the rails is when I consider that there is another suggested valence (at least in the Wilber version): the holon of a mind/brain is a pattern that is bound for something, bound to develop ever 'higher' functions. Here the holon is reified into a thing in and of itself, viewed not merely as a pattern observed, but as an ineffable nudger of ever-present reality along proper grooves. So here suddenly holonic thought implies a force, not merely a pattern. Further, in Wilber the holon skirts with being a separate 'morphic field' itself guiding the development. Not an abstracted 'morphic field' pattern as a heuristic, implied or derived from the action of gene/organism/environment, no, but a field that is invisible but active, guiding the forms and structure of the things under its influence. An elan vital, so to speak. That is the part of holon, the field-theory extrusions, where my mind/brain cannot compute. From what evidence can we posit this invisible but active field, as if it were true and verifiable and as accessible to the nose as any strong odor would be to a mammal like us? Where is the holon as agent found before its development and its emergence as an interdependent actor? I think Michael would do well to read The Ancestor's Tale, The Feeling of What Happens, and The Stuff of Thought . . . to see that perhaps his intuitive gropings for universal thematic unity are to be found with the assistance of some of the great synthetic thinkers of today. I submit Wilber is not a player in the synthesis undertaken by the likes of Dawkins, Damasio and Pinker -- and that whatever his claims to integrate science and spirituality, he has not made an impression on the very people who need to be his allies for his project to succeed. Similarly, Michael, the joy of these kinds of inquiry comes from the integration, whence the puzzles and apparent disjunctures fold together in a matrix of comprehension -- the vault of reason. The work of Wilber crosses several hard lines that you hold as a bulwark against unreason. The vault of spirit. Please consider your interlocutors here as fellow spelunkers of knowledge. If they warn you away from what they see as a side-trap, it is not in the spirit of diminishing you, but as comrades who look out for the safety and integrity of a colleague. [Edited for spelling, grammar]
  16. Marvelous, Stephen. I am struck by a suspicion that this quote could be taken from Antonio Damasio's "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain," though Damasio finds that evaluation = cognition (in the sense that mind = brain). The joy of Damasio is that he teases out the neurology of the pleasure and pain mechanisms without losing the sense of a whole being constantly evaluating itself and its sensations. My philosophical education is as mealy-worm to your eagle, but have recently discovered Mindpapers. I am encouraged to think that neuroscience/cognitive science/philosophy have set up breeding relations over the past generation, and I believe cross-breeding 'the special sciences' with the Queen Science promises non-sterile offspring. Once the hybrid forms solve mind/brain/consciousness, they can move on to test this entailment against the great beast reality. I will be 453 years old by then. -- as an aside, I note your cross-posting to SOLO has been met with that board's customary glazed stupefaction at such scholarship.
  17. Do emotion names capture that sense of identity? Does your epigram capture the passage of time, intensity, shifts and blurs in your own emotional life Of what use is this generalization and home-truth to the project of appreciating(criticizing) art? Do you have a project, in so many words? If someone's emotions are curiously blunted and limited, Tony, as in Damasio's case studies, do you think they could still appreciate art? Would removing Kamhi and Torres emotional life render their judgements on art more or less useful? Would cutting out all the insults and moralistic 'you people' crap from this thread serve your argument better? I don't expect answers to these questions, but set them as a hook for my own thoughts. I would love to see someone in this thread go off and gather some art, select some items for discussion, and 're-set.' Roger's introduction reads to me like a laissez-passer to an Invitational, an event, an intellectual event. The personal invective adds no value to me. But here is my last emotional outburst, a sketch of OL emotions, pictured -- and labeled (In Polish). Have I missed any of the Big Objectivish Emotions expressed so far? The Kantian Sublime: Why Care? Published in ‘Why Theory,’ Cal Arts Exhibition Catalogue, 2009 The Kantian sublime exists as topic, ghost, or foil in many current critical texts about art. Immanuel Kant lays the foundation for a mode of thought that yields two centuries of critique. As Terry Eagleton notes, it is within Kant’s vision that “Marx’s immanent critique will find a foothold.”i Despite the simplification of Kant in some contemporary writing, the actual text is nuanced and at times contradictory; Kant exists at the threshold of rationalism and romanticism. A close read of the text dispels the notion of a pure formalism; even within the Kantian realm, the concepts of beauty and the sublime originate with sensory experience but ultimately assert the triumph of the human capacity to reason. Revisiting Kant’s text seems particularly relevant to our cultural moment as critics such as Edward Said and Eagleton reassess the material outcomes of countervailing anti-essentialist theories. Perhaps the most controversial and fantastical aspect of Kant’s text – the assertion of beauty and the sublime as universal experiences deserves the most thoughtful enquiry. [...] Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) shifts the emphasis of the sublime from the object to the subject. For Kant, the sublime though instigated by objects in the world is not an external object itself, say a mountaintop. The sublime is a mental process, a particular subjective experience that presents the limits of human knowledge to the subject. By emphasizing the subject and the limits of human cognition, the Kantian sublime ultimately rests not in Nature itself, but in the human capacity to reason about Nature. [...] Despite humanism’s misuse of politics and public policy in the form of ethnocentrism and empire, Said asks us to remember the humanist ideal “based on the human being’s capacity to make knowledge, as opposed to absorbing it passively, reactively, dully.”xxvi Can we similarly see Kant’s universality not as the masquerade of authoritarianism but as an assertion of what makes human beings common? Kant’s ideas are nuanced; they carry the tools of their own dismantling. There is an awe of reason in this formalist world, a limit to subjectivity in this humanist vision and the paradox of a universality that is also subjective.
  18. Roger, have you read much of Antonio Damasio?
  19. I think your questions are interesting, but vague. What is the personal judgment -- what kind of judgment on what kind of issue or question, what in particular is being judged, what kind of decision are you trying to make? By the same token, what are the 'strong emotions' you feel when grappling with decision, while trying to judge? Without context, there is no opportunity to find out if you are ruminating. Without emotions like fear, anger, disgust, anticipation, sadness, happiness ... you would hardly be able to 'judge' anything. One may have an emotional disorder -- a mania or depression -- that results in irrational decisions, irrational actions, self-damaging judgments of impinging reality or irrational assessments of danger/risk. One can also be a victim of rare neurological states in which emotions are absent (see Antonio Damasio's study of just such a person, 'Elliot,' in Descarte's Error, and in a story from the Sydney Morning Herald, Feeling our way to decision). Without emotion, one can find it hard to make the simplest decision. Without emotion, human life would have no variations in felt 'flavour.' It will be most useful for discussion to elucidate particulars of the situations you remark upon. I can imagine, for example, a situation in which you are 'judging' a contest of some kind, a yes/no, accept/reject, set-aside/retain-for-examination series of assessments. If you were overwhelmed by feelings of rage or sadness in the midst of the judgment process, Brant's suggestion to wait until passions subside is elementary. What would trigger such feelings? What background situation might intrude? What mood state has darkened your senses? I can imagine any amount of situations you might be in -- where emotional intensity seems out of balance to the matter at hand. Snap judgments informed only by strong negative emotion may indeed need extensive review -- if the judgment is important to you or those close to you.
  20. I am not following. You wrote (to Tony) "[D]o you not think that awareness without memory is possible? My post illustrated this notion with reference to HM, and the hypothesis of Damasio. If you followed my link above to 'Core consciousness,' you will have read this: What I find odd about our thread here is that, yes, we can indeed restrict ourselves to consider only what Rand has written about consciousness, or restrict ourselves to thinking about consciousness in purely adult human terms. I had thought I was adding to the breadth of understanding, but I think I may have failed. Sorry about that! To PDS, who tried to whistle up an Old Dog from the gallery, I have been compiling a collection from Rand's publications (with great help from the Lexicon) that pertain to consciousness. I will post that in a day or so, with some commentary. Calvin, If we try to define consciousness simply, reductively, strictly, I think we lose some deeper understanding and appreciation of the wonder of consciousness in humans. To my mind, it is fine to delimit the boundary between human and non-human consciousness for certain purposes, but to understand that we share levels or elements of consciousness with other animals deepens our understanding of our abilities and our heritage. So, when you say we do not need a definition, we need only rely on a Randian axiom, I want to beat my head against the wall. It feels like a curb on thought.
  21. This is good, but I don't think Tony is familiar with what you are talking about -- in terms of what I might call (borrowing from Damasio) "core consciousness." This kind of "core consciousness" is the thing that makes us kin to animals (to my mind). The way I read your remarks make me think of the relatively famous (in consciousness studies) person known as HM ... Now, what was missing in HM was not procedural memory, nor did he lose the ability to subconsciously learn physical tasks -- but his day to day world of consciousness was without memory consolidation. As he said above, each day is alone by itself. Considering how important memory is to our human selves, how crippled we can be without a working memory, can we still imagine a pre-self-conscious human (a toddler before she 'knew who she was' -- during the years subject to childhood amnesia) who has one up on HM, with functioning hippocampus? If we can imagine this, can we say that this small human did not have 'consciousness' ... ? Can we say that HM did not have 'consciousness'? I think not. HM, without a hippocampus, was able to converse, walk, write, read, etcetera, and could identify himself. He was 'conscious' of himself and his surroundings. Another way to look at this tangle where emotion, memory, self-awareness and consciousness intersect and work together is by looking at animals that are closest to us (in terms of primate evolution). Here is a short (5 minute) video of Damian Aspinall and his reunion with young gorilla, Kwibi. I am hoping we can stop banging the pot for Rand and think about what this brief vignette can suggest to us about identity, self/other, memory, emotion and .... consciousness.
  22. I'm not certain this is a good rule of thumb -- if it means that one can never pass off an NDE report as bullshit evidence of life after death, slowly or quickly. Then perhaps you can expand on your original comment. What is remarkable about the story that it pertains to consciousness? How does it relate to the concerns and questions raised in this thread? All we got with your mention of the book was a label -- 'fascinating.' In the context of consciousness, coma, and the experiences of levels of physical awareness, of minimally conscious states, of the odd flatness and lack of distress in locked-in patients -- even Dr Alexander's story can be interesting, okay. Fascinating perhaps, in that conversion experiences and altered states of consciousness are interesting in themselves, and may shed light on the puzzles of self, mind, brain, will and awareness that bedevil us in this thread. But honestly, as evidence of another realm, a spirit realm? Perhaps you can be more clear about what makes the doctor more fascinating that any other NDE reporter? I got the impression this was being slipped in as 'evidence' of life after death, which it seems to me it is anything but. If you want to argue for a life for the mind beyond death of the body and brain, you will be expected to provide a much much stronger warrant than Alexander, in my opinion. Remember J Neil Schulman's long attempt to convince OLers of the brief incarnation of 'god' inside his body? I am not anxious to walk in the shoes of a coma victim, and definitely not anxious to get an E coli infection in my meninges. The prognosis is not very good for adults. That the doctor came out neurologically undamaged (as far as we know) is a clue that no part of his brain 'died' ... moreover, if you read his lengthy interviews before reading his book, the course of his illness and the story of his recovery, you can see that he at no time consulted a neurologist (let alone a researcher like Damasio) about his recovered 'memory of coma' experiences; he kept them hidden. That coma (not only coma from meningial infection) provides interesting findings about consciousness is one thing, and I am certainly not hostile to examining cases. I am hostile to spiritist wishfullness and life after death longings. It strikes me odd that I might have to defend that stance. In a thread about consciousness, if you introduce a duality between body and mind, with a consciousness of another realm beyond reality, what are we supposed to do with that? Murmur approvingly, hope we get in a coma so we can be credentialled to discuss it one day?
  23. The opportunities to be a splitter or a lumper** abound with the question, What Is Consciousness. I liked the opening post, with its link to Wikipedia's overview of Consciousness and its reference to Sutherland. Sutherland was tasked with defining consciousness for the International Dictionary of Psychology, in 1995. He wrote (in part): "Consciousness: the having of perceptions, thoughts and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means... Nothing worth reading has been written about it." It's too bad he gave up. But we don't have to. Alerted to the softness of the term, we go forth. What is (the meaning of) Consciousness. Is it true that 'nothing worth reading' has been written in the 17 years since Sutherland threw in the towel? Ayn Rand may be cited next, as has done PDS, telling us about actions of consciousness, bringing together consciousness as it pertains to meaningful sensations: the action of his consciousness is perceptionthe action of his consciousness is evaluationthe action of his consciousness is emotionthe action of his consciousness is thoughtthe action of his consciousness is reminiscenceSutherland matches Rand in these aspects: perception/perceptionsthought/thoughtsemotion/feelingsevaluation/----------reminiscence/-------------------/awarenessExamining these, can we regroup re-lump, extract the differences, rank? I think so. Although Rand has not explicitly mentioned awarenss, I suggest this is a sina qua non of Consciousness. The binary conscious/unconscious gives us a clue to the necessity of being conscious as opposed to being unconscious. In a being with 'consciousness' the ability to be responsive to the environment is the very beginning ... Aware ('conscious') Sensing (able to 'sense' - hearing, proprioception, sight, touch, taste, smell) Perceptive (able to -- in the Randian sense -- form perceptions from sense data) Feeling (able to feel in the sense of feelings, emotions, embodied 'value reckoning') Evaluative/Cognitive (able to evaluation, analyze, integrate, plan, etc) [Reminiscent] To be unconscious is to be mostly unaware of and unresponsive to the necessities of reality. Doctor: is she conscious? Nurse: I don't know. She is not alert to her surroundings, but I think she is in there. Doctor: has she shown brainwave response to physical stimulus? Nurse: no. Is she breathing on her own? Nurse: yes Doctor: do her pupils dilate when stimulated? Nurse: yes. Doctor: does she feel pain? Nurse: not below the neck. Doctor: has she shown brainwave response to her family's voices? Nurse: yes. -- I will only add these further notions to my preliminary ranking or hierarchy. Consider 'locked-in' syndrome, consider the kinds of brain and spinal injury where the very questions asked by the doctor cannot be answered without further inquiry. The worlds of neurology told by Oliver Sacks and Antonio Damasio show us odd outliers. Add comas, dissociative fugue, amnesias, focal deficits of the agnosias, phantom limb, 'missing morality' in psychopathic brain injury, and so on. For me it is very difficult to get a grasp on 'What is (meant by) consciousness' without a lot of, conscious and deliberate thought. I will return to the next stage of my analysis by responding from within the heuristic outlined above. By thinking of defects of consciousness in the outlier and anomalous situations, consciousness impinged, consciousness imperfect, I can later introduce such notions as Executive Consciousness, the 'I', and a few other lumps and splits -- and answer the four intriguing questions raised by PDS†. But first, an aspect of consciousness (threat assessment) that is augmented by neuroscience. Assistive computer tech for binoculars. It looks like a particular kind of consciousness has been enhanced by 'the machine.' Much more fascinating than my stab at the subject. From Linking human brainwaves, improved sensors and cognitive algorithms to improve target detection ____________________________________________________ ** Lumping and splitting refers to a well-known problem in any discipline which has to place individual examples into rigorously defined categories. The lumper/splitter problem occurs when there is the need to create classifications and assign examples to them, for example schools of literature, biological taxa and so on. A "lumper" is an individual who takes a gestalt view of a definition, and assigns examples broadly, assuming that differences are not as important as signature similarities. A "splitter" is an individual who takes precise definitions, and creates new categories to classify samples that differ in key ways. † 1. How is that which we think of as "consciousness" seperate from that which we think of as "self"? 2. Is the full breadth of our thinking the full breadth of our self, and thus our consciousness? 3. If our thoughts are objects which can be "observed" (e.g., "why is my mind racing so much today?"), what do we call that which does the observing? 4. Rand has said that consciousness is identification--what then is the identity of consciousness?
  24. This, for instance, is one speculation. I've got one of those 'the dog did not bark' questions, Michael. Let's say you or I retained a belief that there was a substantial and independent existence of mind apart from the body (brain/nervous system). How would we go about finding evidence for the belief? Where would we expect to find substantial evidence and yet do not? When a brain is injured, it seems that the mind is injured, whether in small lesions to particular areas -- causing small but profound deficits in function -- or large blunt force trauma leading to unconsciousness, coma and death. I think I recommended to you the Antonio Damasio book "The Feeling of What Happens." I hope it is on your reading list. In it there is some fine, thoughtful speculation on the detailed connection of mind and brain.
  25. No, the British read their Dawkins and Ruse, so know that it is funny and ironic to ape evolutionary psychology in a consumer mag filled with pictures of, well, big houses, and feminine curves. No, they are unveiling their inner homo sapiens. No, Grazia is one step above Boobalicious -- though not a weekly. No, marketing analysis of the Grazia target audience tastes weighted the questionnaire (it cost 20 thousand pounds). No, the answer key was mailed out in advance with a 10 pound coupon for "Find a Provider/Slut" -- Grazia's sister publication. The market value of The Ladees is objectively determined by the marketplace, yes. Rand hasn't sold a book in the UK since last February, no. Yes. The ladees are the ones who (largely) have to sit on the egg. No, there is nothing objective about about gonads being wired to values or advertising campaigns. See Damasio's In Search of Spinoza. See the current covers of Maxim [uK] and Bloke's Guide to Buying a Russian Bride (the special "You DON'T Need a Big Wallet issue"). See the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on "Tabula Rasa." Seriously, Roger, this is post of week. Thanks for the merriment. Intellectual yet satisfying of our deepest prejudices yearnings.