May 16 2012

Kastrup Responds

Yesterday I wrote a reply to a science blogger, Bernardo Kastrup, who wrote a critique of an earlier blog post of mine. He has now written a reply to my reply. I find these blog discussions very useful – each side can take their time to compose their argument and we can usually get down to the key issues.  They can also be fun.

Kastrup begins, unfortunately, with a bit of whining.

While I appreciate his having taken the time to reply, I am also somewhat surprised by the sheer amount of space he dedicates to ad homenen attacks on me, which dilutes his argument and the quality of the debate.

Sure, I got a bit snarky in my reply, but I will point out that my criticisms were all valid. Also my two sharpest barbs were direct quotes from Kastrup against me. It’s bad form, in my opinion, to open up a debate with personal attacks and then whine when you get the exact same thing back.  But fine – let’s get past that and focus on the substance of the discussion. His next point, however, is also about form. He writes:

This is correct. So let me take the opportunity to be explicit: I only read the post that was forwarded to me, and my comments were based on that alone. If Novella’s position in other posts was more nuanced, I’ve missed that, since I do not know Novella’s work.

I don’t expect those who comment on my blog posts to read large numbers of posts by me before commenting. That would be unreasonable. What I do expect is that they will interpret my posts fairly and not criticize me for not exploring issues that I have explored elsewhere. It’s impossible to cover every side issue in every blog post, so I do rely upon prior articles to cover these side issues.

The problem with Kastrup’s original criticism of my post was not that he did not read other posts by me – it was that he misinterpreted the post he did read. He does nothing to address this criticism by me in his new post, but rather entirely misses the point. In his criticism he accused me of assuming causation from correlation, but I never did. In the very post he was commenting on I never said anything about proof – I said that the conclusion that the brain causes the mind is the best inference from the data available, and I added that not only is there a correlation but it has the proper temporal relationship (brain activity and changes precede mental activity and changes), that there are no other plausible hypotheses, and that other hypotheses that can account for the correlation add unnecessary elements and so violate Occam’s razor. Kastrup distilled all of that to the claim that I was saying correlation equals causation. That was the straw man that he flogged in his criticism.

In his new reply he does not acknowledge his error, or point out where I was wrong, or even give any indication that he understands his error.

He continues:

But if this is an error on my side, Novella has committed the exact same error already in the title of his reply: Had he read anything of my work besides the post he is replying to, he would have seen that I am precisely not a Dualist, but a monist (for instance, see this).

OK, I admit it’s easy to think that I am calling Kastrup a dualist, but I actually never did. I merely said that he was inserting himself into a discussion about dualism. I only referred to his position as “metaphysical.” I deliberately did not call him a dualist or address his specific flavor of metaphysics because that is a different discussion. For those interested, Kastrup believes that reality is a projection of consciousness, and the brain acts mainly as a filter. You can read his description here.

Kastrup is wrong about me calling him a dualist (an unwarranted assumption on his part), and seems to reflect a pattern of not carefully reading those with whom he disagrees. Finally, though, we get to the meat of the discussion when he writes:

In my article, I mentioned several models for the relationship between mind and brain under which the exact same phenomenology is expected: Changes to brain states leading to changes in subjective experience. My post was very clear about this, so I am surprised Novella seems to have difficulties on this point. To be explicit: If the brain merely modulates subjective experience (through filtering and/or localization, for instance), then one would expect precisely that disturbances in the brain would impact the modulation process and, thereby, alter subjective experience. I invite Dr. Novella to acquaint himself a little more with these other explanatory models of mind-brain interaction so we can continue with the debate in a more productive manner.

I invite Kastrup to acquaint himself a little further with my prior deconstructions of this position. I actually did address this, to some extent, in my prior post to which he is responding. It’s not just that brain states correlate with mental states, and it is not even just that brain states precede mental states – further, there is no other hypothesis that does not add unnecessary elements, the equivalent of light switch fairies – a point Kastrup ignores.

The problem with positions like this is that they add nothing to our understanding of the mind as a phenomenon, and they make no testable predictions that would distinguish them from the simpler explanation that the brain causes mind. Kastrup hides behind the fact that there are no good metaphors for the brain as “filter”, but that is not a strength of his position. I get the sense that we are talking past each other a bit, perhaps because he is approaching this issue as a philosopher and I am approaching it like a scientist. Show me evidence and make predictions, give me operational definitions and clearly defined models. He want to work with vague and poorly understood metaphors and talks about absolute proof.

The problem, from a scientific point of view, is that the notion that the brain modulates consciousness becomes operationally inseparable from the notion that the brain causes consciousness, at least in terms of the experimental relationship between brain function and mental function. When I electrically stimulate part of the brain, that affects mental function. There does not seem to be any practical limit to the degree to which we can temporarily or permanently change mental function by altering brain function, and we are steadily progressing in our ability to model what parts of the brain are doing what. There doesn’t seem to be anything coming from outside the brain – but worse, the concept is completely unnecessary. It is sliced away cleanly by Occam’s razor.

Kastrup tried to address the Occam’s razor argument, but failed to do so. First he missed my main point, that by invoking Occam’s razor I was clearly not relying on mere correlation. His response on this score was a non sequitur – that if NDEs are real Occam’s razor favors some flavor of dualism (whatever you call it). First, this is a shaky premise at best (and I think false), but further I also disagree with his logic. If NDEs were real as he characterized them what we would have in an anomaly to be investigated. Introducing noncorporeal mental function would still be a massive new element that would need independent verification. But I agree it would then at least be a reasonable hypothesis. Of course with a premise that is shaky to false, the introduction of something as extraordinary as mental function apart from the brain is completely unwarranted.

Along this line, Kastrup then repeats his contention that there is evidence for mind apart from brain:

To repeat a point I made in my original post: There is strong scientific evidence for mind states that indeed do not correlate to brain states. So if anything is to be scientifically inferred from current observations, I’d say it is that mind states are not caused (but merely modulated) by brain states.

This is an absurd premise on his part. There is absolutely no scientific consensus that there is reliable evidence for mind apart from brain. He is citing controversial (at best) claims as support for his position. What he calls strong scientific evidence is laughable, is not generally accepted by the scientific community and only persists on the fringe. He is using clairvoyance to substantiate claims for ghosts. I have already addressed the near death experience point, which he does not address in his new post so I guess we’ll put that aside for later. He does bring back up the psilocybin example. He cites another post of his, in which he argues:

The first materialist rebuttal is this: Brain activity is composed of both excitatory processes and inhibitory processes. Excitatory processes generate – well, correspond to – subjective experiences (perceptions, feelings, ideas, etc.). Inhibitory processes, on the other hand, dampen excitatory processes down, preventing them from arising. So the idea is that, when brain activity is impaired or reduced, the inhibitory processes are blocked. The consequence is that excitatory processes – which would otherwise be stopped before taking root – can now grow to become major subjective experiences.

 This answer appears wrong on an empirical basis. If it were correct, one should observe not only a reduction of activity in certain brain regions (i.e. the inhibitory processes being blocked), but alongside it also a significant activation of other brain regions (i.e. the excitatory processes that can now take root). However, the study that identified the dampening of brain activity as the mechanism of action of psychedelics did not observe any significant activation elsewhere in the brain.

This is all hopelessly wrong.  First Kastrup is overly simplistic (to the point of being wrong) in seeing brain function as either excitatory or inhibitory. He is confusing different levels of brain activity – this is an accurate description of the effects of specific neurotransmitters on specific receptors on neurons, they will either increase or decrease the activity of those neurons. But this is not a good description of how different parts of the brain interact. I gave a brief description of this in my last post, but to expand on this – different parts of the brain are active in processing information from other parts of the brain. They modify how the other parts of the brain are working, or the net effect of that processing on our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and net subjective experience. When you remove one element from the committee of voices contributing to net experience, that experience changes.

It may be that some some other “voices” are more prominent, because they are not being modified, inhibited, or drowned out by other parts of the brain. Kastrup simplistically interprets this as requiring an increase in raw activity in some part of  the brain, but this is not true. Overall activity can still be decreased.

He gives as an example the intense mystical experiences caused by some drugs or during out of body experiences. The latter is now known to be caused by inhibiting brain regions, not enhancing them. Feeling inside ones body is an active neurological process. Inhibiting that process and decreasing overall brain activity can result in an OOB experience. Likewise the turning off of reality testing and rational parts of the brain will cause an intense mystical experience by  decreasing overall brain function.

Further, this is preliminary research and neuroscientists are still debating how to interpret it, so it is hardly a solid premise with which to discard the materialist paradigm. Previous PET studies showed that psilocybin increased activity in certain brain regions. Now an fMRI study shows that activity is decreased. This probably has something to do with the fact that PET scan and fMRI are measuring different things and inferring brain activity from that – so perhaps some aspects of metabolism are decreased and others increased. We need further research to sort this out. But either way – none of it breaks the predictions of materialism, as Kastrup claims.

Kastrup also makes the simplistic and wrong assumption that intensity of experience must equate to greater brain activity (in the purely materialist model). The massive frontal lobes, however, can have a largely calming effect. They can be furiously active while having the net effect of modulating emotions and experience specifically to make them less “intense,” from a subjective and emotional point of view. Anyone who has dealt with a patient who has had frontal lobe damage (and decreased brain activity) will know this to be true. Intensity of experience does not equal intensity of neuronal firing.

Kastrup concludes:

In conclusion, I believe that he did not at all counter any of the points I originally raised. I’m certainly willing to continue the debate if Dr. Novella addresses, with more substance, the contents of the articles I originally linked to as part of my original post, instead of ignoring them as he has done so far.

It’s easy to claim that the other person in a debate did not counter your points when you ignore the counter arguments or misinterpret them. Kastrup has only succeeded in piling logical fallacies on top of logical fallacies.

Let’s review:

Kastrup claimed that I assumed causation from correlation. False – I made a much more careful and logically valid argument, which I have now pointed out twice. Kastrup has failed to address this correction.

Kastrup claimed that NDEs are strong evidence for mind separate from brain. False, NDEs are not evidence of this, and at best are highly controversial claims. If he wants to pursue this point further he really should read my previous article on the topic which I linked to.

Kastrup claimed that I called him a dualist. False – I merely said his position was metaphysical, which it is (it is also arguably dualist, but that’s a semantic point).

Kastrup claims that the psilocybin evidence contradicts the predictions of materialism, and that I failed to understand this point. False and false – as I describe in detail above, Kastrup’s argument is entirely based on his own simplistic misunderstanding of neuroscience. He should at least exhibit a little tiny bit of humility when confronting neuroscientists about neuroscience (which he does also here  – apparently I am not the first neuroscientist to call his understanding of neuroscience “naive”). This doesn’t mean we’re right and he’s wrong, but it should at least give him pause. I know I get very concerned about my own understanding of a topic if experts in the field contradict me. What Kastrup is doing (with NDEs and the psilocybin example) is latching onto preliminary or controversial evidence and then treating it as a solid scientific premise. This is a common ploy of pseudoscientists, but does not make for convincing arguments.

Kastrup claims that I did not counter any of his points. This is also demonstrably false – see above.

I too am willing to continue this discussion. I ask that Kastrup take a deep breath and read my posts fairly and with a sincere attempt to understand and address my actual positions. Then maybe we can move forward.

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92 responses so far

92 Responses to “Kastrup Responds”

  1. shalliton 16 May 2012 at 9:08 am

    Kastrup has nothing interesting to say. Don’t waste your time.

  2. tyler the new ageron 16 May 2012 at 9:17 am

    Okay, this was a much better post than yesterday’s train wreck.
    I guess I agree with Dr.Novella here, I find it odd that Bernardo Kastrup is clinging to one strange study on psilocybin to argue against materialism. We don’t need that, Materialism is already on very shaky philosophical grounds, I urge Bernardo Kastrup to familiarize himself with the work of David Chalmers, Thomas Nagel, Galen Strwason, Gary R. Habermas, J.P.Moreland ,Ned Block John Searle and a host of other philosophers of mind, these people are not true believers, they are serious Philosophers, they have pointed out again and again and again and again why consciousness is a huge problem for materialism.

    The great philosopher of Mind Edward Fesser has several posts on his blog that also discuss why the mind cannot be produced by physical causes: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2008/09/some-brief-arguments-for-dualism-part-i.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2008/09/some-brief-arguments-for-dualism-part.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2008/10/some-brief-arguments-for-dualism-part.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2008/10/some-brief-arguments-for-dualism-part_29.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2008/11/some-brief-arguments-for-dualism-part-v.html

    Parts I and II discuss intentionality, part III discusses qualia, part IV discusses universals, and part V explains that mental states cannot be specified by the brain without a mind to define them and therefore the brain cannot be the cause of the mind.

    I also want to point out that there is a lot of evidence indicating consciousness survives death.
    I personally don’t find the evidence convincing enough, but to say that there is no evidence for the afterlife is a bigoted statement that many skeptics keep spewing.

  3. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 9:37 am

    “I get the sense that we are talking past each other a bit, perhaps because he is approaching this issue as a philosopher and I am approaching it like a scientist”

    I don’t think this is the issue. His errors have just as much to do with the philosophy as the science of this topic. It is perhaps magnified by an insufficient understanding of the science, which is not good given the subject matter.

  4. Shelleyon 16 May 2012 at 10:06 am

    “I also want to point out that there is a lot of evidence indicating consciousness survives death.”

    Can you clarify that or point me to some of the *evidence* that you find compelling?

  5. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 10:10 am

    tyler the new ager wrote: ‘… Galen Strwason …’

    I recommend his paper ‘Realistic monism: why physicalism entails panpsychism’:
    http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~seager/strawson_on_panpsychism.doc

    It’s about emergence and why Strawson thinks it’s irrational.

  6. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 10:15 am

    Tyler – just an FYI – the bigoted “No Evidence” you refer to is actually short-hand for no compelling evidence. Any NDE or post-death consciousness evidence is anecdotal, unrepeatable under controlled conditions and just not compelling, i.e. there are many other explanations for the evidence ranging from bias to mis-interpretation to outright fraud to altered states. Disembodied consciousness is one of many explanations, but it’s also the lease plausible one based on what we know about the mind, the brain and the world.

    I have one counter argument to Edward Fesser: Computer Programs. They seem to have “Intention”, but the code by itself is just meaningless 1′s and 0′s. It all sounds very nice if you like that sort of thing, but it really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    The biggest issue arguing for materialism against whatever…is that the arguments for the other position don’t play by the rules. Feeble evidence, logical fallacies and pure speculation are given enormous weight by the “dualist”, if I may use that term, side. A scientific inquiry, by definition, needs to start with an open mind, a hypothesis and a way to disprove that hypothesis through testing or meticulous observation…I’m not seeing that from either Bernardo or Feser.

  7. banyanon 16 May 2012 at 10:16 am

    Mr. Kastrup seems to view the brain as a bit like a radio, that takes a signal from elsewhere and allows it to be expressed through the body. He then sees scientists pointing out that altering the device alters the expression and concluding that the device is therefore generating the information as naive. This is a nice idea, and it would be reasonable if we had any evidence for the signal outside of the device, the way we do for radios. Without such evidence, occam’s razor requires us to prefer a hypothesis that does not require the existence of the signal.

    We have a device (the brain) that seems to be creating an expression (experience and behavior). Is it getting its information from elsewhere or is it generating it itself? We have no evidence of the information existing outside of the brain, so for now we’re sticking to the hypothesis that the brain is generating the experience and behavior itself.

  8. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 10:20 am

    tyler – you should read my previous posts on dualism. It is philosophically dead, in my opinion. At the very least it’s unnecessary, and there are certainly no valid proofs that the brain cannot explain the mind.

    You should read Daniel Dennett as well.

    Further, the philosophers can argue semantics all they want – neuroscientists are quite able to ignore the whole discussion and go on with their research under the materialist paradigm and are doing just fine. If the brain causes mind theory were not so fantastically successful then there might be a valid reason to question it.

    I find dualism about as compelling as creationism and arguments for life energy. The creationists are always crowing about how evolution is in crisis, and cannot explain life, etc. Meanwhile the science of evolution is doing fine. Just as biology is doing fine without vitalism.

    Creationism, vitalism, and dualism are all equally unnecessary notions properly ignored by scientists.

  9. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 10:21 am

    Oh – and when skeptics are being careful they say “no compelling evidence” or “no valid evidence.” We may occasionally get lazy and say “no evidence” but that’s what we mean.

  10. tyler the new ageron 16 May 2012 at 10:49 am

    Rejecting the garbage of Materialism as spewed by Dennet and the Churchland’s does not automatically make one a dualist. Yes I am very familiar with Dan Dennet, wasted my money on his book Consciousness explained.
    I want to make it clear that none of those lovely philosophers of mind that I mentioned earlier including David Chalmers, believe in the soul. You must not confuse a rejection of materialism as an embrace of woo.

    There is no doubt that consciousness is a thing in itself. It is related to processes in the brain and it may have emerged from those processes but it is wholly DISTINCT from such processes.

    I also urge you all to obtain a copy of the legendary Secular philosopher of mind Thomas Nagel’s new book that comes out in September,

    The modern materialist approach to life has utterly failed to explain such central features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, or value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology.
    http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Science/?view=usa&ci=9780199919758

  11. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 11:15 am

    Tyler – have you ever heard of confirmation bias? Wow, garbage of materialism? Really? So far, all of physics has revealed that materialism = reality. I won’t waste my time thinking that I’m actually adding to the conversation anymore. You seem to be pretty far removed from the world of evidence and are all about speculative philosophy of mind.

    And how can Nagel categorically say that the scientific approach (materialist?) has utterly failed to explain all that? And if it hasn’t created a perfect theory of mind and consciousness, so what? Does that mean the mind is immaterial? Of course not.

    After you’ve read the book, let us know if Nagel has categorically shown that the mind can’t arise from the brain. Saying nobody has explained mind emerging from the brain/body to his satisfaction is not the same as saying that the brain/body can’t explain it.

    Cheers

  12. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 11:19 am

    “you should read my previous posts on dualism. It is philosophically dead, in my opinion.”

    I agree. You can find some dualists out there, as Tyler the new ager seems motivated to find, but that is clearly a motivated minority. It is analogous in science to a fringe scientific view held by a small group unwilling to let go of an unsupported/unsupportable position.

  13. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 11:28 am

    Tyler – the position also seems scientifically naive. In science the test of the theory is not the ability to explain everything to arbitrary levels of detail and semantic satisfaction, but whether or not it’s models make successful predictions.

    Materialism is thriving. It’s models are fantastically successful. The notion that materialism is in some sort of crisis because a handful of philosophers are playing word games is about as compelling as the creationist claim that evolution is in crisis because of their motivated misunderstanding of every aspect of evolution.

  14. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 11:46 am

    ‘So far, all of physics has revealed that materialism = reality.’

    If something is discovered by the methods of physics, then it is physical by definition, so it is no surprise that physics hasn’t discovered non-physical things yet. It would be a paradox if it had. Physics is simply not the right method to say anything about the (non-)reality of non-physical things.

  15. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 11:55 am

    ccbowers wrote: ‘I agree. You can find some dualists out there, as Tyler the new ager seems motivated to find, but that is clearly a motivated minority.’

    The number of dualists within the field of philosophy of mind is actually increasing, not decreasing. It’s a respectable position nowadays. (Most of them are property dualists and not Cartesian substance dualists, though.)

  16. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 11:56 am

    @The Woodman: You are absolutely correct, but so far, there are no theories or compelling evidence of non-physical things. My point was simply that any verifiable theory about reality can be traced back to a material cause. Sure, you can speculate that ideas are not material…or love…or whatever, but there is compelling evidence that those can be traced back to physical brain states and neural pathways etc…

  17. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 11:58 am

    Most of them do not believe in life after death, spiritual phenomena etc. either, so they’re hardly ‘motivated’ by hidden agendas or something like that.

  18. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 11:59 am

    @the_woodman,

    How about backing that idea about more and more philosophers embracing dualism with some actual verifiable numbers and sources? In any case, I guarantee you won’t find many scientists studying the brain that are dualists.

  19. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I agree that many dualist philosophers, like Chalmers, are not cartesian dualists. Chalmers is actually quite clear about the fact that his form of dualism does not invalidate materialism. Those who invoke Chalmers as support for rejecting materialism do not understand his position – and his specific rejection of the anti-materialist position.

    Regarding physics – if materialism was not reality then our attempts to understand reality within a materialist paradigm would generate unresolvable paradoxes or anomalies. So far this has not been the history of science. Paradoxes and anomalies tend to be resolved eventually by pursuing a materialist explanation. In my opinion, none has persisted long enough to take seriously suggestions that materialism is insufficient.

    This is, if anything, especially true in neuroscience. Invoking modern neuroscience as support for rejecting materialism is just laughable, in my opinion.

  20. SARAon 16 May 2012 at 12:03 pm

    If you look to science to support your belief, you should have to first agree to abide by the tenets of science. That is, you should be willing to look as objectively as possible for the most compelling and repeatable evidence and change your views to match it once you have found it.

    If only we could get believers to agree to this before they go fishing for support for their faith. Then perhaps they would stop cherry picking and misinterpreting evidence to suit the per supposed belief.

    I must assume they go fishing for support because they see the greater value of scientific rigor vs faith in making a compelling reason to think something is real. But I think it is significant that many religions put such value on faith itself. It doesn’t require and indeed is harmed by logic and science.

    They weaken faith when they try to mix them. I wish they would stop trying. It’s annoying to both sides of the argument.

    Yes, I know kastrup is not touting religion. But he is a believer and believers of any stripe have faith in the belief.

  21. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Steven wrote:
    Chalmers is actually quite clear about the fact that his form of dualism does not invalidate materialism.

    No, Chalmers is very clear that he rejects materialism. To be a dualist is to reject materialism about mind, basically by definition. For instance, see Section 3 of this paper, and pretty much everything he has written on the topic. Just google ‘Chalmers materialism’.

  22. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 12:11 pm

    “The modern materialist approach to life has utterly failed to explain such central features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, or value.”

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean here. The materialist assumption is science is not an “approach to life.” In fact, I don’t even know what you mean by that phrase, but whether or not it is satisfactory to your life is irrelevant. Also, those “features” that you mention, particularly meaning and value, are human constructs so they are not scientific questions. Asking science to answer nonscientific questions does not make much sense, yet you see it as a flaw.

  23. tyler the new ageron 16 May 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Sorry Dr.Novella, but I find it painful that you have compared serious Philosophers of Mind with the grotesque nonsense that comes out of the Discovery Institute. These Philosophers are not playing word games. Neuroscientists shouldn’t ignore what is going on in the Philosophy of Mind.

    Simply pointing to physical processes in finer and finer detail does nothing to address the fundamental philosophical problems with the materialist/physicalist position on consciousness, Stefan, take note ;)

  24. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 12:14 pm

    “The number of dualists within the field of philosophy of mind is actually increasing, not decreasing. It’s a respectable position nowadays.”

    Just curious, do you have data to support this?

  25. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 12:14 pm

    In case it gets lost, in previous thread I posted in some detail why I loathe talk of brains ‘causing’ minds. Main reason: it suggests they are two different things.

  26. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 12:20 pm

    There is some evidence that dualism is gaining in popularity among professional philosophers. Chalmers wrote about this here. However, there is actually no direct sociological evidence I am aware of to support this claim.

    Even if it were true, who cares? Philosophy is well known for being fickle and subject to fads and fashions. This is what we’d expect from a discipline that doesn’t fight to constrain itself with data.

    Let’s talk about evidence, arguments. Who cares what so-and-so says? What do you say? Give us your arguments for dualism, not just a list of citations or name drop.

  27. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Tyler mentioned:
    the fundamental philosophical problems with the materialist/physicalist position on consciousness

    Bring it. Tell us a problem. Don’t cite other people. Give an argument.

  28. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Tyler – note taken. My issue will always be, where’s the beef? There is no compelling reason to veer away from the so-called materialist theories. There is sooo much we don’t know, but that doesn’t invalidate anything or make it wrong. Where is that compelling, verifiable counter-example to materialism that could shut this argument down?

    The Dualist ideas are all very cool, but they are just pure speculation and while I’m not a philosopher, I find the arguments made by the respected people you quote are making some pretty big assumptions, which any science-minded person will not grant. False Premise, invalid conclusion…

  29. tyler the new ageron 16 May 2012 at 12:29 pm

    ccbowers, I urge you to check out the work of Galen Strawson, David Chalmers,
    John Gregg, John Searle, Ned Block, Michael Huemer, Sean Robsville, Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, and a host of other Philosophers of Mind.

    Also I must point out that all the data we have from the searing light of neuroscience is compatible with the brain being a filter of consciousness model. Also we can rule out the model of brain=mind due to the powerful and undeniable fact that the nature of conscious experience is incompatible with our concept of what is physical. If consciousness is not actually reducible in explanatory terms to a physical process, then the strange notion of brain=consciousness or mind model must be wrong, no matter how many correlations we observe.

    Once again I urge you all to familiarize yourself with the Philosophers above, forget Dennet for a while. :)

  30. DOYLEon 16 May 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Just a thought.Is it possible that as creatures in an evolutionary progression,we reach an evolutionary benchmark,where by we can even concieve of the difference between brain and mind.Up to that point perhaps we were burdened with assesing states of alarm,digestion and procreation

  31. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 12:38 pm

    @ Stefan:

    Here’s a link to a recent survey among philosophers: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

    ‘Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?

    Accept: physicalism 322 / 931 (34.5%)
    Lean toward: physicalism 204 / 931 (21.9%)
    Accept: non-physicalism 132 / 931 (14.1%)
    Lean toward: non-physicalism 120 / 931 (12.8%)
    The question is too unclear to answer 59 / 931 (6.3%)
    Agnostic/undecided 23 / 931 (2.4%)
    Accept an intermediate view 22 / 931 (2.3%)
    Accept another alternative 18 / 931 (1.9%)
    Reject both 12 / 931 (1.2%)
    Insufficiently familiar with the issue 8 / 931 (0.8%)
    Skip 4 / 931 (0.4%)
    There is no fact of the matter 3 / 931 (0.3%)
    Accept both 3 / 931 (0.3%)
    Other 1 / 931 (0.1%)’

    These are just the percentages from 2011, and I currently have no data from previous years with which I could back up my claim that the number of dualists – or non-physicalists in general – has increased, but for all I know (from reading articles, papers etc.), this is the case. At the very least, the survey result shows that there are quite a few contemporary philosophers who reject physicalism or are unsure about it (even if it is still the mainstream view).

  32. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 12:41 pm

    @Tyler – to be fair, I will just say that your statement is not compelling and that saying “undeniable fact that the nature of conscious experience is incompatible with our concept of what is physical” is verifiably false. I deny it – proof positive. But seriously, to say it is undeniable reveals that you are completely entrenched in your position. I’m sorry you just keep ignoring the fact that just because we don’t deeply understand how we are conscious doesn’t mean the materialist viewpoint is wrong, it just means we don’t know. The Dualist position has clearly made that leap into the ghost in the machine.

    Philosophical arguments can be logically sound with false premises. Therefore they don’t hold water if you can’t verify the premise as true.

    In any case – if the mind is not material, it has no bearing on the science – brain damage is brain damage. Neurological disease is the same whether the brain is a filter or not. It doesn’t help us understand the brain and how to treat it.

  33. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Btw, I agree with your statement ‘In any case, I guarantee you won’t find many scientists studying the brain that are dualists’. Within the field of neuroscience, the number of dualists seems to be pretty low indeed.

  34. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 12:43 pm

    (@Stefan)

  35. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 12:48 pm

    @The Woodman

    From the same page, the coarse details show:

    Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?

    Accept or lean toward: physicalism 526 / 931 (56.4%)
    Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 252 / 931 (27%)
    Other 153 / 931 (16.4%)

    Thanks for providing that. I’m actually slightly surprised that 27% accept or lean to non-physcial, but I haven’t been keeping up on philosophy, I’m more interested in science and critical thinking at this point in my life.

  36. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 12:52 pm

    tyler I am familiar with all of the above philosophers, but I am a materialist about consciousness. So please, instead of a list of names, how about an argument? What do you think is the best reason to reject materialism wrt consciousness? No citations, no wikipedia block quotes, just your own wits. Bring it!

    The “filter” theory might be consistent with the data, but that is an extremely low standard. Consistency with data is the bare minimum that any theory requires. The theoretical virtues go well beyond consistency with data: falsifiability, simplicity, predictive fecundity, clinical relevance, etc.. What does the filter theory bring to the table as an improvement on the standard neurocentric view?

  37. bgoudieon 16 May 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Philosophy does not change the underling facts of the matter. The real world doesn’t alter one iota because of philosopher’s interpretation of anything. It doesn’t matter how many people are followers of the mind brain dichotomy, there is no evidence to support their stance.

  38. LarryCoonon 16 May 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Tyler — Steve’s analogy about light switch fairies is also consistent with the data. Being consistent with the data, and also logically consistent, is necessary but insufficient to be compelling. This is a major shortcoming of a philosophical approach in general, in my opinion.

    Your name dropping of philosophers is also uncompelling, for the same reasons. Oh, they’re SERIOUS philosophers, and not what comes out of the Discovery Institute? Same thing.

    As others have said, please pony up with an argument, not a list of names of people we should go read. Name dropping doesn’t further the discussion. Don’t even give us a litany of arguments — just give us what you think is the BEST argument. Give us ONE compelling argument that you think best illustrates the failure of the materialist approach — something that is inconsistent with materialism, but consistent with dualism. This way we have ONE thing to talk about (the one thing that you think is the BEST thing), and not a vague reference to other people or a Gish Gallop of reasons.

    When providing your example, please try to differentiate “unexplainable” for “not currently explained.” If something is inconsistent with a materialist viewpoint, it would be unexplainable, and not merely unexplained. Just because we didn’t know how the planets moved across the sky 1,000 years ago it didn’t mean that supernatural forces were at play or that we wouldn’t discover the physical reasons eventually. Just because Darwin didn’t know of a mechanism for inheritance didn’t mean evolution was wrong, or that we wouldn’t eventually discover DNA. You need to clearly show something that CAN’T work through a materialist approach.

    To be compelling, you need to provide us with something we can test, verify, and hopefully falsify. What results can we produce, and how do we produce them, that would only be consistent with a dualist approach and inconsistent with a materialist approach?

    Do this, and you’ll be taken seriously. Do what you’re doing now, and you won’t.

  39. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Of course, what philosophers believe doesn’t change the way the world is, but the fact that a considerable number of them rejects physicalism could at least be a hint that non-physicalists aren’t automatically nutters.

  40. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 1:59 pm

    “ccbowers, I urge you to check out the work of Galen Strawson, David Chalmers,
    John Gregg, John Searle, Ned Block, Michael Huemer, Sean Robsville, Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, and a host of other Philosophers of Mind.”

    You have not addressed anything I wrote…this is just name dropping, which just ends the discussion.

  41. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 2:13 pm

    @The Woodman — not that I’m an authority, but for what it’s worth I’ll grant you that there are a fair share of intelligent, well educated people who hold a non-physical view. I wonder how many of them are also influenced by their religious background and construct logically consistent arguments to rationalize their faith without fully considering the implausibility of their premises? Without a non-physical mind, the whole idea of a soul is greatly diminished and I’m sure the belief in an afterlife or fear of returning to nothingness may be a motivator for rationalizing these beliefs.

    Um…do I just state the obvious?

  42. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Stefan the dualists I know who are professional philosophers are not motivated by religious concerns at all, but are atheists. Chalmers, Nagel, and many others (Kim) fall into this camp. They tend to not be substance dualists, but property dualists, incidentally (so mental properties are an additional ingredient we need to add to the brain to explain experiences: just like we need a new fundamental property of ‘charge’ to explain electrical properties, we need a new fundamental property of ‘experience’ to explain conscious experiences).

    Substance dualism is highly correlated with religious belief (soul, afterlife, and all that).

  43. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 2:27 pm

    “They tend to not be substance dualists, but property dualists”

    Don’t you think that conflating these two disparate groups is problematic for discussion? There is a great potential for confusion here, both intentional and unintentional, and perhaps we have to be more specific when discussing the topic

  44. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 2:39 pm

    ‘@The Woodman — not that I’m an authority, but for what it’s worth I’ll grant you that there are a fair share of intelligent, well educated people who hold a non-physical view.’

    :-)

    ‘I wonder how many of them are also influenced by their religious background and construct logically consistent arguments to rationalize their faith without fully considering the implausibility of their premises? Without a non-physical mind, the whole idea of a soul is greatly diminished and I’m sure the belief in an afterlife or fear of returning to nothingness may be a motivator for rationalizing these beliefs.’

    I think the number of religious philosophers of mind is pretty low. There are some (such as Plantinga, Feser and Swinburne, which are Christians), but for all I know, they’re a minority.

    From the list ‘tyler the new ager’ gave above, I know that Strawson, Chalmers, Searle, Block, McGinn and Nagel are atheists and do not believe in an afterlife.

  45. Stefanon 16 May 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Eric – thanks for providing more background. I am still a little surprised/dismayed that a professional philosopher would fall into the dualist camp because it appears that they are falling for a trap of sorts, that if it feels non-material, then it must be non-material and now I’m going to rationalize that. Of course, this is just my projection on to them and I don’t really know what they are thinking…

    I suppose when you look at consciousness from a non-scientific point of view, it’s easy to speculate that it has a non-physical component to satisfy that feeling that we exist…outside our brains. But, IMO, it’s just a feeling.

  46. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 2:51 pm

    ccbowers: hopefully people here aren’t conflating property and substance dualism. They are both dualism, after all, they both think the brain isn’t conscious. An extra, nonmaterial, ingredient must be added to the mix to explain consciousness.

    Property dualists tend to be smarter, more aware of the science. But their arguments aren’t all that different, or more persuasive. Typically they don’t have compelling arguments as much as intuition pies that they throw at materialism.

  47. Kawarthajonon 16 May 2012 at 2:54 pm

    tyler the new ager –

    “I also want to point out that there is a lot of evidence indicating consciousness survives death.
    I personally don’t find the evidence convincing enough, but to say that there is no evidence for the afterlife is a bigoted statement that many skeptics keep spewing.”

    Ah, yes. Once again you turn to criticizing sceptics who disagree with your perspective as “bigoted”, as if just having a sceptical perspective is akin to racism or homophobia. Saying that there is no evidence, no compelling evidence or no valid evidence for mind surviving death is in no way bigoted.

    There are many very weird and wonderful things that don’t make sense to the average lay person that scientists have accepted because the evidence has supported the theory. Quantum theory is an excellent example. If anyone told me that something could be in two places at once, I would tell them they are crazy – yet scientists have demonstrated, time and time again, with both elaborate and incredibly simple experiments that this is probably true of very small pieces of matter, despite the fact that it is incredibly counter-intuitive to our day to day experience. This is now accepted theory, despite the fact that there was resistance to accepting this idea at the start.

    If there was evidence to indicate that consciousness survives death, I have no doubt in my mind that the scientific community would shift its thinking and come to agree that there is some kind of afterlife for the mind. Again, saying that there is no evidence, no compelling evidence or no valid evidence for mind surviving death at present is in no way bigoted.

  48. ccbowerson 16 May 2012 at 3:14 pm

    “An extra, nonmaterial, ingredient must be added to the mix to explain consciousness.”

    I wonder what connection there is between property and substance dualists, since they seem to be pretty different groups, yet both are motivated to add a ‘non material ingredient.’ Substance dualists seemed to be primarily motivated by ideological committments to religion, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with property dualist. Any insights?

  49. chaos4zapon 16 May 2012 at 3:16 pm

    This reminds me of the Alex Tsakiris rationale. “The research that is being done by the scientist that study near death experience clearly point to there being some type of consciousness that is outside of the brain.” It may be the case that those researchers looking into the specific topic of NDE’s may be generating data that they find compelling, but there is a very good reason why those that favor a true skeptical process of evaluating evidence are not compelled by the evidence. They ignore the reality that the most relevant research on this topic is not aimed at evaluating NDE’s specifically, but comes from the “brain sciences” that have developed perfectly reasonable explanations for almost all of the “NDE” phenomenon. It’s the neurologists that point out the obvious fact that just because the EKG shows a flat line and no brain activity shows up on the monitor, doesn’t mean there isn’t activity deep in the brain. In fact, no activity at all is brain death and, correct me if I’m wrong, but no one has ever come back from true brain-death….so what are they even talking about? Pretending that only the researchers that are specifically looking into NDE’s are the prime authority on the phenomenon commonly associated with NDE’s (hello, Mr. Confirmation Bias!) is the most ignorant, self-serving line of reasoning I’ve heard in a long time. No matter how many how many times Steve and others point out to these people that a flat-line EKG does not mean absolute brain death and that they survive is a demonstration that they were not entirely brain dead, they just can’t get it. The, “well these guy’s seem like they are doing legitimate research and their results confirm what I already wish to be true….so I will side with them” non-sense is so transparent to anyone that values reality and has even a cursory understanding of flawed logic.

  50. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 3:24 pm

    ccbowers asked:
    Substance dualists seemed to be primarily motivated by ideological committments to religion, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with property dualist. Any insights?

    I used to be fairly sympathetic to property dualism, and I think they for the most part are simply convinced that consciousness doesn’t fit comfortably into a materialistic picture of the world. This is typically a deep intuitive conviction, not based on ideology but the stark contrast between things like experiencing the scent of a flower, on one hand, and the collective neural activity during said experience, on the other.

    That is, these seem like two quite different things, it is hard to see how to reconcile these two pictures of an experience, so they conclude they are irreconcilable. Experiences are a unique feature of nature that are irreducible to neural events or other denizens of the natural sciences.

    So I don’t take a cynical view of the property dualists (or the substance dualists, necessarily). Ultimately, I think they will go the way of vitalists about life, but at an intuitive level I can understand their concerns.

  51. chaos4zapon 16 May 2012 at 3:26 pm

    One additional clarification….I’m aware the EKG monitors the heart and not the brain. The reason I specifically mention EKG’s is because you will often here the incredulous believer state that the “EKG was flat” and from that assume that the entire brain and absolutely all of its activity had ceased soon after the flat-line. No one has ever proposed how the memories of these near death experiences are created and recalled by a brain that had no activity either. Any examples out there of a memory being formed absent a brain? The reality based meaning of “memory” doesn’t even make sense if you remove all brain activity from the equation.

  52. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 3:49 pm

    OK – I was wrong about Chalmers. I had to remind myself of the terminology he is using. As he defines materialism, he rejects materialism. As a property dualist, however, he accepts that consciousness is a property of the universe, just separate from the physical matter of the brain.

    In any case, I also read his justification for this – quantum mechanics. He totally lost me there. I think his explanation of quantum collapse of the wave function is simply wrong. He says it is the only loophole that makes property dualism make sense. If that’s the case, then property dualism is dead wrong.

  53. Bernardoon 16 May 2012 at 3:58 pm

    My response: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/05/novellas-reply-part-2.html

  54. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Hmmm…not sure about your source for Chalmers, but you should probably fire them. :)

    QM is not an important part of any of Chalmers’ arguments for dualism that I have ever seen. In fact, he is extremely critical of quantum theories of consciousness for not addressing his “Hard Problem”:
    The attractiveness of quantum theories of consciousness may stem from a Law of Minimization of Mystery: consciousness is mysterious and quantum mechanics is mysterious, so maybe the two mysteries have a common source. Nevertheless, quantum theories of consciousness suffer from the same difficulties as neural or computational theories. Quantum phenomena have some remarkable functional properties, such as nondeterminism and nonlocality. It is natural to speculate that these properties may play some role in the explanation of cognitive functions, such as random choice and the integration of information, and this hypothesis cannot be ruled out a priori. But when it comes to the explanation of experience, quantum processes are in the same boat as any other. The question of why these processes should give rise to experience is entirely unanswered.

    That’s from Facing up to the problem of consciousness.

  55. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Dr. Novella, which definition of materialism are you using? Does it differ from Chalmers’ definition?

  56. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Here a source for Chalmers on quantum mechanics:http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/Does-Consciousness-Defeat-Materialism-David-Chalmers-/1172

    He says that one problem with certain forms of dualism is that you need a way for consciousness to affect matter (the brain) without breaking the laws of physics. The observer effect in QM is one way to do that, he claims. I disagree.

    woodman – using Chalmers definition (same reference) then Chalmers rejects materialism. But using a broader definition, of everything within the universe and rejecting a magical spirit realm or the supernatural, then property dualism is not incompatible.

    But as someone pointed out – who cares what specific philosophers think. There is no evidence for anything outside the brain and the brain is a sufficient explanation for the mind, even though we don’t understand all the depths and details of how it works.

  57. JollyRancheron 16 May 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I must confess, that although I am not a dualist, I do find it rather distressing whenever I encounter individuals arguing against it by trying to point to the explanatory superiority of the materialist paradigm. I’ve found that it is usually much better to merely point out the implausibility of the dualist position given what we DO know, rather than trying to elevate the materialist position to one of superior understanding, at least as regards consciousness. This is because, like a number of commentators on this blog have, I think, amply demonstrated, there is a rather surprising incapacity on the part of many materialists to even fully grasp the nature of the problem of consciousness, at least as seen by dualists, which leads to the inevitable result that they bring a variety of confused standards and philosophical presuppositions to the debate.

    Where to start?

    I suppose we can all agree that the brain causes the mind? Very good. But then doesn’t that imply they are two distinct things? I’ll simply assume that was a slip of the tongue, and that what anyone who says such things really means to say is that the brain and mind are one and the same thing, that they are in fact IDENTICAL. Now, the problem with such an assertion is not that the scientific evidence fails to back it up, since as Dr. Novella has pointed out, much of it is indeed rather suggestive that such a theory is true. Rather, the problem is that even if we grant that neuroscience suggests that mind is identical to the brain, such an inference remains perfectly unintellible and explanatorily impotent as regards any interesting or worthwhile question about consciousness. For instance, although a few people here seem to agree that the problem of consciousness is a legitimate point of controversy; I doubt anyone would be satisfied if in answer to the question in virtue of WHAT is the brain conscious, I gave the following answer: that is conscious in virtue of the fact that it is a brain. Not surprisingly, many people, including the so-called dualistic philosophers mentioned by Tyler above, are not impressed with this answer. We want to know WHY brains are conscious, and why some states have the experience they do rather than some other experience or no experience at all. As far as I can tell we currently have no idea as to what an answer to the question would look like.

    Now, from here, many materialists are content to agree that we do not have an answer to the question, but that shouldn’t discourage us from provisionally embracing materialism until something comes along to contradict it, since it has been so successful throughout history in explaining so many aspects of the natural world; that, in fact, all the phenomena of nature have been succumbing one by one to its explanatory scheme, and so barring any fantastic developments we should expect a mature neuroscience to resolve the issue. There are, at least, two problems with this.

    Firstly, most skeptics of materialism (or at least those that I am familiar with), are not making the argument that we cannot currently imagine a solution to the problem, therefore there is not solution and thus materialism is false. They are instead claiming that the problem is insoluble by the standard methods because of the very nature of the formulation of the problem. For instance, if someone were to provide an argument that the Goldbach Conjecture was insoluble, and someone said they were being hasty because they haven’t studied the behaviour of naked mole rats and maybe that would give them an answer, one could simply accuse them of not understanding the type of problem at hand. The case being made by most skeptics is closer along the lines of showing an incompatibility of that nature, rather than simply asserting the problem is difficult, therefore give up. Of course, one may reasonably ask what these arguments are, but this is precisely what Tyler was linking to when he mentioned the various philosophers and whatnot in his posts. My own take on the issue, for what it is worth, is that the fundamental question at stake, is how is it possible to get subjectivity, at all, from a purportedly objective world of material processes. Stating that we haven’t studied the process enough is a moot point, for the whole reason for thinking that materialism is false stems not from an empirical argument but from a conceptual intelligibility in the very project itself. Again, how does a world purely of objects, give rise to subjects, and every thing that certainly SEEMS to exist only from a first person point of view. These two categories are radically at odds with one another, very much in the same way that the abstract is opposed to the concrete, such that it seems absolutely hopeless to expect an answer to the question of how one produces the other in the same way it is hopeless to to expect an answer to how numbers are caused by physical processes of any kind. What’s more, is that if you really take this problem to heart, you’ll find that dualism does next to nothing to answer the question either, for even if one does grant the existence of an immaterial substance, they too would nevertheless exist objectively; but it’s just as unintellible to conceive of how an objectively existing immaterial substance could give rise to a subject anymore than matter could. Thus, the bizzareness of the very problem in question suggests a far greater degree of skepticism with regard to the prospects of materialists explanations of consciousness than some seem to admit.

    Secondly, the whole notion that materialism is thriving everywhere as a research paradigm is certainly true, but it can’t help but be so, since the whole concept of materialism is either a tautology, or vacuous. I mean, materialism was only recently revived as a viable idea back in the seventeeth century via Thomas Hobbes, and surprisingly enough Descartes, whose mechanistic theories were taken to be the hallmark of material explanations. Descartes himself just didn’t go all the way and left out the mind, while Hobbes and Co didn’t. The problem with this is that Newton blew the whole materialist project (as it was then conceived) entirely out of the water via his postulation of gravitation as a force that acts at a distance. At the time, he was consistently accused of invoking supernatural entities in his explanations because gravity was a non contact force. People eventually got over it, and since then up until the present, physics has been continually expanding and refining the notion of what counts as physical, such that, as one commentator already noted, its pretty much come to the point where the “material” is whatever the physics community finds or feels it needs to assert (a la fields, forces, dark matter etc…) to account for observations. But this just means that WHATEVER physics finds will be counted as physical. For consider, imagine that instead of discovering the structure of DNA amidst our investigations of life, we did find it necessary to posit a elan vital or “life force” that operates independently of the lower level laws of physics. Would this have falsified materialism? I fail to see how. Perhaps it would have refuted reductionism, by postulating an emergent law at the level of living organisms, but where is the immaterial aspect in it? It can’t be immaterial in virtue of the fact that it is simply a force that is postulated to account for the behaviour of certain kinds of physical systems, since qua force, it is just as “material” as anything else postulated by physics. Or what about a cup that started levitating for ten minutes then fell back down? Would that falsify materialism? Would it be supernatural? Why? It still seems pretty material to me, regardless of the causal relations it bears towards the rest of the world throughout time, and its force doesn’t seem any more less material than any of the fundamental forces of physics, they just apply consistently throughout time. So it seems to me, that boasting about how materialism has withstood so long is a rather empty claim, considering that materialists seem to be working with a definition that whatever is observable is material and everything is observable either directly or through its effects, with the consequence that any models science comes up with are bound to be counted as “material”, as these are the only models that could possible exists under such a definition. This all points the materialism being as unfalsifiable as any other metaphysical theory, which is not surprising, considering that’s what it is. More to the point, it’s no good to say that everything thus far has succumbed to scientific reductionism, when, if you abide by these definitions, there never was, or has been something, which could falsify materialism apart from the mind. A glance at history will confirm this. I mean, what are the alternative metaphysical views out there? Dualism, and Idealism, and their variations. Given the fact that all the other alternative metaphysical views about how the word fits together are just riffs on how the mind fits into the natural world, it’s a strong suggestion that to hint that materialism is thriving in explaining everything else is good reason to believe it will explain the mind is an incautious inference, considering the only thing that has EVER been anything of a barrier to materialism had been, you guessed it, mind.

    Finally, with regards to the point that brain science can get along just fine without confronting the deeper philosophical issues, and that therefore everything that is not hard science is merely semantic quibbling without any sort of scientific standards of rigour to shape the discourse. This simply confuses both different classes of problems and a difference in intellectual aspirations. Regarding the former: it should be obvious, that some classes of questions are in fact distinct either in practice or in principle from a paradigmatically scientific question. The question, in what does causation consists, is not of the same as what is the cause of cancer. Likewise, the question what the hell is actually going on when we measure a particle, is of a different class from simply using the equations of to predict something. In the same vein, the conceptual questions surrounding consciousness cannot simply be brushed aside because one is uncomfortable with being unable to use the standard tools in the scientists repertoire. Regarding the latter, one can equally well do physics without bothering or even really caring about the foundational issues of quantum mechanics, and focusing on building models and getting predictions. However, if one’s goals is to actually understand reality to the best of one’s limited capacities, then one can’t help, at least some of the time, engaging with more overtly philosophical issues. If one can’t be bothered to do this, then I submit one is not really after any form of understanding in the first place, and might be better of getting their intellectual stimulation from solving sudoku puzzles.

    In the end, I think it is safe to say that pretty much nobody, despite protestations to the contrary, really has any idea of how this all fits together. Btw, I would like to add, that the only reason I’m picking on materialism is because, in my experience anyway, what I tend to come across is simply unjustified optimism in, and uncritical acceptance of, materialism, combined with a somewhat snide attitude towards dissenting opinions. This is not to say that dualism offers any better of an explanation so far, just that most of the criticism towards the current paradigm comes from that quarter, rather than within it.

    Anyway, that’s my huge 2 cents. A couple of you were nagging for an argument, I figured I would try and oblige to some extent. Kudos on the blog overall though!

  58. daedalus2uon 16 May 2012 at 5:27 pm

    The latest response by Bernardo is clearly wrong regarding the psilocybin result.

    Excitation and de-excitation in the brain are extremely non-linear phenomena and are occurring all the time in all brain regions. The brain self-tunes to balance excitation and de-excitation to maintain itself in the near critical region, a true critical point where the properties of the network diverge and become differentially sensitive to perturbations.

    Trying to infer from slight differential behaviors due to differential degrees of excitation what the brain would be doing if it was completely shut down is nonsense.

    An analogy would be if you operate a computer on 5.00 volts, 5.01 volts and 4.99 volts, and it operates just fine, assuming that it will operate just fine on 500,000 volts is not a reasonable extrapolation.

    If anything the psilocybin result shows that the brain is the source of consciousness. If consciousness came from somewhere else, then why does a drug that differentially modulates the brain affect consciousness?

    The layout of his blog presents an example that refutes his contention that excitation vs de-excitation says anything about what the brain is doing. As of this writing his blog is presented (in my browser) as white letters on a black background. Neurologica is black letters on a white background. Black is the absence of white, de-excitation is the absence of excitation. Does the information content of a blog depend upon whether it is written in white on black or black on white letters? No, it does not. They are equivalent ways of representing the same information. Similarly a data processing machine can use either positive logic, or negative logic, using 0 or 1 to represent true and false or to represent false and true.

  59. the_woodmanon 16 May 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Novella.

    As far as I know, Chalmers distinguishes between two forms of dualism: interactive dualism (also called Type-D dualism) and epiphenomenalism (also called Type-E dualism).

    Interactive dualism:
    Matter affects mind and mind affects matter.

    Epiphenomenalism:
    Matter affects mind, but mind doesn’t affect matter (and is epiphenomenal).

    Interactive dualism requires that the physical world isn’t causally closed, otherwise there would be no way for a non-physical mind to have causal effects on matter. Chalmers, in his piece ‘Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness’ (http://consc.net/papers/moving.html), has suggested that there may be no causal closure on the quantum level, but he’s careful about it and doesn’t commit himself to this position:

    ‘The main place where third-person considerations may give reason to deny causal closure is in the intriguing case of quantum mechanics, which both Hodgson and Stapp appeal to. While there are interpretations of quantum mechanics on which the physical domain is causally closed – the interpretations of Bohm and Everett, for example – there are also interpretations on which it is not, and which leave a potential causal role for consciousness wide open. Stapp, for example, favors an interpretation on which consciousness is responsible for “collapsing” the wave function, and Hodgson favors an interpretation on which consciousness determines certain apparent quantum indeterminacies.

    Indeed, it can seem that quantum mechanics provides about as perfect a causal role for consciousness as one could imagine in a physical theory. Any indeterminism in quantum mechanics comes in at the point of “collapse”, which on the most common interpretations is triggered by “measurement”, and it can seem that consciousness is the only non-arbitrary way to distinguish a measurement from other physical events. If so, then consciousness may be present in quantum mechanics’ very foundations. Such interpretations are controversial among physicists, but mainly because they presuppose that consciousness is non-physical; if we have already accepted this for independent reasons, this concern loses its bite. (It is interesting that philosophers reject interactionist dualism because they think it is incompatible with physics, whereas physicists reject the relevant interpretations of quantum mechanics because they are dualistic!)

    On most days of the week, I lean toward a different interpretation of quantum mechanics (Everett’s), but interactionist collapse interpretations have obvious attractions and are not to be dismissed lightly. (I lean toward them about two days a week, and toward Bohm’s interpretation on Sundays.) At least it seems clear that interactionist dualism is not incompatible with physical theory, as we understand it today.’

    As for epiphenomenalism, it is quite compatible with the view that the physical world *is* causally closed, since consciousness is causally impotent under this view. (Although it is a pretty odd position IMO.) So it seems to me that for only one type of dualism, namely interactive dualism, the correctness of some particular interpretation of QM may be required, but not for the other one.

  60. tyler the new ageron 16 May 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Some of the best evidence for the afterlife:
    (1) Mere Correlation
    neuroscience establishes at most correlations between mental functions and neural structures . It does not and cannot explain mental functions or establish that mental functions are manifestations of neural structures.

    (2) Neural Plasticity
    when a brain structure is damaged and some mental functions are thereby lost, it is often possible for those mental functions to be restored by recruiting or reorganizing other parts of the brain. Someone might argue that this type of neural plasticity shows that the original neural structures were inessential to the mental functions that used to be lost.

    (3) Intentionality
    Mental states have the remarkable ability to represent. You can think about your mother, you can think that your mother makes a good pie, and you can even think that your mother makes a better pie than your fairy godmother. This ability to think about things—to represent them—goes under the name of intentionality. Many Philosophers have shown that intentionality cannot be explained naturalistically.

    (4) Subjectivity
    Some authors argue that mental states are subjective (there is a way it is like to be in them) whereas neural structures and their states are objective. Therefore, mental states cannot be manifestations of neural structures and must be states of a nonphysical mind.

    (5) Free Will

    Some authors argue that human beings have free will and this is incompatible with their mind being fully realized in the brain. For the brain is a physical structure beholden to natural laws and thus cannot give rise to free will. Therefore, the mind must be nonphysical.

    When you take all of these and add it with the good evidence from Parapsychology, I would say the only reason one would reject all the evidence is due to bigotry and an irrational commitment to materialism. Also NDE studies strongly suggest an afterlife or at least something more than materialism:
    Out-of-body perception during NDEs have been verified.
    People born blind can see during an NDE.
    If one is aware under anesthesia, the experience is fragmented and frightful with paralysis. But the NDEs reported for people under anesthesia are not at all like that and are pleasant with no pain felt as well as ‘crystal clear’ consciousness, when in fact there should be no conscious recall.
    NDE researcher Dr. Kenneth Ring in his work on NDEs found that the congenitally blind (blind from birth) do not have sight in their dreams, yet if they experience a NDE, they have an ability to see for the very first time. If this is correct, then this is strongly suggestive of consciousness separating from the brain during the NDE. This would also seem to indicate that dreams are in fact products of the brain.

  61. RickKon 16 May 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Responding to the Feser links, I looked at the first one that Feser summarizes with this sentence:

    “Thoughts and the like possess inherent meaning or intentionality; brain processes, like ink marks, sound waves, and the like, are utterly devoid of any inherent meaning or intentionality; so thoughts and the like cannot possibly be identified with brain processes.”

    This is a complete failure. I can write a computer program that observes objects or concepts and gives them symbolic representations, and then uses those symbolic representations to convey meaningful information (e.g. the symbolic representation of the bat has just been observed to strike the symbolic representation of the baseball.). I can represent this entirely in a physical setting (a computer) with physical processes. And when I melt the computer to a bubbling pile of slag, the meaning of those symbolic representations is lost.

    But even more compelling, I can go to the bookshelf and pull down my copy of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and demonstrate that physical damage to the human brain has demonstrably altered or damaged the ability to turn electrical impulses in the brain into coherent symbolic representations.

    There is simply too much evidence to demonstrate that EVERY part of what people call “mind” can be altered/enhanced/reduced/destroyed by purely physical stimula (stroke, drugs, electrodes, mental exercises like meditation, etc.).

    And as Dr. Novella said – the psilocybin experiments are clearly more data points in favor of the proposition that the mind is just a projection of physical events in the brain.

  62. RickKon 16 May 2012 at 5:57 pm

    As for Bernardo – he believes he is not a dualist because his theory is that there is only mind, no brain. We are all living in the projection of a single universal “mind field” or “consciousness aether”.

    It’s the Matrix argument – that we are living in a simulation. It is unfalsifiable and therefore scientifically useless. He says as much in comments when he says all the current neurological data supporting the premise that the mind comes from the brain activity also 100% supports his model.

    Philosophically speaking, as discussed in the recent Rationally Speaking episode live from NECSS, such arguments (we are all living in the Matrix; we are living in a simulation; the reality around us is just a hallucination, etc.) are unproductive dead ends.

    (I am curious – if a particular human mind is just a “knot” in the mind field, why bother with simulating a billion years of evolution? Oh well, I’m sure it fits his model 100%.)

  63. RickKon 16 May 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Tyler, please stop using the word bigot.

    I WANT ESP to be true.

    I WANT life after death.

    I WANT my grandmother to be watching over me.

    I WANT someone to win the JREF Million Dollar Challenge.

    But claims of the paranormal have had just a spectacular record of utter failure, that I can’t in good conscience say that the data supports what I WANT to be true.

    That’s not being a bigot. That’s being intellectually honest.

    Now, compare that to your Dr. Kenneth Ring. He is very VERY heavily invested in performing studies that prove NDEs are true. He WANTS them to be true, he publishes a journal on NDEs and chairs a society on NDEs. I’m not surprised that his experiments find positive results for NDEs. Jacques Benveniste WANTED his homeopathy studies to yield positive results, but they collapsed when scrutinized by a skeptic. That’s why it is foolish in the extreme to accept any scientific study results that can’t be replicated by skeptics. And that’s why JREF still has a million dollars in the bank.

    It’s not bigotry, it’s the scientific method. It’s how we separate objective truth from bias, baloney and bamboozle.

  64. SARAon 16 May 2012 at 6:21 pm

    # tyler the new ager
    I’m not well versed in philosophy or science, but I don’t find your points compelling because you don’t support them.
    1) Mere Correlation – Dr. Novella has thoroughly disputed this point, so I won’t.
    (2) Neural Plasticity – Because the brain can use alternate regions to compensate for damage, does not lead to assumption of mind causation. I don’t see the link at all. In fact, it seems to support the opposite, that brain damage effects our ability and those abilities are healed by use of other parts of the brain. Both work on the meat, not some “other” thing.
    (3) Intentionality – I’m not sure why it can’t be explained by brain function. You don’t explain that except to say other people have explained it.
    (4) Subjectivity – I’m not sure how that relates either. Why must the objective observation of neural structure mean that my subjective experience of anything is not related? Is there any evidence or logic to show that it is paradox of some sort?
    (5) Free Will – As my lament in yesterday’s comments suggests – how do you really know you have free will? Because you think you have it? There is lots of evidence that your subjective experience is deceiving you on many levels. Dr. Novella has reviewed many of them.

  65. Mlemaon 16 May 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I think Chalmers really fully explores the mind/brain question. Someone linked to this above, here it is again:

    http://consc.net/papers/nature.html

    I find his writing very difficult to digest, but I don’t see any points that anyone’s made here that he doesn’t address in one way or another. As a philosopher, he of course attempts to categorize and characterize the different viewpoints made, and discuss the strengths or weaknesses of each. I think he would probably find fault with both Dr. Novella’s and Kastrup’s viewpoints. The video Dr. N linked to roughly follows the paper, but seems to end abruptly before reaching the conclusions of the paper.

    For those who need to form a philosophical opinion, which seems to be what all the discussion is about, he finds two forms of dualism and one form of monism not to be contradicted by evidence or logic.
    Isn’t it interesting how these types of posts generate the most comments?

    I think it’s valid for any scientist to say “who cares?” – because scientists study the physical world, and consciousness is not something we understand in physical terms. But to say instead though that it’s not a question, even though we dismiss it, is a sort of denialism. Or, it is possible that we just don’t comprehend how it’s a question. That is, if I want to say: it’s not a question, or, who cares, then how can i justify a claim that I have the answer to the question?

    I think I’ll remain agnostic on this one :-)

    I seem to observe that consciousness is able to affect brain state. But more notably, in a purposeful way that further affects consciousness. I’m thinking about those who practice meditation who can control their brain state in ways that are reflected on MRIs, EEGs, and other physiological measurements. If consciousness is fundamental, that means that we cannot learn more about it or how it works or how it effects the rest of the natural world, in the same way we are learning about the physical brain – so – I think the question is a good one to consider.

    I wonder too how the studies of biophotons in brain neurons will play into the idea that consciousness finds interface with physical states through quantum mechanics.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1012.3371

    Bet that will be a whole new area for debate!

  66. Mlemaon 16 May 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Regarding NDE: The book “Spiritual Doorway in the Brain” by Kevin Nelson, doesn’t deal with the “hard” consciousness question, but puts forth a theory based on neuroscience about what might happen in the brain in NDE. Hard for me to remember exactly, but has to do with the brain stem. He tries to set this evolutionarily and historically, and also experientially. i guess there are some criticisms, but I’m not able to make them because I don’t know the neuroscience, or the accuracy of his reporting on the NDEs he investigated. Anyway, just an idea for the physiological correlates of NDE.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005CDUAEQ/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0525951881&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0SXZZZQWQZ002TMFD9YH

  67. Mlemaon 16 May 2012 at 7:51 pm

    SARA:
    A way to think about free will: it’s the ability to make choices which is increased by greater awareness of the things that affect those choices. So, it’s not completely “free” to operate outside the constraints of the physical world, but within that world it grows in relationship to your awareness of all the elements in the physical world that might otherwise make that decision for you. Hope that makes sense because there’s no reason for you to feel you can’t control your decisions or actions – not physically or philosophically :-)

  68. Steven Novellaon 16 May 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Those who say that the hard problem of consciousness is a non-problem are not denying the issue. The point of this position is that we can understand consciousness as all the little things that the brain demonstrably does, what Chalmers calls the easy problems of neuroscience. Once you solve all the easy problems, you have consciousness. There doesn’t need to be anything else.

    Consciousness is not a thing – it’s a process, it’s the net effect of all the information processing in the brain, reacting to internal and external states, having a conversation with itself, etc.

    I think the big problem is that we are brains trying to understand brains. We cannot get outside of human consciousness and look at it.

    Many neuroscientists believe (correctly, in my opinion) that once you whittle away all the aspects of consciousness that are demonstrably the result of brain function you will be left with nothing. (the same exact way that once biologists whittled away all the functions of life that did not require vitalism, they were left with nothing) We have plucked the low hanging fruit, like motor control and visual processing, to a significant degree. The rest of the brain is not qualitatively different, just much more complex and subtle.

    Philosophers carry on about subjective experience and qualia – but we can change that qualia in profound ways, and apparently without practical limit, by mucking around with the meat inside your head. The simplest explanation is that the qualia is the functioning of the meat. There is no need or (compelling) evidence for anything else.

  69. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Woodman: but note that Chalmers never uses QM to make a case for dualism. His case for dualism is based on independent arguments, and he claims that once that case is made, then materialists’ criticisms of dualistic interpretations of quantum mechanics lose their bite.

    As you know, his arguments for dualism are largely rehashing older arguments from Jackson (Mary), Kirk (logical possibility of zombies), and more generally, the supposed epistemic gap (Levine) between our knowledge of material features of a system and the experiential features of a system.

    I agree with Steven that Chalmers’ tendentious posing of the problem of consciousness as the “Hard Problem” is deeply problematic. That is, he assumes that consciousness will remain a problem even once all of the biological, chemical, and physical features of a system are known. It is not all that surprising that when this is your starting point, you end up a dualist.

    As for the person Steven is rebutting, frankly his views about excitation versus inhibition show such a naive view of brain function that I can only tip my hat to Dr Novella for taking the time to deal with it. Sort of like responding to people that say we only use 10 percent of our brains.

  70. Eric Thomsonon 16 May 2012 at 10:22 pm

    tyler I’ll focus on one:
    (4) Subjectivity
    Some authors argue that mental states are subjective (there is a way it is like to be in them) whereas neural structures and their states are objective. Therefore, mental states cannot be manifestations of neural structures and must be states of a nonphysical mind.

    The very question under consideration is whether subjectivity itself is a neural phenomenon. So to simply assert that subjective mental states cannot be neural states begs the question.

    The rest fall apart in similar ways.

  71. Alastair F. Paisleyon 16 May 2012 at 11:33 pm

    @ Steven Novella

    > It’s not just that brain states correlate with mental states, and it is not even just that brain states precede mental states – further, there is no other hypothesis that does not add unnecessary elements, the equivalent of light switch fairies – a point Kastrup ignores. <

    Here's another hypothesis.

    "Orch-OR (Orchestrated Objective Reduction) is a theory of consciousness, which is the joint work of theoretical physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff. Mainstream theories assume that consciousness emerges from the brain, and focus particularly on complex computation at synapses that allow communication between neurons. Orch-OR combines approaches to the problem of consciousness from the radically different angles of mathematics, physics and anesthesia.

    (source: Wikipedia: Orch-OR)

  72. Alastair F. Paisleyon 16 May 2012 at 11:52 pm

    @ Eric Thomson

    > The very question under consideration is whether subjectivity itself is a neural phenomenon. So to simply assert that subjective mental states cannot be neural states begs the question.. <

    The burden of proof is on you. You're the one who is asserting that subjective mental states are identical to objective brain states. Therefore, you have to provide objective evidence that this is so. To date, you have no evidence.

  73. Alastair F. Paisleyon 17 May 2012 at 12:58 am

    @ Steven Novella

    What exactly do you mean when you say the “brain causes the mind?” Are you implying that the mind is something separate from the brain?

  74. the_woodmanon 17 May 2012 at 1:13 am

    Eric wrote: ‘Woodman: but note that Chalmers never uses QM to make a case for dualism. His case for dualism is based on independent arguments, and he claims that once that case is made, then materialists’ criticisms of dualistic interpretations of quantum mechanics lose their bite.’

    Yes, that’s right.

  75. tyler the new ageron 17 May 2012 at 1:28 am

    Let me break it down for you:

    Since we know reductive physicalism ( materialism) is false we are left with other alternatives

    - emergent property dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - substance dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - panpsychism/panprotopsychism
    - neutral monism (reductive and non-reductive)
    - idealism
    Panpsychism which most Philosphers and neurobiologists studying consciousness are moving into is the admission, that if physicalism is to be maintained without strong emergence, particles would require a degree of fundamental elementary consciousness.

    Also the notion that there is no evidence of minds being separate from the brain is a bigoted statement and is proven wrong by evidence in survival and psychical research, of course materialists reject this due to a-priori disbelief. ;)

    Finally the notion that it is just semantics and ‘labels’ that is causing the confusion in the problem of consciousness is complete nonsense. This is powerfully demonstrated by the legendary philosopher John Searl’s Chinese Room argument and the colour blind Mary argument.

  76. tyler the new ageron 17 May 2012 at 1:35 am

    Hi Eric Thompson and everyone else, what I’m saying is that there is an explanatory gap between physical brain states and conscious experiences, which makes consciousness unlike any other phenomenon science is studying. All other phenomena can be measured in one way or another – they’re “out there” in the physical world. Consciousness, however, is “in here”. Consciousness can’t be measured in the same way as other phenomena. Of course you can measure the brain, but you can’t prove that that brain is conscious. It could be a zombie brain. So it isn’t consciousness you’re measuring, but the brain. Which means that consciousness is basically an “extra ingredient”, that you can’t measure or verify experimentally. Now the problem for materialism is that there doesn’t seem to be any room for such a thing to exist under its metaphysical assumptions.

    Now, materialists typically argue that everything in nature is reducible to their constituent parts. So if we have a clock, we can pick it apart and trace every function to the mechanisms of the parts. This can be said of anything physical in the universe, and the same can also be said of the functions of the brain. We can find all kinds of correlations and mechanisms in the brain that perform various functions, for instance speech production. However, and this is the point, this does not explain why these processes should be accompanied by experience. If one considers the problem from a materialistic viewpoint, it seems all this processing should go on “in the dark”, without it “feeling” like anything.

    This seems to me to make materialism basically a magical philosophy. It simply assumes that consciousness somehow, as if by magic, “pops up” if you have the right complexity, even though there doesn’t seem to be any need or reason whatsoever for it do so. On the contrary, I think that if you follow materialism to its logical conclusion, consciousness shouldn’t exist, and so the fact that we have consciousness in fact becomes a strong argument against materialism.

    It is interesting, too, that many people here are so absolute in their dismissal of the philosophical problems of Consciousness. I’m happy to be wrong, because in being proved wrong I learn something new, and I love learning new things. I actually make a point to learn new things daily, so please, don’t project your view of a dogmatic person on me, okay?

  77. the_woodmanon 17 May 2012 at 2:46 am

    tyler the new ager on 17 May 2012 at 1:28 am:
    ‘Let me break it down for you:

    Since we know reductive physicalism ( materialism) is false we are left with other alternatives

    - emergent property dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - substance dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - panpsychism/panprotopsychism
    - neutral monism (reductive and non-reductive)
    - idealism’

    This is copied from: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/2098-does-rejecting-reductive-physicalism-lead-panpsychism.html#post48528

    User ‘eveshi’ wrote there:
    ‘If we accept that reductive physicalism is false, we are IMO left with the following options:

    - emergent property dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - substance dualism (epiphenomenal or interactive)
    - panpsychism/panprotopsychism
    - neutral monism (reductive and non-reductive)
    - idealism’

    tyler wrote in the same post:
    ‘Panpsychism which most Philosphers and neurobiologists studying consciousness are moving into is the admission, that if physicalism is to be maintained without strong emergence, particles would require a degree of fundamental elementary consciousness.’

    This is copied from: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/2506-mind-body-relationship.html#post61677

    User ‘Open Mind’ wrote there:
    ‘Panpsychism – the admission, that if physicalism is to be maintained without strong emergence, particles would also require a degree of fundamental elementary consciousness.’

    tyler wrote in the same post:
    ‘Also the notion that there is no evidence of minds being separate from the brain is a bigoted statement and is proven wrong by evidence in survival and psychical research, of course materialists reject this due to a-priori disbelief. ;)

    This is copied from: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/1171-qualiasoup-his-super-confident-errors-assumption-substance-dualism-video.html#post20150

    User ‘Open Mind’ wrote there:
    ‘(2) There is contrary suggestive evidence in survival and psychical research, materialists reject this due to a-priori disbelief.’

    tyler the new ager on 17 May 2012 at 1:35 am:
    ‘Hi Eric Thompson and everyone else, what I’m saying is that there is an explanatory gap between physical brain states and conscious experiences, which makes consciousness unlike any other phenomenon science is studying. All other phenomena can be measured in one way or another – they’re “out there” in the physical world. Consciousness, however, is “in here”. Consciousness can’t be measured in the same way as other phenomena. Of course you can measure the brain, but you can’t prove that that brain is conscious. It could be a zombie brain. So it isn’t consciousness you’re measuring, but the brain. Which means that consciousness is basically an “extra ingredient”, that you can’t measure or verify experimentally. Now the problem for materialism is that there doesn’t seem to be any room for such a thing to exist under its metaphysical assumptions.’

    This is copied from: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/935-lets-discuss-hard-problem-consciousness-3.html#post15731

    User ‘Larry Boy’ wrote there:
    ‘No, what I’m saying is that there is an explanatory gap between physical brain states and conscious experiences, which makes consciousness unlike any other phenomenon science is studying. All other phenomena can be measured in one way or another – they’re “out there” in the physical world. Consciousness, however, is “in here”. Consciousness can’t be measured in the same way as other phenomena. Of course you can measure the brain, but you can’t prove that that brain is conscious. It could be a zombie brain. So it isn’t consciousness you’re measuring, but the brain. Which means that consciousness is basically an “extra ingredient”, that you can’t measure or verify experimentally. Now the problem for materialism is that there doesn’t seem to be any room for such a thing to exist under its metaphysical assumptions.’

    tyler wrote in the same post:
    ‘Now, materialists typically argue that everything in nature is reducible to their constituent parts. So if we have a clock, we can pick it apart and trace every function to the mechanisms of the parts. This can be said of anything physical in the universe, and the same can also be said of the functions of the brain. We can find all kinds of correlations and mechanisms in the brain that perform various functions, for instance speech production. However, and this is the point, this does not explain why these processes should be accompanied by experience. If one considers the problem from a materialistic viewpoint, it seems all this processing should go on “in the dark”, without it “feeling” like anything.

    This seems to me to make materialism basically a magical philosophy. It simply assumes that consciousness somehow, as if by magic, “pops up” if you have the right complexity, even though there doesn’t seem to be any need or reason whatsoever for it do so. On the contrary, I think that if you follow materialism to its logical conclusion, consciousness shouldn’t exist, and so the fact that we have consciousness in fact becomes a strong argument against materialism.’

    This is copied from: http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/935-lets-discuss-hard-problem-consciousness-2.html#post15676

    User ‘Larry Boy’ wrote there:
    ‘Now, materialists typically argue that everything in nature is reducible to their constituent parts. So if we have a clock, we can pick it apart and trace every function to the mechanisms of the parts. This can be said of anything physical in the universe, and the same can also be said of the functions of the brain. We can find all kinds of correlations and mechanisms in the brain that perform various functions, for instance speech production. However, and this is the point, this does not explain why these processes should be accompanied by experience. If one considers the problem from a materialistic viewpoint, it seems all this processing should go on “in the dark”, without it “feeling” like anything.

    This seems to me to make materialism basically a magical philosophy. It simply assumes that consciousness somehow, as if by magic, “pops up” if you have the right complexity, even though there doesn’t seem to be any need or reason whatsoever for it do so. On the contrary, I think that if you follow materialism to its logical conclusion, consciousness shouldn’t exist, and so the fact that we have consciousness in fact becomes a strong argument against materialism.’

    This is just from tyler’s two most recent posts, and there’s probably more.

  78. the_woodmanon 17 May 2012 at 2:51 am

    tyler, don’t you think it’s somewhat shameless to copy other people’s thoughts and to paste them here as if they were your own? Why are you doing that?

  79. SARAon 17 May 2012 at 3:07 am

    Tyler, that is an interesting point. (whoever wrote it.). But doesn’t hyperactive agency detection (mentioned yesterday by daedulus2) explain our self awareness and self experience of consciousness? Although, my quick review of it seemed to indicate it was not yet heavily supported with evidence.

  80. NewRonon 17 May 2012 at 6:28 am

    tyler the new ager:

    For what it is worth, I agree with you. Surely at the very least we could agree that the mind/brain nexus remains contentious and many questions remain unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. Not so long ago those promoting the identity theory of mind were asserting with some force the proposition that pain was identical with C fibres firing. Now some decades later I don’t think anyone would agree with this. One must ask why they were able to put this erroneous position with such certainty. One might be tempted to suggest a degree of confirmation bias.

  81. daedalus2uon 17 May 2012 at 6:47 am

    When you eat something, are you choosing to eat something, or are you being compelled to eat because your CNS is sending hunger signals to make you “want” to eat, or did a Hunger Fairy compel you to eat?

    Why is it that most people over a long period of time just happen to eat exactly the right number of calories to keep themselves weight neutral and without being aware that they are doing so? Is it the non-material Hunger Fairy that keeps everything in balance?

    If someone said that they experienced a voice telling them when to eat and when to not eat, and by following the voice they found that their weight stayed remarkably stable. Is that evidence for a Hunger Fairy?

    Is the experience of hunger a qualia that needs to be explained by a non-material Hunger Fairy?

    There is an epidemic of obesity. Is that evidence that there are a limited number of Hunger Fairies and their capacity is being overwhelmed by the human population?

    If you need a non-material mind to explain feelings of qualia, then you need a non-material Hunger Fairy to explain feelings of hunger. But that presents a dilemma. The Hunger Fairy is able to sense the caloric status of an individual, and is also able to compel the individual to eat or not eat. Thus the Hunger Fairy is both affected by the material caloric status of the body and is able to affect the hunger centers of the brain. In what sense is the Hunger Fairy immaterial?

  82. BillyJoe7on 17 May 2012 at 8:17 am

    the_woodman,

    “tyler, don’t you think it’s somewhat shameless to copy other people’s thoughts and to paste them here as if they were your own? “

    Tyler’s entire post is a mix of three posts from the following thread:

    http://forum.mind-energy.net/skeptiko-podcast/935-lets-discuss-hard-problem-consciousness-2.html#post15676

    post #30 Larry Boy:

    “No, what I’m saying is that there is an explanatory gap between physical brain states and conscious experiences, which makes consciousness unlike any other phenomenon science is studying. All other phenomena can be measured in one way or another – they’re “out there” in the physical world. Consciousness, however, is “in here”. Consciousness can’t be measured in the same way as other phenomena. Of course you can measure the brain, but you can’t prove that that brain is conscious. It could be a zombie brain. So it isn’t consciousness you’re measuring, but the brain. Which means that consciousness is basically an “extra ingredient”, that you can’t measure or verify experimentally. Now the problem for materialism is that there doesn’t seem to be any room for such a thing to exist under its metaphysical assumptions.”

    post #16 Larry Boy:

    “The problem is that this doesn’t explain anything.

    Now, materialists typically argue that everything in nature is reducible to their constituent parts. So if we have a clock, we can pick it apart and trace every function to the mechanisms of the parts. This can be said of anything physical in the universe, and the same can also be said of the functions of the brain. We can find all kinds of correlations and mechanisms in the brain that perform various functions, for instance speech production. However, and this is the point, this does not explain why these processes should be accompanied by experience. If one considers the problem from a materialistic viewpoint, it seems all this processing should go on “in the dark”, without it “feeling” like anything.

    This seems to me to make materialism basically a magical philosophy. It simply assumes that consciousness somehow, as if by magic, “pops up” if you have the right complexity, even though there doesn’t seem to be any need or reason whatsoever for it do so. On the contrary, I think that if you follow materialism to its logical conclusion, consciousness shouldn’t exist, and so the fact that we have consciousness in fact becomes a strong argument against materialism. ”

    Perhaps tyler is Larry Boy.
    But then there’s that awkward bit by a different poster called Hoggworks:

    post #12 Hoggworks”

    “I’m happy to be wrong, because in being proved wrong I learn something new, and I love learning new things. I actually make a point to learn new things daily, so please, don’t project your view of a dogmatic person on me, okay? ”

    Hmmm….

  83. BillyJoe7on 17 May 2012 at 8:21 am

    …oops, sorry, I see the_woodman has already posted tyler’s copied posts

  84. the_woodmanon 17 May 2012 at 8:37 am

    He has copied and pasted post contents of at least two other posters (eveshi and Open Mind; see my post from 2:46 am), so I doubt that he is Larry Boy (or any of the other people he ‘quoted’). I guess he’s probably a member (or a lurker) of the mind-energy board who is too lazy to formulate his own arguments …

    It’s funny that even the paragraph

    ‘I’m happy to be wrong, because in being proved wrong I learn something new, and I love learning new things. I actually make a point to learn new things daily, so please, don’t project your view of a dogmatic person on me, okay?’

    is written by someone else (hoggworks). I didn’t google it, since it looked to me as if it were genuinely written by tyler, but as your search revealed, even this bit has been copied and pasted. His whole post is a complete fake.

  85. Eric Thomsonon 17 May 2012 at 8:40 am

    Paisley claims that there is “no evidence” that subjectivity (consciousness) is a brain process.

    LOL Paisley I responded to this claim about two years ago when you made it, at this very blog. Here is the link.

    Given all the evidence that consciousness is a brain process, we are now at the point where we need a good argument to the contrary. Not more bald claims that they are ‘just different’.

  86. Eric Thomsonon 17 May 2012 at 8:46 am

    I took on Paisley’s brand of mysticism in another thread over at Rationally Speaking here.

  87. davidsmithon 17 May 2012 at 10:43 am

    To those who are speculating about the identity of “Tyler the new ager”,

    On the Skeptiko forum, there was a poster called “Sniffy the Atheist”. “Sniffy” was asked to leave, basically for displaying the same kind of behaviour seen here. I’d like to suggest that Tyler and Sniffy are the same person.

    However, Sniffy plagiarised materialist writings, presumably in order to inflame discussion about dualism and mental monism. Here, we see “Tyler” playing the opposite role. If Tyler and Sniffy are really the same person, I wonder why they are doing this? For personal entertainment? (is that the definition of a ‘troll’?) Perhaps someone is carrying out some kind of covert discursive analysis of controversial debates…

  88. tyler the new ageron 17 May 2012 at 11:06 am

    davidsmith, lol yes I am Sniffy the Atheist from the Skeptiko forum, miss you man, miss trolling skeptiko :)
    By the way I am sorry for plagiarizing some of your comments, I was trying to find rebuttals from Materialists over here so I could come back stronger and annoy all of you on the Skeptiko Forum.
    Anyway it won’t be long before Steve bans me from here. Before I leave I just want to say I am annoyed by Paqart’s moderation over there. It’s awful that he keeps deleting my comments for challenging his cherished beliefs and questioning the official party line. David ask Paqart to learn a thing or two from Steve Novella, at least none of my comments were deleted over here.

  89. tyler the new ageron 17 May 2012 at 11:09 am

    By the way I wasn’t asked to leave the Skeptiko forum, Paqart and SandyB couldn’t stand me for questioning their bogus beliefs about Telepathy and Near Death Experiences and banned me 3 times. Paqart’s ( moderator at Skeptiko) understanding of evolution is comical. People like him give Parapsychology research a bad name.

  90. the_woodmanon 17 May 2012 at 11:38 am

    At least you’re honest enough to admit that you are a troll who is out to annoy people …

  91. RickKon 17 May 2012 at 6:02 pm

    This thread could be the Harvard bar scene in “Good Will Hunting”, with the_woodman is played by Matt Damon, and Tyler as the “Michael Bolton lookalike”.

    How do ya like them apples?

  92. shalliton 17 May 2012 at 9:53 pm

    The notion that materialism is in some sort of crisis because a handful of philosophers are playing word games is about as compelling as the creationist claim that evolution is in crisis because of their motivated misunderstanding of every aspect of evolution.

    Exactly. Philosophers seem to think they will have some effect on the progress of science. But science keeps moving in the same direction, explaining things in a reductive & materialistic fashion, paying essentially no attention to the arguments philosophers like to have.

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