Mind / Body Duality

From: Will
Sent on: Sunday, October 28, 2007 11:53 AM
Mind and Body Duality

Larry,
If I am walking down the street and see a pretty girl, the image is registered in my visual cortex as neurons firing (N1).  When I think about that girl, these are other neurons (N2) firing as a result of the neurons in my visual cortex firing.  If I then have a thought about the thought I just had, these are still further neurons (N3) firing as a result of the (N2) neurons firing.  If I feel guilty about my thought about the thought I had about the pretty girl, these are neurons (N4) firing as a result of the (N3) neurons firing.
This is what mind is: a causal chain of neural firing. Now it is a little bit more complicated then how I have illustrated it: there is constant feedback from the environment, simultaneous neural firings and chemical bias. But the basic concept hold ups.
So when you say "Causally I believe that what happens in the brain DOES change what happens in the mind, but I also believe the reverse--that what happens in the mind DOES change what happens in the brain.", it doesn't make sense to me.  When you say "what happens in the mind changes what happens in the brain"  this is nonsensical to me because the mind is the brain. So that what you have essentially said is What happens in the brain changes what happens in the brain. You speak of mind/brain as if they were two fundamentally different kinds of being. If so, then that would be an ontological duality and in my way of thinking supernatural.
In my opinion, the only duality here is the two ways that people think about brain and mind. People see the brain as a physical mechanism and they see the mind as a non-material being.
But mind is not the product of the brain it is the functioning of the brain. A product is independent of the process that produces it but the mind is in no way independent of the brain.
The unitary, digital expression of self causes us to experience mind as if it were a product of the brain.  If the mind is a product, then what is experiencing the product? The abstract I. If you eliminate the abstract I (as in enlightenment) then you eliminate the ability to perceive mind as a product and the duality vanishes. In that case you would experience mind in real time only.
<<<People will never be able to reduce what happens in the mind to purely physical terms>>>
We can stimulate portions of the brain and make a person recall a memory, feel angry or feel like Jesus is in the room and touching their heart.
Searching for God in the brain 
Because of the complexity of the neural connections we cannot locate in the brain the particular neural pattern that relates to a particular thought.  But who knows, perhaps in the future with advances in imagery, supercomputers might be able to do this.
But the complexity of the brain is no reason to believe that mind is more than the one-to-one functioning of the brain. In other words, mind is the moment to moment physical state of the brain.
Most people have a compulsion to see ontological dualities because of the effects of the unitary I - they are simply reporting on their experience of reality.  But it should be clear that this dualistic experience is contrary to causality - it is contrary to nature.
There is a visceral negative emotional feeling when most people contemplate mind as the causal chain of neural firings. It "feels" mechanistic and as though self were being controlled.  The problem is again the unitary I.  We experience the unitary I as an abstract point that has Absolute intention; that is the ability to absolutely choose between two alternatives. But this is not the case, we do not have contra-causal free will.  The I is not controlled by the mechanisms of the brain it  is the mechanisms of the brain.  That we experience the I as being separate from the brain, separate from the material is an illusion.
"Why exactly would you want to reduce everything mental to something physical?"  It is ok to speak as if mind and brain were dual as long as you understand that the duality is a mental construct and not real.  If you believe it is real then in my opinion your are espousing an inaccurate vision of reality.
<<<Any attempt to do so would lose the meaning and scope of the mental.>>>
I disagree, love is still love whether or not we understand the underlying metaphysic to be dual or monist.  But a dual experience of reality coupled with a monist objective understanding of reality is confusing and creates cognitive dissonance. Ideally you would have a monist subjective experience and a monist objective experience.  But barring that, I believe that a person shoud adopt the monist objective stance and work out the subjective dissonance.
<<<Is there some reason you're averse to examining your mind subjectively?>>>
No! I believe that fully integrating the subjective into your life is absolutely essential to being a whole and authentic human being. But, subjective experience is not self-justifying.  The truths gained through subjective experience have to agree with objective truths.  A person should not believe that there experience of reality is a true one just because they feel it to be so.  But reason does not exist in a vacuum either. Subjective experience informs and enriches it.  Conflicts between subjective and objective truth have to be worked out.
<<<I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from.>>>
I have a monist subjective experience of reality.  Where you see monism as a threat to self, for me it is both the subjective and objective unifying principles of my psyche. My monist subjective experience begins with a self that is non-central with indistinct borders between self and other. I feel embedded in the world (like the ripple) and not separate from it (like the cork bobbing on the surface).
<<<Actually I don't know of any supernaturalistic predicate dualists.>>>
In this case, by supernatural I mean an ontological dualism (duality of being). I have read that because predicate dualism is on the level of meaning, it does not infer an ontological dualism.  But so far nothing you have said would lead me to believe that it doesn't infer an ontological dualism. Perhaps you could provide examples.  The philosopher Howard Robinson has stated that predicate dualism necessitates an ontological dualism. In my opinion ontological dualisms are supernatural.
<<<I personally think monists are trying to ignore their most important resource for knowledge, namely their subjectivity.>>>
I don't see how monism requires ignoring subjectivity.
<<<to me personhood is a process, not a state of being.>>>
I agree, it is a process; a monist process. :)
<<<I'm unsure why you keep bringing the discussion around to supernaturalism.>>>
Because I believe that ontological dualism is supernatural.
I think that a person can disbelieve in the existence of a god, soul, afterlife and yet still harbor supernatural beliefs. In some sense these people (not necessarily you) are just replacing one supernatural duality (soul/material) with another (mind/body).  Because ontological dualities are so beguiling, we have to be constantly on our guard that we are not slipping into one.
You haven't really given me enough information to figure out how your predicate dualism plays out.
The point of all this is that while all Naturalists are atheists, not all atheists are Naturalists. I am trying to establish (for the benefit of the group) the difference.
<<<
My point was that those of us who know did let and do let those who don't know remain ignorant.>>>
This seems to contradict what you said in an earlier post.  You seemed to imply that we should just let religionists have their comforting belief system and not challenge those beliefs.

Warm regards,

Will


--- In [address removed], Larry Jones <liftr450@...> wrote:
>
> Hi Will,
>
> Again you've misinterpreted what I wrote to you. I said that what happens in the mind is very different from what happens in the brain. That's not a statement about causation. Causally I believe that what happens in the brain DOES change what happens in the mind, but I also believe the reverse--that what happens in the mind DOES change what happens in the brain. That doesn't change my original statement about the two manifestations being very different. People will never be able to reduce what happens in the mind to purely physical terms, just as people won't ever be able to reduce what happens in the brain to purely mental terms. The two manifestations affect each other but they're too different to be put into equivalent terms. I never said mental processes are uncaused. My question to you is why are you reading into my words things I didn't say?
>
> Why did you tell me something is on its way out as a philosophy? What does that have to do with the validity of my argument? By the way, I'm not a Cartesian dualist and never said I was. I'm a predicate dualist and I don't believe in immortal souls. Why exactly would you want to reduce everything mental to something physical? I don't see the point in that. Any attempt to do so would lose the meaning and scope of the mental. In other words, in order to capture it you'd have to change it into something else, in which case you're not really capturing it. Is there some reason you're averse to examining your mind subjectively? Is it that you don't know how? Or are you afraid to? I'm not judging you here. I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from.
>
> Wow, I continue to read your letter here and have to wonder if you've ever heard of predicate dualism. It's not necessarily supernaturalistic at all, as in my case. Actually I don't know of any supernaturalistic predicate dualists. You're obviously very anti-dualistic. What exactly do you think I'm giving up, not seeing, sacrificing because of my dualism? I personally think monists are trying to ignore their most important resource for knowledge, namely their subjectivity. You might call me a "process dualist" because to me personhood is a process, not a state of being. Meaning comes out of processes, not objects or states of being. To use your analogy I definitely would be an Analog mind, not a Digital mind. I suggest you be very careful how you use the word "abstraction" here. To me you're the one being abstract.
>
> I don't disagree with you about what supernatural conceptions are. I'm not a supernaturalist. I keep telling you that and I'm unsure why you keep bringing the discussion around to supernaturalism. I know of course that the terrorists were indoctrinated by religion. I'm against indoctrination of any philosophical stance. My point was that those of us who know did let and do let those who don't know remain ignorant. Philosophical ignorance is not a right, in my perspective. Should a mature person let the next door neighbor's bratty kid get away with terrible things? I think not. We who know have a responsibility to end all that ignorance. No, it's not easy but it must be done.
>
> Larry

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