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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › For those reading the book For Everyone: The Mind-Body Problem (And Free Wil

For those reading the book For Everyone: The Mind-Body Problem (And Free Will Versus Determinism): The Most Important Philosophical Problem

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,767
I am reserving this thread specifically for dialogue with anyone who wishes to read and engage in dialogue about this book, For Everyone: The Mind-Body Problem (And Free Will Versus Determinism): The Most Important Philosophical Problem.

The book can probably best be read at HomoRationalis.com, but it can also be downloaded from the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group, either as a PDF file or as a Word document. You would go to the menu above and click on “Other,” and then click on “Files.”

In this thread, as opposed to other threads, I am requesting that there just be dialogue between you and me, with you quoting the passage that you are talking about and giving your own ideas about it. I am contrasting that with “outsourcing” to material written by other people and to videos considered related to the subject. If you do have such material to share, it could be done by starting another thread or adding such material to another relevant thread already existing. I would of course be interested in those things also, but I wish for this particular thread to be focused entirely on what is specifically written in this book, especially any critiques of the wording and/or ideas in it, or any questions that specific passages seem to raise, or any elaborations on the ideas in such passages.

The next post will be just the table of contents, to give you an idea of what the book is basically about. The following post will present the Preface and the first part of the Introduction.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,768

FOR EVERYONE


THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM (AND FREE WILL VS DETERMINISM)

THE MOST IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM



By William V. Van Fleet, MD

10/26/2012


TABLE OF CONTENTS



CHAPTER PAGE

PREFACE 3
INTRODUCTION 5
CAUSATION AND EXPLANATION 7
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WORLDS 11

MODELING 13
SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE 17
THE SUBJECTIVE MODEL 22
THE OBJECTIVE MODEL: LINGUISTIC MODELING 27

OBJECTIVE MODEL: AGREEMENT 33
OBJECTIVE MODEL: RATIONALITY 39
OBJECTIVE MODEL: MEASUREMENT 42
MODELING MATERIAL 45

SUBJECTIVE MODEL, OBJECTIVE MODEL, AND REALITY 52
THE CONCEPT OF SUB-MODELS 59
THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL SUB-MODELS 62
THE MENTAL MODEL 71

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL OBJECTIVE MODEL LANGUAGES 80
PHYSICO-MENTAL MODEL 83
THE CONCEPT OF THE “MIND” 91
FREE WILL 97

GENERAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE TRIPARTITE MODEL 104
IMPLICATIONS: SPIRITUALITY 107
IMPLICATIONS: GOOD AND BAD SPIRITUALITY 112
IMPLICATIONS: GOD 115

IMPLICATIONS: RELIGION 118
IMPLICATIONS: SUPERVISION AND PUNISHMENT 120
IMPLICATIONS: ABORTION AND ANIMAL CARE 123
CONCLUDING REMARKS 127



Note to reader:

Much attention has been devoted to using terms in this book in highly consistent ways. I request that the reader read this book in the order written, to prevent the misunderstandings that so frequently arise by virtue of the use of the same words with different meanings. Doing so will assure that the value of this book will be preserved.

William V. Van Fleet, M.D.

Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,992
PREFACE

I wish to clarify something important about how this book is written.

It is customary, I know, for presentations about issues such as the one this book is about to refer plentifully to "sources," so that the reader can explore further the specific issues being discussed. However, I have not done that in this book, for two main reasons.

First, the concepts being referred to in this book have been written about by many, many people, and there is no way to refer to one, or a few, of these people who would stand out as being unusually important.

Second, it is my belief that the very existence of this problem (the "mind-body problem"), and its related problems, is due to a great extent to linguistic confusion, produced by the inherent ambiguity of language. Therefore, in this book I have attempted to develop a specific, highly consistent lexicon, the purpose of which is to obtain as great clarity as possible in communication and understanding. As soon as I would refer to some other individual's work, I would have to be taking into account how that individual was using his or her words in what he or she was presenting. This would immediately make this extremely difficult task dramatically more complex and difficult.

I also would like to clarify why I consider this problem, or set of problems, probably regarded by many as rather obscure and therefore unimportant, to be the most important philosophical problem that our species faces. This is because of my belief that it is extremely important, and increasingly so, that our species be able to come to agreement about certain basic things, and that what those basic beliefs are be as accurate as possible. Our species has become more and more able to do extremely influential things, and so while we have been able to do increasingly useful and wonderful things, potentially ultimately beneficial to us all, we have simultaneously become able to make extremely influential, and even tragic, mistakes, that will impact the whole future of our development as a species on this planet. Inaccuracy of our beliefs leads to the making of mistakes, and inability to agree tends to promote paralysis of decision-making.

We have to have a way of coming to agreement, and a way to optimize the chances of that which we are agreeing to being accurate. That would mean, I believe, that we should develop a relatively easily understood and agreed-upon lexicon for understanding and communicating about our most basic, fundamental ways of viewing everything. I do know that the vast majority of people will immediately say that what I am trying to accomplish is impossible, and therefore many people will simply not have any interest in pursuing the effort. I am hoping, however, that (1) I am correct, and (2) that there will be a few people who will make the effort to understand what I am offering, and will then advocate to others that such effort be undertaken.

Lest it be thought otherwise, I wish to assure the reader that I am fully aware of the possibility of a person being absolutely convinced that he or she has arrived at some "truth" that seems obvious and "undeniable," only to be shown later (if willing to be shown) that there are fundamental flaws in his or her way of thinking. I wish to assure the reader that I do not have the kind of feeling of certainty and confidence that I was just referring to. So I will be among those who will be interested in whether or not what I have presented here stands the test of conscientious scrutiny by others. I truly hope that it will, because I currently maintain the tentative belief that I am making a significant contribution.

I do wish, also, that the reader will read what I have written conscientiously, with an effort to understand everything that is written within the context in which it is written. I am well aware that it is possible for someone who is reading something to have a strong wish to demonstrate that there are flaws, and therefore to be prone to read superficially and thereby allow the words and sentences being read to mean something different than what they are actually meaning in the context in which they are written. Most of the words that I use in this book can have more than one meaning, and if a meaning other than what I am using is assigned to my words, I can be made to appear to be saying things that I am not saying and would not say. I have already had this experience in other things that I have written. The reader should indeed look for flaws in what he or she is reading, but the flaws should be with regard to the actual meanings of what is being written, rather than substituted meanings produced by using the words differently.

I do hope that I am making a contribution, but I fully acknowledge that I could be mistaken. Only time will tell, so to speak, and, of course, I may never know. Nevertheless, what follows is the result of many, many hours of work that has been not only quite difficult but also quite solitary, since it has not been possible to have any kind of prolonged, in-depth, meaningful conversation about these issues. If you, the reader, fully understand what I am trying to convey in this book, I believe you will understand what I have just said. This remains to be seen.

INTRODUCTION

Throughout much of Western philosophical thought there has been an overt and/or underlying set of problems that have produced polarities of thinking, such as idealism vs. realism, but never to my knowledge any satisfactory conclusion. These problems have long been called "the "mind-body problem" and the "free will vs. determinism problem," or referred to in some similar manner. They are actually problems associated with some of our species' most difficult issues (involving major decision-making). I wish to solve these problems, and believe I have. See if you think I have.

The "mind-body problem" has to do with what the connection is between the two, including the issue as to how it can be that one may influence the other, especially when the physical sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), that have made great strides in understanding how the body (including the brain) works, use formulas that contain no variables having to do with the mind. And the "free will vs. determinism problem" has to do with how, if everything in the universe occurs according to causal laws, we are able to make decisions, when what we do was already bound to occur anyway.

I wish, however, to be somewhat more specific about the nature of these problems before giving you my solutions. And it will be crucial that, in order to have adequate understanding, we will need to use words with specific, agreed-upon meanings for the purpose of this discussion. (There is much misunderstanding related simply to individuals using the same words with different meanings.)

Continue reading….
A former member
Post #: 1
Under 'Causation' and in the 6th para, which begins, "There is another thing to be clear about..."
You state near the end of the para: "When we do "controlled" experiments, we are doing things that allow us to disregard other possible causes of an outcome than the one, or ones, we have an interest in."
Are you saying that we disregard in the sense that we simply ignore other possible causes, or isn't it rather that in controlled experiments we eliminate other possible causes so that we can "test for" only one cause and then through the process of elimination narrow it down to the cause that we will then be able to say, "this is the cause"?
Or is that what you mean by disregarding other possible causes?
Also: in the 18th para: could where you use the terms, "what caused or who caused' could we not equally use the terms, "how caused or why caused" ?
A former member
Post #: 5
Your book states:
"So there still remains the observation that feelings, beliefs, motivations, etc., namely, mental phenomena, seem to cause things to happen in the physical world, as, for example, when a decision in my mind to move my hand is predictably followed by movement of my hand, or when my becoming afraid of what I am seeing is predictably followed by an increase of adrenalin in my bloodstream. Are these indeed clear examples as to how the mind can affect the body, i.e., how mental entities and processes can cause things within the physical world to happen? And, again, if this is so, why do these mental entities never show up in the explanatory formulae or equations describing how things work in the physical world? Why are these things absent in what is studied by the physicist, the chemist, the biologist, the neurologist, the astronomer, etc.? "

The operation of the brain is complex and is far from completely understood, so it can't be modeled precisely with equations. But we do know it operates very much like a computer in terms of sending digital signals between elements that do comparative operations on the digital inputs, like a complex version of the simple gates in CPUs. There is not anything known about a neuron that can't be implemented with NAND gates. For any mental activity we can precisely define, we can implement it on a computer and then give precise equations for cause and effect. For mental activity we can't as equally well define, we can't assume the ideas and equations we've learned (from precisely defined mental activity) are incomplete in their capability (to precisely implement the undefined mental activity).

Our machines can see, smell, touch, and hear whatever elements of the environment we choose, then they can think deeply about the consequences and then react, moving whatever things they need to move in order to change the environment they have sensed in order to achieve, as best they can, the goal we've defined for them. This is the field of "controls" in mechanical and electrical engineering, being precisely determined by equations. Going even beyond this, there are A.I. programs that can "run amok" on their own with the programmer not knowing exactly how they were able to achieve their goals. There is a common fear that some of these machines will be let loose from a hackers software or future 3D printer laboratory with the goal of reproducing itself. Or that if the goals are not defined, then they will evolve in a more ethical laboratory until this goal is selected for, and it escapes.

These machines can be programmed to learn things the programmers can't model or copy unless he has access to all the changed memory bits inside the machine. They can learn to do things better than their programmers were able to program into them by watching the results of their own actions and improving their own programming. This was common in 1990 when I first learned about neural nets. Genetic algorithms can change even the design of the neural net after several generations.

A steam engine governor is a much earlier example of a machine sensing the environment and adjusting the environment being sensed in order achieve a set goal. When the rotation of a shaft got too slow or too fast, it increased or decreased the amount of steam being let through. It could react faster than a person at much less cost than a person. The is the economic problem of our times, the time of the computer replacing the need for brains, even programming brains.

Many thoughtful students first learning about engineering controls become immediately struck by the sensation that the feedback loop in a control system is where consciousness lies. It is the difference between where the machine senses where it is, and where it wants to be. The "amount" of consciousness is called the "error" value which is sent off to cause movement of the machine's "muscles", implying a philosophy on the part of the engineer of "consciousness is pain", but this is because basic control systems are trying to regain a point of maximum profit that is known to be possible. It could also be called "opportunity" in machines that redesign their programming to gain more profit than their designers thought was possible.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 2,053
I recommend you continue reading the book. It points out that part of the problem is linguistic confusion. In what you have written above, the problem gets obscured because you are using metaphoric language the makes it seem that there is no problem other than some more information being needed. You use language in the description of "inanimate" or "physical" objects (computers, machines, etc.) that contains words originating in the description of mental entities, entities considered to be in the "mind" or conscious awareness. Thus, you state:

Our machines can see, smell, touch, and hear whatever elements of the environment we choose, then they can think deeply about the consequences and then react, moving whatever things they need to move in order to change the environment they have sensed in order to achieve, as best they can, the goal we've defined for them.
In this way you depict machines as having a mental life and as engaging in decision-making, things we generally consider true of only certain physical entities that we refer to as "alive" and "consciously aware." This problem is a very deep one, extremely difficult to talk about. As you go further in the book, I think you will increasingly see what I mean.

Another example of this sort of obscuring of the problem in this manner is:

Many thoughtful students first learning about engineering controls become immediately struck by the sensation that the feedback loop in a control system is where consciousness lies. It is the difference between where the machine senses where it is, and where it wants to be.
You have machines "wanting" to do things, as if they have a "mind of their own." I believe that most people would not consider a thermostat to sense the temperature and want to change it, implying that the thermostat has conscious awareness and conscious motivation like we do, but that metaphoric language is easy to use and for most purposes causes no difficulty, perhaps even being considered a "creative" way of speaking.
A former member
Post #: 6
You seem to be taking as an axiom that human thought is fundamentally different from the thinking of machines. My first paragraph explained why I would have to consider that a leap of faith. I was not speaking metaphorically when I assigned human thinking words to machines. The "want" of a thermostat appears to be only a quantitative difference from the "want" of a brain. Since it is only 1 or 2 comparative operations, its complexity is (as a very rough estimate) only 1 millionth the capability of 1 neuron, which is 100 billionth of a brain. So I do not think most people would feel insulted if I claimed their want is not fundamentally different from a thermostat....but only if I also stated their marvelous brains are 100 quintillion times more complicated than a thermostat, and that we will never be able to conceive of what a 100 quintillion difference is except by math. We can conceive that we want a room to be warmer, and we can instill not only that want but the necessary resultant action into a machine.

The reason I have not read the rest of the book is because it holds as a foundational axiom something I find not only a leap of faith, but high nigh untenable given the preponderance of evidence to the contrary. A glance at the rest did not indicate the axiom was abandoned or that the book can stand without it.

Engineers and programmers have not invented different words to distinguish the activity of their machines from their brains. Programming is a transference of a precise set of "wants" from the programmer's mind to the machine. I do not know of any programmers or engineers who would insist that there is a qualitative difference.

The ability to reason logically was once considered to be the thing that separated humans from other animals, and the highest form of intellectual activity. I believe this was a primary motivation in Boole's invention (or formalization) of digital logic around 1850. Has the measuring stick of the mind been moved to more vague (imprecisely definable) areas in order to keep a mystical idea of mind alive?

When I make a numerical estimation of the difference in complexity of a thermostat and a brain, I am being literal. There are various estimates as to how many NAND or XOR logic gates are needed to implement a neuron. I believe a thermostat can be made to be as "universal" as they are called, as they are all that's needed to implement a complete Turing machine (with wiring).
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 2,055
Could you please quote my sentence(s) that is/are the foundational axiom that you are attributing to me?

And am I correct that you are taking on faith as a foundational axiom that conscious awareness is nothing more than complexity within the physical world? In other words, if we kept making a computer more and more complex and capable, it would eventually have conscious awareness?

Another way to ask the same question is to first agree that where you assume conscious awareness to exist, you find complexity within the physical world. This would be a correlation between complexity and conscious awareness. But are you going beyond stating a correlation and saying that the two are identical, that a machine that is complex enough would therefore have conscious awareness? Is this the axiom that prevents you from reading my book?
A former member
Post #: 7
Now I see a lot if not most of your book is to state positions, and then refute them. I would have to read and think about what you're saying to determine if we have a fundamentally different viewpoint. I do not have an interest in the final sections of the book, the implications of your considerations, maybe because I think they are not relevant to anything in my world. My lack of interest in the implications may be related to why I found the approach frustrating. To me, it seems to be the digging of holes that are not interesting, and then filling them up, and then showing the relevance to other holes, which I personally have already filled up for myself. So to read your book is to work hard in diving back down into those holes, and yet I may not come back out with a profit or with a different viewpoint.

But all of this is another way of saying maybe I should read it. Even if I think it's a less effective way of viewing of the world than my own, it seems logically good, so there could be substantial value in it for me.

I do not consider the complexity of the physical world as necessary for mind or consciousness. I am being literal when I say a thermostat is aware of the elements it needs to be aware of and sincerely wants something. Even a rock wants to remain in its current frame of reference and the math of quantum mechanics implies it instantaneously searches (is aware of) every possible event path (Feynman's sum over histories) through the Universe before it decides to remain as it is. Again, I am being literal and do not require complexity.

I meant to refer to complexity of what is known as being capable of explaining the existence of any other aspect of consciousness or mind that you or I might cite, even if the exact math is not known. By that I mean the physical rules by which the Universe plays are sufficient to explain all that we know of, even if I can't do the exact calculations due to the complexity. The impossibilities physics has rigidly declared for the past 100+ years that no one has violated leave room for all I've observed. The impossibilities I know of are:

  • no perpetual motion machines
  • total entropy can't decrease
  • no absolute reference frames
  • uncertainty principle
  • pauli exclusion

The "null hypothesis" in statistics also uses the idea of proving what is impossible, not what is. Stating the impossible allows for a larger universe than stating what is.

Computers might have more consciousness and mind than people.

This is not to say your approach or conclusions are in error because you leave the definition of mind to float along with a general (undefined) subjective model that runs on the operation of the brain, apparently. I suppose I am saying that you can't declare that a computer program can't also implement that subjective model to have the same mind. This is the goal of some singularity enthusiasts, to download their minds to computer hardware so that they can "live" and breed indefinitely.
Bill Van F.
wvanfleet
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 2,057
[I do not consider the complexity of the physical world as necessary for mind or consciousness. I am being literal when I say a thermostat is aware of the elements it needs to be aware of and sincerely wants something. Even a rock wants to remain in its current frame of reference and the math of quantum mechanics implies it instantaneously searches (is aware of) every possible event path (Feynman's sum over histories) through the Universe before it decides to remain as it is. Again, I am being literal and do not require complexity.]

Okay, so you believe that everything is consciously aware, and it doesn't have to do with complexity. So my shoe is aware of me, just like I am aware of my shoe. And perhaps my shoe suffers more than I do. But this is a very, very atypical view, and I don't think many people would accept it. Most of us don't worry about making our shoes suffer. We consider some things to have no conscious awareness, just like an anesthetized human or other animal, and so we don't mind, for instance, sawing a log, or for that matter, cutting down a tree. And you believe that your view is so likely to be correct that you don't want to go through the trouble of reading alternative ideas. But I would at least like to go on record as saying that I think that it is not so certain that you are correct. If you could just give us your reasons for believing you are correct, that would be great. Or maybe I have misstated what you are saying, in which case perhaps you could identify what I am misunderstanding. Sharing and comparing of ideas is what, I believe, helps us to think more deeply.
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