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Philosophy for Real Life: Monday Discussion Group

The reading for this evening is "Speaking of Consciousness," here: http://www.bmeacham.com/blog/?p=843. We'll talk about clarity of language and how the first-person point of view does or does not complement third-person scientific inquiry.

This group typically reads a short article, often a blog post by Bill Meacham, ahead of time and discusses it at the meeting. We approach philosophy as free human beings engaged in the world. The discussion format is free-form, and it is always quite lively. Links to the articles will be posted in advance of each meeting.

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  • James I D.

    Anine: The example in the Scientific American article summarizes the experimental results for the Prisoner's Dilemma and gives references to other articles summarizing experimental data. In the case of the Prisoner's Dilemma, standard logic predicts that Alice will snitch 90% of the time whereas quantum logic predicts that she will snitch only 60% of the time. Actual experiments agree with the quantum-logic prediction. There are quite a number of papers on this topic. The main point is that when we make decisions, we are often dealing with a combination of conflicting options, and quantum logic successfully models decision making in the context of conflicting options. The interference among these options is captured by quantum logic, but not by classical logic. As one researcher put it, "We are very contextual creatures...So there is no attitude sitting there waiting to be measured." We are very often dealing with "a sea of troubles."

    1 · February 21, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: I may have made an error in typing the references. I will copy the paper by Musser and bring it to you. I think all the references I listed are in the references he listed. Also, in a subsequent note, what you wrote correctly describes my position: People working in the field of quantum cognition have found that human behavior can be accurately predicted by using quantum logic when standard logic completely fails to predict the behavior found experimentally. That doesn't mean that the human brain is a quantum computer, or that subatomic quantum processes are producing the behavior described by quantum logic.

    February 21, 2013

  • Phillip W.

    "I think the research he's pointing out applies quantum logic and quantum probability theory to model macrosopic behavior of aggregates of interacting humans, network nodes, neurons, etc. " --Gary

    Yes, modeling. Modeling is sort of metaphor with math. :)

    So interesting: all the words, like quanta, which science borrows
    to explain in one word when a thousand will do.
    And then we take the "word" from science and use it metaphorically.
    "What a piece of work is a man!" Oops more metaphor.

    Ok, I probablly misread someone asserting that quantum physics
    "explains" quantum behavior. Sorry, I'll read more carefully.
    Probably all that teleportation stuff.

    "Because we catch so little of the vastness of history, we think of language
    as solid as a dictionary, rather than as the rampant restless sea of metaphor
    which it is." --Julian Jaynes

    Philosphy - "Love of wisdom".
    Hmm, I wonder, maybe love of sophistry. :)

    February 21, 2013

  • gary

    One last thing, to wrap up my interest in the thread here.

    Phillip: I'm no expert, and I'm trying to quick-study as much as my limited background allows. Jim will correct me when I'm (inevitably) wrong. I don't think he's advocating a brain-quantum connection of the sort Penrose suggested, where quantum events in cell micotubules supposedly affected cell chemistry somehow.

    I think the research he's pointing out applies quantum logic and quantum probability theory to model macrosopic behavior of aggregates of interacting humans, network nodes, neurons, etc. Von Neumann and Birkhoff invented quantum logic in 1936. It's can be thought of as a modified version of propositional logic that allows one to reason accurately about systems that behave in quantum-like ways. Probability theory is about measures on algebras of subsets, and propositional logic and set algebras are intimately connected. So there is also a quantum probability theory. Read up in Wikipedia and SEP.

    February 20, 2013

  • gary

    Maybe we should move all conversation to the new Monday night discussion. It has only one post, from Bill. This page is for responses to the 1/28 meeting. I plan to do all future posting there.

    Jim: I can't read the SciAm article without subscribing, but just looking at the preview, I have a bone to pick. The author says mathematicians have had to accept that "some things will always remain beyond the grasp of reason", and appears to cite Godel's theorems as support. He implies that they raise paradoxes, which they do not; nor do they prove that anything is "beyond reason". I admit, this lowers my expectations.

    I was unable to open one of the arxiv links. I did scan the article by the Chinese librarians and CS'ers. It took four pages and two unnecessary diagrams to restate the theorem of total probability. Even allowing for exasperatingly broken English - "monotonous sequences" (!) - it seemed sophomoric.

    The other two look more substantial, but I haven't got to them yet.

    February 20, 2013

  • Phillip W.

    Sorry I can't come to South Austin on a weeknight. But I have been
    following this thread or trying to. It seems that mind and brain have
    been used interchangeably which is another discussion. It seems that
    Larry, or someone, might clarify that the "quantum brain" is only a metaphor
    and should not be tied through physics to the quantum characteristcs
    of particles. Quantum physics, especially the probabilities of states,
    is on a smaller than nano scale and has nothing to do the macro
    electro-chemical states of the brain. Even at the particle level the collapse
    of the wave function is subject to a high probability. At the brain level,
    the probabilties are many many magnitudes higher. This is about
    large complex systems, not quantum randomness. IMHO. :)

    February 20, 2013

  • James I D.

    Leonard and Anine: Skepticism about the idea of quantum structure governing the human mind might be avoided by realizing that such structure can exist in a macroscopic system without the need for nano-scale quantum processes to come together to produce the structure. In other words, the human mind can behave like a quantum system without the need for subatomic quantum processes to exist in the brain and combine in such a way as to produce the macroscopic behavior.

    February 20, 2013

    • Heide

      Don't know much about Quantum physics but know a little about atoms and how they behave. Scientific America has a nice article for the "lay" person such as myself, Anine and Leonard. "The computer, smartphone or other electronic device on which you are reading this article has a rudimentary brain—kind of.* It has highly organized electrical circuits that store information and behave in specific, predictable ways, just like the interconnected cells in your brain. On the most fundamental level, electrical circuits and neurons are made of the same stuff—atoms and their constituent elementary particles—but whereas the human brain is conscious, manmade gadgets do not know they exist."

      February 20, 2013

    • Heide

      blogs.scientificamerican­.com/brainwaves/.../does­-self-aware... oops forgot to plug in the article...neuron malfunction, distraction, singular mono function mode in brain, ...you choose.

      February 20, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: Good points. I recommend that everyone read the Scientific American article referenced below if you want to get some idea as to why quantum effects are very important to understanding the human mind.

    February 17, 2013

  • James I D.

    Anine: Please read: The article dealing with the Prisoner’s Dilemma by George Musser, ScentificAmerican.com/nov2012/quantum; it
    provides a non-mathematical summary: Humans Think Like Quantum Particles.

    February 17, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: Thanks for the references. Here is a summary of some articles relevant to quantum logic that I referred to Sat. The article dealing with the Prisoner’s Dilemma by George Musser, ScentificAmerican.com/nov2012/quantum, provides a non-mathematical summary: Humans Think Like Quantum Particles. For more detailed papers see following:
    http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/980688; Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Vol.276, No. 1665, pages[masked]; June 22, 2009; http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.0681 ; http://arxiv.org/abs/0806.3667v4 ; http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.3344

    February 17, 2013

  • gary

    Jim: here is the link to the paper written by the Japanese team who entangled an assemblage of 100 million rubidium atoms:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1211.2892

    At today's meeting we talked about Gödel, and I mentioned weak logic systems that are not subject to the incompleteness theorems. Here's a link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-verifying_theories

    February 16, 2013

    • Bill M.

      See my blog posts "Entangled" (http://www.bmeacham.c...­) and "Beyond the Causal Veil" (http://www.bmeacham.c...­). The first one explains what entanglement is and the second one talks quantum effects in the brain and what they imply for freedom of will.

      February 16, 2013

    • gary

      While we don't have a neuroscientist, we do have a real live quantum physicist in Jim. He's commented several times on how he believes quantum behavior may be related to mind, which is certainly an aspect of consciousness.

      February 17, 2013

  • gary

    Before we leave the free will topic, I want to mention a classic problem that touches on the free will debate. It's called Newcomb's Paradox, and was popularized in 1974 by Martin Gardner, in Scientfic American. Here's a discussion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newcomb%27s_paradox

    It's a perennial brain teaser, and there's still is no consensus solution. I think of it as a kind of philosophical litmus test.

    February 17, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: Photons are transmitted over long distances through optical fibers so as to avoid dis-entanglement. Sorry I mentioned Scotty, for it shows how a casual comment can be taken to mean something I didn't mean to imply. Nobody, at least as far as I know, has suggested that large objects can be teleported using entanglement. No more jokes about Scotty!

    February 14, 2013

    • gary

      My original comment was that I thought the term "quantum teleportation" was "premature", so I interpreted subsequent discussion in that light. I realize that QT (so far) involves photons transmitted over fiber optics. My issue (a nitpick, perhaps) is that the term seems to be intentionally hyperbolic. "Teleport" literally means (Greek roots) "move across a great distance". Since the actual QT event involves no movement, or even classical transmission of information, the name seems chosen for its Star Trekky associations. I suspect a large percentage of non-physicists who hear this term think it's exactly like what Scotty did (sorry for the reference :-). 'Nuff said.

      February 14, 2013

  • Ronald D.

    Ronald Davis Every Body:Theoretical physicists have worked out how entanglement could be ‘recycled’ to increase the efficiency of teleportation.
    http://tinyurl.com/bxym43z

    February 14, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: I am not sure what you mean by "...slow methods of physical transport." I am very familiar with Zeillinger's experiments and the entangled photon which captures the information does indeed travel over the long distance at near the speed of light before the information is downloaded by conventional means.

    February 14, 2013

    • gary

      I found this link: http://www.univie.ac....­. It's an article by Zeilinger. He says "Remarkable as all these experiments are, they are a far cry from quantum teleportation of large objects. There are two essential problems: First, one needs an entangled pair of such large objects. Second, the object to be teleported and the entangled pairs must be sufficiently isolated from the environment." How do you get one of the entangled massy objects to a distant target location? I guess in theory you could broadcast all the particles through space but then: 1) There would be a significant spread of velocities among particles, on average subtantially sub-lightspeed; 2)Zeilinger's second comment implies that broadcasting the particles through space would have a hopelessly high error rate, so entangled objects would have to be moved to target locations with extreme care, and total environmental protection. Scotty didn't seem to have to worry about any of that.

      February 14, 2013

  • James I D.

    You are right about the terminology being a bit expansive, but the idea is cogent. They may not be teleporting the actual object, but they are teleporting the information that describes the actual object. But did Scotty's method involve anything other than the sum total of all the information necessary to define the transmitted individual sufficiently for reconstruction. When Scotty beamed someone up, I thought he was just transmitting that necesssary information and the info was subsequently used to reconstruct the one being beamed up--admittedly quite rapidly. Do I not understand Scotty's method?

    February 13, 2013

    • Guy J

      I agree with you on the "two aspects of the same thing" idea, Bill. What's still interesting is that it's a "same thing" with 2+ "points of interaction" separated in space. So it seems there may still be a "remote info" aspect to it, although I am skeptical it can be used as a means of info transmission. Reason: (Jim, check me) when we "query" one "aspect" of a single entanglement at point A, the collapse may be detectable by another query at point B, but to interpret B's collapse, you'd need to share info about the result of the query at A and correlate it with what's known at point B. Thus interpreting the supposed transmissions made through an entanglement channel would require a second channel to effect coordination of interactions at both points, and we don't have a faster-than-light means to undertake such coordination. So we are left with a light-as-limit problem for functional info transmission.

      February 13, 2013

    • Guy J

      Another way to put it: You can't use it to "transmit data" by "affecting point A to render the info at point B", however, it is possible to know about point A as being also point B and so "discover" non-local information. Note that the difference is in the lack of agency. I believe the limit is that this entanglement cannot be used as a mechanism to carry a channel of injected info, although non-local awareness may be possible.

      February 13, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary, I take your point.

    On another topic: Leonard and Anine asked about the scale of quantum phenomena. I was reading APS (American Physical Society ) News this morning, and the section "Top Physics Newsmakers of 2012" offered this among many others:

    "Teams on opposite sides of the globe have been duking it out to hold the title for the farthest distance two quantum particles can be kept in an entangled state. In May a team in China shattered the existing record by teleporting a photon 97 kilometers, nearly 100 times the record. In September a team from Austria working in the Canary Islands was able to teleport a pair of photons 147 kilometers, between two islands, hoping to pave the way to teleport a pair between an orbiting satellite and the planet's surface sometime in the future."

    The Austrian group is led by Anton Zeillinger, the professor I mentioned at the meeting. Beam me up Scottie!

    1 · February 13, 2013

    • gary

      That's really fascinating stuff! I have to say that the term "quantum teleportation" seems a bit premature to me. I know it's standard, but for those who haven't read up on this at all, it suggests that it's like Star Trek. In reality, it's not so much "beam me up, Scotty" as it is "replicate some information I have instantaneously." The entangled particles still have to be created togethter, and physically separated using the usual slow methods of physical transport.

      February 13, 2013

  • James I D.

    Gary: I think Damasio has made a great contribution by pointing out that consciousness is created by all parts of our physical being and is clearly not just limited to the brain. Going even further, Alva Noe has made the case that consciousness is created not only by our entire physical being but also is entangled with the entire world we immediately experience, i.e. what "shows up" for each person individually.

    Regarding your immediate point with respect to Damasio, I wonder what he would say about those people who have seemingly superhuman tolerance for pain? I think of men such as T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and Orde Wingate (WW II guerrilla warfare specialist).

    February 12, 2013

    • gary

      Damasio notes that some degree of dissociation or suppression of pain can be achieved via hypnosis and drugs. The SEP article on pain asserts that there is a qualitative difference between these and pain asymbolia - drugs, hypnosis, and probably even superhuman tolerance are diminished affect responses, asymbolia is no response whatsoever. If you jab a person on morphine with a pin, they will flinch. So too would T. E. Lawrence. A person with asymbolia - or a cingulotomy, which is the operation to which I referred at our meeting - will have no physical response at all, but they will inform you that it really hurt.

      February 13, 2013

  • Ronald D.

    The Holographic Universe & “Intelligent Design” by David Icke has is another perspective.
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/a63ejgn
    Ronald Davis

    February 12, 2013

  • gary

    I mentioned something I learned from reading Antonio Damasio, about dissociation of affect from experience of pain. Here are some links concerning this:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pain/#eliminativism
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_asymbolia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affect_(psychology)

    Essentially, asymbolia is dissociation, or splitting apart, of the feeling of pain from its affect. Damasio links affect to emotion, defined specifically as a physiological reaction to basic feelings such as pain or fear. Affect of fear includes accelerated heart rate, tensed muscles, dilated pupils, and many other physiological signs. Affect is *not* the feeling, but the response to the feeling. Patients with true asymbolia feel pain fully, and report its intensity and location. They have no affective response - no tensed muscles, concentration not impaired, they behave as of intense pain simply does not matter.

    February 12, 2013

  • Gene R

    Yep, Gary. You got it. No surprise I suppose since you are one of those dings. Not the pasta sauce dings of course, but human-like ones.

    February 3, 2013

  • gary

    Annine: Okay, you caught me. I confess. It's a parody - at least, it's NOT adulation for his deep insights and clarity. Let me put all my cards on the table; the entire posting was meant to amuse.

    Gene: "Ding-an-mich"? Spoken like a true solipsist!

    February 3, 2013

  • Gene R

    I wish people stop obsessing about that Ding-an-Sich. What use is that Ding to us? None whatsoever! I’d say concentrate on a much nicer Ding-für-Mich. I have quite a few of those myself. As a matter of fact, after posting this I’m gonna chop some of them for a Pasta sauce.

    February 3, 2013

  • gary

    What I had in mind was Heidegger's use (some say abuse) of language. The "deconstructionist" eccentricities of Derrida owe much to Heidegger. Ding-an-sich is from Kant (I think), but "da-sein" is Heidegger (from a long list of invented words). A pair of quotes ripped from Wikipedia:

    Bertrand Russell commented, expressing the sentiments of many mid-20th-century analytic philosophers, that:
    Highly eccentric in its terminology, his philosophy is extremely obscure. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic.[95]

    Roger Scruton stated that: "His major work Being and Time is formidably difficult—unless it is utter nonsense, in which case it is laughably easy. I am not sure how to judge it, and have read no commentator who even begins to make sense of it".[96]

    February 2, 2013

  • gary

    CORRECTION

    I'd like to amend "The Bearable Lightness of Being ..." (aka "Ding an Sich!"). The text is in Germish. For those unfamiliar with it, Germish was spoken in Upper Idiosyncratia, which apparently fell through the cracks when the Austro-Hungarian empire crumbled. It was populated by exiled English-speaking college grads, who were forced to rely on the decades-old dregs of a two-semester encounter with the German language. As a result, Germish standardizes usage that would make Germans perform Heimlich maneuvers on themselves.

    At issue: "Jetzt bin ich / und auch dich". Perfectly good Germish, but incoherent German. If one reads much about Heidegger, this seems strangely apt. But, I don't want to insult Germans - I know what happens - so I propose a back-translation from the English version: Ding An Sich!
    Ding An Sich!
    Da sei Ding An Sich!
    Wird mein "ich"
    Und dein "dich"
    Besond'ren, ganz wirklich!

    1 · February 1, 2013

  • Gene R

    Beautiful! I suggest we all sing "Ding An Sich!" at the beginning of each session.

    February 1, 2013

  • gary

    I feel the need to summarize some of the things I learned in the Monday session. In limerick form, oddly enough.

    INTROSPECTION

    There once was a a room full of geezers
    Dissecting some fog with their tweezers
    They were struck by the thought
    (Whether conscious or not)
    "The effort is giving us seizures!"

    CONTENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS

    There once was a brain from Pawtuckett
    Whose consciousness drank from a bucket
    Quoth it, with chagrin,
    Wiping bits from its chin,
    "'Twould be neater if I could construct it!"

    THE BEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, AND OTHER GIBBERISH (TO THE TUNE OF JINGLE BELLS)

    Ding An Sich!
    Ding An Sich!
    Da sei Ding An Sich!
    Jetzt bin ich
    Und auch dich
    Besond'ren, ganz wirklich!

    Selfish Thing!
    Selfish Thing!
    May "There-IS-ness" make you ring!
    Now my "mine"
    And thy "thine"
    Differently do chime!

    1 · February 1, 2013

  • Marty S.

    top notch

    January 30, 2013

  • Leonard H.

    Great discussion on consciousness, tonight. I'd suggest that, building on tonight's discussion, we head down one of two paths:
    1) The mental causation path: Bill's 12/5/11 blog entry, followed by his 3/2/12 entry
    OR
    2) the 2nd-order mentation and true beliefs path: 9/14/12 followed by 11/19/12.

    January 28, 2013

  • gary

    I enjoyed this discussion format, although it does have its problems. I guess we'll go for "limited popcorn" next time, so that should be an interesting experiment.

    January 28, 2013

  • Bill M.

    Really good discussion. Quite lively. Interesting topic.

    January 28, 2013

  • James I D.

    Needs fine tuning but a good start.

    January 28, 2013

  • James I D.

    Reductionism can be useful in addressing the problem of consciousness. Mind is antecedent to consciousness.
    Not sure what is necessary and sufficient for mind, but these are characteristic of mind:
    1.Intentionality: Pointing toward, attending to some target, i.e. directedness.
    2.Responsiveness: Reacting and adjusting to external influences.
    3.Memory: Future behavior influenced by prior interactions.
    4. Measure of predictability: Repeating behaviors under similar conditions.
    5.Measure of unpredictability: Some surprising behaviors are unpredictable.
    6.Inexplicable characteristics: An unknowable inner existence.
    Many creatures have these characteristics but so do quantum particles; hence they do not guarantee consciousness. Consciousness involves subjective states of mind (qualia), i.e. information that can be shared only symbolically. Symbolic communication is empirical evidence for consciousness, and is far more complex, if not exclusive, among humans than among animals.

    1 · January 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hello.
    I'm brand new to the meetup and to the Philosophy Group.
    Is this discussion open to anyone?

    January 28, 2013

  • Phillip W.

    Bill, this is my favorite discussion group. But South Austin in traffic
    on a work night, up early the next morning is murder. Have you considered Sunday evening? Thanks

    January 27, 2013

  • Bill M.

    I look forward to starting up again. At last we will discuss things I know something about, having written them. (grin)

    January 17, 2013

    • Kim

      Good luck on this. I've been reading your blog regularly and commenting on them as well so I would have been interested but unfortunately Madeleine South is too south for me.

      January 24, 2013

  • Guy J

    Here's something I wrote a while back which seems germaine to this meeting's topic: http://wiki.guyjohnson.org/LimitsOfLogic

    1 · January 23, 2013

    • Kim

      January 24, 2013

    • Heide

      So we come back to the original reason for the gathering, which is defining our terms.

      1 · January 24, 2013

  • Leonard H.

    Ah, good! We can start out defining our terms. And then proceed with the fisticuffs.

    1 · January 19, 2013

    • Heide

      KIm- apparently there is a lot of discussion going on during fisticuffs. "1. fisticuffs
      Fisticuffs are a favourite pastime for the Victorian Gentleman, as well as a way to sort out minor scuffles and souffles. This mano-a-mano competition could continue for anything up to 45 days, both combatants circling each other slowly, weighing up the strengths and weakenesses of their opponent and smoking fine cigars. During fisticuffs, the jacket is always taken off, braces are unhooked from the shoulder and sleeves are rolled up.
      Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles, did you see Johnathan over there challenge the Duke of York to throw down in fisticuffs?

      Victorian Gentleman 2: Dear Lord, I daresay this could turn out to be a proper flogging! That pompus French bastard needs a good lashing

      Victorian Gentleman 1: Right-O Charles! Right-O!

      January 23, 2013

    • Kim

      January 23, 2013

  • Heide

    Reminder- if anyone changes their mind about coming be sure to change your status on the site so others can come. There are two already on the waiting list....I will do the same.

    January 23, 2013

    • Bill M.

      Thanks, Heide!

      January 23, 2013

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