addressalign-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcameraccwchatcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-checkcircle-with-crosscircle-with-pluscrosseditemptyheartfacebookfolderfullheartglobegmailgoogleimagesinstagramlinklocation-pinmagnifying-glassmailminusmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonplusprice-ribbonImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartickettrashtriangle-downtriangle-uptwitteruseryahoo

Cognitive Science Reading & Discussion Group Message Board Cognitive Science Reading & Discussion Group Discussion Forum › When does mind-to-body causation MATTER?

When does mind-to-body causation MATTER?

James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 141
So, I put my hand in a bathtub of water that is a little too hot. I experience pain. I withdraw my hand. Now, it seems like my experience of pain caused my withdrawing my hand. But is that all there is to the causal chain? If I had experienced the pain as something I liked, I wouldn’t have withdrawn my hand. So, I had to have experienced the pain as something that I didn’t like. But is that experience of not liking the pain a feature of my experience of pain, or is it a distinct experience? That is: Did I have two experiences (an experience of pain, then an experience of not liking the experience of pain) OR did I have just one experience (the experience of pain as something that I didn’t like). Not liking is an experience. Experiences are features I have; they are not features my experiences have; otherwise put: my experiences don’t have experiences, I do. So, my not liking the pain is a feature I have, not a feature my experience of pain has. So, I had two experiences, not one. So, the causal chain goes like this: I put my hand in the water; I experience pain; I experience not liking the experience of pain; I withdraw my hand. Now, I’m probably acting in accordance with a law, something that goes like: when you behave in such a way that causes you to have an experience that you don’t like, then you will behave in such a way that causes you to not have that experience. At any rate, the question is: what role does my experience of pain, and my experience of not liking it, play in the causal chain? It seems to me, at least from a commonsense point of view, that they played a necessary role: if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have withdrawn my hand. But were they necessary? If you had shut off my capacity to experience the pain or the not liking the pain, would I have behaved in exactly the same way? Suppose I would have. I don’t see this as a problem, that is: I don’t have a problem discovering that those experiences played no causal role in my behavior. What matters is: if I intentionally withdrew my hand, and experienced intentionally withdrawing it, then did my experience play a causal role in my doing it? Because I experience my withdrawing my hand as my causing my withdrawing my hand. In fact they are the same thing: the experience of withdrawing my hand, and the experience of causing my withdrawing my hand, are the same experience. This contrasts with my experience of pain, and my experience of not liking the pain: I don’t experience them as causing anything to happen. I do however appeal to them in order to explain my withdrawing my hand: I withdrew my hand because I felt pain, and I don’t like the feeling of the pain. It’s okay if you told me my explanation is flawed: that those experiences played no causal role. What matters is whether my experience of causing my withdrawing my hand was a cause of my withdrawing my hand. If you said: no it wasn’t, then I’d have a problem. (By the way, if my experiences of pain and my not liking it were causally inert, they would still be reliably causally correlated with the neural states that would be the ones doing the causal work in producing my withdrawing my hand. For this reason, we can use them in explanations of behavior caused by those neural states. Cf to the thumping sounds that your heart makes. If I’m your doctor, I can explain why you’ve been feeling more fatigued and lightheaded than usual, by appealing to the fact that your heart has been beating too fast; I base my knowledge that your heart is beating too fast by listening to the thumping sounds your heart makes. Those thumping sounds are completely causally inert with respect to your medical condition, but they are reliably causally correlated with the beating of your heart, which is causally effective to your medical condition).


Dana R.
user 2673220
Group Organizer
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 42
I would not separate the pain from the experience. I would say that every sensory input, or combination of sensory inputs that have been categorized by your brain, has an intrinsic positive or negative value. Most sensory inputs have a value of such small magnitude that they rarely enter our conscious awareness. This is not to say that they do not influence our behavior, however. If we call an experience "painful", that just means that the experience has a large intrinsic negative value. Sensory inputs with large positive or negative intrinsic values are more salient, and more likely to enter our conscious awareness, to grab our attention. The purpose of this is to facilitate your brain's forming new associations that might help you to better seek or avoid these pleasant or unpleasant sensory inputs in the future. In the case of your withdrawing your hand from the pain, your nervous system likely sent the impulses to your muscles that caused your hand to withdraw BEFORE you became consciously aware of the pain. The conscious awareness comes a split second after the fact. But we commonly erroneously attribute causation of our actions to our conscious awareness of salient stimuli that grab our attention because the conscious awareness almost always accompanies our actions in urgent situations where the pain or pleasure are significant. I also believe that the way our brains infer causation, by treating our own actions as some sort of uncaused interventions upon our environments, contributes to the illusion of our consciousness being a source of "free will" that acts as some sort of magical "first cause".

So you might ask where the intrinsic values that accompany our sensations come from. I believe the answer is evolution. Daniel Dennet has a funny TED talk titled "Cute, Sexy, Sweet, Funny" in which he explores this a little bit. When we learn to assign values, positive or negative, to new things that did not exist when our ancestors were being naturally selected, and thus cannot possibly have innate values, it is because we are learning to associate them with things that we DO innately have values assigned. This how we learn to assign positive value to something like a fancy car (something that has only existed very recently on an evolutionary time scale), because we have learned to associate it with high social status (something that evolution has selected us to find very pleasant when attained).
James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 144
It’s conceivable for me to have withdrawn my hand from the hot water, even if I didn’t have the antecedent experience of pain, just because I’ve produced behaviors that have been similar in type to that, without having had antecedent experiences of pain. For example, I’ve withdrawn my hand from lukewarm water before, even though I didn’t have an antecedent experience of pain. But suppose that there isn’t just a reliable causal correlation between my neural states and my experience of pain—a correlation that I suggested allows for the possibility that I have the same neural state without having the same experience (who knows if such a reliable causal correlation is even a coherent notion?) Suppose instead that my experience of pain supervenes on my neural state such that: if I have the experience of pain, there is a neural state that I have that instantiates that experience of pain, and whoever has that neural state, has that experience of pain. But, then, let’s look at the original causal chain:

I put my hand in the water; I experience pain; I experience not liking the experience of pain; I withdraw my hand.

I imagined that I could’ve withdrawn my hand, even if I didn’t have the experience of pain. But if that were to have happened, some of my neural states would have had to be different, given the supervenience of my pain on my neural state. That means that there would have been a different causal chain. Because the original causal chain would’ve had a neural state on which my experience of pain supervenes, while the new causal chain would’ve not had that neural state. That means that the hypothetical scenario does not demonstrate that my experience of pain did not play a causal role in the original scenario. It just shows that there’s more than one way to cause my behavior. It shows that my experience of pain doesn’t have to be necessary to my behavior. It doesn’t show that my experience of pain didn’t have to be necessary to my behavior.
James H.
user 13603321
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 146
Dana:

You say:

I would not separate the pain from the experience.


There’s a difference between being in a causal role (active and passive causal role) that is typically associated with being in a state of pain, on the one hand, and experiencing pain, on the other. What’s the difference? You can be in the causal role without experiencing pain. So, I’m not “separating the pain from the experience”, if by “experience”, you mean the state of pain. The problem here is that when you tend to have one, you tend to have the other: when you’re in a state of pain, you tend to be experiencing pain; when you’re experiencing pain, you’re in a state of pain. Therefore, you’re led to conclude: being in a state of pain is the same thing as experiencing pain. The problem with that reasoning is this: if being in a state of pain is the same thing as being in the right kind of causal role,(which is what being in as state of mind is, according to the machine-functionalist theory of the mind) then you can be in a state of pain without experiencing pain. Another problem with the reasoning is this: the fact that two properties share all of the same instances does not establish that the two properties are the same. Compare: every renate (creature with a kidney) is a chordate (creature with a heart), and vice versa; therefore, being a renate is the same thing as being a chordate. An erroneous conclusion.

You say:

I would say that every sensory input, or combination of sensory inputs that have been categorized by your brain, has an intrinsic positive or negative value. Most sensory inputs have a value of such small magnitude that they rarely enter our conscious awareness.

Now, you’re looking at the part played by the perceptual apparatus (in this case, my outer skin or my skin receptors) in virtue of which my being in a state of pain has a PASSIVE causal role. Then you’re trying to assign some sort of value to my skin receptors that are causally effective in my being in a state of pain. The problem here is: what makes the value of my skin receptors positive or negative? It can’t be my experiencing pain, because the skin receptors could be reacting the same way they do when I’m experiencing pain as they do when I’m not. (By the way, I believe this is how general anesthesia works). So, it can’t be the experience of pain that makes skin receptors have a value. But if not that, then what? Is it the action that it causes me to perform? Sensory receptors have a negative value (I guess) if they cause me to withdraw my hand, and a positive value (I guess) if they don’t. But what motivates the assignment of these values based on these criteria, and not others, or not assigning any of these values at all?

I’ll talk more about what you said about intentional causation later (my experiencing my causing my withdrawing my hand, and whether that experience is causally effective in my withdrawing my hand), when I have more time.
Powered by mvnForum

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy